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Thursday, March 16, 2017 Spring 2017

Critical Thinking Mrs. Martin

Century of the Self


Here are several questions to keep in mind while watching this portion of the documentary. You should answer
these questions prior to coming to class on Tuesday, March 21, 2017 and be prepared to discuss. For this Thursday
assignment please answer two of the questions, with a one-page response. You have until Tuesday March 21, to
submit your response via Canvas.

Century of the Self: Part 2 (Part Two: The Engineering of Consent)

1. How do the ideas from this film tie into the previous segment of the film? (i.e what themes do
you find running through all the films?)

2. Which of the areas of life, domestic politics, advertising, etc., depicted in the film is the most
significant regarding the Freudian analysts’ interventions? Why?

3. What are the ethical implications of the work of Anna Freud and Edward Bernays? Are they
morally neutral or would you say that what they were doing was right or wrong? Why?

4. Explore the ways advertisers are still using Freudian techniques to manipulate us into buying
things. (Give specific examples and provide analysis.)

5. Do you think these kinds of techniques are being used politically regarding current foreign policy
situations? (Explore specific case examples.)

6. Given the recent national election, do you see evidence that the ideas from the film were being
used by candidates, or interest groups, trying to gain political power? Give specific examples for
analysis.

What follows is a summary of the ideas of the film. There are no questions to respond to below
this point: it’s just a reminder of the details since the film is quite dense with ideas.


• Freud thought that the dream was the royal road to the unconscious. Freud’s ideas were
used by people in power to control the masses. Freud thought that inside us are
dangerous, irrational desires and fears. The unleashing of these instincts lead to the
barbarism of Nazi Germany. We need ways to control the hidden enemy in the human
mind.

• The film shows how the ideas of Sigmund and Anna Freud applied by Edward Bernays,
and others, were used by the government, big business and the C.I.A. to try to manage
and control the minds of the American people. They felt that the only way to make
Democracy work is to suppress the barbarism lurking just under the surface of ordinary
life.

• U.S. Army faced the mental breakdowns of its troops in World War II; 49% of troops
evacuated from combat suffered from mental problems. The army turned to
psychoanalysis. They filmed the troops for a record. (Martin Bergmann, and other
psychiatrists from Eastern Europe, helped American psychiatrists with the soldiers. They
saw the “inner soul of America.”) The breakdowns were not due to the stress of combat;
but combat triggered old childhood memories: violent memories that had been
repressed because they were too horrible to remember. They thought Freud is right; we
are driven by primitive irrational forces. WWII was shattering; it showed the enormous
role of the irrational in the lives of most people. They thought that the ratio between
the rational and irrational is heavily in favor of the irrational in Americans. They saw
much greater unhappiness and suffering than you would think on the surface. “It’s a
sadder country than you would gather from the advertisements.”

• Victory in World War II was a triumph of democracy. But below the surface are violent,
irrational drives. What happened in Germany, the mass killings by Germans, showed
how easily these forces could break through and overwhelm Democracy.

• Planners and policy makers thought people could act irrationally, that chaos lived at the
base of human personality. These drives could infect society and social institutions to
such a degree that society itself would get sick, like it happened in Germany – where the
anti-democratic went wild. Human nature is incredibly destructive. What if Americans
behave that way? What is needed are human beings who can internalize democratic
values so that they are not shaken. Psychoanalysis offered the ability that this can be
done by changing the human being into one who feely supports democracy.

• Psychoanalysts felt they not only knew of the dangerous forces but knew how to control
them. They would use their techniques to create democratic individuals because
democracy, left to itself, failed to do this.

• Sigmund and Anna Freud were the sources of these ideas. Anna was the leader and
wanted her father Sigumnd’s ideas to be accepted in the world. Anna Freud worked to
make this happen. Her life revolved around spreading psychoanalysis. Freud saw
psychoanalysis as allowing people to understand their unconscious drives. But Anna
thought you could teach people to control these drives. Her work with children led her
to this conclusion. Dorothy Burlingham had her children psychoanalyzed. Anna believed
she could change their violent behavior by changing the world around them. She could
influence their world and help them.

• Due to her work with these children Anna developed a theory of controlling the inner
drives. It was simple. You teach children to conform to the rules of society. This was
more than moral guidance. She thought that if children followed the rules of accepted
social conduct, when they grew up, the conscious part, the ego, would be strengthened
to control the unconscious. But if they didn’t, they would have weak egos and be prey to
the unconscious. (The boy was feared to be a homosexual. Homosexuality was thought
to be abnormal. Without conscious control, he would be subject to forces, unconscious
forces of which he was unaware.)

• The analysis seemed to be successful. The children had happy married lives in the
suburbs. They were seen as the vanguard of a huge social experiment to control the
inner mental lives of all Americans.

• In 1946 the National Mental Health Act emerged out of the experience of the soldiers
who were discovered to have hidden anxieties and fears. The aim of the act was to deal
with this hidden threat to society. Mental illness was seen as a national problem. Robert
Felix was director of the act. Karl and Will Menninger were architects of the act. Will ran
the war time psychotherapy experiment, and afterwards he and his brother trained
hundreds of new psychotherapists. This way they could apply Anna Freud’s ideas on a
wide scale – not only to children but also adults: teaching Americans to control their
unconscious drives. Psychoanalysis could be used to make a better society – they
thought that you could really change people in almost unlimited ways.

• A huge experiment ensued. Psychoanalysts worked with people, marriage counselors
and social workers guided family life. Behind this was the idea of conforming to society
to strengthen the ego to allow control the unconscious forces. When emotions control
actions, it affects people. If emotions rule, it can lead to a permanently warped
personality. By controlling your emotions your personality becomes more pleasant. Such
a process makes people more insightful and better regulated. A rational and
appropriately emotional person results; such a person is not overwhelmed by his darker
impulses. One is master or mistress of the passions. Thus the road to happiness is
adapting to the external world. People can be uncrippled from their own neurotic
impulses and won’t engage in destructive behavior; instead they can adapt to the reality
about themselves. The psychoianalysts never questioned that reality might be evil or
something to which you cannot adapt without compromise or suffering or without
exploiting yourself. It fit the politics of the day.

• Psychoanalysis moved into big business. Edward Bernays, Freud’s nephew, was the first
to sell business on the model that they can sell products using knowledge of the
customers’ unconscious feelings. Now psychoanalysts were going to get inside people’s
minds and sell products. Ernest Dichter, who founded the Institute for Motivational
Research, was the first to use focus groups; he asked “Why do people behave and buy
as they do?” To understand he needed to understand the total personality, the self-
image of the customer. He used psychological techniques to understand why people buy
new products. He thought that American citizens are fundamentally irrational and can’t
be trusted. Their real reasons for buying are tied up in unconscious desires and feelings.
He wanted to find the “secret self” of the American consumer. Learning the unconscious
reasons people buy stuff is key. Unconscious motivations for why people buy – sexual,
psychological, sociological, a demand for status, or recognition, are things people
couldn’t realize or verbalize.

• He would interview people, like in psychoanalysis, and have group therapy for products.
People can act out their wants and needs. He would observe the people interacting,
being shown advertising, thus mining the hidden psychological wants about products.
Betty Crocker foods and instant cake mix example. He did a focus group about the cake
mix. The women felt uncomfortable about the ease of making the cake. He decided that
the barrier to buying the cake mix was the housewives feeling guilty about making the
cake. So Crocker ought to remove the guilt barrier – give them a greater sense of
participation – by adding an egg. It would be an unconscious symbol of the housewife
adding in something of their own to the cake as a gift to her husband. Sales soared. The
consumer has unconscious needs that the companies need to know about in order to
sell effectively – to effectively exploit the consumer. “Is it wrong to give people what
they want by taking away their defenses?”

• Car ad – “It seems so much longer than last year!” (A woman coos at the car – Sex.) The
‘depth boys’ promised that their techniques would help businesses sell more by tying
the products to unconscious desires. Dichter created slogans like “A Tiger in your Tank.”
The Barbie doll came from a children’s focus group. He felt that the environment could
be used to strengthen the human personality – products have the power to sate human
desire and give people the feeling of common identity with those around them – a
strategy for creating a stable society Dichter called it “the strategy of desire.” ‘To
understand a stable citizen, modern man often tries to work off his frustration by
spending on self-gratification, modern man is ready to fill out his self-image by
purchasing products which compliment it.’

• “If you identify with a product it improves your self-image. You become a more secure
person. Going out in the world and doing what you want successfully.” This will improve
the whole of society – making it the best in the world.

• In the 1950s psychoanalysts became popular; writers like Arthur Miller sought them out
to understand how humans work. Important politicians wanted to know how they
thought. They had waiting lists. They became part of a new elite in politics, social
planning and in business. They all thought that the masses were fundamentally
irrational. To make a free market democracy one had to use these techniques to control
mass irrationality. This elite group thought they were needed because the people, left
on their own, were incapable of being democratic. The elite was necessary to create
individuals who were capable of behaving as good consumers and as a democratic
citizens. They thought they were creating the conditions for democracy’s survival. This
rise to power was a success for Anna Freud.

• Anna Freud looked like she was winning. But the Birmingham children were turning out
to have problems. They suffered breakdowns and were drinking. They returned to Anna
for more analysis. Everyone in the psychoanalysis circles knew that the children, now
adults, were guinea pigs – living proof of the success. The power and influence of Anna
Freud was huge. But the grandchildren knew something was wrong. Anna Freud was
“too righteous.” “What she did was always THE thing.” (Anton Freud, Anna’s nephew.)
She would never acknowledge that she could be wrong.

• The power of Freud family in America was larger. Edward Bernays worked with the U.S.
government to fight the cold war. In 1953 the Soviet Union exploded their first
hydrogen bomb. It scared the U.S. and stoked fear of “communism” and nuclear war.
How could they reassure the population? Committees were set up and films made to
calm people regarding the new threats like nuclear fallout. The way to connect with the
public is through their unconscious desires and fears. Rather than reduces the fear,
Bernays counseled the government to encourage and manipulate the fear in a way that
it becomes a weapon to fight the cold war –because rational argument was fruitless.
Groups are malleable. You can tap into their deepest desires and fears and use that for
your purposes. You can’t trust publics. They will easily vote for the wrong man, or want
the wrong things – so they need to be guided from above.

• United Fruit Company: Col. Arbenz in Guatemala was elected. He represented a
challenge to United Fruit who had ruled the country through pliable dictators. In 1950
he promised to remove United Fruit’s control of banana production. He announced the
government would take over much of their land. United Fruit hired Bernays to help
them get rid of Arbenz. Bernays needed to change the image of him from a popularly
elected leader to that of a threat to the U.S., using cold war mentality – the red scare.
He created a “communist” threat close to American shores. He took United Fruit out of
the equation and made it an issue of American Democracy and American values being
threatened. Arbenz was a democratic socialist with no ties to communism or the
U.S.S.R. Yet Bernays set out to turn him into a communist threat. He organized a trip to
Guatemala for influential journalists.

• President Eisenhower wanted to topple the Arbenz government secretly. The CIA was
instructed to create a coup. Howard Hunt, Watergate co-conspirator, was in charge.
They created a terror campaign using bombers. Bernays framed it as freedom fighters
fighting for Democracy. He thought that the coup would happen when the public and
the press would allow it; Bernays created the conditions for this to happen. Months
after Arbenz left the country, U.S. Vice President Richard Nixon went to Guatemala and
was treated to an event created by United Fruit Company – piles of Marxist literature
supposedly discovered in the Presidential palace. Bernays did this since he thought the
interests of business and the interests of the American people were indivisible. But to
explain this rationally wouldn’t work because the public was irrational – he called it the
engineering of consent.

• Bernays thought that the people were stupid. He forced people, through clever
manipulation, to accept his choices – which were antidemocratic.

• The CIA took this idea further since they were worried that the Soviets were ahead of us
in psychological methods to change the memories and feelings of people to make them
more easy to manipulate – brainwashing. People are vulnerable – we can program them
into what we want them to be. We can make them automatons. They thought it was
possible by ontrolling the inner drives of people. Dr. Ewen Cameron thought that inside
people were dangerous forces that could be controlled or removed. Psychiatry could
manipulate political activities. They knew what was good for people. The Allen
Memorial in Montreal was used for experiments to brainwashpeople, wipe them clean
of unwanted memories etc. But he did it using drugs, including LSD and Electro-
Convulsive Therapy. He wanted to make new people. He wanted to alter their past
memories and past behaviors. The goal was to erase everything from their past, create a
clean slate to record new ways of behavior. They received massive doses of shock – and
were reduced to a vegetable state. (Linda Macdonald case.) He then would feed
material to these people. In order to completely alter the individual, psychic driving
tapes were played. These experiments were a complete disaster. All the experiments
failed. What they found was that humans are more complex, unable to be manipulated
easily by outside forces.

• The film industry was also swayed by Freudian analysts. Ralph Greenson was a popular
Hollywood analyst.. Marilyn Monroe was suffering from despair and addicted to alcohol
and drugs. He tried to show her how a family life really should be. Greenson followed
Anna Freud’s teaching. He persuaded Monroe to move nearby and his family played at
being her family. (Her home was made to look exactly like his.) They thought they were
strengthening her mind, making her a person who could survive on her own, not
constantly seeking love.

• Yet she committed suicide on 8/5/62. High profile people questioned why
psychoanalysis had become so powerful. Was it really because psychoanalysis
benefitted people? They questioned whether the “lobotomized sense of happiness” was
good or whether suffering is good for people.

• The idea of subliminal advertising led to an attack on psychoanalysis and business.
Vance Packard’s book The Hidden Persuaders exposed how business worked to get
people involved in planned obsolescence. The second attack came from Herbert
Marcuse, an influential philosopher and his book One Dimensional Man. He attacked
the focus on creating many brands which offer the same objects all of which hide the
waste of resources. Prosperity leads to a schizophrenic experience producing
destructive aggressiveness which is accumulated due to the empty prosperity. This
builds up and then simply erupts. Marcuse did not think that people needed to be
controlled. Yes we have inner drives, but they are not inherently violent or evil; society
makes the drives dangerous by repressing and distorting them. Anna Freud and her
followers had increased that danger by trying to make people conform to society, thus
making them more dangerous. Martin Luther King speaks on being maladjusted. We
should not adapt to an evil society. We should not adjust to racism or religious bigotry,
or poverty.

• The power of Freudian Analysts was over. In 1973 the daughter of Dorothy Burmingham
returned for more analysis with Anna Freud. She committed suicide in Freud’s own
house.