Victims of our own propaganda: cradle life, mother herd, and the pleasure principle
This article examines the roots of propaganda in social, political, and economic life, and the unconscious. I describe how Freud's nephew, Edward Bernays, led international developments in the use of propaganda in peacetime, based on his American experience during World War I. In 1929, his "Torches of Freedom" March, used Freud's work on unconscious symbolism, to create a practical paradigm that would exploit unconscious associations and establish leadership of a mindless mass following for marketing purposes (Curtis, 2002). I argue that the power of Bernays' propaganda methods is additionally founded in its exploitation of sensory communications which resonate unconsciously with the protomental roots of early experience which endure into adulthood. I suggest that an easily led, herdlike and infantile mentality results, characterised by blind loyalty and the absence of a moral sense (Bion, 1961; Freud, 1921c; Trotter, 1916). Propaganda techniques are being used successfully today to win the "war of spin" over the status of evidence on the existential threat to planet earth created by the Anthropocene epoch. I argue that the seductive power of such propaganda unconsciously evokes cradle life, with the accompanying survival and dependency needs of belonging to a "mother herd".
Document Type: Research Article
Publication date: July 1, 2023
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