Who Was Edward Bernays

Why Should You Care

Edward Louis Bernays honed the art of public manipulation and is often referred to as “the father of public relations.” His skills in manipulating the American people were so firmly affirmed that they blindly trusted his voice. Through his campaigns, he became the foremost successful salesman of the twentieth century.

Born in Austria in 1891 to an American Jewish family Edward Bernays was the “double nephew” of Sigmund Freud, an Austrian neurologist, and psychoanalysis founder. Bernays’ mother Anna was Freud’s sister, and his father Ely Bernays was the brother of Freud’s wife, Martha Bernays Freud.

The Bernays family moved to the United States soon after his birth and carried on with their livelihood in the American atmosphere. Later, Bernays graduated from Cornell University with a degree in agriculture, however, he chose journalism as his initial career. With his knowledge, he helped Woodrow Wilson’s administration advocate the idea that the United States’ role in World War I was only to bring democracy to Europe.

He mastered the skill of persuasion to the core.

In one of his campaigns, he wanted to increase the sale of cigarettes among women. During those days, women smoking in public was considered taboo. To reach a positive outcome, Bernays consulted with a psychoanalyst who cited that cigarettes symbolized “torches of freedom” for women whose feminine desires were suppressed by their role in the modernized world. Consequently, on Easter Sunday 1929, Bernays organized a parade in New York asking a group of women to smoke cigarettes as “torches of freedom.”

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John Vaie