I watched a BBC Documentary, Century of the Self It certainly brought up tons of interesting things. The series talks about the development of modern PR up to and including it’s influence into politics in the 90s. Just A couple of highlights that stood out for me.
(*) Edward Bernays, the man who supposedly invented most modern PR techniques, in the 1920s convinced women to start smoking. Supposedly at the time smoking was considered gross and basically for men only so very few women smoked. The show claims he hired a bunch of women to march in the New York Thanksgiving Day Parade (a big yearly parade) and had them put a pack of cigarettes in their garters. On cue they were all to lift their dresses and light one up. He then told the press to come to the parade because there was going to be a protest for women’s equality. On cue the women light up, the press took photos and reported lighting up a cigarette as the symbol for women’s equality and like over night it was now seen as if you supported equality for women you should be smoking.
(*) about 20 years later there was a election in Guatemala that brought in a new government. Previous to the election the country had effectively run by a U.S. banana company. The company hired Edward Bernays to help them get control of the country. He did it by flying lots of senators and other U.S. politicians to Guatemala and staging all kinds of things to make it appear the new government was communist in nature (even though it wasn’t at all). All the politicians bought it and the U.S. ended up toppling the Guatemalan government.
Those were just from the first episode. All of it was pretty thought provoking stuff. Even though about 15~20% of the documentary itself seemed like propaganda if you can find a way to watch it I highly recommend it.