Propaganda


PROPAGANDA
By
EDWARD L. BERNAYS
1928
CONTENTS
I. ORGANIZING CHAOS ………………………………………….. 9
II. THE NEW PROPAGANDA…………………………………….. 19
III. THE NEW PROPAGANDISTS …. 32
IV. THE PSYCHOLOGY OF PUBLIC RELATIONS 47
V. BUSINESS AND THE PUBLIC …. 62
VI. PROPAGANDA AND POLITICAL LEADERSHIP 92
VII. WOMEN’S ACTIVITIES AND PROPAGANDA 115
VIII. PROPAGANDA FOR EDUCATION . . 121
IX. PROPAGANDA IN SOCIAL SERVICE . . 135
X. ART AND SCIENCE…………………………………………….. 141
XI. THE MECHANICS OF PROPAGANDA . . 150
CHAPTER I
ORGANIZING CHAOS
THE conscious and intelligent manipulation of the
organized habits and opinions of the masses is an
important element in democratic society. Those who
manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute
an invisible government which is the true ruling
power of our country.
We are governed, our minds are molded, our
tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men
we have never heard of. This is a logical result of
the way in which our democratic society is organized.
Vast numbers of human beings must cooperate in
this manner if they are to live together as a smoothly
functioning society.
Our invisible governors are, in many cases, unaware
of the identity of their fellow members in the
inner cabinet.
They govern us by their qualities of natural leadership,
their ability to supply needed ideas and by their
key position in the social structure. Whatever attitude
one chooses to take toward this condition, it
remains a fact that in almost every act of our daily
lives, whether in the sphere of politics or business,
in our social conduct or our ethical thinking, we are
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Propaganda
dominated by the relatively small number of persons—
a trifling fraction of our hundred and twenty
million—who understand the mental processes and
social patterns of the masses. It is they who pull the
wires which control the public mind, who harness old
social forces and contrive new ways to bind and guide
the world.
It is not usually realized how necessary these invisible
governors are to the orderly functioning of
our group life. In theory, every citizen may vote
for whom he pleases. Our Constitution does not
envisage political parties as part of the mechanism
of government, and its framers seem not to have
pictured to themselves the existence in our national
politics of anything like the modern political machine.
But the American voters soon found that
without organization and direction their individual
votes, cast, perhaps, for dozens or hundreds of candidates,
would produce nothing but confusion. Invisible
government, in the shape of rudimentary
political parties, arose almost overnight. Ever since
then we have agreed, for the sake of simplicity and
practicality, that party machines should narrow down
the field of choice to two candidates, or at most three
or four.
In theory, every citizen makes up his mind on
public questions and matters of private conduct. In
practice, if all men had to study for themselves the
abstruse economic, political, and ethical data involved
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Organizing Chaos
in every question, they would find it impossible to
come to a conclusion about anything. We have
voluntarily agreed to let an invisible government
sift the data and high-spot the outstanding issues so
that our field of choice shall be narrowed to practical
proportions. From our leaders and the media they
use to reach the public, we accept the evidence and
the demarcation of issues bearing upon public questions;
from some ethical teacher, be it a minister, a
favorite essayist, or merely prevailing opinion, we
accept a standardized code of social conduct to which
we conform most of the time.
In theory, everybody buys the best and cheapest
commodities offered him on the market. In practice,
if every one went around pricing, and chemically
testing before purchasing, the dozens of soaps or
fabrics or brands of bread which are for sale, economic
life would become hopelessly jammed. To
avoid such confusion, society consents to have its
choice narrowed to ideas and objects brought to its
attention through propaganda of all kinds. There
is consequently a vast and continuous effort going on
to capture our minds in the interest of some policy or
commodity or idea.
It might be better to have, instead of propaganda
and special pleading, committees of wise men who
would choose our rulers, dictate our conduct, private
and public, and decide upon the best types of clothes
for us to wear and the best kinds of food for us to
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eat. But we have chosen the opposite method, that
of open competition. We must find a way to make
free competition function with reasonable smoothness.
To achieve this society has consented to permit
free competition to be organized by leadership and
propaganda.
Some of the phenomena of this process are criticized—
the manipulation of news, the inflation of
personality, and the general ballyhoo by which politicians
and commercial products and social ideas are
brought to the consciousness of the masses. The instruments
by which public opinion is organized and
focused may be misused. But such organization and
focusing are necessary to orderly life.
As civilization has become more complex, and as
the need for invisible government has been increasingly
demonstrated, the technical means have been
invented and developed by which opinion may be
regimented.
With the printing press and the newspaper, the
railroad, the telephone, telegraph, radio and airplanes,
ideas can be spread rapidly and even instantaneously
over the whole of America.
H. G. Wells senses the vast potentialities of these
inventions when he writes in the New York Times:
“Modern means of communication—the power
afforded by print, telephone, wireless and so forth,
of rapidly putting through directive strategic or technical
conceptions to a great number of cooperating
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Organizing Chaos
centers, of getting quick replies and effective discussion—
have opened up a new world of political processes.
Ideas and phrases can now be given an
effectiveness greater than the effectiveness of any
personality and stronger than any sectional interest.
The common design can be documented and sustained
against perversion and betrayal. It can be elaborated
and developed steadily and widely without personal,
local and sectional misunderstanding.”
What Mr. Wells says of political processes is
equally true of commercial and social processes and
all manifestations of mass activity. The groupings
and affiliations of society to-day are no longer subject
to “local and sectional” limitations. When the Constitution
was adopted, the unit of organization was
the village community, which produced the greater
part of its own necessary commodities and generated
its group ideas and opinions by personal contact and
discussion directly among its citizens. But to-day,
because ideas can be instantaneously transmitted to
any distance and to any number of people, this geographical
integration has been supplemented by many
other kinds of grouping, so that persons having the
same ideas and interests may be associated and regimented
for common action even though they live
thousands of miles apart.
It is extremely difficult to realize how many and
diverse are these cleavages in our society. They may
be social, political, economic, racial, religious or eth-
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ical, with hundreds of subdivisions of each. In the
World Almanac, for example, the following groups
are listed under the A’s:
The League to Abolish Capital Punishment; Association
to Abolish War; American Institute of
Accountants; Actors’ Equity Association; Actuarial
Association of America; International Advertising
Association; National Aeronautic Association; Albany
Institute of History and Art; Amen Corner;
American Academy in Rome; American Antiquarian
Society; League for American Citizenship; American
Federation of Labor; Amorc (Rosicrucian Order);
Andiron Club; American-Irish Historical
Association; Anti-Cigarette League; Anti-Profanity
League; Archeological Association of America; National
Archery Association; Arion Singing Society;
American Astronomical Association; Ayrshire Breeders’
Association; Aztec Club of 1847. There are
many more under the “A” section of this very
limited list.
The American Newspaper Annual and Directory
for 1928 lists 22,128 periodical publications in
America. I have selected at random the N’s published
in Chicago. They are:
Narod (Bohemian daily newspaper); Narod-Polski
(Polish monthly); N.A.R.D. (pharmaceutical);
National Corporation Reporter; National Culinary
Progress (for hotel chefs); National Dog Journal;
National Drug Clerk; National Engineer; National
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Organizing Chaos
Grocer; National Hotel Reporter; National Income
Tax Magazine; National Jeweler; National Journal
of Chiropractic; National Live Stock Producer;
National Miller; National Nut News; National
Poultry, Butter and Egg Bulletin; National Provisioner
(for meat packers); National Real Estate
Journal; National Retail Clothier; National Retail
Lumber Dealer; National Safety News; National
Spiritualist; National Underwriter; The Nation’s
Health; Naujienos (Lithuanian daily newspaper);
New Comer (Republican weekly for Italians);
Daily News; The New World (Catholic weekly);
North American Banker; North American Veterinarian.
The circulation of some of these publications is
astonishing. The National Live Stock Producer has
a sworn circulation of 155,978; The National Engineer,
of 20,328; The New World, an estimated
circulation of 67,000. The greater number of the
periodicals listed—chosen at random from among
22,128—have a circulation in excess of 10,000.
The diversity of these publications is evident at a
glance. Yet they can only faintly suggest the multitude
of cleavages which exist in our society, and
along which flow information and opinion carrying
authority to the individual groups.
Here are the conventions scheduled for Cleveland,
Ohio, recorded in a single recent issue of “World
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Cenvention Dates”—a fraction of the 5,500 conventions
and rallies scheduled.
The Employing Photo-Engravers’ Association of
America; The Outdoor Writers’ Association; the
Knights of St. John; the Walther League; The National
Knitted Outerwear Association; The Knights
of St. Joseph; The Royal Order of Sphinx; The
Mortgage Bankers’ Association; The International
Association of Public Employment Officials; The
Kiwanis Clubs of Ohio; The American Photo-Engravers’
Association; The Cleveland Auto Manufacturers
Show; The American Society of Heating and
Ventilating Engineers.
Other conventions to be held in 1928 were those
of:
The Association of Limb Manufacturers’ Associations;
The National Circus Fans’ Association of
America; The American Naturopathic Association;
The American Trap Shooting Association; The
Texas Folklore Association; The Hotel Greeters;
The Fox Breeders’ Association; The Insecticide and
Disinfectant Association; The National Association
of Egg Case and Egg Case Filler Manufacturers;
The American Bottlers of Carbonated Beverages;
and The National Pickle Packers’ Association, not to
mention the Terrapin Derby—most of them with
banquets and orations attached.
If all these thousands of formal organizations and
institutions could be listed (and no complete list has
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Organizing Chaos
ever been made), they would still represent but a
part of those existing less formally but leading
vigorous lives. Ideas are sifted and opinions stereotyped
in the neighborhood bridge club. Leaders
assert their authority through community drives and
amateur theatricals. Thousands of women may unconsciously
belong to a sorority which follows the
fashions set by a single society leader.
“Life” satirically expresses this idea in the reply
which it represents an American as giving to the
Britisher who praises this country for having no
upper and lower classes or castes:
“Yeah, all we have is the Four Hundred, the
White-Collar Men, Bootleggers, Wall Street Barons,
Criminals, the D.A.R., the K.K.K., the Colonial
Dames, the Masons, Kiwanis and Rotarians, the K.
of C, the Elks, the Censors, the Cognoscenti, the
Morons, Heroes like Lindy, the W.C.T.U., Politicians,
Menckenites, the Booboisie, Immigrants,
Broadcasters, and—the Rich and Poor.”
Yet it must be remembered that these thousands
of groups interlace. John Jones, besides being a
Rotarian, is member of a church, of a fraternal order,
of a political party, of a charitable organization, of
a professional association, of a local chamber of
commerce, of a league for or against prohibition or
of a society for or against lowering the tariff, and of
a golf club. The opinions which he receives as a
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Rotarian, he will tend to disseminate in the other
groups in which he may have influence.
This invisible, intertwining structure of groupings
and associations is the mechanism by which democracy
has organized its group mind and simplified its
mass thinking. To deplore the existence of such a
mechanism is to ask for a society such as never was
and never will be. To admit that it easts, but expect
that it shall not be used, is unreasonable.
Emil Ludwig represents Napoleon as “ever on
the watch for indications of public opinion; always
listening to the voice of the people, a voice which
defies calculation. ‘Do you know,’ he said in those
days, ‘what amazes me more than all else? The
impotence of force to organize anything.'”
It is the purpose of this book to explain the structure
of the mechanism which controls the public
mind, and to tell how it is manipulated by the special
pleader who seeks to create public acceptance for a
particular idea or commodity. It will attempt at the
same time to find the due place in the modern democratic
scheme for this new propaganda and to suggest
its gradually evolving code of ethics and practice.
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CHAPTER II
THE NEW PROPAGANDA
IN the days when kings were kings, Louis XIV
made his modest remark, “L’Etat c’est moi.” He
was nearly right.
But times have changed. The steam engine, the
multiple press, and the public school, that trio of the
industrial revolution, have taken the power away
from kings and given it to the people. The people
actually gained power which the king lost For
economic power tends to draw after it political
power; and the history of the industrial revolution
shows how that power passed from the king and the
aristocracy to the bourgeoisie. Universal suffrage
and universal schooling reinforced this tendency, and
at last even the bourgeoisie stood in fear of the common
people. For the masses promised to become
king.
To-day, however, a reaction has set in. The minority
has discovered a powerful help in influencing
majorities. It has been found possible so to mold
the mind of the masses that they will throw
their newly gained strength in the desired direction.
In the present structure of society, this practice is
inevitable. Whatever of social importance is done
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Propaganda
to-day, whether in politics, finance, manufacture, agriculture,
charity, education, or other fields, must be
done with the help of propaganda. Propaganda is
the executive arm of the invisible government
Universal literacy was supposed to educate the
common man to control his environment. Once
he could read and write he would have a mind fit to
rule. So ran the democratic doctrine. But instead
of a mind, universal literacy has given him rubber
stamps, rubber stamps inked with advertising slogans,
with editorials, with published scientific data, with
the trivialities of the tabloids and the platitudes of
history, but quite innocent of original thought. Each
man’s rubber stamps are the duplicates of millions
of others, so that when those millions are exposed to
the same stimuli, all receive identical imprints. It
may seem an exaggeration to say that the American
public gets most of its ideas in this wholesale fashion.
The mechanism by which ideas are disseminated on a
large scale is propaganda, in the broad sense of
an organized effort to spread a particular belief or
doctrine.
I am aware that the word “propaganda” carries to
many minds an unpleasant connotation. Yet whether,
in any instance, propaganda is good or bad depends
upon the merit of the cause urged, and the correctness
of the information published.
In itself, the word “propaganda” has certain technical
meanings which, like most things in this world,
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The New Propaganda
are “neither good nor bad but custom makes them
so.” I find the word defined in Funk and Wagnalls’
Dictionary in four ways:
“1. A society of cardinals, the overseers of foreign
missions; also the College of the Propaganda at
Rome founded by Pope Urban VIII in 1627 for the
education of missionary priests; Sacred College de
Propaganda Fide.
“2. Hence, any institution or scheme for propagating
a doctrine or system.
“3. Effort directed systematically toward the
gaining of public support for an opinion or a course
of action.
“4. The principles advanced by a propaganda.”
The Scientific American, in a recent issue, pleads
for the restoration to respectable usage of that “fine
old word ‘propaganda.'”
“There is no word in the English language,” it
says, “whose meaning has been so sadly distorted as
the word ‘propaganda.’ The change took place
mainly during the late war when the term took on a
decidedly sinister complexion.
“If you turn to the Standard Dictionary, you will
find that the word was applied to a congregation or
society of cardinals for the care and oversight of
foreign missions which was instituted at Rome in
the year 1627. It was applied also to the College of
the Propaganda at Rome that was founded by Pope
Urban VIII, for the education of the missionary
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priests. Hence, in later years the word came to be
applied to any institution or scheme for propagating
a doctrine or system.
“Judged by this definition, we can see that in its
true sense propaganda is a perfectly legitimate form
of human activity. Any society, whether it be social,
religious or political, which is possessed of certain
beliefs, and sets out to make them known, either by
the spoken or written words, is practicing propaganda.
“Truth is mighty and must prevail, and if any
body of men believe that they have discovered a
valuable truth, it is not merely their privilege but
their duty to disseminate that truth. If they realize,
as they quickly must, that this spreading of the truth
can be done upon a large scale and effectively only
by organized effort, they will make use of the press
and the platform as the best means to give it wide
circulation. Propaganda becomes vicious and reprehensive
only when its authors consciously and deliberately
disseminate what they know to be lies, or
when they aim at effects which they know to be prejudicial
to the common good.
” ‘Propaganda’ in its proper meaning is a perfectly
wholesome word, of honest parentage, and with an
honorable history. The fact that it should to-day be
carrying a sinister meaning merely shows how much
of the child remains in the average adult. A group
of citizens writes and talks in favor of a certain
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The New Propaganda
course of action in some debatable question, believing
that it is promoting the best interest of the community.
Propaganda? Not a bit of it. Just a plain
forceful statement of truth. But let another group
of citizens express opposing views, and they are
promptly labeled with the sinister name of propaganda.
. . .
” ‘What is sauce for the goose is sauce for the
gander,’ says a wise old proverb. Let us make haste
to put this fine old word back where it belongs, and
restore its dignified significance for the use of our
children and our children’s children.”
The extent to which propaganda shapes the progress
of affairs about us may surprise even well informed
persons. Nevertheless, it is only necessary
to look under the surface of the newspaper for a
hint as to propaganda’s authority over public opinion.
Page one of the New York Times on the day these
paragraphs are written contains eight important news
stories. Four of them, or one-half, are propaganda.
The casual reader accepts them as accounts of spontaneous
happenings. But are they? Here are the
headlines which announce them: “TWELVE NATIONS
WARN CHINA REAL REFORM MUST COME BEFORE
THEY GIVE RELIEF,” “PRITCHETT REPORTS ZIONISM
WILL FAIL,” “REALTY MEN DEMAND A TRANSIT INQUIRY,”
and “OUR LIVING STANDARD HIGHEST IN
HISTORY, SAYS HOOVER REPORT.”
Take them in order: the article on China explains
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the joint report of the Commission on Extraterritoriality
in China, presenting an exposition of the
Powers’ stand in the Chinese muddle. What it says
is less important than what it is. It was “made public
by the State Department to-day” with the purpose
of presenting to the American public a picture of the
State Department’s position. Its source gives it authority,
and the American public tends to accept and
support the State Department view.
The report of Dr. Pritchett, a trustee of the Carnegie
Foundation for International Peace, is an attempt
to find the facts about this Jewish colony in
the midst of a restless Arab world. When Dr.
Pritchett’s survey convinced him that in the long run
Zionism would “bring more bitterness and more unhappiness
both for the Jew and for the Arab,” this
point of view was broadcast with all the authority
of the Carnegie Foundation, so that the public would
hear and believe. The statement by the president of
the Real Estate Board of New York, and Secretary
Hoover’s report, are similar attempts to influence
the public toward an opinion.
These examples are not given to create the impression
that there is anything sinister about propaganda.
They are set down rather to illustrate how conscious
direction is given to events, and how the men behind
these events influence public opinion. As such they
are examples of modern propaganda. At this point
we may attempt to define propaganda.
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The New Propaganda
Modern propaganda is a consistent, enduring effort
to create or shape events to influence the relations
of the public to an enterprise, idea or group.
This practice of creating circumstances and of
creating pictures in the minds of millions of persons
is very common. Virtually no important undertaking
is now carried on without it, whether that enterprise
be building a cathedral, endowing a university, marketing
a moving picture, floating a large bond issue,
or electing a president. Sometimes the effect on the
public is created by a professional propagandist,
sometimes by an amateur deputed for the job. The
important thing is that it is universal and continuous;
and in its sum total it is regimenting the public mind
every bit as much as an army regiments the bodies of
its soldiers.
So vast are the numbers of minds which can be
regimented, and so tenacious are they when regimented,
that a group at times offers an irresistible
pressure before which legislators, editors, and teachers
are helpless. The group will cling to its stereotype,
as Walter Lippmann calls it, making of those
supposedly powerful beings, the leaders of public
opinion, mere bits of driftwood in the surf. When
an Imperial Wizard, sensing what is perhaps hunger
for an ideal, offers a picture of a nation all Nordic
and nationalistic, the common man of the older
American stock, feeling himself elbowed out of his
rightful position and prosperity by the newer immi-
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grant stocks, grasps the picture which fits in so neatly
with his prejudices, and makes it his own. He buys
the sheet and pillow-case costume, and bands with
his fellows by the thousand into a huge group
powerful enough to swing state elections and to
throw a ponderous monkey wrench into a national
convention.
In our present social organization approval of the
public is essential to any large undertaking. Hence
a laudable movement may be lost unless it impresses
itself on the public mind. Charity, as well as business,
and politics and literature, for that matter, have
had to adopt propaganda, for the public must be
regimented into giving money just as it must be regimented
into tuberculosis prophylaxis. The Near
East Relief, the Association for the Improvement of
the Condition of the Poor of New York, and all
the rest, have to work on public opinion just as
though they had tubes of tooth paste to sell. We
are proud of our diminishing infant death rate—and
that too is the work of propaganda.
Propaganda does exist on all sides of us, and it
does change our mental pictures of the world. Even
if this be unduly pessimistic—and that remains to
be proved—the opinion reflects a tendency that is
undoubtedly real. In fact, its use is growing as
its efficiency in gaining public support is recognized.
This then, evidently indicates the fact that any
one with sufficient influence can lead sections of the
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The New Propaganda
public at least for a time and for a given purpose.
Formerly the rulers were the leaders. They laid
out the course of history, by the simple process of
doing what they wanted. And if nowadays the
successors of the rulers, those whose position or
ability gives them power, can no longer do what
they want without the approval of the masses,
they find in propaganda a tool which is increasingly
powerful in gaining that approval. Therefore, propaganda
is here to stay.
It was, of course, the astounding success of propaganda
during the war that opened the eyes of
the intelligent few in all departments of life to
the possibilities of regimenting the public mind.
The American government and numerous patriotic
agencies developed a technique which, to most persons
accustomed to bidding for public acceptance, was
new. They not only appealed to the individual by
means of every approach—visual, graphic, and auditory—
to support the national endeavor, but they also
secured the cooperation of the key men in every group
—persons whose mere word carried authority to hundreds
or thousands or hundreds of thousands of
followers. They thus automatically gained the support
of fraternal, religious, commercial, patriotic,
social and local groups whose members took their
opinions from their accustomed leaders and spokesmen,
or from the periodical publications which they
were accustomed to read and believe. At the same
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time, the manipulators of patriotic opinion made use
of the mental cliches and the emotional habits of the
public to produce mass reactions against the alleged
atrocities, the terror and the tyranny of the enemy.
It was only natural, after the war ended, that intelligent
persons should ask themselves whether it was
not possible to apply a similar technique to the problems
of peace.
As a matter of fact, the practice of propaganda
since the war has assumed very different forms from
those prevalent twenty years ago. This new technique
may fairly be called the new propaganda.
It takes account not merely of the individual, nor
even of the mass mind alone, but also and especially
of the anatomy of society, with its interlocking group
formations and loyalties. It sees the individual
not only as a cell in the social organism but as a cell
organized into the social unit. Touch a nerve at a
sensitive spot and you get an automatic response
from certain specific members of the organism.
Business offers graphic examples of the effect that
may be produced upon the public by interested
groups, such as textile manufacturers losing their
markets. This problem arose, not long ago, when the
velvet manufacturers were facing ruin because their
product had long been out of fashion. Analysis
showed that it was impossible to revive a velvet fashion
within America. Anatomical hunt for the vital
spot! Paris! Obviously! But yes and no. Paris is
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The New Propaganda
the home of fashion. Lyons is the home of silk. The
attack had to be made at the source. It was determined
to substitute purpose for chance and to utilize
the regular sources for fashion distribution and to
influence the public from these sources. A velvet
fashion service, openly supported by the manufacturers,
was organized. Its first function was to establish
contact with the Lyons manufactories and
the Paris couturiers to discover what they were doing,
to encourage them to act on behalf of velvet, and to
help in the proper exploitation of their wares. An
intelligent Parisian was enlisted in the work. He visited
Lanvin and Worth, Agnes and Patou, and others
and induced them to use velvet in their gowns and
hats. It was he who arranged for the distinguished
Countess This or Duchess That to wear the hat or the
gown. And as for the presentation of the idea to the
public, the American buyer or the American woman
of fashion was simply shown the velvet creations in
the atelier of the dressmaker or the milliner. She
bought the velvet because she liked it and because
it was in fashion.
The editors of the American magazines and fashion
reporters of the American newspapers, likewise
subjected to the actual (although created) circumstance,
reflected it in their news, which, in turn,
subjected the buyer and the consumer here to the
same influences. The result was that what was at
first a trickle of velvet became a flood. A demand
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Propaganda
was slowly, but deliberately, created in Paris and
America. A big department store, aiming to be a
style leader, advertised velvet gowns and hats on the
authority of the French couturiers, and quoted original
cables received from them. The echo of the
new style note was heard from hundreds of department
stores throughout the country which wanted to
be style leaders too. Bulletins followed despatches.
The mail followed the cables. And the American
woman traveler appeared before the ship news photographers
in velvet gown and hat.
The created circumstances had their effect. “Fickle
fashion has veered to velvet,” was one newspaper
comment. And the industry in the United States
again kept thousands busy.
The new propaganda, having regard to the constitution
of society as a whole, not infrequently serves
to focus and realize the desires of the masses. A
desire for a specific reform, however widespread,
cannot be translated into action until it is made articulate,
and until it has exerted sufficient pressure upon
the proper law-making bodies. Millions of housewives
may feel that manufactured foods deleterious
to health should be prohibited. But there
is little chance that their individual desires will be
translated into effective legal form unless their halfexpressed
demand can be organized, made vocal,
and concentrated upon the state legislature or upon
the Federal Congress in some mode which will pro-
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The New Propaganda
duce the results they desire. Whether they realize
it or not, they call upon propaganda to organize and
effectuate their demand.
But clearly it is the intelligent minorities which
need to make use of propaganda continuously and
systematically. In the active proselytizing minorities
in whom selfish interests and public interests
coincide lie the progress and development of America.
Only through the active energy of the intelligent
few can the public at large become aware of and act
upon new ideas.
Small groups of persons can, and do, make the
rest of us think what they please about a given subject.
But there are usually proponents and opponents
of every propaganda, both of whom are equally
eager to convince the majority.
31
CHAPTER III
THE NEW PROPAGANDISTS
WHO are the men who, without our realizing it,
give us our ideas, tell us whom to admire and whom
to despise, what to believe about the ownership of
public utilities, about the tariff, about the price of
rubber, about the Dawes Plan, about immigration;
who tell us how our houses should be designed, what
furniture we should put into them, what menus we
should serve on our table, what kind of shirts we
must wear, what sports we should indulge in, what
plays we should see, what charities we should support,
what pictures we should admire, what slang
we should affect, what jokes we should laugh at?
If we set out to make a list of the men and women
who, because of their position in public life, might
fairly be called the molders of public opinion, we
could quickly arrive at an extended list of persons
mentioned in “Who’s Who.” It would obviously
include, the President of the United States and the
members of his Cabinet; the Senators and Representatives
in Congress; the Governors of our fortyeight
states; the presidents of the chambers of commerce
in our hundred largest cities, the chairmen of
the boards of directors of our hundred or more
32
The New Propagandists
largest industrial corporations, the president of many
of the labor unions affiliated in the American Federation
of Labor, the national president of each of
the national professional and fraternal organizations,
the president of each of the racial or language societies
in the country, the hundred leading newspaper
and magazine editors, the fifty most popular
authors, the presidents of the fifty leading charitable
organizations, the twenty leading theatrical or cinema
producers, the hundred recognized leaders of fashion,
the most popular and influential clergymen in
the hundred leading cities, the presidents of our colleges
and universities and the foremost members of
their faculties, the most powerful financiers in Wall
Street, the most noted amateurs of sport, and so on.
Such a list would comprise several thousand
persons. But it is well known that many of these
leaders are themselves led, sometimes by persons
whose names are known to few. Many a congressman,
in framing his platform, follows the suggestions
of a district boss whom few persons outside the political
machine have ever heard of. Eloquent divines
may have great influence in their communities, but
often take their doctrines from a higher ecclesiastical
authority. The presidents of chambers of commerce
mold the thought of local business men
concerning public issues, but the opinions which they
promulgate are usually derived from some national
authority. A presidential candidate may be
33
Propaganda
“drafted” in response to “overwhelming popular demand,”
but it is well known that his name may be
decided upon by half a dozen men sitting around a
table in a hotel room.
In some instances the power of invisible wirepullers
is flagrant. The power of the invisible cabinet
which deliberated at the poker table in a certain
little green house in Washington has become a national
legend. There was a period in which the
major policies of the national government were dictated
by a single man, Mark Hanna. A Simmons
may, for a few years, succeed in marshaling millions
of men on a platform of intolerance and violence.
Such persons typify in the public mind the type
of ruler associated with the phrase invisible government.
But we do not often stop to think that there
are dictators in other fields whose influence is just
as decisive as that of the politicians I have mentioned.
An Irene Castle can establish the fashion of short
hair which dominates nine-tenths of the women who
make any pretense to being fashionable. Paris
fashion leaders set the mode of the short skirt, for
wearing which, twenty years ago, any woman would
simply have been arrested and thrown into jail by
the New York police, and the entire women’s
clothing industry, capitalized at hundreds of millions
of dollars, must be reorganized to conform to
their dictum.
34
The New Propagandists
There are invisible rulers who control the destinies
of millions. It is not generally realized to what extent
the words and actions of our most influential
public men are dictated by shrewd persons operating
behind the scenes.
Nor, what is still more important, the extent to
which our thoughts and habits are modified by
authorities.
In some departments of our daily life, in which
we imagine ourselves free agents, we are ruled by
dictators exercising great power. A man buying a
suit of clothes imagines that he is choosing, according
to his taste and his personality, the kind of garment
which he prefers. In reality, he may be obeying
the orders of an anonymous gentleman tailor in
London. This personage is the silent partner in
a modest tailoring establishment, which is patronized
by gentlemen of fashion and princes of the
blood. He suggests to British noblemen and others
a blue cloth instead of gray, two buttons instead of
three, or sleeves a quarter of an inch narrower than
last season. The distinguished customer approves
of the idea.
But how does this fact affect John Smith of
Topeka?
The gentleman tailor is under contract with a
certain large American firm, which manufactures
men’s suits, to send them instantly the designs of the
suits chosen by the leaders of London fashion.
35
Propaganda
Upon receiving the designs, with specifications as
to color, weight and texture, the firm immediately
places an order with the cloth makers for several
hundred thousand dollars’ worth of cloth. The suits
made up according to the specifications are then advertised
as the latest fashion. The fashionable men
in New York, Chicago, Boston and Philadelphia
wear them. And the Topeka man, recognizing this
leadership, does the same.
Women are just as subject to the commands of
invisible government as are men. A silk manufacturer,
seeking a new market for its product, suggested
to a large manufacturer of shoes that women’s
shoes should be covered with silk to match their
dresses. The idea was adopted and systematically
propagandized. A popular actress was persuaded to
wear the shoes. The fashion spread. The shoe firm
was ready with the supply to meet the created demand.
And the silk company was ready with the
silk for more shoes.
The man who injected this idea into the shoe industry
was ruling women in one department of their
social lives. Different men rule us in the various
departments of our lives. There may be one power
behind the throne in politics, another in the manipulation
of the Federal discount rate, and still another
in the dictation of next season’s dances. If there
were a national invisible cabinet ruling our destinies
(a thing which is not impossible to conceive of) it
36
The New Propagandists
would work through certain group leaders on Tuesday
for one purpose, and through an entirely different
set on Wednesday for another. The idea of
invisible government is relative. There may be a
handful of men who control the educational methods
of the great majority of our schools. Yet from
another standpoint, every parent is a group leader
with authority over his or her children.
The invisible government tends to be concentrated
in the hands of the few because of the expense
of manipulating the social machinery which
controls the opinions and habits of the masses. To
advertise on a scale which will reach fifty million
persons is expensive. To reach and persuade the
group leaders who dictate the public’s thoughts and
actions is likewise expensive.
For this reason there is an increasing tendency to
concentrate the functions of propaganda in the hands
of the propaganda specialist. This specialist is more
and more assuming a distinct place and function in
our national life.
New activities call for new nomenclature. The
propagandist who specializes in interpreting enterprises
and ideas to the public, and in interpreting the
public to promulgators of new enterprises and ideas,
has come to be known by the name of “public relations
counsel.”
The new profession of public relations has grown
up because of the increasing complexity of modern
37
Propaganda
life and the consequent necessity for making the
actions of one part of the public understandable to
other sectors of the public. It is due, too, to the
increasing dependence of organized power of all sorts
upon public opinion. Governments, whether they
are monarchical, constitutional, democratic or communist,
depend upon acquiescent public opinion for
the success of their efforts and, in fact, government is
only government by virtue of public acquiescence.
Industries, public utilities, educational movements,
indeed all groups representing any concept or product,
whether they are majority or minority ideas,
succeed only because of approving public opinion.
Public opinion is the unacknowledged partner in all
broad efforts.
The public relations counsel, then, is the agent
who, working with modern media of communication
and the group formations of society, brings an
idea to the consciousness of the public. But he is
a great deal more than that. He is concerned with
courses of action, doctrines, systems and opinions, and
the securing of public support for them. He is also
concerned with tangible things such as manufactured
and raw products. He is concerned with public utilities,
with large trade groups and associations representing
entire industries.
He functions primarily as an adviser to his client,
very much as a lawyer does. A lawyer concentrates
on the legal aspects of his client’s business. A coun-
38
The New Propagandists
sel on public relations concentrates on the public contacts
of his client’s business. Every phase of his
client’s ideas, products or activities which may affect
the public or in which the public may have an interest
is part of his function.
For instance, in the specific problems of the manufacturer
he examines the product, the markets, the
way in which the public reacts to the product, the attitude
of the employees to the public and towards
the product, and the cooperation of the distribution
agencies.
The counsel on public relations, after he has examined
all these and other factors, endeavors to
shape the actions of his client so that they will gain
the interest, the approval and the acceptance of the
public.
The means by which the public is apprised of the
actions of his client are as varied as the means of
communication themselves, such as conversation, letters,
the stage, the motion picture, the radio, the lecture
platform, the magazine, the daily newspaper.
The counsel on public relations is not an advertising
man but he advocates advertising where that is indicated.
Very often he is called in by an advertising
agency to supplement its work on behalf of a client.
His work and that of the advertising agency do not
conflict with or duplicate each other.
His first efforts are, naturally, devoted to analyzing
his client’s problems and making sure that what
39
Propaganda
he has to offer the public is something which the
public accepts or can be brought to accept. It is
futile to attempt to sell an idea or to prepare the
ground for a product that is basically unsound.
For example, an orphan asylum is worried by a
falling off in contributions and a puzzling attitude
of indifference or hostility on the part of the public.
The counsel on public relations may discover upon
analysis that the public, alive to modern sociological
trends, subconsciously criticizes the institution because
it is not organized on the new “cottage plan.” He
will advise modification of the client in this respect.
Or a railroad may be urged to put on a fast
train for the sake of the prestige which it will lend
to the road’s name, and hence to its stocks and bonds.
If the corset makers, for instance, wished to bring
their product into fashion again, he would unquestionably
advise that the plan was impossible,
since women have definitely emancipated themselves
from the old-style corset. Yet his fashion advisers
might report that women might be persuaded to
adopt a certain type of girdle which eliminated the
unhealthful features of the corset.
His next effort is to analyze his public. He
studies the groups which must be reached, and the
leaders through whom he may approach these groups.
Social groups, economic groups, geographical groups,
age groups, doctrinal groups, language groups, cultural
groups, all these represent the divisions through
40
The New Propagandists
which, on behalf of his client, he may talk to the
public.
Only after this double analysis has been made and
the results collated, has the time come for the next
step, the formulation of policies governing the general
practice, procedure and habits of the client in all
those aspects in which he comes in contact with the
public. And only when these policies have been
agreed upon is it time for the fourth step.
The first recognition of the distinct functions of
the public relations counsel arose, perhaps, in the
early years of the present century as a result of the
insurance scandals coincident with the muck-raking
of corporate finance in the popular magazines. The
interests thus attacked suddenly realized that they
were completely out of touch with the public they
were professing to serve, and required expert advice
to show them how they could understand the public
and interpret themselves to it.
The Metropolitan Life Insurance Company,
prompted by the most fundamental self-interest, initiated
a conscious, directed effort to change the attitude
of the public toward insurance companies in
general, and toward itself in particular, to its profit
and the public’s benefit.
It tried to make a majority movement of itself
by getting the public to buy its policies. It reached
the public at every point of its corporate and separate
existences. To communities it gave health surveys
41
Propaganda
and expert counsel. To individuals it gave health
creeds and advice. Even the building in which the
corporation was located was made a picturesque landmark
to see and remember, in other words to carry
on the associative process. And so this company
came to have a broad general acceptance. The number
and amount of its policies grew constantly, as
its broad contacts with society increased.
Within a decade, many large corporations were
employing public relations counsel under one title or
another, for they had come to recognize that they
depended upon public good will for their continued
prosperity. It was no longer true that it was “none
of the public’s business” how the affairs of a corporation
were managed. They were obliged to convince
the public that they were conforming to its demands
as to honesty and fairness. Thus a corporation might
discover that its labor policy was causing public resentment,
and might introduce a more enlightened
policy solely for the sake of general good will. Or a
department store, hunting for the cause of diminishing
sales, might discover that its clerks had a reputation
for bad manners, and initiate formal instruction
in courtesy and tact.
The public relations expert may be known as public
relations director or counsel. Often he is called secretary
or vice-president or director. Sometimes he
is known as cabinet officer or commissioner. By whatever
title he may be called, his function is well
42
The New Propagandists
defined and his advice has definite bearing on the
conduct of the group or individual with whom he is
working.
Many persons still believe that the public relations
counsel is a propagandist and nothing else.
But, on the contrary, the stage at which many suppose
he starts his activities may actually be the stage at
which he ends them. After the public and the
client are thoroughly analyzed and policies have
been formulated, his work may be finished. In
other cases the work of the public relations counsel
must be continuous to be effective. For in many instances
only by a careful system of constant, thorough
and frank information will the public understand and
appreciate the value of what a merchant, educator or
statesman is doing. The counsel on public relations
must maintain constant vigilance, because inadequate
information, or false information from unknown
sources, may have results of enormous importance.
A single false rumor at a critical moment may drive
down the price of a corporation’s stock, causing a loss
of millions to stockholders. An air of secrecy or
mystery about a corporation’s financial dealings may
breed a general suspicion capable of acting as an invisible
drag on the company’s whole dealings with
the public. The counsel on public relations must be
in a position to deal effectively with rumors and suspicions,
attempting to stop them at their source,
counteracting them promptly with correct or more
43
Propaganda
complete information through channels which will be
most effective, or best of all establishing such relations
of confidence in the concern’s integrity that
rumors and suspicions will have no opportunity to
take root.
His function may include the discovery of new
markets, the existence of which had been unsuspected.
If we accept public relations as a profession, we
must also expect it to have both ideals and ethics.
The ideal of the profession is a pragmatic one. It is
to make the producer, whether that producer be a
legislature making laws or a manufacturer making
a commercial product, understand what the public
wants and to make the public understand the objectives
of the producer. In relation to industry, the
ideal of the profession is to eliminate the waste and
the friction that result when industry does things or
makes things which its public does not want, or when
the public does not understand what is being offered
it. For example, the telephone companies maintain
extensive public relations departments to explain
what they are doing, so that energy may not be
burned up in the friction of misunderstanding. A
detailed description, for example, of the immense
and scientific care which the company takes to choose
clearly understandable and distinguishable exchange
names, helps the public to appreciate the effort that is
being made to give good service, and stimulates it to
44
The New Propagandists
cooperate by enunciating clearly. It aims to bring
about an understanding between educators and educated,
between government and people, between
charitable institutions and contributors, between nation
and nation.
The profession of public relations counsel is developing
for itself an ethical code which compares
favorably with that governing the legal and medical
professions. In part, this code is forced upon the
public relations counsel by the very conditions of his
work. While recognizing, just as the lawyer does,
that every one has the right to present his case in its
best light, he nevertheless refuses a client whom
he believes to be dishonest, a product which he believes
to be fraudulent, or a cause which he believes
to be antisocial. One reason for this is that, even
though a special pleader, he is not dissociated from
the client in the public’s mind. Another reason is
that while he is pleading before the court—the court
of public opinion—he is at the same time trying to
affect that court’s judgments and actions. In law,
the judge and jury hold the deciding balance of
power. In public opinion, the public relations counsel
is judge and jury, because through his pleading
of a case the public may accede to his opinion and
judgment.
He does not accept a client whose interests conflict
with those of another client. He does not accept
45
Propaganda
a client whose case he believes to be hopeless or
whose product he believes to be unmarketable.
He should be candid in his dealings. It must be
repeated that his business is not to fool or hoodwink
the public. If he were to get such a reputation, his
usefulness in his profession would be at an end.
When he is sending out propaganda material, it is
clearly labeled as to source. The editor knows from
whom it comes and what its purpose is, and accepts
or rejects it on its merits as news.
46
CHAPTER IV
THE PSYCHOLOGY OF PUBLIC RELATIONS
THE systematic study of mass psychology revealed
to students the potentialities of invisible government
of society by manipulation of the motives
which actuate man in the group. Trotter and Le
Bon, who approached the subject in a scientific manner,
and Graham Wallas, Walter Lippmann and
others who continued with searching studies of the
group mind, established that the group has mental
characteristics distinct from those of the individual,
and is motivated by impulses and emotions which
cannot be explained on the basis of what we know
of individual psychology. So the question naturally
arose: If we understand the mechanism and motives
of the group mind, is it not possible to control and
regiment the masses according to our will without
their knowing it?
The recent practice of propaganda has proved that
it is possible, at least up to a certain point and within
certain limits. Mass psychology is as yet far from
being an exact science and the mysteries of human
motivation are by no means all revealed. But at
least theory and practice have combined with sufficient
success to permit us to know that in certain
47
Propaganda
cases we can effect some change in public opinion
with a fair degree of accuracy by operating a certain
mechanism, just as the motorist can regulate the
speed of his car by manipulating the flow of gasoline.
Propaganda is not a science in the laboratory
sense, but it is no longer entirely the empirical affair
that it was before the advent of the study of mass
psychology. It is now scientific in the sense that it
seeks to base its operations upon definite knowledge
drawn from direct observation of the group mind,
and upon the application of principles which have
been demonstrated to be consistent and relatively
constant
The modern propagandist studies systematically
and objectively the material with which he is working
in the spirit of the laboratory. If the matter in
hand is a nation-wide sales campaign, he studies the
field by means of a clipping service, or of a corps of
scouts, or by personal study at a crucial spot He
determines, for example, which features of a product
are losing their public appeal, and in what new direction
the public taste is veering. He will not fail to
investigate to what extent it is the wife who has the
final word in the choice of her husband’s car, or of
his suits and shirts.
Scientific accuracy of results is not to be expected,
because many of the elements of the situation must
always be beyond his control. He may know with a
fair degree of certainty that under favorable cir-
48
The Psychology of Public Relations
cumstances an international flight will produce a
spirit of good will, making possible even the consummation
of political programs. But he cannot be
sure that some unexpected event will not overshadow
this flight in the public interest, or that some other
aviator may not do something more spectacular the
day before. Even in his restricted field of public
psychology there must always be a wide margin of
error. Propaganda, like economics and sociology,
can never be an exact science for the reason that its
subject-matter, like theirs, deals with human beings.
If you can influence the leaders, either with or
without their conscious cooperation, you automatically
influence the group which they sway. But men
do not need to be actually gathered together in a
public meeting or in a street riot, to be subject to the
influences of mass psychology. Because man is by
nature gregarious he feels himself to be member of
a herd, even when he is alone in his room with the
curtains drawn. His mind retains the patterns which
have been stamped on it by the group influences.
A man sits in his office deciding what stocks to buy.
He imagines, no doubt, that he is planning his purchases
according to his own judgment. In actual
fact his judgment is a melange of impressions
stamped on his mind by outside influences which unconsciously
control his thought. He buys a certain
railroad stock because it was in the headlines yesterday
and hence is the one which comes most promi-
49
Propaganda
nently to his mind; because he has a pleasant
recollection of a good dinner on one of its fast
trains; because it has a liberal labor policy, a reputation
for honesty; because he has been told that
J. P. Morgan owns some of its shares.
Trotter and Le Bon concluded that the group
mind does not think in the strict sense of the word.
In place of thoughts it has impulses, habits and emotions.
In making up its mind its first impulse is
usually to follow the example of a trusted leader.
This is one of the most firmly established principles
of mass psychology. It operates in establishing the
rising or diminishing prestige of a summer resort, in
causing a run on a bank, or a panic on the stock exchange,
in creating a best seller, or a box-office
success.
But when the example of the leader is not at hand
and the herd must think for itself, it does so by
means of cliches, pat words or images which stand
for a whole group of ideas or experiences. Not
many years ago, it was only necessary to tag a political
candidate with the word interests to stampede
millions of people into voting against him, because
anything associated with “the interests” seemed necessarily
corrupt. Recently the word Bolshevik
has performed a similar service for persons who
wished to frighten the public away from a line of
action.
By playing upon an old cliche, or manipulating a
50
The Psychology of Public Relations
new one, the propagandist can sometimes swing a
whole mass of group emotions. In Great Britain,
during the war, the evacuation hospitals came in for
a considerable amount of criticism because of the
summary way in which they handled their wounded.
It was assumed by the public that a hospital gives
prolonged and conscientious attention to its patients.
When the name was changed to evacuation posts
the critical reaction vanished. No one expected more
than an adequate emergency treatment from an institution
so named. The cliche hospital was indelibly
associated in the public mind with a certain picture.
To persuade the public to discriminate between one
type of hospital and another, to dissociate the cliche
from the picture it evoked, would have been an impossible
task. Instead, a new cliche automatically
conditioned the public emotion toward these hospitals.
Men are rarely aware of the real reasons which
motivate their actions. A man may believe that he
buys a motor car because, after careful study of the
technical features of all makes on the market, he
has concluded that this is the best. He is almost
certainly fooling himself. He bought it, perhaps,
because a friend whose financial acumen he respects
bought one last week; or because his neighbors believed
he was not able to afford a car of that class;
or because its colors are those of his college fraternity.
51
Propaganda
It is chiefly the psychologists of the school of
Freud who have pointed out that many of man’s
thoughts and actions are compensatory substitutes
for desires which he has been obliged to suppress.
A thing may be desired not for its intrinsic worth
or usefulness, but because he has unconsciously come
to see in it a symbol of something else, the desire for
which he is ashamed to admit to himself. A man
buying a car may think he wants it for purposes of
locomotion, whereas the fact may be that he would
really prefer not to be burdened with it, and would
rather walk for the sake of his health. He may
really want it because it is a symbol of social position,
an evidence of his success in business, or a means of
pleasing his wife.
This general principle, that men are very largely
actuated bv motives which they conceal from themselves,
is as true of mass as of individual psychology.
It is evident that the successful propagandist must
understand the true motives and not be content to
accept the reasons which men give for what they do.
It is not sufficient to understand only the mechanical
structure of society, the groupings and
cleavages and loyalties. An engineer may know all
about the cylinders and pistons of a locomotive, but
unless he knows how steam behaves under pressure
he cannot make his engine run. Human desires
are the steam which makes the social machine work.
Only by understanding them can the propagandist
52
The Psychology of Public Relations
control that vast, loose-jointed mechanism which is
modern society.
The old propagandist based his work on the mechanistic
reaction psychology then in vogue in our
colleges. This assumed that the human mind was
merely an individual machine, a system of nerves
and nerve centers, reacting with mechanical regularity
to stimuli, like a helpless, will-less automaton. It
was the special pleader’s function to provide the
stimulus which would cause the desired reaction in
the individual purchaser.
It was one of the doctrines of the reaction psychology
that a certain stimulus often repeated would
create a habit, or that the mere reiteration of an idea
would create a conviction. Suppose the old type of
salesmanship, acting for a meat packer, was seeking to
increase the sale of bacon. It would reiterate innumerable
times in full-page advertisements: “Eat
more bacon. Eat bacon because it is cheap, because
it is good, because it gives you reserve energy.”
The newer salesmanship, understanding the group
structure of society and the principles of mass psychology,
would first ask: “Who is it that influences
the eating habits of the public?” The answer, obviously,
is: “The physicians.” The new salesman
will then suggest to physicians to say publicly that
it is wholesome to eat bacon. He knows as a mathematical
certainty, that large numbers of persons will
follow the advice of their doctors, because he under-
53
Propaganda
stands the psychological relation of dependence of
men upon their physicians.
The old-fashioned propagandist, using almost exclusively
the appeal of the printed word, tried to
persuade the individual reader to buy a definite
article, immediately. This approach is exemplified
in a type of advertisement which used to be considered
ideal from the point of view of directness
and effectiveness:
“YOU (perhaps with a finger pointing at the
reader) buy O’Leary’s rubber heels—NOW.”
The advertiser sought by means of reiteration and
emphasis directed upon the individual, to break down
or penetrate sales resistance. Although the appeal
was aimed at fifty million persons, it was aimed at
each as an individual.
The new salesmanship has found it possible, by
dealing with men in the mass through their group
formations, to set up psychological and emotional
currents which will work for him. Instead of assaulting
sales resistance by direct attack, he is interested
in removing sales resistance. He creates
circumstances which will swing emotional currents
so as to make for purchaser demand.
If, for instance, I want to sell pianos, it is not sufficient
to blanket the country with a direct appeal,
such as:
“YOU buy a Mozart piano now. It is cheap.
The best artists use it. It will last for years.”
54
The Psychology of Public Relations
The claims may all be true, but they are in direct
conflict with the claims of other piano manufacturers,
and in indirect competition with the claims
of a radio or a motor car, each competing for the
consumer’s dollar.
What are the true reasons why the purchaser is
planning to spend his money on a new car instead of
on a new piano? Because he has decided that he
wants the commodity called locomotion more than
he wants the commodity called music? Not altogether.
He buys a car, because it is at the moment
the group custom to buy cars.
The modern propagandist therefore sets to work
to create circumstances which will modify that custom.
He appeals perhaps to the home instinct which
is fundamental. He will endeavor to develop public
acceptance of the idea of a music room in the home.
This he may do, for example, by organizing an exhibition
of period music rooms designed by well
known decorators who themselves exert an influence
on the buying groups. He enhances the effectiveness
and prestige of these rooms by putting in them rare
and valuable tapestries. Then, in order to create
dramatic interest in the exhibit, he stages an event
or ceremony. To this ceremony key people, persons
known to influence the buying habits of the public,
such as a famous violinist, a popular artist, and a
society leader, are invited. These key persons affect
other groups, lifting the idea of the music room to a
55
Propaganda
place in the public consciousness which it did not
have before. The juxtaposition of these leaders,
and the idea which they are dramatizing, are then
projected to the wider public through various publicity
channels. Meanwhile, influential architects
have been persuaded to make the music room an
integral architectural part of their plans with perhaps
a specially charming niche in one corner for
the piano. Less influential architects will as a matter
of course imitate what is done by the men whom they
consider masters of their profession. They in turn
will implant the idea of the music room in the mind
of the general public.
The music room will be accepted because it has
been made the thing. And the man or woman
who has a music room, or has arranged a corner of
the parlor as a musical corner, will naturally think
of buying a piano. It will come to him as his own
idea.
Under the old salesmanship the manufacturer said
to the prospective purchaser, “Please buy a piano.”
The new salesmanship has reversed the process and
caused the prospective purchaser to say to the manufacturer,
“Please sell me a piano.”
The value of the associative processes in propaganda
is shown in connection with a large real estate
development. To emphasize that Jackson Heights
was socially desirable every attempt was made to
produce this associative process. A benefit perform-
56
The Psychology of Public Relations
ance of the Jitney Players was staged for the benefit
of earthquake victims of Japan, under the auspices
of Mrs. Astor and others. The social advantages
of the place were projected—a golf course was
laid out and a clubhouse planned. When the
post office was opened, the public relations counsel
attempted to use it as a focus for national interest
and discovered that its opening fell coincident with
a date important in the annals of the American Postal
Service. This was then made the basis of the
opening.
When an attempt was made to show the public the
beauty of the apartments, a competition was held
among interior decorators for the best furnished
apartment in Jackson Heights. An important committee
of judges decided. This competition drew
the approval of well known authorities, as well as
the interest of millions, who were made cognizant of
it through newspaper and magazine and other publicity,
with the effect of building up definitely the
prestige of the development.
One of the most effective methods is the utilization
of the group formation of modern society in order
to spread ideas. An example of this is the nationwide
competitions for sculpture in Ivory soap, open
to school children in certain age groups as well as
professional sculptors. A sculptor of national reputation
found Ivory soap an excellent medium for
sculpture.
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Propaganda
The Procter and Gamble Company offered a series
of prizes for the best sculpture in white soap. The
contest was held under the auspices of the Art
Center in New York City, an organization of high
standing in the art world.
School superintendents and teachers throughout
the country were glad to encourage the movement as
an educational aid for schools. Practice among
school children as part of their art courses was stimulated.
Contests were held between schools, between
school districts and between cities.
Ivory soap was adaptable for sculpturing in the
homes because mothers saved the shavings and the
imperfect efforts for laundry purposes. The work
itself was clean.
The best pieces are selected from the local competitions
for entry in the national contest. This is
held annually at an important art gallery in New
York, whose prestige with that of the distinguished
judges, establishes the contest as a serious art event.
In the first of these national competitions about
500 pieces of sculpture were entered. In the
third, 2,500. And in the fourth, more than 4,000.
If the carefully selected pieces were so numerous,
it is evident that a vast number were sculptured during
the year, and that a much greater number
must have been made for practice purposes. The
good will was greatly enhanced by the fact that this
soap had become not merely the concern of the
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The Psychology of Public Relations
housewife but also a matter of personal and intimate
interest to her children.
A number of familiar psychological motives were
set in motion in the carrying out of this campaign.
The esthetic, the competitive, the gregarious (much
of the sculpturing was done in school groups), the
snobbish (the impulse to follow the example of a
recognized leader), the exhibitionist, and—last but
by no means least—the maternal.
All these motives and group habits were put in
concerted motion by the simple machinery of group
leadership and authority. As if actuated by the
pressure of a button, people began working for the
client for the sake of the gratification obtained in the
sculpture work itself.
This point is most important in successful propaganda
work. The leaders who lend their authority
to any propaganda campaign will do so only if it can
be made to touch their own interests. There must
be a disinterested aspect of the propagandist’s activities.
In other words, it is one of the functions of the
public relations counsel to discover at what points
his client’s interests coincide with those of other individuals
or groups.
In the case of the soap sculpture competition, the
distinguished artists and educators who sponsored
the idea were glad to lend their services and their
names because the competitions really promoted an
interest which they had at heart—the cultivation of
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Propaganda
the esthetic impulse among the younger generation.
Such coincidence and overlapping of interests is
as infinite as the interlacing of group formations
themselves. For example, a railway wishes to develop
its business. The counsel on public relations
makes a survey to discover at what points its interests
coincide with those of its prospective customers. The
company then establishes relations with chambers of
commerce along its right of way and assists them in
developing their communities. It helps them to
secure new plants and industries for the town. It
facilitates business through the dissemination of
technical information. It is not merely a case of
bestowing favors in the hope of receiving favors;
these activities of the railroad, besides creating good
will, actually promote growth on its right of way.
The interests of the railroad and the communities
through which it passes mutually interact and feed
one another.
In the same way, a bank institutes an investment
service for the benefit of its customers in order that
the latter may have more money to deposit with the
bank. Or a jewelry concern develops an insurance
department to insure the jewels it sells, in order to
make the purchaser feel greater security in buying
jewels. Or a baking company establishes an information
service suggesting recipes for bread to
encourage new uses for bread in the home.
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The Psychology of Public Relations
The ideas of the new propaganda are predicated
on sound psychology based on enlightened selfinterest.
I have tried, in these chapters, to explain the place
of propaganda in modern American life and something
of the methods by which it operates—to tell
the why, the what, the who and the how of the
invisible government which dictates our thoughts,
directs our feelings and controls our actions. In the
following chapters I shall try to show how propaganda
functions in specific departments of group
activity, to suggest some of the further ways in
which it may operate.
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CHAPTER V
BUSINESS AND THE PUBLIC
THE relationship between business and the public
has become closer in the past few decades. Business
to-day is taking the public into partnership. A number
of causes, some economic, others due to the growing
public understanding of business and the public
interest in business, have produced this situation.
Business realizes that its relationship to the public
is not confined to the manufacture and sale of a given
product, but includes at the same time the selling of
itself and of all those things for which it stands in
the public mind.
Twenty or twenty-five years ago, business sought
to run its own affairs regardless of the public. The
reaction was the muck-raking period, in which a
multitude of sins were, justly and unjustly, laid to
the charge of the interests. In the face of an
aroused public conscience the large corporations were
obliged to renounce their contention that their affairs
were nobody’s business. If to-day big business
were to seek to throttle the public, a new reaction
similar to that of twenty years ago would take place
and the public would rise and try to throttle big
business with restrictive laws. Business is conscious
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Business and the Public
of the public’s conscience. This consciousness has
led to a healthy cooperation.
Another cause for the increasing relationship is
undoubtedly to be found in the various phenomena
growing out of mass production. Mass production
is only profitable if its rhythm can be maintained—
that is, if it can continue to sell its product in steady
or increasing quantity. The result is that while,
under the handicraft or small-unit system of production
that was typical a century ago, demand created
the supply, to-day supply must actively seek to create
its corresponding demand. A single factory, potentially
capable of supplying a whole continent with its
particular product, cannot afford to wait until the
public asks for its product; it must maintain constant
touch, through advertising and propaganda, with the
vast public in order to assure itself the continuous
demand which alone will make its costly plant profitable.
This entails a vastly more complex system of
distribution than formerly. To make customers is
the new problem. One must understand not only his
own business—the manufacture of a particular product—
but also the structure, the personality, the prejudices,
of a potentially universal public.
Still another reason is to be found in the improvements
in the technique of advertising—as regards
both the size of the public which can be reached
by the printed word, and the methods of appeal.
The growth of newspapers and magazines having a
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Propaganda
circulation of millions of copies, and the art of the
modern advertising expert in making the printed
message attractive and persuasive, have placed the
business man in a personal relation with a vast and
diversified public.
Another modern phenomenon, which’ influences
the general policy of big business, is the new competition
between certain firms and the remainder of the
industry, to which they belong. Another kind of
competition is between whole industries, in their
struggle for a share of the consumer’s dollar.
When, for example, a soap manufacturer claims that
his product will preserve youth, he is obviously attempting
to change the public’s mode of thinking
about soap in general—a thing of grave importance
to the whole industry. Or when the metal furniture
industry seeks to convince the public that it is more
desirable to spend its money for metal furniture than
for wood furniture, it is clearly seeking to alter the
taste and standards of a whole generation. In either
case, business is seeking to inject itself into the lives
and customs of millions of persons.
Even in a basic sense, business is becoming dependent
on public opinion. With the increasing volume
and wider diffusion of wealth in America, thousands
of persons now invest in industrial stocks. New stock
or bond flotations, upon which an expanding business
must depend for its success, can be effected only if
the concern has understood how to gain the confi-
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Business and the Public
dence and good will of the general public. Business
must express itself and its entire corporate existence
so that the public will understand and accept it. It
must dramatize its personality and interpret its objectives
in every particular in which it comes into
contact with the community (or the nation) of which
it is a part.
An oil corporation which truly understands its
many-sided relation to the public, will offer that
public not only good oil but a sound labor policy. A
bank will seek to show not only that its management
is sound and conservative, but also that its officers are
honorable both in their public and in their private life.
A store specializing in fashionable men’s clothing
will express in its architecture the authenticity of the
goods it offers. A bakery will seek to impress the
public with the hygienic care observed in its manufacturing
process, not only by wrapping its loaves in
dust-proof paper and throwing its factory open to
public inspection, but also by the cleanliness and attractiveness
of its delivery wagons. A construction
firm will take care that the public knows not only
that its buildings are durable and safe, but also that
its employees, when injured at work, are compensated.
At whatever point a business enterprise
impinges on the public consciousness, it must seek to
give its public relations the particular character which
will conform to the objectives which it is pursuing.
Just as the production manager must be familiar
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Propaganda
with every element and detail concerning the materials
with which he is working, so the man in charge
of a firm’s public relations must be familiar with the
structure, the prejudices, and the whims of the general
public, and must handle his problems with the
utmost care. The public has its own standards and
demands and habits. You may modify them, but
you dare not run counter to them. You cannot persuade
a whole generation of women to wear long
skirts, but you may, by working through leaders of
fashion, persuade them to wear evening dresses
which are long in back. The public is not an amorphous
mass which can be molded at will, or dictated
to. Both business and the public have their own personalities
which must somehow be brought into
friendly agreement. Conflict and suspicion are injurious
to both. Modern business must study on
what terms the partnership can be made amicable and
mutually beneficial. It must explain itself, its aims,
its objectives, to the public in terms which the public
can understand and is willing to accept.
Business does not willingly accept dictation from
the public. It should not expect that it can dictate
to the public. While the public should appreciate
the great economic benefits which business offers,
thanks to mass production and scientific marketing,
business should also appreciate that the public is
becoming increasingly discriminative in its standards
and should seek to understand its demands and meet
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Business and the Public
them. The relationship between business and the
public can be healthy only if it is the relationship of
give and take.
It is this condition and necessity which has created
the need for a specialized field of public relations.
Business now calls in the public relations counsel to
advise it, to interpret its purpose to the public, and to
suggest those modifications which may make it conform
to the public demand.
The modifications then recommended to make the
business conform to its objectives and to the public
demand, may concern the broadest matters of policy
or the apparently most trivial details of execution.
It might in one case be necessary to transform entirely
the lines of goods sold to conform to changing public
demands. In another case the trouble may be found
to lie in such small matters as the dress of the clerks.
A jewelry store may complain that its patronage is
shrinking upwards because of its reputation for
carrying high-priced goods; in this case the public
relations counsel might suggest the featuring of
medium-priced goods, even at a loss, not because the
firm desires a large medium-price trade as such, but
because out of a hundred medium-price customers
acquired to-day a certain percentage will be well-todo
ten years from now. A department store which is
seeking to gather in the high-class trade may be urged
to employ college graduates as clerks or to engage
well known modern artists to design show-windows
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Propaganda
or special exhibits. A bank may be urged to open a
Fifth Avenue branch, not because the actual business
done on Fifth Avenue warrants the expense, but
because a beautiful Fifth Avenue office correctly expresses
the kind of appeal which it wishes to make to
future depositors; and, viewed in this way, it may be
as important that the doorman be polite, or that the
floors be kept clean, as that the branch manager be an
able financier. Yet the beneficial effect of this
branch may be canceled, if the wife of the president
is involved in a scandal.
Big business studies every move which may express
its true personality. It seeks to tell the public, in all
appropriate ways,—by the direct advertising message
and by the subtlest esthetic suggestion—the quality
of the goods or services which it has to offer. A
store which seeks a large sales volume in cheap goods
will preach prices day in and day out, concentrating
its whole appeal on the ways in which it can save
money for its clients. But a store seeking a high
margin of profit on individual sales would try to
associate itself with the distinguished and the elegant,
whether by an exhibition of old masters or through
the social activities of the owner’s wife.
The public relations activities of a business cannot
be a protective coloring to hide its real aims. It is
bad business as well as bad morals to feature exclusively
a few high-class articles, when the main stock
is of medium grade or cheap, for the general im-
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Business and the Public
pression given is a false one. A sound public relations
policy will not attempt to stampede the public
with exaggerated claims and false pretenses, but to
interpret the individual business vividly and truly
through every avenue that leads to public opinion.
The New York Central Railroad has for decades
sought to appeal to the public not only on the basis
of the speed and safety of its trains, but also on the
basis of their elegance and comfort. It is appropriate
that the corporation should have been personified to
the general public in the person of so suave and ingratiating
a gentleman as Chauncey M. Depew—an
ideal window dressing for such an enterprise.
While the concrete recommendations of the public
relations counsel may vary infinitely according to
individual circumstances, his general plan of work
may be reduced to two types, which I might term
continuous interpretation and dramatization by highspotting.
The two may be alternative or may be
pursued concurrently.
Continuous interpretation is achieved by trying to
control every approach to the public mind in such a
manner that the public receives the desired impression,
often without being conscious of it. High-spotting,
on the other hand, vividly seizes the attention of the
public and fixes it upon some detail or aspect which is
typical of the entire enterprise. When a real estate
corporation which is erecting a tall office building
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Propaganda
makes it ten feet taller than the highest sky-scraper
in existence, that is dramatization.
Which method is indicated, or whether both be
indicated concurrently, can be determined only after
a full study of objectives and specific possibilities.
Another interesting case of focusing public attention
on the virtues of a product was shown in the case
of gelatine. Its advantages in increasing the digestibility
and nutritional value of milk were proven
in the Mellon Institute of Industrial Research. The
suggestion was made and carried out that to further
this knowledge, gelatine be used by certain hospitals
and school systems, to be tested out there. The
favorable results of such tests were then projected
to other leaders in the field with the result that they
followed that group leadership and utilized gelatine
for the scientific purposes which had been proven to
be sound at the research institution. The idea carried
momentum.
The tendency of big business is to get bigger.
Through mergers and monopolies it is constantly
increasing the number of persons with whom it is in
direct contact. All this has intensified and multiplied
the public relationships of business.
The responsibilities are of many kinds. There is
a responsibility to the stockholders—numbering perhaps
five persons or five hundred thousand—who
have entrusted their money to the concern and have
the right to know how the money is being used. A
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Business and the Public
concern which is fully aware of its responsibility toward
its stockholders, will furnish them with frequent
letters urging them to use the product in which
their money is invested, and use their influence to
promote its sale. It has a responsibility toward the
dealer which it may express by inviting him, at its
expense, to visit the home factory. It has a responsibility
toward the industry as a whole which should
restrain it from making exaggerated and unfair selling
claims. It has a responsibility toward the retailer,
and will see to it that its salesmen express
the quality of the product which they have to sell.
There is a responsibility toward the consumer, who
is impressed by a clean and well managed factory,
open to his inspection. And the general public, apart
from its function as potential consumer, is influenced
in its attitude toward the concern by what it knows
of that concern’s financial dealings, its labor policy,
even by the livableness of the houses in which its
employees dwell. There is no detail too trivial to
influence the public in a favorable or unfavorable
sense. The personality of the president may be a
matter of importance, for he perhaps dramatizes the
whole concern to the public mind. It may be very
important to what charities he contributes, in what
civic societies he holds office. If he is a leader in his
industry, the public may demand that he be a leader
in his community.
The business man has become a responsible member
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Propaganda
of the social group. It is not a question of ballyhoo,
of creating a picturesque fiction for public consumption.
It is merely a question of finding the appropriate
modes of expressing the personality that is to
be dramatized. Some business men can be their own
best public relations counsel. But in the majority of
cases knowledge of the public mind and of the ways
in which it will react to an appeal, is a specialized
function which must be undertaken by the professional
expert.
Big business, I believe, is realizing this more and
more. It is increasingly availing itself of the services
of the specialist in public relations (whatever
may be the title accorded him). And it is my conviction
that as big business becomes bigger the need
for expert manipulation of its innumerable contacts
with the public will become greater.
One reason why the public relations of a business
are frequently placed in the hands of an outside
expert, instead of being confided to an officer of the
company, is the fact that the correct approach to a
problem may be indirect. For example, when the
luggage industry attempted to solve some of its
problems by a public relations policy, it was realized
that the attitude of railroads, of steamship companies,
and of foreign government-owned railroads was
an important factor in the handling of luggage.
If a railroad and a baggage man, for their own
interest, can be educated to handle baggage with more
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Business and the Public
facility and promptness, with less damage to the
baggage, and less inconvenience to the passenger;
if the steamship company lets down, in its own interests,
its restrictions on luggage; if the foreign
government eases up on its baggage costs and transportation
in order to further tourist travel; then the
luggage manufacturers will profit.
The problem then, to increase the sale of their
luggage, was to have these and other forces come
over to their point of view. Hence the public relations
campaign was directed not to the public, who
were the ultimate consumers, but to these other elements.
Also, if the luggage manufacturer can educate
the general public on what to wear on trips and when
to wear it, he may be increasing the sale of men’s
and women’s clothing, but he will, at the same time,
be increasing the sale of his luggage.
Propaganda, since it goes to basic causes, can very
often be most effective through the manner of its
introduction. A campaign against unhealthy cosmetics
might be waged by fighting for a return to
the wash-cloth and soap—a fight that very logically
might be taken up by health officials all over the
country, who would urge the return to the salutary
and helpful wash-cloth and soap, instead of cosmetics.
The development of public opinion for a cause
or line of socially constructive action may very often
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Propaganda
be the result of a desire on the part of the propagandist
to meet successfully his own problem which
the socially constructive cause would further. And
by doing so he is actually fulfilling a social purpose
in the broadest sense.
The soundness of a public relations policy was
likewise shown in the case of a shoe manufacturer
who made service shoes for patrolmen, firemen, letter
carriers, and men in similar occupations. He
realized that if he could make acceptable the idea
that men in such work ought to be well-shod, he
would sell more shoes and at the same time further
the efficiency of the men.
He organized, as part of his business, a foot protection
bureau. This bureau disseminated scientifically
accurate information on the proper care of the
feet, principles which the manufacturer had incorporated
in the construction of the shoes. The result
was that civic bodies, police chiefs, fire chiefs, and
others interested in the welfare and comfort of their
men, furthered the ideas his product stood for and
the product itself, with the consequent effect that
more of his shoes were sold more easily.
The application of this principle of a common
denominator of interest between the object that is
sold and the public good will can be carried to infinite
degrees.
“It matters not how much capital you may have,
how fair the rates may be, how favorable the condi-
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Business and the Public
tions of service, if you haven’t behind you a sympathetic
public opinion, you are bound to fail.” This
is the opinion of Samuel Insull, one the foremost
traction magnates of the country. And the late
Judge Gary, of the United States Steel Corporation,
expressed the same idea when he said: “Once you
have the good will of the general public, you can go
ahead in the work of constructive expansion. Too
often many try to discount this vague and intangible
element. That way lies destruction.”
Public opinion is no longer inclined to be unfavorable
to the large business merger. It resents the
censorship of business by the Federal Trade Commission.
It has broken down the anti-trust laws
where it thinks they hinder economic development.
It backs great trusts and mergers which it
excoriated a decade ago. The government now permits
large aggregations of producing and distributing
units, as evidenced by mergers among railroads and
other public utilities, because representative government
reflects public opinion. Public opinion itself
fosters the growth of mammoth industrial enterprises.
In the opinion of millions of small investors,
mergers and trusts are friendly giants and not ogres,
because of the economies, mainly due to quantity
production, which they have effected, and can pass
on to the consumer.
This result has been, to a great extent, obtained
by a deliberate use of propaganda in its broadest
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Propaganda
sense. It was obtained not only by modifying the
opinion of the public, as the governments modified
and marshaled the opinion of their publics during
the war, but often by modifying the business concern
itself. A cement company may work with road commissions
gratuitously to maintain testing laboratories
in order to insure the best-quality roads to the public.
A gas company maintains a free school of cookery.
But it would be rash and unreasonable to take it
for granted that because public opinion has come
over to the side of big business, it will always remain
there. Only recently, Prof. W. Z. Ripley of Harvard
University, one of the foremost national
authorities on business organization and practice,
exposed certain aspects of big business which tended
to undermine public confidence in large corporations.
He pointed out that the stockholders’ supposed voting
power is often illusory; that annual financial
statements are sometimes so brief and summary that
to the man in the street they are downright misleading;
that the extension of the system of non-voting
shares often places the effective control of corporations
and their finances in the hands of a small clique
of stockholders; and that some corporations refuse
to give out sufficient information to permit the public
to know the true condition of the concern.
Furthermore, no matter how favorably disposed
the public may be toward big business in general, the
utilities are always fair game for public discontent
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Business and the Public
and need to maintain good will with the greatest care
and watchfulness. These and other corporations of
a semi-public character will always have to face a
demand for government or municipal ownership if
such attacks as those of Professor Ripley are continued
and are, in the public’s opinion, justified, unless
conditions are changed and care is taken to maintain
the contact with the public at all points of their
corporate existence.
The public relations counsel should anticipate such
trends of public opinion and advise on how to avert
them, either by convincing the public that its fears
or prejudices are unjustified, or in certain cases by
modifying the action of the client to the extent necessary
to remove the cause of complaint. In such a
case public opinion might be surveyed and the points
of irreducible opposition discovered. The aspects of
the situation which are susceptible of logical explanation;
to what extent the criticism or prejudice
is a habitual emotional reaction and what factors are
dominated by accepted cliches, might be disclosed.
In each instance he would advise some action or
modification of policy calculated to make the readjustment.
While government ownership is in most instances
only varyingly a remote possibility, public ownership
of big business through the increasing popular investment
in stocks and bonds, is becoming more and
more a fact. The importance of public relations
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Propaganda
from this standpoint is to be judged by the fact that
practically all prosperous corporations expect at some
time to enlarge operations, and will need to float new
stock or bond issues. The success of such issues depends
upon the general record of the concern in the
business world, and also upon the good will which it
has been able to create in the general public. When
the Victor Talking Machine Company was recently
offered to the public, millions of dollars’ worth of
stock were sold overnight. On the other hand, there
are certain companies which, although they are financially
sound and commercially prosperous, would
be unable to float a large stock issue, because public
opinion is not conscious of them, or has some unanalyzed
prejudice against them.
To such an extent is the successful floating of
stocks and bonds dependent upon the public favor
that the success of a new merger may stand or fall
upon the public acceptance which is created for it.
A merger may bring into existence huge new resources,
and these resources, perhaps amounting to
millions of dollars in a single operation, can often
fairly be said to have been created by the expert
manipulation of public opinion. It must be repeated
that I am not speaking of artificial value given to a
stock by dishonest propaganda or stock manipulation,
but of the real economic values which are created
when genuine public acceptance is gained for an industrial
enterprise and becomes a real partner in it.
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Business and the Public
The growth of big business is so rapid that in some
lines ownership is more international than national.
It is necessary to reach ever larger groups of people
if modern industry and commerce are to be financed.
Americans have purchased billions of dollars of foreign
industrial securities since the war, and Europeans
own, it is estimated, between one and two
billion dollars’ worth of ours. In each case public
acceptance must be obtained for the issue and the enterprise
behind it.
Public loans, state or municipal, to foreign countries
depend upon the good will which those countries
have been able to create for themselves here.
An attempted issue by an east European country is
now faring badly largely because of unfavorable
public reaction to the behavior of members of its
ruling family. But other countries have no difficulty
in placing any issue because the public is already convinced
of the prosperity of these nations and the
stability of their governments.
The new technique of public relations counsel is
serving a very useful purpose in business by acting as
a complement to legitimate advertisers and advertising
in helping to break down unfair competitive
exaggerated and overemphatic advertising by reaching
the public with the truth through other channels
than advertising. Where two competitors in a field
are fighting each other with this type of advertising,
they are undermining that particular industry to a
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Propaganda
point where the public may lose confidence in the
whole industry. The only way to combat such
unethical methods, is for ethical members of the industry
to use the weapon of propaganda in order to
bring out the basic truths of the situation.
Take the case of tooth paste, for instance. Here
is a highly competitive field in which the preponderance
of public acceptance of one product over another
can very legitimately rest in inherent values. However,
what has happened in this field?
One or two of the large manufacturers have asserted
advantages for their tooth pastes which no
single tooth paste discovered up to the present time
can possibly have. The competing manufacturer is
put in the position either of overemphasizing an already
exaggerated emphasis or of letting the overemphasis
of his competitor take away his markets.
He turns to the weapon of propaganda which can
effectively, through various channels of approach to
the public—the dental clinics, the schools, the
women’s clubs, the medical colleges, the dental press
and even the daily press—bring to the public the
truth of what a tooth paste can do. This will, of
course, have its effect in making the honestly advertised
tooth paste get to its real public.
Propaganda is potent in meeting unethical or unfair
advertising. Effective advertising has become
more costly than ever before. Years ago, when the
country was smaller and there was no tremendous
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Business and the Public
advertising machinery, it was comparatively easy to
get country-wide recognition for a product. A corps
of traveling salesmen might persuade the retailers,
with a few cigars and a repertory of funny stories,
to display and recommend their article on a nationwide
scale. To-day, a small industry is swamped
unless it can find appropriate and relatively inexpensive
means of making known the special virtues
of its product, while larger industries have sought
to overcome the difficulty by cooperative advertising,
in which associations of industries compete with other
associations.
Mass advertising has produced new kinds of competition.
Competition between rival products in the
same line is, of course, as old as economic life itself.
In recent years much has been said of the new competition,
we have discussed it in a previous chapter,
between one group of products and another. Stone
competes against wood for building; linoleum against
carpets; oranges against apples; tin against asbestos
for roofing.
This type of competition has been humorously
illustrated by Mr. O. H. Cheney, Vice-President of
the American Exchange and Irving Trust Company
of New York, in a speech before the Chicago Business
Secretaries Forum.
“Do you represent the millinery trades?” said Mr.
Cheney. “The man at your side may serve the fur
industry, and by promoting the style of big fur col-
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Propaganda
lars on women’s coats he is ruining the hat business
by forcing women to wear small and inexpensive
hats. You may be interested in the ankles of the
fair sex—I mean, you may represent the silk hosiery
industry. You have two brave rivals who are ready
to fight to the death—to spend millions in the fight
—for the glory of those ankles—the leather industry,
which has suffered from the low-shoe vogue,
and the fabrics manufacturers, who yearn for the
good old days when skirts were skirts.
“If you represent the plumbing and heating business,
you are the mortal enemy of the textile industry,
because warmer homes mean lighter clothes. If
you represent the printers, how can you shake hands
with the radio equipment man? . . .
“These are really only obvious forms of what I
have called the new competition. The old competition
was that between the members of each trade
organization. One phase of the new competition is
that between the trade associations themselves—between
you gentlemen who represent those industries.
Inter-commodity competition is the new competition
between products used alternatively for the same
purpose. Inter-industrial competition is the new
competition between apparently unrelated industries
which affect each other or between such industries
as compete for the consumer’s dollar—and that
means practically all industries. . . .
“Inter-commodity competition is, of course, the
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Business and the Public
most spectacular of all. It is the one which seems
most of all to have caught the business imagination
of the country. More and more business men are
beginning to appreciate what inter-commodity competition
means to them. More and more they are
calling upon their trade associations to help them—
because inter-commodity competition cannot be
fought single-handed.
“Take the great war on the dining-room table, for
instance. Three times a day practically every diningroom
table in the country is the scene of a fierce
battle in the new competition. Shall we have prunes
for breakfast? No, cry the embattled orange-growers
and the massed legions of pineapple canners.
Shall we eat sauerkraut? Why not eat green olives?
is the answer of the Spaniards. Eat macaroni as a
change from potatoes, says one advertiser—and will
the potato growers take this challenge lying down?
“The doctors and dietitians tell us that a normal
hard-working man needs only about two or three
thousand calories of food a day. A banker, I suppose,
needs a little less. But what am I to do? The
fruit growers, the wheat raisers, the meat packers,
the milk producers, the fishermen—all want me to
eat more of their products—and are spending millions
of dollars a year to convince me. Am I to eat
to the point of exhaustion, or am I to obey the doctor
and let the farmer and the food packer and the
retailer go broke! Am I to balance my diet in pro-
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Propaganda
portion to the advertising appropriations of the
various producers? Or am I to balance my diet
scientifically and let those who overproduce go
bankrupt? The new competition is probably keenest
in the food industries because there we have a very
real limitation on what we can consume—in spite of
higher incomes and higher living standards, we cannot
eat more than we can eat.”
I believe that competition in the future will not
be only an advertising competition between individual
products or between big associations, but that it will
in addition be a competition of propaganda. The
business man and advertising man is realizing that
he must not discard entirely the methods of Barnum
in reaching the public. An example in the annals of
George Harrison Phelps, of the successful utilization
of this type of appeal was the nation-wide hook-up
which announced the launching of the Dodge Victory
Six car.
Millions of people, it is estimated, listened in to
this program broadcast over 47 stations. The expense
was more than $60,000. The arrangements
involved an additional telephonic hook-up of 20,000
miles of wire, and included transmission from Los
Angeles, Chicago, Detroit, New Orleans, and New
York. Al Jolson did his bit from New Orleans,
Will Rogers from Beverly Hills, Fred and Dorothy
Stone from Chicago, and Paul Whiteman from New
York, at an aggregate artists’ fee of $25,000. And
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Business and the Public
there was included a four-minute address by the
president of Dodge Brothers announcing the new
car, which gave him access in four minutes to an estimated
audience of thirty million Americans, the
largest number, unquestionably, ever to concentrate
their attention on a given commercial product at a
given moment. It was a sugar-coated sales message.
Modern sales technicians will object: “What you
say of this method of appeal is true. But it increases
the cost of getting the manufacturer’s message across.
The modern tendency has been to reduce this cost
(for example, the elimination of premiums) and concentrate
on getting full efficiency from the advertising
expenditure. If you hire a Galli-Curci to sing
for bacon you increase the cost of the bacon by the
amount of her very large fee. Her voice adds nothing
to the product but it adds to its cost.”
Undoubtedly. But all modes of sales appeal require
the spending of money to make the appeal attractive.
The advertiser in print adds to the cost of
his message by the use of pictures or by the cost of
getting distinguished endorsements.
There is another kind of difficulty, created in the
process of big business getting bigger, which calls for
new modes of establishing contact with the public.
Quantity production offers a standardized product
the cost of which tends to diminish with the quantity
sold. If low price is the only basis of competition
with rival products, similarly produced, there ensues
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Propaganda
a cut-throat competition which can end only by taking
all the profit and incentive out of the industry.
The logical way out of this dilemma is for the
manufacturer to develop some sales appeal other
than mere cheapness, to give the product, in the
public mind, some other attraction, some idea that
will modify the product slightly, some element of
originality that will distinguish it from products in
the same line. Thus, a manufacturer of typewriters
paints his machines in cheerful hues. These special
types of appeal can be popularized by the manipulation
of the principles familiar to the propagandist—
the principles of gregariousness, obedience to authority,
emulation, and the like. A minor element can
be made to assume economic importance by being
established in the public mind as a matter of style.
Mass production can be split up. Big business will
still leave room for small business. Next to a huge
department store there may be located a tiny specialty
shop which makes a very good living.
The problem of bringing large hats back into
fashion was undertaken by a propagandist. The millinery
industry two years ago was menaced by the
prevalence of the simple felt hat which was crowding
out the manufacture of all other kinds of hats and
hat ornaments. It was found that hats could roughly
be classified in six types. It was found too that four
groups might help to change hat fashions: the society
leader, the style expert, the fashion editor and writer,
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Business and the Public
the artist who might give artistic approval to the
styles, and beautiful mannequins. The problem,
then, was to bring these groups together before an
audience of hat buyers.
A committee of prominent artists was organized
to choose the most beautiful girls in New York to
wear, in a series of tableaux, the most beautiful hats
in the style classifications, at a fashion fete at a leading
hotel.
A committee was formed of distinguished American
women who, on the basis of their interest in the
development of an American industry, were willing
to add the authority of their names to the idea. A
style committee was formed of editors of fashion
magazines and other prominent fashion authorities
who were willing to support the idea. The girls in
their lovely hats and costumes paraded on the running-
board before an audience of the entire trade.
The news of the event affected the buying habits
not only of the onlookers, but also of the women
throughout the country. The story of the event was
flashed to the consumer by her newspaper as well as
by the advertisements of her favorite store. Broadsides
went to the millinery buyer from the manufacturer.
One manufacturer stated that whereas before
the show he had not sold any large trimmed hats,
after it he had sold thousands.
Often the public relations counsel is called in to
handle an emergency situation. A false rumor, for
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Propaganda
instance, may occasion an enormous loss in prestige
and money if not handled promptly and effectively.
An incident such as the one described in the New
York American of Friday, May 21, 1926, shows
what the lack of proper technical handling of public
relations might result in.
$1,000,000 LOST BY FALSE RUMOR ON
HUDSON STOCK
Hudson Motor Company stock fluctuated
widely around noon yesterday and losses estimated
at $500,000 to $1,000,000 were suffered
as a result of the widespread flotation of
false news regarding dividend action.
The directors met in Detroit at 12:30, New
York time, to act on a dividend. Almost immediately
a false report that only the regular
dividend had been declared was circulated.
At 12:46 the Dow, Jones & Co. ticker service
received the report from the Stock Exchange
firm and its publication resulted in further drop
in the stock.
Shortly after 1 o’clock the ticker services received
official news that the dividend had been
increased and a 20 per cent stock distribution
authorized. They rushed the correct news out
on their tickers and Hudson stock immediately
jumped more than 6 points.
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Business and the Public
A clipping from the Journal of Commerce of April
4, 1925, is reproduced here as an interesting example
of a method to counteract a false rumor:
BEECH-NUT HEAD HOME TOWN GUEST
Bartlett Arkell Signally Honored by Communities
of Mohawk Valley
{Special to The Journal of Commerce)
CANAJOHARIE, N. Y., April 3.—To-day was
‘Beech-Nut Day’ in this town; in fact, for the
whole Mohawk Valley. Business men and practically
the whole community of this region
joined in a personal testimonial to Bartlett
Arkell of New York City, president of the
Beech-Nut Packing Company of this city, in
honor of his firm refusal to consider selling his
company to other financial interests to move
elsewhere.
When Mr. Arkell publicly denied recent
rumors that he was to sell his company to the
Postum Cereal Company for $17,000,000,
which would have resulted in taking the industry
from its birthplace, he did so in terms conspicuously
loyal to his boyhood home, which he
has built up into a prosperous industrial community
through thirty years’ management of his
Beech-Nut Company.
He absolutely controls the business and flatly,
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Propaganda
stated that he would never sell it during his lifetime
‘to any one at any price,’ since it would be
disloyal to his friends and fellow workers. And
the whole Mohawk Valley spontaneously decided
that such spirit deserved public recognition.
Hence, to-day’s festivities.
More than 3,000 people participated, headed
by a committee comprising W. J. Roser, chairman;
B. F. Spraker, H. V. Bush, B. F. Diefendorf
and J. H. Cook. They were backed by the
Canajoharie and the Mohawk Valley Chambers
of Business Men’s Associations.
Of course, every one realized after this that there
was no truth in the rumor that the Beech-Nut Company
was in the market. A denial would not have
carried as much conviction.
Amusement, too, is a business—one of the largest
in America. It was the amusement business—first
the circus and the medicine show, then the theater—
which taught the rudiments of advertising to industry
and commerce. The latter adopted the ballyhoo
of the show business. But under the stress of practical
experience it adapted and refined these crude
advertising methods to the precise ends it sought to
obtain. The theater has, in its turn, learned from
business, and has refined its publicity methods to
the point where the old stentorian methods are in
the discard.
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Business and the Public
The modern publicity director of a theater syndicate
or a motion picture trust is a business man, responsible
for the security of tens or hundreds of millions
of dollars of invested capital. He cannot afford
to be a stunt artist or a free-lance adventurer in publicity.
He must know his public accurately and
modify its thoughts and actions by means of the
methods which the amusement world has learned
from its old pupil, big business. As public knowledge
increases and public taste improves, business must be
ready to meet them halfway.
Modern business must have its finger continuously
on the public pulse. It must understand the changes
in the public mind and be prepared to interpret itself
fairly and eloquently to changing opinion.
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CHAPTER VI
PROPAGANDA AND POLITICAL LEADERSHIP
THE great political problem in our modern democracy
is how to induce our leaders to lead. The
dogma that the voice of the people is the voice of
God tends to make elected persons the will-less servants
of their constituents. This is undoubtedly part
cause of the political sterility of which certain American
critics constantly complain.
No serious sociologist any longer believes that the
voice of the people expresses any divine or specially
wise and lofty idea. The voice of the people expresses
the mind of the people, and that mind is
made up for it by the group leaders in whom it believes
and by those persons who understand the
manipulation of public opinion. It is composed of
inherited prejudices and symbols and cliches and
verbal formulas supplied to them by the leaders.
Fortunately, the sincere and gifted politician is
able, by the instrument of propaganda, to mold and
form the will of the people.
Disraeli cynically expressed the dilemma, when
he said: “I must follow the people. Am I not their
leader?” He might have added: “I must lead the
people. Am I not their servant?”
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Propaganda and Political Leadership
Unfortunately, the methods of our contemporarypoliticians,
in dealing with the public, are as archaic
and ineffective as the advertising methods of business
in 1900 would be to-day. While politics was
the first important department of American life to
use propaganda on a large scale, it has been the
slowest in modifying its propaganda methods to meet
the changed conditions of the public mind. American
business first learned from politics the methods of
appealing to the broad public. But it continually improved
those methods in the course of its competitive
struggle, while politics clung to the old formulas.
The political apathy of the average voter, of
which we hear so much, is undoubtedly due to the
fact that the politician does not know how to meet
the conditions of the public mind. He cannot dramatize
himself and his platform in terms which have
real meaning to the public. Acting on the fallacy
that the leader must slavishly follow, he deprives his
campaign of all dramatic interest. An automaton
cannot arouse the public interest. A leader, a fighter,
a dictator, can. But, given our present political conditions
under which every office seeker must cater to
the vote of the masses, the only means by which the
born leader can lead is the expert use of propaganda.
Whether in the problem of getting elected to
office or in the problem of interpreting and popularizing
new issues, or in the problem of making the day-
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Propaganda
to-day administration of public affairs a vital part of
the community life, the use of propaganda, carefully
adjusted to the mentality of the masses, is an essential
adjunct of political life.
The successful business man to-day apes the politician.
He has adopted the glitter and the ballyhoo
of the campaign. He has set up all the side shows.
He has annual dinners that are a compendium of
speeches, flags, bombast, stateliness, pseudo-democracy
slightly tinged with paternalism. On occasion
he doles out honors to employees, much as the republic
of classic times rewarded its worthy citizens.
But these are merely the side shows, the drums,
of big business, by which it builds up an image of
public service, and of honorary service. This is but
one of the methods by which business stimulates
loyal enthusiasms on the part of directors, the workers,
the stockholders and the consumer public. It is
one of the methods by which big business performs
its function of making and selling products to the
public. The real work and campaign of business consists
of intensive study of the public, the manufacture
of products based on this study, and exhaustive
use of every means of reaching the public.
Political campaigns to-day are all side shows, all
honors, all bombast, glitter, and speeches. These are
for the most part unrelated to the main business of
studying the public scientifically, of supplying the
public with party, candidate, platform, and perform-
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Propaganda and Political Leadership
ance, and selling the public these ideas and products.
Politics was the first big business in America.
Therefore there is a good deal of irony in the fact
that business has learned everything that politics has
had to teach, but that politics has failed to learn very
much from business methods of mass distribution of
ideas and products.
Emily Newell Blair has recounted in the Independent
a typical instance of the waste of effort and
money in a political campaign, a week’s speaking tour
in which she herself took part. She estimates that on
a five-day trip covering nearly a thousand miles she
and the United States Senator with whom she was
making political speeches addressed no more than
1,105 persons whose votes might conceivably have
been changed as a result of their efforts. The cost
of this appeal to these voters she estimates (calculating
the value of the time spent on a very moderate
basis) as $15.27 for each vote which might have been
changed as a result of the campaign.
This, she says, was a “drive for votes, just as an
Ivory Soap advertising campaign is a drive for
sales.” But, she asks, “what would a company executive
say to a sales manager who sent a high-priced
speaker to describe his product to less than 1,200
people at a cost of $15.27 for each possible buyer?”
She finds it “amazing that the very men who make
their millions out of cleverly devised drives for soap
and bonds and cars will turn around and give large
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Propaganda
contributions to be expended for vote-getting in an
utterly inefficient and antiquated fashion.”
It is, indeed, incomprehensible that politicians do
not make use of the elaborate business methods that
industry has built up. Because a politician knows
political strategy, can develop campaign issues, can
devise strong planks for platforms and envisage
broad policies, it does not follow that he can be
given the responsibility of selling ideas to a public as
large as that of the United States.
The politician understands the public. He knows
what the public wants and what the public will accept.
But the politician is not necessarily a general sales
manager, a public relations counsel, or a man who
knows how to secure mass distribution of ideas.
Obviously, an occasional political leader may be
capable of combining every feature of leadership, just
as in business there are certain brilliant industrial
leaders who are financiers, factory directors, engineers,
sales managers and public relations counsel all rolled
into one.
Big business is conducted on the principle that it
must prepare its policies carefully, and that in selling
an idea to the large buying public of America, it
must proceed according to broad plans. The political
strategist must do likewise. The entire campaign
should be worked out according to broad basic
plans. Platforms, planks, pledges, budgets, activities,
personalities, must be as carefully studied, appor-
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Propaganda and Political Leadership
tioned and used as they are when big business desires
to get what it wants from the public.
The first step in a political campaign is to determine
on the objectives, and to express them exceedingly
well in the current form—that is, as a platform.
In devising the platform the leader should be sure
that it is an honest platform. Campaign pledges and
promises should not be lightly considered by the public,
and they ought to carry something of the guarantee
principle and money-back policy that an honorable
business institution carries with the sale of its
goods. The public has lost faith in campaign promotion
work. It does not say that politicians are
dishonorable, but it does say that campaign pledges
are written on the sand. Here then is one fact of
public opinion of which the party that wishes to be
successful might well take cognizance.
To aid in the preparation of the platform there
should be made as nearly scientific an analysis as possible
of the public and of the needs of the public. A
survey of public desires and demands would come to
the aid of the political strategist whose business it is to
make a proposed plan of the activities of the parties
and its elected officials during the coming terms of
office.
A big business that wants to sell a product to the
public surveys and analyzes its market before it takes
a single step either to make or to sell the product.
If one section of the community is absolutely sold to
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Propaganda
the idea of this product, no money is wasted in reselling
it to it. If, on the other hand, another section
of the public is irrevocably committed to another
product, no money is wasted on a lost cause. Very
often the analysis is the cause of basic changes and
improvements in the product itself, as well as an index
of how it is to be presented. So carefully is this
analysis of markets and sales made that when a company
makes out its sales budget for the year, it subdivides
the circulations of the various magazines and
newspapers it uses in advertising and calculates with
a fair degree of accuracy how many times a section
of that population is subjected to the appeal of the
company. It knows approximately to what extent a
national campaign duplicates and repeats the emphasis
of a local campaign of selling.
As in the business field, the expenses of the political
campaign should be budgeted. A large business
to-day knows exactly how much money it is going
to spend on propaganda during the next year or years.
It knows that a certain percentage of its gross receipts
will be given over to advertising—newspaper,
magazine, outdoor and poster; a certain percentage
to circularization and sales promotion—such as house
organs and dealer aids; and a certain percentage
must go to the supervising salesmen who travel
around the country to infuse extra stimulus in the
local sales campaign.
A political campaign should be similarly budg-
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Propaganda and Political Leadership
eted. The first question which should be decided
is the amount of money that should be raised for the
campaign. This decision can be reached by a careful
analysis of campaign costs. There is enough
precedent in business procedure to enable experts to
work this out accurately. Then the second question
of importance is the manner in which money should
be raised.
It is obvious that politics would gain much in prestige
if the money-raising campaign were conducted
candidly and publicly, like the campaigns for the war
funds. Charity drives might be made excellent
models for political funds drives. The elimination
of the little black bag element in politics would
raise the entire prestige of politics in America, and
the public interest would be infinitely greater if the
actual participation occurred earlier and more constructively
in the campaign.
Again, as in the business field, there should be a
clear decision as to how the money is to be spent.
This should be done according to the most careful
and exact budgeting, wherein every step in the campaign
is given its proportionate importance, and the
funds allotted accordingly. Advertising in newspapers
and periodicals, posters and street banners, the
exploitation of personalities in motion pictures, in
speeches and lectures and meetings, spectacular events
and all forms of propaganda should be considered
proportionately according to the budget, and should
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Propaganda
always be coordinated with the whole plan. Certain
expenditures may be warranted if they represent a
small proportion of the budget and may be totally
unwarranted if they make up a large proportion of
the budget.
In the same way the emotions by which the public
is appealed to may be made part of the broad plan
of the campaign. Unrelated emotions become maudlin
and sentimental too easily, are often costly, and
too often waste effort because the idea is not part
of the conscious and coherent whole.
Big business has realized that it must use as many
of the basic emotions as possible. The politician,
however, has used the emotions aroused by words
almost exclusively.
To appeal to the emotions of the public in a political
campaign is sound—in fact it is an indispensable
part of the campaign. But the emotional content
must—
(a) coincide in every way with the broad basic
plans of the campaign and all its minor details;
(b) be adapted to the many groups of the public
at which it is to be aimed; and
(c) conform to the media of the distribution of
ideas.
The emotions of oratory have been worn down
through long years of overuse. Parades, mass meetings,
and the like are successful when the public has a
frenzied emotional interest in the event. The can-
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Propaganda and Political Leadership
didate who takes babies on his lap, and has his photograph
taken, is doing a wise thing emotionally, if this
act epitomizes a definite plank in his platform. Kissing
babies, if it is worth anything, must be used as a
symbol for a baby policy and it must be synchronized
with a plank in the platform. But the haphazard
staging of emotional events without regard to their
value as part of the whole campaign, is a waste of
effort, just as it would be a waste of effort for the
manufacturer of hockey skates to advertise a picture
of a church surrounded by spring foliage. It is true
that the church appeals to our religious impulses and
that everybody loves the spring, but these impulses
do not help to sell the idea that hockey skates are
amusing, helpful, or increase the general enjoyment
of life for the buyer.
Present-day politics places emphasis on personality.
An entire party, a platform, an international policy
is sold to the public, or is not sold, on the basis of the
intangible element of personality. A charming candidate
is the alchemist’s secret that can transmute a
prosaic platform into the gold of votes. Helpful as
is a candidate who for some reason has caught the
imagination of the country, the party and its aims
are certainly more important than the personality of
the candidate. Not personality, but the ability of the
candidate to carry out the party’s program adequately,
and the program itself should be emphasized
in a sound campaign plan. Even Henry Ford,
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Propaganda
the most picturesque personality in business in
America to-day, has become known through his
product, and not his product through him.
It is essential for the campaign manager to educate
the emotions in terms of groups. The public is not
made up merely of Democrats and Republicans.
People to-day are largely uninterested in politics and
their interest in the issues of the campaign must be
secured by coordinating it with their personal interests.
The public is made up of interlocking groups
—economic, social, religious, educational, cultural,
racial, collegiate, local, sports, and hundreds of
others.
When President Coolidge invited actors for breakfast,
he did so because he realized not only that actors
were a group, but that audiences, the large group of
people who like amusements, who like people who
amuse them, and who like people who can be amused,
ought to be aligned with him.
The Shepard-Towner Maternity Bill was passed
because the people who fought to secure its passage
realized that mothers made up a group, that educators
made up a group, that physicians made up a
group, that all these groups in turn influence other
groups, and that taken all together these groups were
sufficiently strong and numerous to impress Congress
with the fact that the people at large wanted this bill
to be made part of the national law.
The political campaign having defined its broad
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Propaganda and Political Leadership
objects and its basic plans, having defined the group
appeal which it must use, must carefully allocate to
each of the media at hand the work which it can
do with maximum efficiency.
The media through which a political campaign may
be brought home to the public are numerous and
fairly well defined. Events and activities must be
created in order to put ideas into circulation, in these
channels, which are as varied as the means of human
communication. Every object which presents pictures
or words that the public can see, everything that
presents intelligible sounds, can be utilized in one
way or another.
At present, the political campaigner uses for the
greatest part the radio, the press, the banquet hall,
the mass meeting, the lecture platform, and the
stump generally as a means for furthering his ideas.
But this is only a small part of what may be done.
Actually there are infinitely more varied events that
can be created to dramatize the campaign, and to make
people talk of it. Exhibitions, contests, institutes of
politics, the cooperation of educational institutions,
the dramatic cooperation of groups which hitherto
have not been drawn into active politics, and
many others may be made the vehicle for the presentation
of ideas to the public.
But whatever is done must be synchronized accurately
with all other forms of appeal to the public.
News reaches the public through the printed word—
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Propaganda
books, magazines, letters, posters, circulars and banners,
newspapers; through pictures—photographs and
motion pictures; through the ear—lectures, speeches,
band music, radio, campaign songs. All these must
be employed by the political party if it is to succeed.
One method of appeal is merely one method of appeal
and in this age wherein a thousand movements
and ideas are competing for public attention, one dare
not put all one’s eggs into one basket.
It is understood that the methods of propaganda
can be effective only with the voter who makes up
his own mind on the basis of his group prejudices and
desires. Where specific allegiances and loyalties exist,
as in the case of boss leadership, these loyalties will
operate to nullify the free will of the voter. In this
close relation between the boss and his constituents
lies, of course, the strength of his position in politics.
It is not necessary for the politician to be the slave
of the public’s group prejudices, if he can learn how
to mold the mind of the voters in conformity with his
own ideas of public welfare and public service. The
important thing for the statesman of our age is not
so much to know how to please the public, but to
know how to sway the public. In theory, this education
might be done by means of learned pamphlets
explaining the intricacies of public questions. In
actual fact, it can be done only by meeting the conditions
of the public mind, by creating circumstances
which set up trains of thought, by dramatizing per-
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Propaganda and Political Leadership
sonalities, by establishing contact with the group
leaders who control the opinions of their publics.
But campaigning is only an incident in political
life. The process of government is continuous. And
the expert use of propaganda is more useful and fundamental,
although less striking, as an aid to democratic
administration, than as an aid to vote getting.
Good government can be sold to a community just
as any other commodity can be sold. I often wonder
whether the politicians of the future, who are responsible
for maintaining the prestige and effectiveness
of their party, will not endeavor to train politicians
who are at the same time propagandists. I
talked recently with George Olvany. He said that a
certain number of Princeton men were joining Tammany
Hall. If I were in his place I should have
taken some of my brightest young men and set them
to work for Broadway theatrical productions or apprenticed
them as assistants to professional propagandists
before recruiting them to the service of the
party.
One reason, perhaps, why the politician to-day is
slow to take up methods which are a commonplace
in business life is that he has such ready entry to the
media of communication on which his power depends.
The newspaper man looks to him for news. And
by his power of giving or withholding information
the politician can often effectively censor political
news. But being dependent, every day of the year
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Propaganda
and for year after year, upon certain politicians for
news, the newspaper reporters are obliged to work in
harmony with their news sources.
The political leader must be a creator of circumstances,
not only a creature of mechanical processes of
stereotyping and rubber stamping.
Let us suppose that he is campaigning on a lowtariff
platform. He may use the modern mechanism
of the radio to spread his views, but he will almost
certainly use the psychological method of approach
which was old in Andrew Jackson’s day, and which
business has largely discarded. He will say over the
radio: “Vote for me and low tariff, because the high
tariff increases the cost of the things you buy.” He
may, it is true, have the great advantage of being able
to speak by radio directly to fifty million listeners.
But he is making an old-fashioned approach. He is
arguing with them. He is assaulting, single-handed,
the resistance of inertia.
If he were a propagandist, on the other hand, although
he would still use the radio, he would use
it as one instrument of a well-planned strategy.
Since he is campaigning on the issue of a low tariff, he
not merely would tell people that the high tariff increases
the cost of the things they buy, but would
create circumstances which would make his contention
dramatic and self-evident. He would perhaps
stage a low-tariff exhibition simultaneously in twenty
cities, with exhibits illustrating the additional cost
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Propaganda and Political Leadership
due to the tariff in force. He would see that these
exhibitions were ceremoniously inaugurated by prominent
men and women who were interested in a low
tariff apart from any interest in his personal political
fortunes. He would have groups, whose interests
were especially affected by the high cost of living,
institute an agitation for lower schedules. He would
dramatize the issue, perhaps by having prominent
men boycott woolen clothes, and go to important
functions in cotton suits, until the wool schedule was
reduced. He might get the opinion of social workers
as to whether the high cost of wool endangers the
health of the poor in winter.
In whatever ways he dramatized the issue, the attention
of the public would be attracted to the question
before he addressed them personally. Then,
when he spoke to his millions of listeners on the
radio, he would not be seeking to force an argument
down the throats of a public thinking of other things
and annoyed by another demand on its attention; on
the contrary, he would be answering the spontaneous
questions and expressing the emotional demands of
a public already keyed to a certain pitch of interest
in the subject.
The importance of taking the entire world public
into consideration before planning an important event
is shown by the wise action of Thomas Masaryk, then
Provisional President, now President of the Republic
of Czecho-Slovakia.
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Propaganda
Czecho-Slovakia officially became a free state on
Monday, October 28, 1918, instead of Sunday,
October 27, 1918, because Professor Masaryk realized
that the people of the world would receive more
information and would be more receptive to, the announcement
of the republic’s freedom on a Monday
morning than on a Sunday, because the press would
have more space to devote to it on Monday morning.
Discussing the matter with me before he made the
announcement, Professor Masaryk said, “I would
be making history for the cables if I changed the
date of Czecho-Slovakia’s birth as a free nation.”
Cables make history and so the date was changed.
This incident illustrates the importance of technique
in the new propaganda.
It will be objected, of course, that propaganda will
tend to defeat itself as its mechanism becomes obvious
to the public. My opinion is that it will not.
The only propaganda which will ever tend to weaken
itself as the world becomes more sophisticated and
intelligent, is propaganda that is untrue or unsocial.
Again, the objection is raised that propaganda is
utilized to manufacture our leading political personalities.
It is asked whether, in fact, the leader makes
propaganda, or whether propaganda makes the
leader. There is a widespread impression that a
good press agent can puff up a nobody into a great
man.
The answer is the same as that made to the old
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Propaganda and Political Leadership
query as to whether the newspaper makes public
opinion or whether public opinion makes the newspaper.
There has to be fertile ground for the leader
and the idea to fall on. But the leader also has to
have some vital seed to sow. To use another figure, a
mutual need has to exist before either can become
positively effective. Propaganda is of no use to the
politician unless he has something to say which the
public, consciously or unconsciously, wants to hear.
But even supposing that a certain propaganda is
untrue or dishonest, we cannot on that account reject
the methods of propaganda as such. For propaganda
in some form will always be used where leaders
need to appeal to their constituencies.
The criticism is often made that propaganda tends
to make the President of the United States so important
that he becomes not the President but the
embodiment of the idea of hero worship, not to say
deity worship. I quite agree that this is so, but how
are you going to stop a condition which very accurately
reflects the desires of a certain part of the
public? The American people rightly senses the
enormous importance of the executive’s office. If the
public tends to make of the President a heroic symbol
of that power, that is not the fault of propaganda but
lies in the very nature of the office and its relation to
the people.
This condition, despite its somewhat irrational puffing
up of the man to fit the office, is perhaps still
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more sound than a condition in which the man utilizes
no propaganda, or a propaganda not adapted to its
proper end. Note the example of the Prince of
Wales. This young man reaped bales of clippings
and little additional glory from his American visit,
merely because he was poorly advised. To the American
public he became a well dressed, charming, sportloving,
dancing, perhaps frivolous youth. Nothing
was done to add dignity and prestige to this impression
until towards the end of his stay he made a trip
in the subway of New York. This sole venture into
democracy and the serious business of living as evidenced
in the daily habits of workers, aroused new
interest in the Prince. Had he been properly advised
he would have augmented this somewhat by such
serious studies of American life as were made by another
prince, Gustave of Sweden. As a result of the
lack of well directed propaganda, the Prince of Wales
became in the eyes of the American people, not the
thing which he constitutionally is, a symbol of the
unity of the British Empire, but part and parcel of
sporting Long Island and dancing beauties of the
ballroom. Great Britain lost an invaluable opportunity
to increase the good will and understanding
between the two countries when it failed to understand
the importance of correct public relations counsel
for His Royal Highness.
The public actions of America’s chief executive are,
if one chooses to put it that way, stage-managed.
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But they are chosen to represent and dramatize the
man in his function as representative of the people.
A political practice which has its roots in the tendency
of the popular leader to follow oftener than he
leads is the technique of the trial balloon which he
uses in order to maintain, as he believes, his contact
with the public. The politician, of course, has his
ear to the ground. It might be called the clinical ear.
It touches the ground and hears the disturbances of
the political universe.
But he often does not know what the disturbances
mean, whether they are superficial, or fundamental.
So he sends up his balloon. He may send out an
anonymous interview through the press. He then
waits for reverberations to come from the public—a
public which expresses itself in mass meetings, or
resolutions, or telegrams, or even such obvious manifestations
as editorials in the partisan or nonpartisan
press. On the basis of these repercussions he then
publicly adopts his original tentative policy, or rejects
it, or modifies it to conform to the sum of public
opinion which has reached him. This method is
modeled on the peace feelers which were used during
the war to sound out the disposition of the enemy to
make peace or to test any one of a dozen other popular
tendencies. It is the method commonly used by
a politician before committing himself to legislation
of any kind, and by a government before committing
itself on foreign or domestic policies.
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Propaganda
It is a method which has little justification. If a
politician is a real leader he will be able, by the skillful
use of propaganda, to lead the people, instead of
following the people by means of the clumsy instrument
of trial and error.
The propagandist’s approach is the exact opposite
of that of the politician just described. The whole
basis of successful propaganda is to have an objective
and then to endeavor to arrive at it through an exact
knowledge of the public and modifying circumstances
to manipulate and sway that public.
“The function of a statesman,” says George Bernard
Shaw, “is to express the will of the people in the
way of a scientist.”
The political leader of to-day should be a leader
as finely versed in the technique of propaganda as
in political economy and civics. If he remains merely
the reflection of the average intelligence of his community,
he might as well go out of politics. If one
is dealing with a democracy in which the herd and the
group follow those whom they recognize as leaders,
why should not the young men training for leadership
be trained in its technique as well as in its
idealism?
“When the interval between the intellectual classes
and the practical classes is too great,” says the historian
Buckle, “the former will possess no influence,
the latter will reap no benefits.”
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Propaganda and Political Leadership
Propaganda bridges this interval in our modern
complex civilization.
Only through the wise use of propaganda will our
government, considered as the continuous administrative
organ of the people, be able to maintain that intimate
relationship with the public which is necessary
in a democracy.
As David Lawrence pointed out in a recent speech,
there is need for an intelligent interpretative bureau
for our government in Washington. There is, it is
true, a Division of Current Information in the Department
of State, which at first was headed by a
trained newspaper man. But later this position began
to be filled by men from the diplomatic service, men
who had very little knowledge of the public. While
some of these diplomats have done very well, Mr.
Lawrence asserted that in the long run the country
would be benefited if the functions of this office were
in the hands of a different type of person.
There should, I believe, be an Assistant Secretary
of State who is familiar with the problem of dispensing
information to the press—some one upon
whom the Secretary of State can call for consultation
and who has sufficient authority to persuade the
Secretary of State to make public that which, for insufficient
reason, is suppressed.
The function of the propagandist is much broader
in scope than that of a mere dispenser of information
to the press. The United States Government
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Propaganda
should create a Secretary of Public Relations as
member of the President’s Cabinet. The function of
this official should be correctly to interpret America’s
aims and ideals throughout the world, and to keep
the citizens of this country in touch with governmental
activities and the reasons which prompt them.
He would, in short, interpret the people to the government
and the government to the people.
Such an official would be neither a propagandist nor
a press agent, in the ordinary understanding of those
terms. He would be, rather, a trained technician
who would be helpful in analyzing public thought
and public trends, in order to keep the government
informed about the public, and the people informed
about the government. America’s relations with
South America and with Europe would be greatly
improved under such circumstances. Ours must be
a leadership democracy administered by the intelligent
minority who know how to regiment and guide
the masses.
Is this government by propaganda? Call it, if you
prefer, government by education. But education, in
the academic sense of the word, is not sufficient. It
must be enlightened expert propaganda through the
creation of circumstances, through the high-spotting
of significant events, and the dramatization of important
issues. The statesman of the future will thus
be enabled to focus the public mind on crucial points
of policy, and regiment a vast, heterogeneous mass
of voters to clear understanding and intelligent action.
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CHAPTER VII
WOMEN’S ACTIVITIES AND PROPAGANDA
WOMEN in contemporary America have achieved a
legal equality with men. This does not mean that
their activities are identical with those of men.
Women in the mass still have special interests and
activities in addition to their economic pursuits and
vocational interests.
Women’s most obvious influence is exerted when
they are organized and armed with the weapon of
propaganda. So organized and armed they have
made their influence felt on city councils, state legislatures,
and national congresses, upon executives, upon
political campaigns and upon public opinion generally,
both local and national.
In politics, the American women to-day occupy a
much more important position, from the standpoint
of their influence, in their organized groups than
from the standpoint of the leadership they have acquired
in actual political positions or in actual office
holding. The professional woman politician has had,
up to the present, not much influence, nor do women
generally regard her as being the most important element
in question. Ma Ferguson, after all, was
simply a woman in the home, a catspaw for a deposed
husband; Nellie Ross, the former Governor of Wyo-
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ming, is from all accounts hardly a leader of statesmanship
or public opinion.
If the suffrage campaign did nothing more, it
showed the possibilities of propaganda to achieve certain
ends. This propaganda to-day is being utilized
by women to achieve their programs in Washington
and in the states. In Washington they are organized
as the Legislative Committee of Fourteen Women’s
Organizations, including the League of Women
Voters, the Young Women’s Christian Association,
the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union, the Federation
of Women’s Clubs, etc. These organizations
map out a legislative program and then use the modern
technique of propaganda to make this legislative
program actually pass into the law of the land. Their
accomplishments in the field are various. They can
justifiably take the credit for much welfare legislation.
The eight-hour day for women is theirs.
Undoubtedly prohibition and its enforcement are
theirs, if they can be considered an accomplishment.
So is the Shepard-Towner Bill which stipulates support
by the central government of maternity welfare
in the state governments. This bill would not have
passed had it not been for the political prescience
and sagacity of women like Mrs. Vanderlip and Mrs.
Mitchell.
The Federal measures endorsed at the first convention
of the National League of Women Voters
typify social welfare activities of women’s organiza-
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Women’s Activities and Propaganda
tions. These covered such broad interests as child
welfare, education, the home and high prices, women
in gainful occupations, public health and morals, independent
citizenship for married women, and others.
To propagandize these principles, the National
League of Women Voters has published all types
of literature, such as bulletins, calendars, election information,
has held a correspondence course on government
and conducted demonstration classes and citizenship
schools.
Possibly the effectiveness of women’s organizations
in American politics to-day is due to two things:
first, the training of a professional class of executive
secretaries or legislative secretaries during the suffrage
campaigns, where every device known to the
propagandist had to be used to regiment a recalcitrant
majority; secondly, the routing over into peacetime
activities of the many prominent women who
were in the suffrage campaigns and who also devoted
themselves to the important drives and mass
influence movements during the war. Such women
as Mrs. Frank Vanderlip, Alice Ames Winter, Mrs.
Henry Moskowitz, Mrs. Florence Kelley, Mrs. John
Blair, Mrs. O. H. P. Belmont, Doris Stevens, Alice
Paul come to mind.
If I have seemed to concentrate on the accomplishments
of women in politics, it is because they afford
a particularly striking example of intelligent use of
the new propaganda to secure attention and acceptance
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of minority ideas. It is perhaps curiously appropriate
that the latest recruits to the political arena should
recognize and make use of the newest weapons of
persuasion to offset any lack of experience with what
is somewhat euphemistically termed practical politics.
As an example of this new technique: Some
years ago, the Consumers’ Committee of Women,
fighting the “American valuation” tariff, rented an
empty store on Fifty-seventh Street in New York and
set up an exhibit of merchandise tagging each item
with the current price and the price it would cost if
the tariff went through. Hundreds of visitors to
this shop rallied to the cause of the committee.
But there are also non-political fields in which
women can make and have made their influence felt
for social ends, and in which they have utilized the
principle of group leadership in attaining the desired
objectives.
In the General Federation of Women’s Clubs,
there are 13,000 clubs. Broadly classified, they include
civic and city clubs, mothers’ and homemakers’
clubs, cultural clubs devoted to art, music or literature,
business and professional women’s clubs, and
general women’s clubs, which may embrace either
civic or community phases, or combine some of the
other activities listed.
The woman’s club is generally effective on behalf
of health education; in furthering appreciation of the
fine arts; in sponsoring legislation that affects the
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Women s Activities and Propaganda
welfare of women and children; in playground development
and park improvement; in raising standards
of social or political morality; in homemaking.
and home economics, education and the like. In
these fields, the woman’s club concerns itself with
efforts that are not ordinarily covered by existing
agencies, and often both initiates and helps to further
movements for the good of the community.
A club interested principally in homemaking and
the practical arts can sponsor a cooking school for
young brides and others. An example of the keen
interest of women in this field of education is the
cooking school recently conducted by the New York
Herald Tribune, which held its classes in Carnegie
Hall, seating almost 3,000 persons. For the several
days of the cooking school, the hall was filled to
capacity, rivaling the drawing power of a McCormack
or a Paderewski, and refuting most dramatically
the idea that women in large cities are not
interested in housewifery.
A movement for the serving of milk in public
schools, or the establishment of a baby health station
at the department of health will be an effort
close to the heart of a club devoted to the interest of
mothers and child welfare.
A music club can broaden its sphere and be of
service to the community by cooperating with the
local radio station in arranging better musical programs.
Fighting bad music can be as militant a cam-
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paign and marshal as varied resources as any political
battle.
An art club can be active in securing loan exhibitions
for its city. It can also arrange travelling exhibits
of the art work of its members or show the art
work of schools or universities.
A literary club may step out of its charmed circle
of lectures and literary lions and take a definite part
in the educational life of the community. It can
sponsor, for instance, a competition in the public
schools for the best essay on the history of the city,
or on the life of its most famous son.
Over and above the particular object for which the
woman’s club may have been constituted, it commonly
stands ready to initiate or help any movement which
has for its object a distinct public good in the community.
More important, it constitutes an organized
channel through which women can make themselves
felt as a definite part of public opinion.
Just as women supplement men in private life, so
they will supplement men in public life by concentrating
their organized efforts on those objects which
men are likely to ignore. There is a tremendous field
for women as active protagonists of new ideas and
new methods of political and social housekeeping.
When organized and conscious of their power to influence
their surroundings, women can use their newly
acquired freedom in a great many ways to mold the
world into a better place to live in.
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CHAPTER VIII
PROPAGANDA FOR EDUCATION
EDUCATION is not securing its proper share of public
interest. The public school system, materially and
financially, is being adequately supported. There is
marked eagerness for a college education, and a
vague aspiration for culture, expressed in innumerable
courses and lectures. The public is not cognizant
of the real value of education, and does not realize
that education as a social force is not receiving the
kind of attention it has the right to expect in a democracy.
It is felt, for example, that education is entitled
to more space in the newspapers; that well informed
discussion of education hardly exists; that unless such
an issue as the Gary School system is created, or outside
of an occasional discussion, such as that aroused
over Harvard’s decision to establish a school of business,
education does not attract the active interest of
the public.
There are a number of reasons for this condition.
First of all, there is the fact that the educator has
been trained to stimulate to thought the individual
students in his classroom, but has not been trained as
an educator at large of the public.
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Propaganda
In a democracy an educator should, in addition to
his academic duties, bear a definite and wholesome
relation to the general public. This public does not
come within the immediate scope of his academic duties.
But in a sense he depends upon it for his living,
for the moral support, and the general cultural
tone upon which his work must be based. In the
field of education, we find what we have found in
politics and other fields—that the evolution of the
practitioner of the profession has not kept pace with
the social evolution around him, and is out of gear
with the instruments for the dissemination of ideas
which modern society has developed. If this be
true, then the training of the educators in this respect
should begin in the normal schools, with the
addition to their curricula of whatever is necessary
to broaden their viewpoint. The public cannot understand
unless the teacher understands the relationship
between the general public and the academic
idea.
The normal school should provide for the training
of the educator to make him realize that his is a twofold
job: education as a teacher and education as a
propagandist.
A second reason for the present remoteness of education
from the thoughts and interests of the public
is to be found in the mental attitude of the pedagogue
—whether primary school teacher or college professor—
toward the world outside the school. This is a
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difficult psychological problem. The teacher finds
himself in a world in which the emphasis is put on
those objective goals and those objective attainments
which are prized by our American society. He himself
is but moderately or poorly paid. Judging himself
by the standards in common acceptance, he cannot
but feel a sense of inferiority because he finds
himself continually being compared, in the minds of
his own pupils, with the successful business man and
the successful leader in the outside world. Thus the
educator becomes repressed and suppressed in our
civilization. As things stand, this condition cannot
be changed from the outside unless the general public
alters its standards of achievement, which it is not
likely to do soon.
Yet it can be changed by the teaching profession
itself, if it becomes conscious not only of its individualistic
relation to the pupil, but also of its social
relation to the general public. The teaching profession,
as such, has the right to carry on a very definite
propaganda with a view to enlightening the public
and asserting its intimate relation to the society which
it serves. In addition to conducting a propaganda
on behalf of its individual members, education must
also raise the general appreciation of the teaching
profession. Unless the profession can raise itself by
its own bootstraps, it will fast lose the power of recruiting
outstanding talent for itself.
Propaganda cannot change all that is at present un-
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satisfactory in the educational situation. There are
factors, such as low pay and the lack of adequate
provision for superannuated teachers, which definitely
affect the status of the profession. It is possible,
by means of an intelligent appeal predicated
upon the actual present composition of the public
mind, to modify the general attitude toward the
teaching profession. Such a changed attitude will
begin by expressing itself in an insistence on the idea
of more adequate salaries for the profession.
There are various ways in which academic organizations
in America handle their financial problems.
One type of college or university depends, for its
monetary support, upon grants from the state legislatures.
Another depends upon private endowment.
There are other types of educational institutions,
such as the sectarian, but the two chief types
include by far the greater number of our institutions
of higher learning.
The state university is supported by grants from
the people of the state, voted by the state legislature.
In theory, the degree of support which the university
receives is dependent upon the degree of acceptance
accorded it by the voters. The state university prospers
according to the extent to which it can sell itself
to the people of the state.
The state university is therefore in an unfortunate
position unless its president happens to be a man of
outstanding merit as a propagandist and a dramatizer
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Propaganda for Education
of educational issues. Yet if this is the case—if the
university shapes its whole policy toward gaining
the support of the state legislature—its educational
function may suffer. It may be tempted to base its
whole appeal to the public on its public service, real
or supposed, and permit the education of its individual
students to take care of itself. It may attempt
to educate the people of the state at the expense of its
own pupils. This may generate a number of evils, to
the extent of making the university a political instrument,
a mere tool of the political group in power.
If the president dominates both the public and the
professional politician, this may lead to a situation
in which the personality of the president outweighs
the true function of the institution.
The endowed college or university has a problem
quite as perplexing. The endowed college is dependent
upon the support, usually, of key men in industry
whose social and economic objectives are
concrete and limited, and therefore often at variance
with the pursuit of abstract knowledge. The successful
business man criticizes the great universities for
being too academic, but seldom for being too practical.
One might imagine that the key men who
support our universities would like them to specialize
in schools of applied science, of practical salesmanship
or of industrial efficiency. And it may well
be, in many instances, that the demands which the
potential endowers of our universities make upon
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these institutions are flatly in contradiction to the interests
of scholarship and general culture.
We have, therefore, the anomalous situation of the
college seeking to carry on a propaganda in favor of
scholarship among people who are quite out of sympathy
with the aims to which they are asked to subscribe
their money. Men who, by the commonly
accepted standards, are failures or very moderate successes
in our American world (the pedagogues) seek
to convince the outstanding successes (the business
men) that they should give their money to ideals
which they do not pursue. Men who, through a
sense of inferiority, despise money, seek to win the
good will of men who love money.
It seems possible that the future status of the endowed
college will depend upon a balancing of these
forces, both the academic and the endowed elements
obtaining in effect due consideration.
The college must win public support. If the potential
donor is apathetic, enthusiastic public approval
must be obtained to convince him. If he seeks
unduly to influence the educational policy of the institution,
public opinion must support the college in
the continuance of its proper functions. If either
factor dominates unduly, we are likely to find a
demagoguery or a snobbishness aiming to please one
group or the other.
There is still another potential solution of the problem.
It is possible that through an educational prop-
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aganda aiming to develop greater social consciousness
on the part of the people of the country, there may
be awakened in the minds of men of affairs, as a class,
social consciousness which will produce more minds
of the type of Julius Rosenwald, V. Everitt Macy,
John D. Rockefeller, Jr., the late Willard Straight.
Many colleges have already developed intelligent
propaganda in order to bring them into active and
continuous relation with the general public. A definite
technique has been developed in their relation to
the community in the form of college news bureaus.
These bureaus have formed an intercollegiate association
whose members meet once a year to discuss
their problems. These problems include the
education of the alumnus and his effect upon the
general public and upon specific groups, the education
of the future student to the choice of the particular
college, the maintenance of an esprit de corps so that
the athletic prowess of the college will not be placed
first, the development of some familiarity with
the research work done in the college in order to attract
the attention of those who may be able to lend
aid, the development of an understanding of the
aims and the work of the institution in order to
attract special endowments for specified purposes.
Some seventy-five of these bureaus are now affiliated
with the American Association of College News
Bureaus, including those of Yale, Wellesley, Illinois,
Indiana, Wisconsin, Western Reserve, Tufts and
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Propaganda
California. A bi-monthly news letter is published,
bringing to members the news of their profession.
The Association endeavors to uphold the ethical
standards of the profession and aims to work in harmony
with the press.
The National Education Association and other
societies are carrying on a definite propaganda to promote
the larger purposes of educational endeavor.
One of the aims of such propaganda is of course improvement
in the prestige and material position of
the teachers themselves. An occasional McAndrew
case calls the attention of the public to the fact that
in some schools the teacher is far from enjoying full
academic freedom, while in certain communities the
choice of teachers is based upon political or sectarian
considerations rather than upon real ability. If such
issues were made, by means of propaganda, to become
a matter of public concern on a truly national scale,
there would doubtless be a general tendency to
improvement.
The concrete problems of colleges are more varied
and puzzling than one might suppose. The pharmaceutical
college of a university is concerned because
the drug store is no longer merely a drug store, but
primarily a soda fountain, a lunch counter, a bookshop,
a retailer of all sorts of general merchandise
from society stationery to spare radio parts. The college
realizes the economic utility of the lunch
counter feature to the practicing druggist, yet it
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feels that the ancient and honorable art of compounding
specifics is being degraded.
Cornell University discovers that endowments are
rare. Why? Because the people think that the
University is a state institution and therefore publicly
supported.
Many of our leading universities rightly feel that
the results of their scholarly researches should not
only be presented to libraries and learned publications,
but should also, where practicable and useful,
be given to the public in the dramatic form which the
public can understand. Harvard is but one example.
“Not long ago,” says Charles A. Merrill in Personality,
“a certain Harvard professor vaulted into
the newspaper headlines. There were several days
when one could hardly pick up a paper in any of the
larger cities without finding his name bracketed with
his achievement.
“The professor, who was back from a trip to
Yucatan in the interests of science, had solved the
mystery of the Venus calendar of the ancient Mayas.
He had discovered the key to the puzzle of how the
Mayas kept tab on the flight of time. Checking the
Mayan record of celestial events against the known
astronomical facts, he had found a perfect correlation
between the time count of these Central American
Indians and the true positions of the planet Venus
in the sixth century B.C. A civilization which flour-
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ished in the Western Hemisphere twenty-five centuries
ago was demonstrated to have attained heights
hitherto unappreciated by the modern world.
“How the professor’s discovery happened to be
chronicled in the popular press is, also, in retrospect,
a matter of interest. … If left to his own devices,
he might never have appeared in print, except
perhaps in some technical publication, and his
remarks there would have been no more intelligible
to the average man or woman than if they had
been inscribed in Mayan hieroglyphics.
“Popularization of this message from antiquity
was due to the initiative of a young man named
James W. D. Seymour. . . .
“It may surprise and shock some people,” Mr.
Merrill adds, “to be told that the oldest and most
dignified seats of learning in America now hire press
agents, just as railroad companies, fraternal organizations,
moving picture producers and political
parties retain them. It is nevertheless a fact. . . .
“. . . there is hardly a college or university in
the country which does not, with the approval of the
governing body and the faculty, maintain a publicity
office, with a director and a staff of assistants,
for the purpose of establishing friendly relations
with the newspapers, and through the newspapers,
with the public. . . .
“This enterprise breaks sharply with tradition. In
the older seats of learning it is a recent innovation.
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It violates the fundamental article in the creed of
the old academic societies. Cloistered seclusion used
to be considered the first essential of scholarship.
The college was anxious to preserve its aloofness
from the world. …
“The colleges used to resent outside interest in
their affairs. They might, somewhat reluctantly and
contemptuously, admit reporters to their Commencement
Day exercises, but no further would they
go. . . .
“To-day, if a newspaper reporter wants to interview
a Harvard professor, he has merely to telephone
the Secretary for Information to the
University. Officially, Harvard still shies away
from the title ‘Director of Publicity.’ Informally,
however, the secretary with the long title is the publicity
man. He is an important official to-day at
Harvard.”
It may be a new idea that the president of a
university will concern himself with the kind of
mental picture his institution produces on the public
mind. Yet it is part of the president’s work to see
that his university takes its proper place in the community
and therefore also in the community mind,
and produces the results desired, both in a cultural
and in a financial sense.
If his institution does not produce the mental picture
which it should, one of two things may be
wrong: Either the media of communication with
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the public may be wrong or unbalanced; or his institution
may be at fault. The public is getting an
oblique impression of the university, in which case
the impression should be modified; or it may be that
the public is getting a correct impression, in which
case, very possibly, the work of the university itself
should be modified. For both possibilities lie within
the province of the public relations counsel.
Columbia University recently instituted a Casa
Italiana, which was solemnly inaugurated in the
presence of representatives of the Italian government,
to emphasize its high standing in Latin studies
and the Romance languages. Years ago Harvard
founded the Germanic Museum, which was ceremoniously
opened by Prince Henry of Prussia.
Many colleges maintain extension courses which
bring their work to the knowledge of a broad public.
It is of course proper that such courses should be
made known to the general public. But, to take another
example, if they have been badly planned,
from the point of view of public relations, if they
are unduly scholastic and detached, their effect may
be the opposite of favorable. In such a case, it is
not the work of the public relations counsel to urge
that the courses be made better known, but to urge
that they first be modified to conform to the impression
which the college wishes to create, where that is
compatible with the university’s scholastic ideals.
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Again, it may be the general opinion that the
work of a certain institution is 80 per cent postgraduate
research, an opinion which may tend to
alienate public interest. This opinion may be true
or it may be false. If it is false, it should be corrected
by high-spotting undergraduate activities.
If, on the other hand, it is true that 80 per cent
of the work is postgraduate research, the most should
be made of that fact. It should be the concern of
the president to make known the discoveries which
are of possible public interest. A university expedition
into Biblical lands may be uninteresting as a
purely scholastic undertaking, but if it contributes
light on some Biblical assertion it will immediately
arouse the interest of large masses of the population.
The zoological department may be hunting
for some strange bacillus which has no known relation
to any human disease, but the fact that it is
chasing bacilli is in itself capable of dramatic presentation
to the public.
Many universities now gladly lend members of
their faculties to assist in investigations of public interest.
Thus Cornell lent Professor Wilcox to aid
the government in the preparation of the national
census. Professor Irving Fisher of Yale has been
called in to advise on currency matters.
In the ethical sense, propaganda bears the same
relation to education as to business or politics. It
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Propaganda
may be abused. It may be used to overadvertise an
institution and to create in the public mind artificial
values. There can be no absolute guarantee against
its misuse.
134
CHAPTER IX
PROPAGANDA IN SOCIAL SERVICE
THE public relations counsel is necessary to social
work. And since social service, by its very nature,
can continue only by means of the voluntary support
of the wealthy, it is obliged to use propaganda continually.
The leaders in social service were among
the first consciously to utilize propaganda in its
modern sense.
The great enemy of any attempt to change men’s
habits is inertia. Civilization is limited by inertia.
Our attitude toward social relations, toward economics,
toward national and international politics,
continues past attitudes and strengthens them under
the force of tradition. Comstock drops his mantle
of proselytizing morality on the willing shoulders of
a Sumner; Penrose drops his mantle on Butler; Carnegie
his on Schwab, and so ad infinitum. Opposing
this traditional acceptance of existing ideas is an active
public opinion that has been directed consciously into
movements against inertia. Public opinion was made
or changed formerly by tribal chiefs, by kings, by
religious leaders. To-day the privilege of attempting
to sway public opinion is every one’s. It is one
of the manifestations of democracy that any one may
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Propaganda
try to convince others and to assume leadership on
behalf of his own thesis.
New ideas, new precedents, are continually striving
for a place in the scheme of things.
The social settlement, the organized campaigns
against tuberculosis and cancer, the various research
activities aiming directly at the elimination of social
diseases and maladjustments—a multitude of altruistic
activities which could be catalogued only in a
book of many pages—have need of knowledge of the
public mind and mass psychology if they are to
achieve their aims. The literature on social service
publicity is so extensive, and the underlying principles
so fundamental, that only one example is necessary
here to illustrate the technique of social service
propaganda.
A social service organization undertook to fight
lynching, Jim Crowism and the civil discriminations
against the Negro below the Mason and Dixon line.
The National Association for the Advancement of
the Colored People had the fight in hand. As a
matter of technique they decided to dramatize the
year’s campaign in an annual convention which would
concentrate attention on the problem.
Should it be held in the North, South, West or
East? Since the purpose was to affect the entire country,
the association was advised to hold it in the
South. For, said the propagandist, a point of view
on a southern question, emanating from a southern
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Propaganda in Social Service
center, would have greater authority than the same
point of view issuing from any other locality, particularly
when that point of view was at odds with
the traditional southern point of view. Atlanta
was chosen.
The third step was to surround the conference
with people who were stereotypes for ideas that carried
weight all over the country. The support of
leaders of diversified groups was sought. Telegrams
and letters were dispatched to leaders of religious,
political, social and educational groups, asking
for their point of view on the purpose of the
conference. But in addition to these group leaders
of national standing it was particularly important
from the technical standpoint to secure the opinions
of group leaders of the South, even from Atlanta itself,
to emphasize the purposes of the conference to
the entire public. There was one group in Atlanta
which could be approached. A group of ministers
had been bold enough to come out for a greater interracial
amity. This group was approached and agreed
to cooperate in the conference.
The event ran off as scheduled. The program
itself followed the general scheme. Negroes and
white men from the South, on the same platform, expressed
the same point of view.
A dramatic element was spot-lighted here and
there. A national leader from Massachusetts agreed
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Propaganda
in principle and in practice with a Baptist preacher
from the South.
If the radio had been in effect, the whole country
might have heard and been moved by the speeches
and the principles expressed.
But the public read the words and the ideas in
the press of the country. For the event had been
created of such important component parts as to
awaken interest throughout the country and to gain
support for its ideas even in the South.
The editorials in the southern press, reflecting the
public opinion of their communities, showed that the
subject had become one of interest to the editors
because of the participation by southern leaders.
The event naturally gave the Association itself
substantial weapons with which to appeal to an increasingly
wider circle. Further publicity was attained
by mailing reports, letters, and other propaganda
to selected groups of the public.
As for the practical results, the immediate one
was a change in the minds of many southern editors
who realized that the question at issue was not only
an emotional one, but also a discussable one; and
this point of view was immediately reflected to their
readers. Further results are hard to measure with a
slide-rule. The conference had its definite effect in
building up the racial consciousness and solidarity of
the Negroes. The decline in lynching is very prob-
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Propaganda in Social Service
ably a result of this and other efforts of the Association.
Many churches have made paid advertising and
organized propaganda part of their regular activities.
They have developed church advertising committees,
which make use of the newspaper and the billboard,
as well as of the pamphlet. Many denominations
maintain their own periodicals. The Methodist
Board of Publication and Information systematically
gives announcements and releases to the press and
the magazines.
But in a broader sense the very activities of social
service are propaganda activities. A campaign for
the preservation of the teeth seeks to alter people’s
habits in the direction of more frequent brushing of
teeth. A campaign for better parks seeks to alter
people’s opinion in regard to the desirability of taxing
themselves for the purchase of park facilities. A
campaign against tuberculosis is an attempt to convince
everybody that tuberculosis can be cured, that
persons with certain symptoms should immediately
go to the doctor, and the like. A campaign to lower
the infant mortality rate is an effort to alter the
habits of mothers in regard to feeding, bathing and
caring for their babies. Social service, in fact, is
identical with propaganda in many cases.
Even those aspects of social service which are
governmental and administrative, rather than charitable
and spontaneous, depend on wise propaganda
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Propaganda
for their effectiveness. Professor Harry Elmer
Barnes, in his book, “The Evolution of Modern Penology
in Pennsylvania,” states that improvements
in penological administration in that state are hampered
by political influences. The legislature must
be persuaded to permit the utilization of the best
methods of scientific penology, and for this there is
necessary the development of an enlightened public
opinion. “Until such a situation has been brought
about,” Mr. Barnes states, “progress in penology is
doomed to be sporadic, local, and generally ineffective.
The solution of prison problems, then, seems
to be fundamentally a problem of conscientious and
scientific publicity.”
Social progress is simply the progressive education
and enlightenment of the public mind in regard to its
immediate and distant social problems.
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CHAPTER X
ART AND SCIENCE
IN the education of the American public toward
greater art appreciation, propaganda plays an important
part. When art galleries seek to launch the
canvases of an artist they should create public acceptance
for his works. To increase public appreciation
a deliberate propagandizing effort must be made.
In art as in politics the minority rules, but it can
rule only by going out to meet the public on its own
ground, by understanding the anatomy of public
opinion and utilizing it.
In applied and commercial art, propaganda makes
greater opportunities for the artist than ever before.
This arises from the fact that mass production
reaches an impasse when it competes on a price basis
only. It must, therefore, in a large number of
fields create a field of competition based on esthetic
values. Business of many types capitalizes the esthetic
sense to increase markets and profits. Which
is only another way of saying that the artist has the
opportunity of collaborating with industry in such a
way as to improve the public taste, injecting beautiful
instead of ugly motifs into the articles of com-
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mon use, and, furthermore, securing recognition and
money for himself.
Propaganda can play a part in pointing out what is
and what is not beautiful, and business can definitely
help in this way to raise the level of American culture.
In this process propaganda will naturally
make use of the authority of group leaders whose
taste and opinion are recognized.
The public must be interested by means of associational
values and dramatic incidents. New inspiration,
which to the artist may be a very technical
and abstract kind of beauty, must be made vital to
the public by association with values which it recognizes
and responds to.
For instance, in the manufacture of American
silk, markets are developed by going to Paris for
inspiration. Paris can give American silk a stamp
of authority which will aid it to achieve definite
position in the United States.
The following clipping from the New York Times
of February 16, 1925, tells the story from an actual
incident of this sort:
“Copyright, 1925, by THE NEW YORK TIMES
COMPANY—Special Cable to THE NEW YORK
TIMES.
“PARIS, Feb. 15.—For the first time in history,
American art materials are to be exhibited
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Art and Science
in the Decorative Arts Section of the Louvre
Museum.
“The exposition opening on May 26th with
the Minister of Fine Arts, Paul Leon, acting as
patron, will include silks from Cheney Brothers,
South Manchester and New York, the designs
of which were based on the inspiration of Edgar
Brandt, famous French iron worker, the modern
Bellini, who makes wonderful art works
from iron.
“M. Brandt designed and made the monumental
iron doors of the Verdun war memorial.
He has been asked to assist and participate in
this exposition, which will show France the accomplishments
of American industrial art.
“Thirty designs inspired by Edgar Brandt’s
work are embodied in 2,500 yards of printed
silks, tinsels and cut velvets in a hundred
colors. . . .
“These ‘prints ferronnieres’ are the first textiles
to show the influence of the modern
master, M. Brandt. The silken fabrics possess
a striking composition, showing characteristic
Brandt motifs which were embodied in the
tracery of large designs by the Cheney artists
who succeeded in translating the iron into silk,
a task which might appear almost impossible.
The strength and brilliancy of the original de-
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Propaganda
sign is enhanced by the beauty and warmth of
color.”
The result of this ceremony was that prominent
department stores in New York, Chicago and other
cities asked to have this exhibition. They tried to
mold the public taste in conformity with the idea
which had the approval of Paris. The silks of
Cheney Brothers—a commercial product produced in
quantity—gained a place in public esteem by being
associated with the work of a recognized artist and
with a great art museum.
The same can be said of almost any commercial
product susceptible of beautiful design. There are
few products in daily use, whether furniture, clothes,
lamps, posters, commercial labels, book jackets,
pocketbooks or bathtubs which are not subject to the
laws of good taste.
In America, whole departments of production are
being changed through propaganda to fill an economic
as well as an esthetic need. Manufacture is
being modified to conform to the economic need to
satisfy the public demand for more beauty. A piano
manufacturer recently engaged artists to design modernist
pianos. This was not done because there existed
a widespread demand for modernist pianos.
Indeed, the manufacturer probably expected to sell
few. But in order to draw attention to pianos one
must have something more than a piano. People at
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Art and Science
tea parties will not talk about pianos; but they may
talk about the new modernist piano.
When Secretary Hoover, three years ago, was
asked to appoint a commission to the Paris Exposition
of Decorative Arts, he did so. As Associate
Commissioner I assisted in the organizing of the
group of important business leaders in the industrial
art field who went to Paris as delegates to visit and
report on the Exposition. The propaganda carried
on for the aims and purposes of the Commission
undoubtedly had a widespread effect on the attitude
of Americans towards art in industry; it was only a
few years later that the modern art movement penetrated
all fields of industry.
Department stores took it up. R. H. Macy &
Company held an Art-in-Trades Exposition, in which
the Metropolitan Museum of Art collaborated as
adviser. Lord & Taylor sponsored a Modern Arts
Exposition, with foreign exhibitors. These stores,
coming closely in touch with the life of the people,
performed a propagandizing function in bringing to
the people the best in art as it related to these industries.
The Museum at the same time was alive
to the importance of making contact with the public
mind, by utilizing the department store to increase
art appreciation.
Of all art institutions the museum suffers most
from the lack of effective propaganda. Most present-
day museums have the reputation of being
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morgues or sanctuaries, whereas they should be
leaders and teachers in the esthetic life of the community.
They have little vital relation to life.
The treasures of beauty in a museum need to be
interpreted to the public, and this requires a propagandist.
The housewife in a Bronx apartment doubtless
feels little interest in an ancient Greek vase in the
Metropolitan Museum. Yet an artist working with
a pottery firm may adapt the design of this vase
to a set of china and this china, priced low through
quantity production, may find its way to that Bronx
apartment, developing unconsciously, through its fine
line and color, an appreciation of beauty.
Some American museums feel this responsibility.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art of New York
rightly prides itself on its million and a quarter of
visitors in the year 1926; on its efforts to dramatize
and make visual the civilizations which its various departments
reveal; on its special lectures, its story
hours, its loan collections of prints and photographs
and lantern slides, its facilities offered to commercial
firms in the field of applied art, on the outside lecturers
who are invited to lecture in its auditorium
and on the lectures given by its staff to outside organizations}
and on the free chamber concerts given
in the museum under the direction of David Mannes,
which tend to dramatize the museum as a home of
beauty. Yet that is not the whole of the problem.
It is not merely a question of making people
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Art and Science
come to the museum. It is also a question of making
the museum, and the beauty which it houses, go
to the people.
The museum’s accomplishments should not be
evaluated merely in terms of the number of visitors.
Its function is not merely to receive visitors, but to
project iself and what it stands for in the community
which it serves.
The museum can stand in its community for a definite
esthetic standard which can, by the help of intelligent
propaganda, permeate the daily lives of all
its neighbors. Why should not a museum establish
a museum council of art, to establish standards in
home decoration, in architecture, and in commercial
production? or a research board for applied arts?
Why should not the museum, instead of merely preserving
the art treasures which it possesses, quicken
their meaning in terms which the general public
understands?
A recent annual report of an art museum in one
of the large cities of the United States, says:
“An underlying characteristic of an Art Museum
like ours must be its attitude of conservatism, for
after all its first duty is to treasure the great achievements
of men in the arts and sciences.”
Is that true? Is not another important duty to
interpret the models of beauty which it possesses?
If the duty of the museum is to be active it must
study how best to make its message intelligible to
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the community which it serves. It must boldly assume
esthetic leadership.
As in art, so in science, both pure and applied.
Pure science was once guarded and fostered by
learned societies and scientific associations. Now
pure science finds support and encouragement also
in industry. Many of the laboratories in which abstract
research is being pursued are now connected
with some large corporation, which is quite willing
to devote hundreds of thousands of dollars to scientific
study, for the sake of one golden invention or
discovery which may emerge from it.
Big business of course gains heavily when the invention
emerges. But at that very moment it
assumes the responsibility of placing the new invention
at the service of the public. It assumes also the
responsibility of interpreting its meaning to the
public.
The industrial interests can furnish to the schools,
the colleges and the postgraduate university courses
the exact truth concerning the scientific progress of
our age. They not only can do so; they are under
obligation to do so. Propaganda as an instrument of
commercial competition has opened opportunities to
the inventor and given great stimulus to the research
scientist. In the last five or ten years, the successes
of some of the larger corporations have been so outstanding
that the whole field of science has received
a tremendous impetus. The American Telephone
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Art and Science
and Telegraph Company, the Western Electric Company,
the General Electric Company, the Westinghouse
Electric Company and others have realized the
importance of scientific research. They have also
understood that their ideas must be made intelligible
to the public to be fully successful. Television,
broadcasting, loud speakers are utilized as propaganda
aids.
Propaganda assists in marketing new inventions.
Propaganda, by repeatedly interpreting new scientific
ideas and inventions to the public, has made the
public more receptive. Propaganda is accustoming
the public to change and progress.
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CHAPTER XI
THE MECHANICS OF PROPAGANDA
THE media by which special pleaders transmit
their messages to the public through propaganda include
all the means by which people to-day transmit
their ideas to one another. There is no means of human
communication which may not also be a means
of deliberate propaganda, because propaganda is
simply the establishing of reciprocal understanding
between an individual and a group.
The important point to the propagandist is that
the relative value of the various instruments of
propaganda, and their relation to the masses, are
constantly changing. If he is to get full reach for
his message he must take advantage of these shifts
of value the instant they occur. Fifty years ago,
the public meeting was a propaganda instrument par
excellence. To-day it is difficult to get more than a
handful of people to attend a public meeting unless
extraordinary attractions are part of the program.
The automobile takes them away from home, the
radio keeps them in the home, the successive daily
editions of the newspaper bring information to them
in office or subway, and also they are sick of the
ballyhoo of the rally.
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The Mechanics of Propaganda
Instead there are numerous other media of communication,
some new, others old but so transformed
that they have become virtually new. The newspaper,
of course, remains always a primary medium
for the transmission of opinions and ideas—in other
words, for propaganda.
It was not many years ago that newspaper editors
resented what they called “the use of the news columns
for propaganda purposes.” Some editors
would even kill a good story if they imagined its
publication might benefit any one. This point of
view is now largely abandoned. To-day the leading
editorial offices take the view that the real criterion
governing the publication or non-publication of matter
which comes to the desk is its news value. The
newspaper cannot assume, nor is it its function to
assume, the responsibility of guaranteeing that what
it publishes will not work out to somebody’s interest.
There is hardly a single item in any daily paper, the
publication of which does not, or might not, profit or
injure somebody. That is the nature of news. What
the newspaper does strive for is that the news which
it publishes shall be accurate, and (since it must select
from the mass of news material available) that it
shall be of interest and importance to large groups
of its readers.
In its editorial columns the newspaper is a personality,
commenting upon things and events from its
individual point of view. But in its news columns
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the typical modern American newspaper attempts to
reproduce, with due regard to news interest, the outstanding
events and opinions of the day.
It does not ask whether a given item is propaganda
or not. What is important is that it be news. And in
the selection of news the editor is usually entirely
independent. In the New York Times—to take an
outstanding example—news is printed because of its
news value and for no other reason. The Times editors
determine with complete independence what is
and what is not news. They brook no censorship.
They are not influenced by any external pressure nor
swayed by any values of expediency or opportunism.
The conscientious editor on every newspaper realizes
that his obligation to the public is news. The fact of
its accomplishment makes it news.
If the public relations counsel can breathe the
breath of life into an idea and make it take its place
among other ideas and events, it will receive the
public attention it merits. There can be no question
of his “contaminating news at its source.” He creates
some of the day’s events, which must compete in
the editorial office with other events. Often the
events which he creates may be specially acceptable
to a newspaper’s public and he may create them with
that public in mind.
If important things of life to-day consist of transatlantic
radiophone talks arranged by commercial
telephone companies; if they consist of inventions
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The Mechanics of Propaganda
that will be commercially advantageous to the men
who market them; if they consist of Henry Fords
with epoch-making cars—then all this is news. The
so-called flow of propaganda into the newspaper
offices of the country may, simply at the editor’s discretion,
find its way to the waste basket.
The source of the news offered to the editor
should always be clearly stated and the facts accurately
presented.
The situation of the magazines at the present
moment, from the propagandist’s point of view, is
different from that of the daily newspapers. The
average magazine assumes no obligation, as the
newspaper does, to reflect the current news. It
selects its material deliberately, in accordance with
a continuous policy. It is not, like the newspaper,
an organ of public opinion, but tends rather to become
a propagandist organ, propagandizing for a
particular idea, whether it be good housekeeping, or
smart apparel, or beauty in home decoration, or debunking
public opinion, or general enlightenment or
liberalism or amusement. One magazine may aim
to sell health; another, English gardens; another,
fashionable men’s wear; another, Nietzschean philosophy.
In all departments in which the various magazines
specialize, the public relations counsel may play an
important part. For he may, because of his client’s
interest, assist them to create the events which
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further their propaganda. A bank, in order to emphasize
the importance of its women’s department,
may arrange to supply a leading women’s magazine
with a series of articles and advice on investments
written by the woman expert in charge of this department.
The women’s magazine in turn will
utilize this new feature as a means of building additional
prestige and circulation.
The lecture, once a powerful means of influencing
public opinion, has changed its value. The lecture
itself may be only a symbol, a ceremony; its importance,
for propaganda purposes, lies in the fact that
it was delivered. Professor So-and-So, expounding
an epoch-making invention, may speak to five hundred
persons, or only fifty. His lecture, if it is
important, will be broadcast; reports of it will appear
in the newspapers; discussion will be stimulated.
The real value of the lecture, from the
propaganda point of view, is in its repercussion to
the general public.
The radio is at present one of the most important
tools of the propagandist. Its future development
is uncertain.
It may compete with the newspaper as an advertising
medium. Its ability to reach millions of persons
simultaneously naturally appeals to the advertiser.
And since the average advertiser has a limited
appropriation for advertising, money spent on the
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The Mechanics of Propaganda
radio will tend to be withdrawn from the newspaper.
To what extent is the publisher alive to this new
phenomenon? It is bound to come close to American
journalism and publishing. Newspapers have recognized
the advertising potentialities of the companies
that manufacture radio apparatus, and of radio
stores, large and small; and newspapers have accorded
to the radio in their news and feature columns
an importance relative to the increasing attention
given by the public to radio. At the same time,
certain newspapers have bought radio stations and
linked them up with their news and entertainment
distribution facilities, supplying these two features
over the air to the public.
It is possible that newspaper chains will sell schedules
of advertising space on the air and on paper.
Newspaper chains will possibly contract with advertisers
for circulation on paper and over the air.
There are, at present, publishers who sell space in
the air and in their columns, but they regard the two
as separate ventures.
Large groups, political, racial, sectarian, economic
or professional, are tending to control stations to
propagandize their points of view. Or is it conceivable
that America may adopt the English licensing
system under which the listener, instead of the
advertiser, pays?
Whether the present system is changed, the ad-
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vertiser—and propagandist—must necessarily adapt
himself to it. Whether, in the future, air space will
be sold openly as such, or whether the message will
reach the public in the form of straight entertainment
and news, or as special programs for particular
groups, the propagandist must be prepared to meet
the conditions and utilize them.
The American motion picture is the greatest unconscious
carrier of propaganda in the world to-day.
It is a great distributor for ideas and opinions.
The motion picture can standardize the ideas and
habits of a nation. Because pictures are made to
meet market demands, they reflect, emphasize and
even exaggerate broad popular tendencies, rather
than stimulate new ideas and opinions. The motion
picture avails itself only of ideas and facts which
are in vogue. As the newspaper seeks to purvey
news, it seeks to purvey entertainment.
Another instrument of propaganda is the personality.
Has the device of the exploited personality
been pushed too far? President Coolidge photographed
on his vacation in full Indian regalia in
company with full-blooded chiefs, was the climax of
a greatly over-reported vacation. Obviously a public
personality can be made absurd by misuse of the
very mechanism which helped create it.
Yet the vivid dramatization of personality will
always remain one of the functions of the public
relations counsel. The public instinctively demands
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The Mechanics of Propaganda
a personality to typify a conspicuous corporation or
enterprise.
There is a story that a great financier discharged
a partner because he had divorced his wife.
“But what,” asked the partner, “have my private
affairs to do with the banking business?”
“If you are not capable of managing your own
wife,” was the reply, “the people will certainly believe
that you are not capable of managing their
money.”
The propagandist must treat personality as he
would treat any other objective fact within his
province.
A personality may create circumstances, as Lindbergh
created good will between the United States
and Mexico. Events may create a personality, as
the Cuban War created the political figure of Roosevelt.
It is often difficult to say which creates the
other. Once a public figure has decided what ends
he wishes to achieve, he must regard himself objectively
and present an outward picture of himself
which is consistent with his real character and his
aims.
There are a multitude of other avenues of approach
to the public mind, some old, some new as
television. No attempt will be made to discuss each
one separately. The school may disseminate information
concerning scientific facts. The fact that a
commercial concern may eventually profit from a
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Propaganda
widespread understanding of its activities because of
this does not condemn the dissemination of such information,
provided that the subject merits study
on the part of the students. If a baking corporation
contributes pictures and charts to a school, to show
how bread is made, these propaganda activities, if
they are accurate and candid, are in no way reprehensible,
provided the school authorities accept or reject
such offers carefully on their educational merits.
It may be that a new product will be announced
to the public by means of a motion picture of a
parade taking place a thousand miles away. Or the
manufacturer of a new jitney airplane may personally
appear and speak in a million homes through
radio and television. The man who would most
effectively transmit his message to the public must
be alert to make use of all the means of propaganda.
Undoubtedly the public is becoming aware of the
methods which are being used to mold its opinions
and habits. If the public is better informed about
the processes of its own life, it will be so much the
more receptive to reasonable appeals to its own interests.
No matter how sophisticated, how cynical the
public may become about publicity methods, it must
respond to the basic appeals, because it will always
need food, crave amusement, long for beauty, respond
to leadership.
If the public becomes more intelligent in its commercial
demands, commercial firms will meet the
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The Mechanics of Propaganda
new standards. If it becomes weary of the old
methods used to persuade it to accept a given idea
or commodity, its leaders will present their appeals
more intelligently.
Propaganda will never die out. Intelligent men
must realize that propaganda is the modern instrument
by which they can fight for productive ends
and help to bring order out of chaos.
THE END
159

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About awakenedavenger

A traveler and a writer of 2 non-fictional works: Newark 67': The Incidental Summer From Freedom to Security to Slavery. A social activist and avid reader.
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