Chomsky vs. Bernays

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Edward Bernays and Noam Chomsky, both highly influential characters, lie on opposing sides of the spectrum regarding the proper role which the media and other consequential institutions should occupy in society.

Edward Bernays argues the masses are unable to make the correct decisions since they lack the required intellect to gather and analyze valuable information. Bernays believes democracy is dangerous since the individuals which compose it are generally unable to create opinions on their own due to their “herd instinct”. Hence, the populace needed to be manipulated by an educated elite, preferably for economic progress. Using Freud’s theory of the unconscious he transformed the American psyche, convincing them to purchase superfluous products. His influence was essential to the economic revolution of the 1900’s since it would never have been possible if the people were not buying goods they did not need. However, his ‘public relations’ was embraced by corporations to a disturbing degree. Since the private sector is propelled by the profit motive as opposed to the general welfare they use their power, in the form of money, to pursue their own financial interest.

Conversely, Noam Chomsky makes a compelling argument against the political institutions who favor the elite and the subsequent consequences abroad of the limited role the populace plays in their democracy. However, Chomsky fails to address the validity of the "bewildered herd" argument. People have repeatedly proven throughout history to be unable to make the proper decision for the general good, sometimes even for themselves. The "herd" engages in unproductive activities not because multinational corporations and political elites have conspired to distract them. They actually desire to rejoice in idleness as opposed to informing themselves about the political process and the legislation being considered. Had decisions been left to the general public slavery and segregation would still be legal....
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