List 10 most important points raised in Adam Curtis’ documentary ‘The Century Of The Self’.
Relate these points to a critical analysis of one image from the mass media, which, in particular, focuses on the nature of consumerism, desire and the unconscious.
Think about the False needs, our actual desires, our instincts and Freud’s notion of the unconscious.
1.Freud's American nephew Edward Bernays was the first person to take Freud's ideas about human beings and use them to manipulate the masses. He showed American corporations for the first time how they could make people want things they didn't need by linking mass produced goods to unconscious desires. A new political idea would come from this about how to control the masses by satisfying peoples inner selfish desires. It was the start of the 'all consuming self'
2.Freuds ideas about how the mind works have now become an accepted part of society, however 100 years ago Freud's ideas were hated by society in Vienna .At the time Vienna was the centre of a vast empire ruling central Europe Freud's ideas were not only embarrassing but the very idea of examining and analysing ones inner feelings was a threat to their absolute control.
3.America announced it was entering the war against Germany and Austria. As a part of the war effort the U.S government set up a committee on public information, Bernays was employed to promote Americas war aims in the press. Bernays proved himself to be very skilful in promoting these ideas both at home and abroad. At the end of the war he was asked to accompany the president, Woodrow Wilson, to the Paris Peace conference. Wilson's reception in Paris astounded Bernays, their propaganda had portrayed Wilson as a liberator of the people. Bernays wondered wether it would be possible to do the same type of mass persuasion but in peace time.
4.Bernays most dramatic experiment was to persuade women to smoke, at the time there was a taboo against women smoking, one of his early clients George Hill, president of the American Tobacco Corporation asked Bernays to find a way of breaking that taboo. AA Brill was one of the first psychoanalysts in America, he told Bernays for a large fee that cigarettes were a symbol of the penis and of male sexual power. He told Bernays if he could find a way to connect cigarettes with the idea challenging male power women would smoke because 'then they would have their own penises.' New York held an easter day parade where Bernays would stage an event there, he persuaded a group of rich debutantes to hide cigarettes, then they should join the parade and at a given signal from him they were to light up the cigarettes dramatically, Bernays then informed the press that he had heard that a group of suffragettes were preparing to protest by lighting up what they called 'torches of freedom.' Reference to the statue of liberty, holding up the torch of freedom, women made to feel liberated, powerful and independent if they smoke, from that point forward the sale of cigarettes amongst women began to rise.
5.What the corporations realised they had to do was transform the way the majority of Americans thought about products, one leading wall street banker, Paul Maser was clear about what was necessary 'we must shift America, from a needs to a desires culture, we must shape a new mentality in America, mans desires must overshadow mans needs.' The man who would be at the certain to change that mentality would be Bernays- how are we going to appeal to the masses successfully? Beginning in the early 20's the New York banks funded the creation of department stores across America, they were to be the outlets for the mass produced goods, Bernays's job was to create the new type of customer. Bernays used celebrity endorsements to advertise in magazines to appeal to women. Bernays also began the practice of product placement in the movies. He payed celebrities to repeat a new and essential message, 'you bought things not just for need but to express your inner sense of your self to others.'
6.The growing wave in consumerism helped to create a stock market, Edward Bernays became involved, promoting the idea that ordinary people should buy shares, borrowing money from banks he also represented, millions followed his advice. Bernays didn't think about people in groups of one he thought about them in groups of thousands. Bernays soon became famous as the man who understand the minds of the crowd.
7.Whilst Bernays was becoming rich and powerful in America, Freud was facing disaster in Vienna, Vienna was suffering an economic crisis and massive inflation that wiped out all of Freud's savings. Facing bankruptcy he wrote to his nephew for help. Bernays arranged for Freuds work to be published for the first time in America. Bernays proposed Freud write an article called 'A woman's mental place in the home' Freud refused, such an idea was unthinkable, vulgar and he hated America. Freud was becoming increasingly pessimistic about human beings. Freud believed he had underestimated the aggressive instinct of human beings, they were far more dangerous than he thought.
8.In 1928 president Hoover came into power, who agreed with Bernays. He was the first politician to articulate the idea that consumerism had become the central motor of American life. He told a group of advertisers: 'you have taken over the job of creating desire and have transformed people into constantly moving happiness machines, machines which have become the key to economic progress.'
9.Bernyas' power was about to be destroyed - news came through that shares on the new york stock exchange were beginning to fall dramatically. Throughout the 1920's speculators had borrowed billions of dollars, what was about to happen was the biggest stock market crash in history. On the 29th october 1929 the market collapsed. The effect of the crash on the American economy was disastrous, faced with recession and unemployment millions of American workers stopped buying goods they didn't need. Bernays' brief moment of power seemed to be over.
10.Adolf Hitler emerged from a growing despair in the 1920's about democracy. The nazi believed democracy was dangerous because it released a selfish individualism. Promising in their propaganda that they would demolish democracy and the chaos and unemployment it led to. In march 1933 Hitler was elected to power in Germany and they set out to create a society that would control human beings in a different way.
Image from the mass media that focuses on consumerism, desire and unconscious:
I decided to look at the Belvedere vodka ad which comes from a campaign 'Luxury Reborn'. The brand have coincidently been in the press recently for an advertisement that made light of sexual assault. This advertisement focuses on the 'luxurious' lifestyle available to the viewer if they purchase this brand. The advertisement is manipulating the audience into thinking with this comes the life of luxury, the same technique used as Bernays when manipulating America into becoming a desires culture rather than a needs culture. The advert is suggesting, to male audiences, that by buying this product you can attract beautiful women. The woman in this advertisement is depicted as an object of desire, something luxurious that is an accessory to men with this brand. Sexuality and the woman's beauty along with male dominance is used in this advertisement to sell the product.
This advertisement particularly plays on manipulating the masses and sexual desires, implying this consumption of product will help a male to succeed in the seduction of women. This man is stood next to the woman as she is crouched down below him, this stance showing power and control on the mans behalf. The woman gazes at the audience and applies lipstick, the use of lipstick is used as a phallic representation and the position she is in is very suggestive of a sexual act.
This advertisement also uses celebrity endorsements, using a famous fashion photographer, Terry Richardson, in the top right hand corner you can see it says 'photograph by Terry Richardson' and on some of the adverts his signature is branded across the corner of the image, this subtle signature adds a little more 'luxury' and prestige to the brand.
This advertisement manipulates the consumer into believing the product justifies a need rather than a want, with the message of wealth, status and luxury being the lifestyle that comes with it.