Democracy ensured the inevitability of the ruler’s insecurity. Though democracy has always been under unrelenting attack by individuals’ interest, economic and politics, the true meaning of democracy was to take power to the masses and in the process devolve the ability and theme ans from the elite. With their powers and control under threat, the elite hand to find a way to reclaim control and ensure that their opinion not only matters to the public but is also it is what becomes the consensus of the masses. Through formal education, technological advancement in recent history, mass media and activism they transformed to the changing society in all manners of manipulation.From early nineteenth century, the elite institutionalized their ideologies of control and power through social sciences, public relations, advertising agencies, banks and corporations, institutions of learning and their main aim in all this was to protect their interest against the possible true democracy.The development of psychoanalysis among other disciplines portrayed the normal populace as incapable of making rational decisions and hence there was the need for them to be kept out of power and decision making. Decisions and control was to be a preserve of one’s who were considered to be rational thinkers and intelligent minority and they were the people in power.Edward Louis Bernays who was in public relations field pioneered the use of psychological technique in public relations. In his article Manipulating Public Opinion, he felt that manipulation of the society was necessary for he considered the masses as irrational and even dangerous to themselves. He termed their opinions as emotional and always geared towards countering their rivals.
Hesays that a process of changing their attitude to conform to the preferred propaganda should start with assessing the interests that are presented by a given society population and to determine the limitation of the means and modes of approach available to spread the propaganda. According to him the understanding of the modes and means will help to customize and package the appraisals to the right audience and achieve the target.
This paper will unravel the art of social engineering and the manipulations behind the choices of the society, the so called democracy and tools at play that have massive power of not only spreading but also determining the concerns of the society. Bernays compares manipulation of public opinion to teaching the public how to determine what they want thereby teaching them how to defend themselves against his own aggressions. Hear guest hat it is not wrong to manipulating public opinion as long as it is meant to help the public to identify their rational beliefs, According to him, making people reach an agreement or approve a position is helping them decide their own free will.
With the dominant media organization firmly imbedded in the business of spreading the campaigns, they are profit driven and are owned by the elite in the society. Publishers and manufacturer for the advertisements of their products mostly fund them. The media rely on leaders and governments among other major business as their source of information for both consumerism and political propaganda. The overlapping interests and roles of government and the big organizations causes some levels of cooperation and solidarity among them in order to protect their interest as a club of the intelligent minority and take full advantage of the public. These factors reflect the multi-leveled capacities of the collaboration between governments and businesses to exert control and the power information flow and hence the public opinion.
Bernays would want us to believe that public relations is primarily good, and he might be right since most of public relations campaign have always failed in their attempts to get people approve ideas that are fundamentally in disagreement with their core opinions. He offers a list of public relations success like hat buying, consumer products and political opinions, but none of them appear to challenge the fundamental core opinions.
These are different campaigns compared to the propaganda tactics that were being used by Nazis against the Jews. Technical phrases like truth projection hide in their real intents and meaning. Smear campaign tactics are mostly used to discredit, destroy or stain the reputation of a person. It can either be a distortion of the truth or just be out right lies.In his other article, The Engineering of Consent, Bernays argues that with freedom of speech enshrined in the united states constitution, the technological advancement have resulted to thousands of television networks, radios and thousands of print media that are in constant circulation in the country and the world at large. Every resident is within reach no matter how far he or she lives and the vast country have been networked from corner to corner. Through this paper, we will understand an importance phase in human history that shaped the American history and which continues to in use by governments and companies world over to influence people’s choices and achieve their desired goals.Earlier on when the American society comprised of a more homogeneous population, and they covered a small area, their followers knew the leader personally and leaders had a visual relationship with the society. Their visual relationship made it possible forth ecommunication to be persona announcements to the audience in social gatherings, and it was effective. With the upsurge of a heterogeneous population, it was hard for the leader to effectively connect with the society and retain their grip in control. Today ruler shave become more remote physically from the public but at the same time the public has much greater familiarity with these leaders through the modern communication systems. With the effective way to reach the masses leader have become spokesmen for different opinions. They give orders and manage government through media, they influence activities of the organized groups, and they sell their ideologies to them as sesand even compete for political post through different types of mass media. All this is the engineering of consent.
The Social Engineering approach is knowledge based application of the scientific principles and practices to the task of getting people to support programs and ideas. The success of government programs and other organizations is highly dependent on the public approval and is therefore forced to engineer a public consent to those programs.Engineering of consent touches almost every part of our lives. When used for social purposes, it is our most important to the contribution to the efficiency of a modern society. The anti-government crusader can subvert the techniques in engineering the consent and use it in their antidemocratic pursuit with as much success as those who use it for human advancement.This approach of engineering of the consent was further entrenched in the society in 1923 when New York University introduced a course to the subject that led to the professional viewpoint of the approach. Over the year since then institutions of learning continues to produce experts and specialist in many related fields such as publishers of the print media, editors, heads of political parties and reporters among others. The concept has since been spread to other democracies where competition of ideas and freedom of expression have are practiced freely. Preparation for the campaigns involves calculation of the available resources in forms of money, human resource and time, thorough knowledge of the goals, research on the nature of the target audience as a group and as an individual.
Analysis of the target audience involves finding out the level of the society’s knowledge concerning the consent, their attitudes toward the subject in question and ensuring that the objectives of the campaign are related to the audience whose consent is required. Analysis also seeks to understand the flow of information by determining the chain, the authenticity, the precision and the level of acceptance that an idea gets in relation to its source. Research may suggest the necessity to change or modify the objectives, to change actions and means, to broaden or reduce the subject to be covered. Research normally helps to establish a guide by making informed choices that are based on reality on the ground. The engineer of the consent may engage the society through polls, interviews or questionnaires. Contacts can be made through the heads of communities, leaders of professional bodies, leader of organizations and such people with influence in the society.
After the preliminary preparations the actual planning starts with themes and strategies that will be derived from the surveys or opinions. Themes channel the lines of approach to the society and are expressed through the media. They are always present, but intangible compared to the storyline. Themes must appeal to the conscious and subconscious pressure that is normally created by desires.
Tactics of the entire program are planned to ensure maximum effect in stipulated time. This is a broad activity that requires the harmony of several process that needs to interlock in phases. The implementation of the phases is normally timed for the moments of maximum effectiveness. Events may also be organized in a chain reaction by harnessing the energies of the group leaders and the engineer of consent can stimulate them and set other alternative activities in motionThough communication is essential in engineering consent for social action, it cannot achieve much just by filling the media with information for the sake of passing the message. Its requires some well thought after, best laid plans coupled by the proper and timely use of the media to get the public consent and get people to own the idea.
Public opinion is the subject influences from different corners that emerge and alter change its view in almost every aspect of life. Cultures and traditions, religion, art commerce, science and technology advancements are in a state of motion. The inertia of institutions and society are persistently combated by the actions of persons with strong opinions and convictions. Narrowly defined public opinion presents the thought of any given.
Bernays, Edward L. "The engineering of consent." Annals of the American Academy of Political
and Social Science 250 (1947): 113-120.
Bernays, Edward L. "Manipulating public opinion: the why and the how." American Journal of
Sociology (1928): 958-971.