218. Freud's Nephew: The Underground HIstory of American Education by John Taylor Gatto from archive.org
Early in the twentieth century, official language, including official school language, became a deliberate, systematic exercise in illusion. Governments have always lied, of course, but at the beginning of the twentieth century an accretion of psychological insights gathered from past epochs of magic, theology, philosophy, arts, warfare, rumor, and madness, were collected,codified, and the conclusions sold to the leaders of political states, global corporations, and other powerful interests, welded into a technology of professionalized dishonesty. Secrets of crowd behavior and the presumed instrumental wiring of human nature were made available to anyone with the price of admission. The newly official pragmatic philosophy became a kind of anti-morality, superior to any ethical code fashioned out of custom and philosophy.
Four hundred years after Niccolo Machiavelli wrote his treatise on scientific deceit, Edward L. Bernays began to practice the scientific art of public deception, trading heavily on his uncle Sigmund Freud's notoriety. A decade earlier, Ivy Lee's publicity savvy had rescued the Rockefellers from their Ludlow Massacre disgrace. Public Relations as political science was off and running on the fast track.
Bernays was only a solitary word magician at the time, of course, but he was in an ideal position to capitalize quickly upon his rhetorical talent and to set his stamp on the new science's future. In 1928, Bernays published two books in quick succession which planted his flag in the dream terrain of the "unconscious." The first, Crystallizing Public Opinion, and the second, Propaganda. Adolf Hitler is said to have displayed both on a table in his office under a poster-sized picture of Henry Ford.' The new world was blazing a trail into an even newer world than it imagined. Both of Bernays' books argued that language could be used successfully to create new realities. Psychological science was so advanced, he claimed, it could substitute synthetic reality for natural reality, as urban society had successfully replaced our natural connection to birds, trees, and flowers with a substitute connection to billboards, cars, and bright lights.
Crystallizing Public Opinion and Propaganda had much to say to the newly minted administrative classes burgeoning all over American schools and colleges. In Propaganda, Bernays redefined democratic society, in the interests of the mass- production economy. I've selected three short excerpts from Bernays' classic which enriched him with corporate work in the seven decades of life he had left — he died inl995 at the age of 105 — after its publication.
The first assertion of Propaganda was that common people had to be regimented and governed from behind the scenes. Here are Bernays' actual words:
The need for invisible government has been increasingly
demonstrated, the technical means have been invented and developed by which public opinion may be regimented.
The next important contention was that the critical pollution of language necessary to make this work was already in use:
We are governed, our minds are molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of. We are dominated by a relatively small number of persons who understand the mental processes and social patterns of the masses. It is they who pull the wires which control the public. Finally, Bernays attempts to provide a "moral" justification for proceeding as he suggests: The conscious manipulation of organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in a democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power in this country.
This attitude of manipulation as an important component of "democratic" management entered the urban factory-school classroom in a big way at a time when psychology was taking over from academics as the tool of choice in America's German-inspired teacher training institutions. Bertrand Russell had been both a witness and an actor in the new climate of public deceits which characterized the post-WWI epoch. When its first phase was complete, he wrote in The Impact of Science on Society (1952) that the most important subject for the future would be "mass psychology" and "propaganda", studies which would be "rigidly confined to the governing class. The populace will not be allowed to know how its convictions were generated. "(emphasis added) Less than a decade later, Bernays was proud to add Adolf Hitler to his list of clients.