Sunday, October 11, 2020

Torches of Freedom: The Use of Propaganda to Get More Women Using Tobacco

I believe it was adman Claude Hopkins who massively increased the sales of shampoo by one single word. He added the word "Repeat" to the instructions after the word "Rinse." Not everyone washes his or her hair twice, but an awful lot of people certainly do. It says to do so right in the directions.

We're influenced by media far more than we realize. This past week I read an article about how women took to the streets in protest in order to obtain the right to smoke. The person who wrote the article did not realize that this was an event in which women were paid to publicly smoke cigarets while marching in an Easter Parade.

The marketing man Edward Bernays was the architect behind this "women's liberation" movement, the right to smoke in public. Instead of being labeled "Coffin Nails" as some people called them when I was younger, Bernays promoted the idea that they were "Torches of Freedom." The Wikipedia account begins in this manner:

"Torches of Freedom" was a phrase used to encourage women's smoking by exploiting women's aspirations for a better life during the early twentieth century first-wave feminism in the United States. Cigarettes were described as symbols of emancipation and equality with men.

This particular Wikipedia story calls Bernays the "father of public relations" but in those days it was not called PR. His book was titled Propaganda, a term that had to be dropped after the Nazis had given it a bad name.

Today we are bombarded with spin. A primary battlefield in the culture wars is the media. As Orwell noted, "Who controls the past controls the future; who controls the present controls the past." For this reason history is continuously being re-written. Yesterdays heroes become today's enemies. (How many Columbus statues have fallen this year? Tomorrow is being called Indigenous Peoples' Day.)

I've been a student of PR in the course of my marketing career. The experience opens your eyes. The more you learn, the more you shake your head and roll your eyes. As the author of Ecclesiastes wrote, "With much wisdom comes much sorrow."

Here's but one of my articles on this subject: He Who Controls the Narrative Controls the People.

There's still more here in my review of Jacques Ellul's volume, Propaganda: The Formation of Men's Attitudes.

In Wikipedia's Torches of Freedom account we find that Bernays had a very defined objective: eliminate the social taboo associated with smoking. American tobacco companies were thrilled to double the size of their potential market in this manner.  

Bottom Line: How much of what you believe, especially with regard to current events, has been crafted by other people? The follow up questions are: By whom? And for what end? How much of what we're seeing in our streets right now is being financed by others behind the scenes? And for what end?

2 comments:

LEWagner said...

Did "nazis" give propaganda a bad name, or was it the other way around?
A question that can't even be legally asked or discussed in "liberated" Europe ...
The victors control the narrative.

Ed Newman said...

Fair question.