Edward Bernays, often hailed as the "Father of Public Relations," was a master propagandist, not a pioneer of PR. His work during WWI exposed him to the potency of propaganda, inspiring him to apply its techniques to private industry. His most notable achievement was encouraging women to smoke publicly, linking it to feminism through the "Torches of Freedom" campaign. Bernays' legacy lies in his application of Freudian psychoanalysis to create associations between products and existing desires to influence public opinion, shaping the advertising industry as we know it today. This…is propaganda.
In our fast-paced society, people rely on symbols to guide their decisions. This makes propaganda a powerful force, as it streamlines information processing. Brands exploit our need for these cognitive shortcuts by virtue signaling to project supposed shared values, causing consumerism to shift from an act of self-expression to one of tribalism. We discuss cognitive dissonance and societal polarization resulting from the culture war, featuring brands like Disney, Tesla, Budweiser, Dove, Nike, Apple, and more. This…is propaganda.