Edward Bernays was a true master of the mind. Born a distant nephew to the (in)famous Sigmund Freud, Bernays could have been said to have been responsible for making eggs and bacon the brand of the wholesome, true-American, breakfast. He was at least partly responsible, during the suffrage of the 1920s, for convincing at least some women that smoking cigarettes was an act of rebellion – a statement of equality; if a man can smoke a cigarette, so too should a woman feel free from the shackles of social taboos. Of course the motives of Bernays and his employer from the previous example, the American Tobacco Company, hardly prioritized empowering women; they were much more interested in selling more cigarettes to a largely untapped market!
Of course the discussion about the motivational ironies of such an example would itself be taboo! But let's pretend that we can forget about the (possibly false) dichotomies just for a second and review the logical sequence of thoughts – we might just learn something! It would be no coincidence that Mr. Edward Bernays was aware of Mr. Freud's education and history. In fact, Edward Bernays was the one who literally coined the term 'Public Relations.' Propaganda, which was generally thought to mean the same thing at that time, was not a very popular word considering all the things it was associated with! The truth is, Edward Bernays was simply aware of the same things that every PR department in this world of globalization knows; human beings are emotional creatures. That in-of-itself isn't a revelation, I know! The common denominator here, though, is that special interests are aware that they might be able to sell you more of their products, if they can appeal to how you feel!
In the case of some women during the 1920s, they felt that smoking a cigarette would empower them. And it did! Yes, I agree, not in the most healthy of ways. The possibly obvious irony here – I think I can point it out now – is that a man was manipulating (some) women who were trying to feel free from social inequality. But is that really true? Personally, I don't think human beings are quite so naïve – although we can still be tricked! I think Mr. Barneys would agree. Again, it wouldn't be a revelation to most that the same public relation tools are still used today. To those who wouldn't be surprised by this, such as maybe some of those same people from the 1920s, Edward Bernays could have been creating an opportunity for feminists to light a torch of freedom!
So, if you've made it this far, we can probably discuss, just for a second, the root of the relationships of knowledge between everyone involved in this progression of ideas! The root of our emotions, at least as Mr. Freud would have told you, is that within our 'psychic apparatus,' as he called it, exists our super-ego, ego, and id. In a nutshell, your 'id' is responsible for your instincts, like love, sex, and fear, and your super-ego is supposed to be responsible for things like guidance and influence; both, he said, existed in your subconscious. Ego, on the other hand, is supposed to keep the super-ego and id in balance. Your ego, he believed, is your conscious conscience.
Again, these ideas are no revelation to some! However, I suspect this latest subject matter was not previously known to others – but it should be! Being aware of how and why you might feel the way you do about certain things will prevent you from being manipulated by others – and it will empower you! If you can see through them, a manipulator might even present you with an opportunity that you could turn into something positive – like the suffrage women! But manipulation isn't always just external; some people can just as easily trick themselves as be tricked by someone else! Don't let external forces, like, for example, Edward Bernays, or internal forces, such as your id or super-ego, control the motivations behind how you act upon your feelings. The key is to be honest with yourself and others about how you feel!
The point is quite simply that Edward Bernays was no more of a master mind than you or I; he only chose to accept, and in some cases profit from, the idea that people can be encouraged to make their own choices. Unfortunately not everyone is always aware of the same things! But now that you've made it this far, if you weren't aware before, maybe you are now – at least you should be! We can only ever truly be the masters of our own destinies if we don't allow ourselves to be tricked.