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In defense of a phrase: "conspiracy theory"

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(Article changed on May 11, 2013 at 07:49)

(Article changed on May 10, 2013 at 21:38)

(Article changed on May 10, 2013 at 21:34)

"Reality." The word has a comfortable, solid sound to it, doesn't it? Good old reality. Dependable, like the North Star... like sunrise. But, is it actually like that? Are you sure that it isn't just a bunch of ideas planted in your head. Really?

On the other hand, "brainwashing" has such a sinister sound to it. Evil. Malevolent. Sneaky. Who would do such a thing? And just how does brainwashing differ from, say, education? Maybe it's all in the point of view of the recipient of the process.

While we are considering the semantic content of words, how about "conspiracy?" Now there is a loaded word. In just ten letters it manages to completely dismiss any possibility of truth when applied to an idea or theory. Yes! There is the combination marked for potency... "conspiracy theory."

Let me introduce you to a man. Edward Bernays was his name. He is known as the father of modern public relations, a.k.a. brainwashing.

A really interesting character was Mr. Bernays. He was a double nephew of psychoanalysis pioneer Sigmund Freud. His mother was Sigmund's sister Anna, and his father was Ely Bernays, brother of Freud's wife, Martha Bernays. Did you get that? Freud's sister married his wife's brother. That union produced the son, Edward. Image Deleted Because Wiki Page Empty or Removed Image
Edward Bernays circa 1920s by Wikemedia Commons

Born in 1891, when he was just a year old he was brought by his parents from his native Austria to America. It is hard to overestimate his mark on the American social consciousness. Bernays worked for the administration of Woodrow Wilson during World War I. As part of the Committee on Public Information, he was influential in promoting the idea that America's war efforts were primarily aimed at "bringing democracy to all of Europe." That's right. It was the idea of Bernays to sell warfare as the spreading of democracy, an idea that rules the American thought process to this very day.

Stunned by the degree to which the democracy slogan had swayed the public both at home and abroad, he wondered whether this propaganda model could be employed during peacetime. Due to negative implications surrounding the word propaganda because of its use by the Germans in World War 1, he promoted the term "Public Relations." According to the BBC interview with Bernays' daughter Anne, he felt that the public's democratic judgment was "not to be relied upon" and he feared that "they [the American public] could very easily vote for the wrong man or want the wrong thing, so that they had to be guided from above." This "guidance" was interpreted by Anne to mean that her father believed in a sort of "enlightened despotism" ideology.

Here is that thought in Bernays' own words: "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 about it?"

Indeed, it is. It has always been possible, although it was much easier when the sources of people's information were severely limited. Let's look at some well-documented cases of fooling the public into believing what some large, all-powerful entity wanted us to believe. Naturally, the merging of big government and big money is the primary source of such nonsense.

During his 104-year lifetime, Bernays was influential in many efforts that could be described as brainwashing. At the behest of the American Tobacco Company he kicked off the effort to popularize the public smoking of cigarettes by women. He engaged a contingent of young models who lit up Lucky Strike cigarettes in front of press photographers during the 1929 Easter Parade in New York city. By dubbing the cigarettes as "torches of freedom" he turned the event into a women's rights issue. [A side note. That is when my grandmother, Ruth Meyer, began to smoke. She died of emphysema in 1972.]

While Bernays traded on Freud's reputation to promote his methods, there was actually a fundamental conflict between his motives and his uncle's. Freud's psychoanalytic "talking method" was aimed at bringing a patient's subconscious motivations to the forefront of consciousness, with the aim being to improve the patient's mental health. Bernays' methods were aimed at concealing the manipulation of the subconscious, which was done to influence people's behavior for the benefit of business and government.

This leads me to the following premise: modern America has never entered into a war or other armed conflict without the citizenry first being prepared for it by some fabricated incident. Bernays' involvement in the overthrow of the democratic government of Guatemala is a case in point.

In this well-documented incident, the USA overthrew the government of Guatemala. In 1950, President Jacobo Arbenz Guzman was elected president of Guatemala on a platform of land reform. Bernays' propaganda (documented in the BBC documentary, The Century of the Self), branding Guzman as communist, was published in major U.S. media. The United Fruit Company or UFC (now Chiquita Brands), a US corporation that owned the majority of land in Guatemala, knew that Guzman's plan was to nationalize UFC's banana plantations, thereby ending the feudal system that kept the country's people in poverty. In 1954 President Dwight Eisenhower, at the behest of Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, had the CIA carry out a paramilitary invasion by an anti-Communist "army of liberation." This was one of many such actions in South America conducted by the USA.

This premise is supported by a short list of a few of the most well-known setups.
  • The Gulf of Tonkin Incident -- The supposed attacks on a US Navy destroyer that got us into the Vietnam war never took place.

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James R. Bailey is a 30 year veteran reporter, political activist, environmentalist, and homesteader in northern Wisconsin's Chequamegon National Forest in the Town of Grand View. His political activism began in the late 1960s, when he opposed (more...)

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