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Book: Propaganda

Vikrant Duggal
Vikrant Duggal
• 1 min read

Edward Bernays' Propaganda was published almost 100 years ago in 1928. I'm someone who likes to read books that have been around that long. I believe they'll last for another 100.

I was in two minds as I read this book. On the one hand, I appreciated the historical context and knowledge the book shared. On the other hand, it felt like the perfect use of propaganda to push the idea of propaganda (meta-propaganda).

Edward gives us some context for the word propaganda. It comes from the Vatican. The phrase “congregatio de propaganda fide” (The congregation for the propagation of the faith) was used to support the catholic faith in response to the Protestant Reformation (Labash, 20 Dec, 2001). According to Webster’s College Dictionary, propaganda is “information or ideas methodically spread to promote or injure a cause, movement, nation etc, and the deliberate spread of such information or ideas”.

While the book is an easy read, here's what I think.

You can get most of the book's point in the first 100 pages. Edward argues in favor of propaganda as THE key tool available to direct the course of modern society. Propaganda is everywhere and has been around for a long time. Every form of mass media (including new media) contain elements of propaganda. Whether the reader of a media source agrees or disagrees with the content, the purpose of the media is to convey one way to look at a particular situation or idea.

If I were to do any follow on reading I'd want to focus on the context of public relations and the 1920s.

I'm in favor of all of us building up and strengthening our capabilities to learn to think from first principles and learn to think for ourselves.