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COP3 - Secondary Research - Century of the Self

Century of the Self - Documentary (2002, BBC)


The Century of the Self is an award-winning British television documentary series by Adam Curtis. It focuses on how the work of Sigmund Freud, Anna Freud, and Edward Bernays influenced the way corporations and governments have analyzed,‭ dealt with, and controlled ‬people.

This is a great source to look at when relating the points raised in my Dissertation.





 







Most important points raised in Adam Curtis’s documentary ‘Century of the Self’ ;




Think about the False needs, our actual desires, our instincts and Freud’s notion of the unconscious. 






- The Corporations and Government uses Freud’s theory to control mass crowd.

- Edward Bernay’s. First person to take Freud’s ideas and manipulate the masses. Showing American corporations that they could link American goods to human desires and sales.

- At the end of the 19th Century, America was industrialized. Bernay’s turned to his uncles psychoanalysis theories. He wanted to make money by manipulating the unconscious. He played on the humans irrational emotions.

- Governments starting to use this to make it more serious and political. The power of controlling people’s instincts is ceased upon by the government.

- The American industry was afraid of over production. Will people have enough goods to just stop buying?


- Creating a false need for desirable objects to generate profit from the masses. The crisis of overproduction, producing too many goods. So making people believe they need these products that they have spare from production to keep the profit going.


- The American government created a system about tapping into peoples desires and tricked into buying these things to make a better life when actually it didn’t. The system creates wealth for the powers but not for the public.


- Democracy through consumerism. We believe that we are free because we can purchase different things such as a car, porn, clothing but that is a trick that has been laid down by PR. It’s like a drug that keeps us docile even though our lives are actually pretty shit. We are creating wealth for those in power but think that our needs are getting what we want which makes us temporarily happy.


- Bernays created many techniques of mass production which we live with today. Such as linking products with famous film stars and also product placement. He dressed stars in clothes and jewellery linked to his companies so that the masses would have a desire to be like their idols.


- Edward Bernays. First person to take Freud’s ideas and manipulate the masses. Showing American corporations that they could link American goods to human desires and sales. At the end of the 19th Century, America was industrialized. Bernay’s turned to his uncles psychoanalysis theories. He wanted to make money by manipulating the unconscious. He played on the humans irrational emotions.


- His most dramatic experiment was to persuade women to smoke. At the time there was a taboo about women smoking in public being frowned upon, so the company asked Bernay’s to find a way about breaking it. Bernays was told by a PA that the cigarette was a symbol of the penis. He said that women could have their own penis by smoking, symbolically.


- The women of an event protested by lighting ‘their torches of freedom’ being a cigarette. Bernay’s knew that the press would be there, so he promoted this phrase to encourage women to smoke. They could have FREEDOM! The women are ‘HOLDING UP THE TORCH’. This was all over the world by the next day.


- From this Bernays found that by linking products to people feelings and desires, this could increase the sales. Products could become a massive statement that somebody makes. The idea of an emotional connection with a product.


- The corporations realised that they had to change how Americans thought about products. They must shift American from a needs to a desire culture. Create a new mentality that a man’s desires should overshadow his needs. The man at the centre of this change was Bernays. He created many techniques of mass production which we live with today. Such as linking products with famous film stars and also product placement. He dressed stars in clothes and jewellery linked to his companies so that the masses would have a desire to be like their idols.


- In the 1920’s, a new idea of how to run democracy was in place. The government would make people happy and docile to create a feel good factor which will not alter the circumstances but peoples outlooks on it. Bernay’s wanted to maintain the power over the masses by altering the publics physiological state even though their lives where the same.


- Saatchi & Saatchi's campaign for cigarettes in the late 80's focussed on two hidden human impulses … EROS and THANATOS which is… EROS – pro create, to have children, to be free, to live a full life and THANATOS – the desire to kill, self destruction, mess everything up. Drug addictions and the rock and roll lifestyle are physiological connected to this. We know something is wrong but our ‘death’ instinct is taking over.

-  Other Key Freudian Concepts are... Oral Fixation (nipple substitute), Vagina Denata and Penis Envy.





Notes on the documentary

- The Corporations and Government uses Freud’s theory to control mass crowd.

- Edward Bernay’s. First person to take Freud’s ideas and manipulate the masses. Showing American corporations that they could link American goods to human desires and sales.

- Satisfying peoples inner selfish desires.

- 100 years ago Freud’s ideas were hated by the world. Embarrassing and anyone questioning the human mind and showing feelings was a threat to them.

- Freud Analysed dreams and he unearthed that humans have powerful sexual feelings that we repress because they are to dangerous. We picked these up from a historic animal instinct.

- Bernay’s main client was opera singer Caruso. He opened in Ohio and America announced they was entering the war between Germany and Austria. Bernays was employed by the American government in promoting the idea home and abroad

- Propaganda – War. Bernays wanted to use the propaganda used for war but change it for peace! Propaganda turned into a bad word so Bernay’s had to use a different way to go about this.

- At the end of the 19th Century, America was industrialized. Bernay’s turned to his uncles psychoanalysis theories. He wanted to make money by manipulating the unconscious. He played on the humans irrational emotions.

- His most dramatic experiment was to persuade women to smoke. At the time there was a taboo about women smoking in public being frowned upon, so the company asked Bernay’s to find a way about breaking it.

- For a large fee a PA told bernays that the cigarette was a symbol of the penis. He said that women could have their own penis by smoking, symbolically.

- The girls of an event protested by lighting ‘their torches of freedom’ being a cigarette. Bernay’s knew that the press would be there, so he promoted this phrase to encourage women to smoke. They could have FREEDOM! The women are ‘HOLDING UP THE TORCH’. This was all over the world by the next day.

- Bernays created the idea of a women smoking is more independent which is an idea that still exists today. From this he found that by linking products to people feelings and desires, this could increase the sales. Products could become a massive statement that somebody makes. The idea of an emotion connection with a product.

- The American industry was afraid of over production. Will people have enough goods to just stop buying?

- The corporations realised that they had to transport how Americans thought about products. They must shift American from a needs to a desire culture. Create a new mentality that a man’s desires should overshadow his needs. The man at the centre of this change was Bernays. The God of the physiological theory.

- Bernays created many techniques of mass production which we live with today. Such as linking products with famous film stars and also product placement. He dressed stars in clothes and jewellery linked to his companies so that the masses would have a desire to  be like their idols.

- “You all look the same on the street with the same clothes, same hats. Express yourself better in the way you dress.” “Why do you like short skirts.. Cause theirs more to see. It makes you more attractive.”

- Later Bernay’s promoted the idea that normal people should be able to buy shares using money from the bank and millions of people did this. Bernays became famous for knowing how to work the crowd. 

- In 1924 – US President Calvin Coolidge approached him. The press portrayed the president as a dull figure so Bernays persuaded famous film figures to visit the white house. This went on to create a headline of “The President nearly Laughed” and everyone was happy in Bernay's words.

- Bernays suggested that Freud should promote himself in the US. He asked him to write and article for Cosmopoliton but Freud disagreed and said he hated America.

- Freud later believed he had underestimated the aggressive tendencies in humans. He said men was the most ferocious animal of all and he hated all men. He was known to be a pessimistic man in his later years.

- The irrationality and the animality is the main drive of the mob. People were lead by their spines and not their minds. In the 1920’s wrote a book to claim he knew how to control the masses. He said that you could tap into the masses deepest desires to make them vote.

- In the 1920’s – a new idea of how to run democracy was in place.  The government would make people happy and docile to create a feel good factor which will not alter the circumstances but peoples outlooks on it. Bernay’s wanted to maintain the power over the masses by altering the publics physiological state even though their lives where the same.






Re-cap of the Documentary

- Governments starting to use this to make it more serious and political. The power of controlling people’s instincts is ceased upon by the government.

- Creating a false need for desirable objects to generate profit from the masses. The crisis of overproduction, producing too many goods. So making people believe they need these products that they have spare from production to keep the profit going.
- The American government created a system about tapping into peoples desires and tricked into buying these things to make a better life when actually it didn’t. The system creates wealth for the powers but not for the public.

- Democracy through consumerism. We believe that we are free because we can purchase different things such as a car, porn, clothing but that is a trick that has been laid down by PR. It’s like a drug that keeps us docile even though our lives are actually pretty shit. We are creating wealth for those in power but think that our needs are getting what we want which makes us temporarily happy.







Further Notes from the rest of the documentary...


- 29 Oct 1929 - The market collapsed. The effect disastererous as people stopped buying goods they didn't need. Bernays fell from fame as did what he built. The effect was also massive across Europe. There was street battles in Austria and Germany. 

- Against this backdrop Freud was battling cancer in his jaw and wrote a book called civilasation and its contents. He argued that civilisation was created to control our animalistic needs inside. 

- Humans can't express themselves because it's too dangerous. we much be controlled.   

- March 1933, National socialists elected to power in Germany. They took control ofbusiness and workers leisure time was also planned through state. The Nazi's saw this as an alernative to the democracy to bind the nation together.

- Looking at mass crowds, Freud explained how the irrational behaviour inside human beings can emerge in such groups and forces of desire are given to the leader. Freud wrote this as a warning but the Nazi's were deliberately employing these ideas in order to control. 

- Crowds and Their Behaviour. And angry population too out their frustration on the corporations who who to them had caused this. 

- President Roosevelt (1960) employed Gallop and Roper who rejected Bernays' view and thought theat people could be trusted to have a voice with political situations of the country. People are rational and make good decisions. Giving everyone a voice in how things are run. 

- Business fought back to wins the heart of America. At the heart of this was Edward Bernays. The campaign shown that it was business not politicians who had produced modern American. He used billboards and newspapers to get the word out. The government fought back by making films against it saying their methods are a great danger to democracy. 

- In 1939, New York hosted the worlds fair. Bernays insisted that the theme was linking american democracy and business. There was a white dome that Bernays named 'Democracity'. The central exhibited was a large scale model of America's future. 

- It was a success and captured America's imagination. A form of Democracy in which business responded to citizens desires and demands which is something that the government could not achieve. The people are not in charge but their desires are. 

- In May 1938. Freud came to London on a work permit to escape Nazi Germany. His cancer was advanced and as the second world war started, 3 weeks in, he died.   






Dynamic Unconscious

Oedipus Complex

Castration Anxiety –  Boys envy their father because he has the phallus and the power and fear of getting castrated.

Penis Envy – Girls envy the fathers penis because they cant have sex with their mother.



Id, Ego & Superego

Ego --- is in the conscious personality of which you know something about but not everything.

Id --- represents biological instincts. Wanting to eat and sleep. Male and Female.  Primal Urges and desires to see something want it and get it. This could be sexual or just the desire to eat, sleep, fight and kill. Repressed and imprisoned in us which we don’t allow to come out. Uncontrollable and Infantile. Small children are walking Id’s. They will just shout something out, shit anywhere or steal. The id throughout life is controlled by the super ego.

Super Ego --- The manic controlling voice that teaches you that the Id is wrong. It is not just rational but also irrational. It uses methods like shame, guilt and self pity.


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