The Science of Thought Control

Edward Bernays
Edward Bernays

Transforming Citizens Into Consumers

… by  Dr.  Stuart Jeanne Bramhall


The Century of the Self is a four part BBC documentary that delves deeply into the life and work of Sigmund Freud’s nephew Edward Bernays. Bernays was the first to perfect the science of thought control. In the political sphere, he referred to mass psychological manipulation as “engineering consent.” When he used propaganda and psychological manipulation to condition consumers to purchase products, he called it “public relations.”


 The Century of the Self

 Film Review

Freud Part 1 (Happiness Machines) and Part 2 (Engineering of Consent)

The twentieth century is frequently referred to as the selfish century. This documentary lays the blame for this at the feet of Sigmund Freud and his nephew Edward Bernays.

Prior to World War I politicians and businesses used facts and information to win votes or to persuade people to buy their products.

When Woodrow Wilson hired him to run his Committee for Public Information to produce pro-World War I propaganda, Bernays incorporated Sigmund Freud’s theory that human behavior was based on unconscious instinctual drives.

By appealing to these unconscious and irrational feelings, he succeeded in selling World War I to a profoundly isolationist American public.


As well as his pivotal role in engineering corporate and government propaganda, Bernays was also responsible for popularizing Sigmund Freud’s work by emphasizing its sexual content.


The Shift from a Needs to a Desire Based Culture

Curious whether similar techniques would also work in peace time, Bernays hired himself out to corporations to help them improve their sale of consumer products. His goal was to shift US society from a needs culture, where people only bought what they needed, to a desire culture, where they purchased products to make them feel better. Aware that the word propaganda had an extremely negative connotation, Bernays coined the term “public relations.”

Bernay’s stunning success gave birth to 1920s “consumptionism” and was largely responsible for the economic bubble that resulted in the 1929 crash. Already by 1927, social critics were concerned that Americans were no longer citizens but consumers.

Confident of their ability to engineer consumer demand, banks funded national expansion of department store chains and hired Bernays to persuade ordinary people to borrow money to buy shares in the stock market. Driven to record levels by borrowed money, the stock market collapsed.

During the Great Depression, Bernays shifted gears to focus more on influencing public political views. Neither Freud nor Bernays believed in the equality of man. Frightened by the rise of fascism in Europe, both believed that democracy was a fundamentally unsafe form of government (due to human beings’ dangerous unconscious drives).

Both believed that people must be controlled – that mass democracy could only work if popular consent was engineered. Bernays was also convinced that the best way to control people in a mass democracy was to render them passive consumers – by triggering a continuous irrational desire to consume and satisfying it with consumer goods.


Roosevelt Tries to Rein in Business

Unlike Freud and Bernays, Franklin Roosevelt believed that people were capable of knowing what they wanted and relied on the new science of public opinion polling (pioneered by George Gallup) to ascertain what people were thinking. His response to the Great Depression was to grant himself extensive executive power and subject business to central economic planning, which they hated.

In 1936, the National Association of Manufacturers hired Bernays to initiate an ideological campaign against the New Deal (and the rise of unionism as Alex Carey mentions in Taking the Risk Out of Democracy).

When World War II ended, the CIA hired Bernays to advise them on how to control the “irrational aggression” of the masses. In his CIA role, Bernays devised a campaign for the Eisenhower administration to convince the American public they were under imminent threat from Soviet Communism.

As part of this campaign, Bernays mobilized public and congressional support for the 1954 coup against Guatemala’s democratically elected president Jacobo Arbenz. Bernays also worked for the United Fruit Company, which was concerned about Arbenz’s plans for land reform, i.e. breaking up their extensive Guatemalan banana plantations.

The Birth of the Focus Group

Meanwhile the public relations industry hired psychoanalysts to set up focus groups to use advertising more effectively to improve consumer demand for corporate products. These early focus groups employed psychoanalytic techniques to help advertisers improve sales by secretly appealing to unconscious needs and insecurities.

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photo credit: Carla216 via photopin cc


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  1. Thanks all, and may I add a small book that I found quite worthy.
    It is called “The One Minute Manager” but it is about communication and getting things done.


    • and one more, somewhat obscure maybe, (but both these show up right away on ixquick.)
      it is Koberg and Bagnall “the Universal Traveler”
      About problem solving.
      I think these are related though not about manipulation (except a little in one minute manager
      I included these as a sidelight to the matter of ‘thought control’.
      I consider thought control to be hitting what you are thinking at.


  2. Thank You.
    PR doesn’t have to mean lies.
    Anyway, thanks for the brief, communications is as ever of paramount importance.


    • You and Professor Doom would probably get along.
      He is an academic taking academia to task, and doing a damn good job IMO.
      Thank you for Masters in Marketing 101 / Intro To Marketing
      In four or so easy lessons, For Free.
      Thanks, I’ll take your course.


  3. Chewing gum from the trees in Guatemala was also an issue, when the locals refused to overtax the trees.
    FDR, (manager), Jung, (investigator) and Freud (inseminator) were all born on the same day in the Mayan calendar albeit different times of the solar year. The BMTI is based on Jungs work with the archetypes. Originally, the 36 Hindu decans or ‘archetypes’ were a decent format. The same ones on the dendera zodiac.These systems are used in their native countries with success. Here the BMTI is figured around 35 % successful. They are quite adverse to using sound science. That would disrupt our regularly scheduled programming.

    • A book to keep an eye out for, preferably the color hardbound (for the mandalas)
      Carl Jung “Man and His Symbols”.


    • Kirwan ties in the Tarot cards, casting runes has not come up yet nor dowsing.
      I see these as means of ‘communication / sensing’ (dowsing, pendulums, casting runes, I ching
      and or a way to attempt to codify and represent complex relationships and conditions.
      (In that I do not think there is a script I have no explanation for the occasional accurate fortune telling.)
      Sensing the near field (in space and time) environment by means unconventional or not
      is not fortune telling.
      The Princeton eggs gave fascinating results with an indication
      of near term precognition (the signal predated the event by a small period of time
      (hours in the case of 2001-911 I think.
      You can’t be half pregnant, there is Definitely a ‘there’ there.
      What to make of it is another matter.
      If you have not seen the movie “Minority Report” you might want to check it out, it comes to mind.


  4. “the middle of the fighting WWII as the fighting intensified the American army was face with an extraordinary number of mental breakdowns among its troops. 49 PERCENT of ALL soldiers evacuated sent back because they suffered from mental problems. In desperation the Army turned to the new ideas of the psychoanalysis. They made a film record of the experiment using hidden cameras . It was the first time someone had paid attention to the feelings and anxieties of the ordinary people” (WRONG they had just stepped out of a warzone in full combat! NOT “ordinary”) “at the heart of it were a number of refugee psychoanalysts from South America and western Europe they worked with American psychoanalysts to “GUIDE AND SHAPE THE PROJECT”. “The psychoanalysts used techniques designed by Freud to take the men back into their past. They became convinced that the breakdowns were not the direct result of fighting” (how very convenient)”The stress of combat had merely triggered old childhood memories” (what a load of shite). “These were memories of the mens own violent feelings and desires which they had repressed because they were too frightened” (no mention of the combat or warzone they just left). “To the psychoanalyst it was overwhelming proof of Freuds theory that underneath humans beings were driven by primitive irrational forces” (Bingo! There is their justification for mind control and the use and abuse of military) …Diagnosis -“underneath every American were irrational violent

    • From Shell Shock to PTSD and blunt trauma in three easy wars?
      (can I get a student loan? (long as you got a voucher!
      I still dare them to run Catch 22.
      Think back, when did you last see that movie,
      how long ago, and how many total times.
      TCM had ‘A Lovely Little War’ on last night, I highly recommend it.


  5. do you remember your childhood and friends then? human relationship is not four letter word. it is a complicated art and everybody learns it and partly it is in our genes. thats what kept us alive so far for milliniums. so thrwo those books out and trust your instincts and genes when it comes to human communications. you will never fail.

  6. i call it bs. here are my questions:
    how successful woukd he been with fed? i think he might have landed in jail for lying (so called propaganda). his lies were well covered because of fed.

    people inherently present facts to sell. it is basic instinct. nithing to do with consumerism or all that sexy sounding sh**. again, fed to rescue. how many woukd have taken risk with fed fiving them free money?

    to summarize ling article:
    ww1 was simple lying. bills were postponed so nobody bothered about it.
    1929 crash was direct result to fed free money supply rather than consumers taking too many risk.
    2008 crash was direct result of fed giving money for free rather than people taking any risk. nobody was taking any risk. they were just making hay while the money rained.

    • Is it your impression that the techniques exposed in “The Century of The Self”
      are ineffective or not worthy of notice?
      Do you deny they sell politicians and policy like they sell soap, and they still do.
      I am guessing because I did not understand your complaint.
      Ever see the movie “Wag the Dog”?
      Anyway, which part is BS.


    • The royals and banksters always wanted to manipulate people,
      subtle and sneaky sometimes, and without scruples.
      He was a technician who new how to manipulate and just when they needed him!
      A marriage made in hell.


  7. If today countries or governments are intelligence projects, some of those where there is room for dialogue and some obvious applied democracy (not just democracy of families or corporations) could also research more on dissidents projects, as for looking to gain intelligence from some point of autonomic groups of people based on thought differences, not to encourage separatism but to teach more people “how to fish” while gaining emotional and thought feedback based on confidence and trust rather than fear and control. Exchange of ideas on a higher, or for humble starters, on a different level. I believe there is some movement and progress being done for example with incorporating the queer communities into global, because there are still numerous countries unlike US struggling with these not abnormal or existence threatening people (as they may refer to them) just “different plants of nature”. But this is purely an example on a physical level, however there are still different plants on an imaginative level and of course emotional level ( for example men and women are great subject groups for emotional level ). I believe that if imaginative level trully has no boundaries, than it should be given the opportunity to be applied within power to create.

    • you mentioned dialog, and countries as intel projects.
      Check out the Delphi technique, often used in public meetings.
      Agenda 21 related gatherings always have this,
      the facilitators, the stakeholders, the form up as small groups, (that will give you the signature)
      It turns the meeting(s) into a rubber stamp, like the fraudulent elections are.
      It Definitely qualifies as mind ‘control’ with intent to manipulate against the target’s best interests.
      There are outfits with names like ‘Citizens for Healthy Communities’,
      that is supposed to make it sound friendly, and homegrown.
      It Is Neither!
      It is (paid) UN Agenda21 operatives trying to trick you into falling into the hole they prepared.



  8. Again excellent topic quest for this author, goes to the core of problems. Who knows maybe some day the intelligence community evolves through its sociological structures from control and business wise to self-sustainment or enhance life quality wise. There is no place better for human development than human brain and ideas, but so often hampered by thought and population control. You win little and lose genious.

  9. Off-topic. Do you know if the so called mind machines and Hemi-Sync tapes cause something? I was frightend to learn that Robert “Hemi-Sync” Monroe’s father worked for the CIA. (But this should be no surprise as the drug culture was also created be the CIA.)

    • S.
      Hemi-sync is the use of light stimulae to create a neurological response in the human organism. It certainly can work to move perception away from the agreed upon, to more mystic realms, however, the degree of participation by the subject is a factor.
      Seems some Tibetan monks used the machine, and apparently reported an increase in their ability to imagine mandalas.
      Some pretty interesting research is going on regarding frequencies and neurological responses. Of course, right now we are bombarded with varying levels of microwaves that can indeed be used to directly manipulate behavior-Dr. B. Trower spilled the beans here at VT.
      You might want to become acquainted with the work of Anthony Peak.

    • If you have ever seen the movie (Kundun) about the escape of the Dali Lama
      when the Red Chinese overran Tibet.
      They are arranging his exit and discussing the plans
      there is a (very brief) scene in which the Dali Lama
      Remote Views the perimeter just prior to departure.
      It is a movie, who knows, but there was no machine that I saw.
      I don’t use one either.
      No little ‘uncle martin’ antennae or anything!
      Not so much as a heat sink (except blood stream)
      This operates on finesse, else the power consumption /dissipation would destroy the device (us)
      before it ever finished firing up.


    • I long for the days when I could contemplate my navel in ways that have left me.
      I cannot disconnect from the Real Time, which is often disgusting.
      Some may be able to meditate and zone out,
      but the closest to comfort for me of late is to be kind
      and hope we did what we could for one day.
      Life has become a holding action (albeit an interesting one,
      for the Duration.
      I’m still in there, but I can’t come out to play until the bad men stop.


    • Check out Robert Monroe The Monroe Institute.
      Hemi-sync refers to entrainig the two hemispheres of the brain using a ELF (extremely low frequency, 6 or 7 hz maybe)
      Too low to generate directly so it is done by heterodyning inside your head after arrival.
      Yes, it induces altered states, and as with hypnotism,
      I would take care who prepares your tapes.
      Subliminal suggestions could be a piece of pie in those altered states.
      Always among friends, never among strangers.
      We are talking here about allowing some one to adjust your mind.
      Education is also a form of this, so don’t take it the wrong way.
      But this leaves the door open (why am I thinking Ouiji Board)_.
      Remote Viewing is Very Real (and Great Fun! (another Monroe Institute associated topic.
      I don’t target, but now and then I remember dreams.
      I go out at night from time to time it seems, and if I don’t get enough REM sleep
      it adversely affects me (insomnia after the 3 or 4 day can be a problem.
      One you learn to handle.
      Many have gone mad from meeting the unseen world.
      Don’t pry at doors, and Never tear the ‘transom’ which separates the unconscious from the conscious.
      That is the area we are in when remote viewing or OBE or reveries (altered states).
      Most of your mind is on the ‘unconscious’ side, consciousness is like the user interface
      to a big computer.
      That transom separates the unconscious, which would overwhelm the real time decision engine
      (a Denial of Service attack inside your head.



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