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Did the Father of Propaganda Convince America that Fluoride Is Safe?

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Washington’s Blog
Jan 9, 2011

Freud’s nephew, Edward Bernays, created the modern field of manipulation of public perceptions.

As veteran reporter John Pilger writes:

Bernays, described as the father of the media age, was the nephew of Sigmund Freud. “Propaganda,” he wrote, “got to be a bad word because of the Germans . . . so what I did was to try and find other words [such as] Public Relations.” Bernays used Freud’s theories about control of the subconscious to promote a “mass culture” designed to promote fear of official enemies and servility to consumerism. It was Bernays who, on behalf of the tobacco industry, campaigned for American women to take up smoking as an act of feminist liberation, calling cigarettes “torches of freedom”; and it was his notion of disinformation that was deployed in overthrowing governments, such as Guatemala’s democracy in 1954.

And see this 4-part BBC documentary called the “Century of the Self” on Bernays and propaganda.

So – in researching water fluoridation – I was intrigued by allegations that Bernays was the chief architect of the campaign to sell fluoridation of water.

Specifically, Austrian economist Murray Rothbard wrote in 1993:

The mobilization, the national clamor for fluoridation, and the stamping of opponents with the right-wing kook image, was all generated by the public relations man hired by Oscar Ewing to direct the drive. [Ewing was the chief counsel for Alcoa aluminum company, and fluoride is a by-product of aluminum production.] For Ewing hired none other than Edward L. Bernays, the man with the dubious honor of being called the “father of public relations.” Bernays, the nephew of Sigmund Freud, was called “The Original Spin Doctor” in an admiring article in the Washington Post on the occasion of the old manipulator’s 100th birthday in late 1991.

***

As a retrospective scientific article pointed out about the fluoridation movement, one of its widely distributed dossiers listed opponents of fluoridation “in alphabetical order reputable scientists, convicted felons, food faddists, scientific organizations, and the Ku Klux Klan.” (Bette Hileman, “Fluoridation of Water,” Chemical and Engineering News 66 [August 1, 1988], p. 37; quoted in Griffiths, p. 63) In his 1928 book Propaganda, Bernays laid bare the devices he would use: Speaking of the “mechanism which controls the public mind,” which people like himself could manipulate, Bernays added that “Those who manipulate the unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country…our minds are molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of…” And the process of manipulating leaders of groups, “either with or without their conscious cooperation,” will “automatically influence” the members of such groups.

In describing his practices as PR man for Beech-Nut Bacon, Bernays tells how he would suggest to physicians to say publicly that “it is wholesome to eat bacon.” For, Bernays added, he “knows as a mathematical certainty that large numbers of persons will follow the advice of their doctors because he (the PR man) understands the psychological relationship of dependence of men on their physicians.” (Edward L. Bernays, Propaganda [New York: Liveright, 1928], pp. 9, 18, 49, 53. Quoted in Griffiths, p.63) Add “dentists” to the equation, and substitute “fluoride” for “bacon,” and we have the essence of the Bernays propaganda campaign.

Before the Bernays campaign, fluoride was largely known in the public mind as the chief ingredient of bug and rat poison; after the campaign, it was widely hailed as a safe provider of healthy teeth and gleaming smiles.

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Did the Father of Propaganda Convince America that Fluoride Is Safe? 5months 340x169

And award-winning BBC producer and investigative journalist Christopher Bryson writes:

[Bernays] operated from the same office building, One Wall Street, where the Alcoa lawyer Oscar Ewing had also worked. In 1950 Ewing had been the top government official to sign off on the endorsement of water fluoridation, as Federal Security Administrator in charge of the US Public Health Service.

“Do you recall working with Oscar Ewing on fluoridation?” I asked Bernays.

“Yes,” he replied.

***

Bernays’s personal papers detail his involvement in one of the nation’s earliest and biggest water fluoridation battles ….

Bryson goes on for pages describing how Bernays master-minded the campaign to convince Americans to accept water fluoridation, and discusses it in this 2-minute video:


For background on water fluoridation, see this.

This article was posted: Sunday, January 9, 2011 at 8:53 am





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