Freud’s nephew, Edward Bernays, created the modern field of manipulation of public perceptions.
As veteran reporter John Pilger writes:
Bernays, described as the father of the media age, was the nephew of Sigmund Freud. “Propaganda,” he wrote, “got to be a bad word because of the Germans . . . so what I did was to try and find other words [such as] Public Relations.” Bernays used Freud’s theories about control of the subconscious to promote a “mass culture” designed to promote fear of official enemies and servility to consumerism. It was Bernays who, on behalf of the tobacco industry, campaigned for American women to take up smoking as an act of feminist liberation, calling cigarettes “torches of freedom”; and it was his notion of disinformation that was deployed in overthrowing governments, such as Guatemala’s democracy in 1954.
And see this 4-part BBC documentary called the “Century of the Self” on Bernays and propaganda.
So – in researching water fluoridation – I was intrigued by allegations that Bernays was the chief architect of the campaign to sell fluoridation of water.
Specifically, Austrian economist Murray Rothbard wrote in 1993:
The mobilization, the national clamor for fluoridation, and the stamping of opponents with the right-wing kook image, was all generated by the public relations man hired by Oscar Ewing to direct the drive. [Ewing was the chief counsel for Alcoa aluminum company, and fluoride is a by-product of aluminum production.] For Ewing hired none other than Edward L. Bernays, the man with the dubious honor of being called the “father of public relations.” Bernays, the nephew of Sigmund Freud, was called “The Original Spin Doctor” in an admiring article in the Washington Post on the occasion of the old manipulator’s 100th birthday in late 1991.
As a retrospective scientific article pointed out about the fluoridation movement, one of its widely distributed dossiers listed opponents of fluoridation “in alphabetical order reputable scientists, convicted felons, food faddists, scientific organizations, and the Ku Klux Klan.” (Bette Hileman, “Fluoridation of Water,” Chemical and Engineering News 66 [August 1, 1988], p. 37; quoted in Griffiths, p. 63) In his 1928 book Propaganda, Bernays laid bare the devices he would use: Speaking of the “mechanism which controls the public mind,” which people like himself could manipulate, Bernays added that “Those who manipulate the unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country…our minds are molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of…” And the process of manipulating leaders of groups, “either with or without their conscious cooperation,” will “automatically influence” the members of such groups.
In describing his practices as PR man for Beech-Nut Bacon, Bernays tells how he would suggest to physicians to say publicly that “it is wholesome to eat bacon.” For, Bernays added, he “knows as a mathematical certainty that large numbers of persons will follow the advice of their doctors because he (the PR man) understands the psychological relationship of dependence of men on their physicians.” (Edward L. Bernays, Propaganda [New York: Liveright, 1928], pp. 9, 18, 49, 53. Quoted in Griffiths, p.63) Add “dentists” to the equation, and substitute “fluoride” for “bacon,” and we have the essence of the Bernays propaganda campaign.
Before the Bernays campaign, fluoride was largely known in the public mind as the chief ingredient of bug and rat poison; after the campaign, it was widely hailed as a safe provider of healthy teeth and gleaming smiles.
And award-winning BBC producer and investigative journalist Christopher Bryson writes:
[Bernays] operated from the same office building, One Wall Street, where the Alcoa lawyer Oscar Ewing had also worked. In 1950 Ewing had been the top government official to sign off on the endorsement of water fluoridation, as Federal Security Administrator in charge of the US Public Health Service.
“Do you recall working with Oscar Ewing on fluoridation?” I asked Bernays.
“Yes,” he replied.
Bernays’s personal papers detail his involvement in one of the nation’s earliest and biggest water fluoridation battles ….
Bryson goes on for pages describing how Bernays master-minded the campaign to convince Americans to accept water fluoridation, and discusses it in this 2-minute video:
Even Chemical and Engineering News noted in 1999:
According to Edward Groth III, an associate technical director of Consumers Union who wrote his Ph.D. thesis in biology on the fluoridation controversy in 1973, pro- and antifluoridationists approach the issue from completely different perspectives. “Proponents see it as a simple public health measure, effective and safe, which they need to ‘sell’ to the public, almost like a box of soap.
And as I wrote last August:
The government allegedly ordered Manhattan Project scientists to whitewash the toxicity of flouride (flouride is a byproduct in the production of weapons-grade plutonium and uranium). As Project Censored noted in 1999:
Recently declassified government documents have shed new light on the decades-old debate over the fluoridation of drinking water, and have added to a growing body of scientific evidence concerning the health effects of fluoride. Much of the original evidence about fluoride, which suggested it was safe for human consumption in low doses, was actually generated by “Manhattan Project” scientists in the 1940s. As it turns out, these officials were ordered by government powers to provide information that would be “useful in litigation” and that would obfuscate its improper handling and disposal. The once top-secret documents, say the authors, reveal that vast quantities of fluoride, one of the most toxic substances known, were required for the production of weapons-grade plutonium and uranium. As a result, fluoride soon became the leading health hazard to bomb program workers and surrounding communities.
Studies commissioned after chemical mishaps by the medical division of the “Manhattan Project” document highly controversial findings. For instance, toxic accidents in the vicinity of fluoride-producing facilities like the one near Lower Penns Neck, New Jersey, left crops poisoned or blighted, and humans and livestock sick. Symptoms noted in the findings included extreme joint stiffness, uncontrollable vomiting and diarrhea, severe headaches, and death. These and other facts from the secret documents directly contradict the findings concurrently published in scientific journals which praised the positive effects of fluoride.
Regional environmental fluoride releases in the northeast United States also resulted in several legal suits against the government by farmers after the end of World War II, according to Griffiths and Bryson. Military and public health officials feared legal victories would snowball, opening the door to further suits which might have kept the bomb program from continuing to use fluoride. With the Cold War underway, the New Jersey lawsuits proved to be a roadblock to America’s already full-scale production of atomic weapons. Officials were subsequently ordered to protect the interests of the government.
After the war, … the dissemination of misinformation continued.
For background on water fluoridation, see this.