You may know that this blog was named in honor of Edward Bernays, a proud propagandist and father of modern public relations, a man worthy of both praise and condemnation, who, only near the end of his life, conceded the existence of improper-ganda. I’ve spent the past few months working on a play, “Freedom Torches,” that tells the story of the rise of public relations. Here’s a one-page excerpt — Bernays and famous psychoanalyst Dr. Brill meet with Bernays’ client George Washington Hill, president of Lucky Strike cigarettes, to discuss a campaign to increase smoking among women.
GEORGE WASHINGTON HILL
Torches of freedom? Not bad.
Hill bites into the cookie with new-found vigor.
DR. ABRAHAM BRILL
By smoking cigarettes, women are making a statement. They’re challenging male power. They are, essentially, being granted their own penises.
George springs from his chair, raising his voice.
Don’t waste my time.
George, we are simply talking.
George wipes his forehead with his handkerchief.
Are you with the doctor on this one? I need to know now.
Hill looks at Brill.
Both of you are crazy. This idea of yours, that smoking liberates women, that it makes them strong and powerful and, God forbid, sexual — it’s completely irrational.
So you agree it’s God damn near insane to suggest –
Frankly, I’m not interested in the rational appeal.
The crazy appeal – that’s your thing?