PR!―世論操作の社会史 単行本 – 2003/10/1
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"PR! A Social History of Spin" covers a lot of infrequently covered ground. How many have heard of the now defunct United States Committee of Public Relations (CPI)? Or the philosophy of the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM)? It's all here. Roughly, the book covers attitudes towards and potential controlling of "the crowd" or "the public" from 1907 to the 1980s. The definition of "public relations" remains elusive throughout, but it takes on various meanings through the delineation of its history over some 400 pages. In the end, "public relations" involves a mosaic of multifarious concepts, attitudes and methodologies. All involve projecting specific ideas of reality to "the public" at large. As this book shows, voluminous creativity has gone into this idea.
The book opens with the author's visit to arguably one of the most influential, and least known publicly, practitioners of public relations: Edward Bernays. Some think he was even more influential than his uncle Sigmund Freud. Bernays applied many of Freud's psychoanalytic ideas to mass persuasion. He created an industry and, arguably, a way of life still in effect today. His endless list of PR accomplishments includes breaking the social taboo against women smoking and providing a framework for public relations. This framework, from the 1947 essay "The Engineering of Consent" includes three main elements: 1. Study the public as "raw materials"; 2. sway the public through emotional, not intellectual, appeals; 3. Create news via stagecraft. These elements, according to the author, still guide PR today.
Bernays' thought represents one major branch of public relations. The book covers both perspectives in depth. On one side sit those who believe that those in power should sway "the masses" with methodologies of persuasion. In other words, they should create a reality to keep the public "in check." Bernays exemplifies this position (perhaps "Bernaysians" would serve as a fitting moniker?). On the other side sit those who think public relations should inform, not persuade the public. The "Progressive Publicists" of the late 19th and early 20th centuries propounded this idea. To such thinkers, information provides the panacea for social ills. An informed public is an empowered public. The swing between these nearly opposing poles pervades the history of public relations, though the book suggests that the followers of Bernays have triumphed. Conceding this, a short concluding chapter asks what implications Bernaysianism carries for modern democracy.
An interesting chapter explores the public relations of the Roosevelt New Deal administration. As frustration towards business practices skyrocketed throughout the 1930s, public relations was used fervently against Wall Street. The New Deal even utilized both branches of public relations to create support for social welfare programs. Using both emotional and intellectual appeals, FDR kept the New Deal alive until a massive business backlash following the war. During the late 1940s and 1950s, business borrowed New Deal tactics for their own ends. Social programs, taxation, and communism fell under the axe of this era's PR. Looking at today's landscape, this approach proved extremely successful. By appropriating New Deal rhetoric of "the greater good," late 20th century business practitioners were able to undermine many of FDR's social programs. As television entered the public sphere, the public relations industry saw a golden opportunity. And they took it. As early as 1955 a book entitled "Telephone News on Television" provided guidance for mass persuasion via television.
The book's bulk deals mainly with post-war public relations. Not until the book's fifth and final part does television enter the discussion. The post 1950s era gets largely sequestered to chapters 15 and 16. Those looking for contemporary perspectives on PR will only find nibbles here. Though the book nonetheless remains incredibly relevant today. Also, its publication date of 1996 pretty much precludes any discussion of the now most pervasive PR tool: the internet. And though the author's political stance stands out like neon, the book provides a fascinating, potentially life-altering, perspective on modern media and modern life. The thick pages of "PR! A social history of spin" carry massive implications for anyone living in a modern democracy. People from any political persuasion will benefit.