Bernays rationalized his work at manipulating the masses -- or "engineering consent" as he referred to it - as necessary to control what he saw as the dangerous and irrational forces that guided human behavior, particularly in large groups. Bernays' daughter, Ann, said the following about her father in Century of the Self:
[blockquote] What my father understood about groups is that they are malleable. And that you can tap into their deepest desires or fears and use that to your own purposes. I don't think he felt that all those publics [sic] out there had reliable judgment; that they may very easily vote for the wrong man or want the wrong thing. So they had to be guided from above. [/blockquote]
Subsequent psychological studies as well as observation of humans throughout history demonstrate that they are indeed malleable and capable of a wide range of behaviors; but there is nothing indicating that humans are doomed to act like brutal mobs or genocidal maniacs unless they are led in that direction by powerful social forces.
Bernays' work and the philosophy underpinning it have paved the way for the cynical use of grand ideas like freedom, democracy and human rights to sell mindless consumption, wars, coups, color revolutions (i.e. contrived regime changes under the pretense of spreading democracy or "western values"), and instability - all in the service of a small group of people who benefit.
The CIA, NED and Democracy Promotion
The CIA, in fact, engaged in numerous covert actions in the decades following WWII to effect what is now referred to as regime change -- assassinations, coups, civil wars and destabilizations -- throughout the third world as historian and former State Department official, William Blum, has documented in several books and essays, along with other researchers and CIA whistleblowers. These actions involved killing, torture, destruction of infrastructure, delayed development, and impoverishment in the target countries. In most cases, the victims were guilty only of supporting policies that were anathema to the American political class, such as socialism, economic populism and national sovereignty in terms of control of natural resources and financial assets.
Congressional hearings in the 1970's, led by Frank Church, combined with a brief window of relative media openness, exposed some of this ugly program to the American people. Rather than cease these kinds of actions, the American political establishment's response to the negative publicity was to create a separate entity that would take over for many of these covert operations. An entity that would obscure the nature of its activities under the guise of spreading democracy and would be funded by the U.S. Congress. In 1983, the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) was born and Allen Weinstein, who helped write the legislation that brought it into existence, admitted in 1991, "A lot of what we do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA."
NED funds many innocuous sounding groups, both domestic and foreign. One such domestic group is Freedom House. While receiving the majority of its funding from NED, Freedom House presents itself as an objective nonprofit interested in freedom, democracy and human rights and publishes regular reports rating various countries on these supposed criteria. However, upon closer examination, the ratings tend to reflect well on those countries aligned with U.S. economic and geopolitical interests and poorly on countries that are rivals. Freedom House's assessment of the American media's coverage of the Tet offensive during the Vietnam War and its recent assessment of post-coup Ukraine are evidence of its lack of credibility in measuring a free and democratic media, among other issues
In the international arena, NED has funded numerous "opposition" and "democracy" groups in Russia (before being booted out by the government), Venezuela and pre-coup Ukraine. These groups are not funded out of the goodness of the U.S. government's heart to advance human rights and authentic democracy but to create tension that is to be ratcheted up in the hopes of culminating in a coup, civil war or other destabilization to remove or undermine governments that are viewed as a threat to the interests of the oligarchy that, according to a 2014 academic study, now officially governs the U.S.