Edward Bernays/Wilfred Trotter on herd mentality

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Edward Bernays/Wilfred Trotter on herd mentality

Post by Sangoma » Fri Feb 15, 2019 4:48 am

If we examine the mental furniture of the average man," says William Trotter, the author of a comprehensive study of the social psychology of the individual,' "we shall find it made up of a vast number of judgments of a very precise kind upon subjects of very great variety, complexity, and difficulty. He will have fairly settled views upon the origin and nature of the universe, and upon what he will probably call its meaning; he will have conclusions as to what is to happen to him at death and after, as to what is and what should be the basis of conduct. He will know how the country should be governed, and why it is going to the dogs, why this piece of legislation is good and that bad. He will have strong views upon military and naval strategy, the principles of taxation, the use of alcohol and vaccination, the treatment of influenza, the prevention of hydrophobia, upon municipal trading, the teaching of Greek, upon what is permissible in art, satisfactory in literature, and hopeful in science. "The bulk of such opinions must necessarily be without rational basis, since many of them are concerned with problems admitted by the expert to be still unsolved, while as to the rest it is clear that the training and experience of no average man can qualify him to have any opinion upon them at all. The rational method adequately used would have told him that on the great majority of these questions there could be for him but one attitude-that of suspended judgment."

It is axiomatic that men who know little are often intolerant of a point of view that is contrary to their own. The bitterness that has been brought about by arguments on public questions is proverbial. Lovers have been parted by bitter quarrels on theories of pacifism or militarism; and when an argument upon an abstract question engages opponents they often desert the main line of argument in order to abuse each other.

Intolerance is almost inevitably accompanied by a natural and true inability to comprehend or make allowance for opposite points of view. The skilled scientist who may be receptive to any promising suggestion in his own field may outside of his own field be found quite unwilling to make any attempt at understanding a point of view contrary to his own. In politics, for example, his understanding of the problem may be fragmentary, yet he will enter excitedly into discussions on bonus and ship subsidy, of which he has made no study. We find here with significant uniformity what one psychologist has called "logic-proof compartments."
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Re: Edward Bernays/Wilfred Trotter on herd mentality

Post by Sangoma » Fri Feb 15, 2019 4:52 am

Edward Bernays, the father of Public Relations. His book Crystallizing Public Opinion should be read at schools. It is the first textbook on PR, and the cynicism of the text is exceptional. Above is the reference to Wilfred Trotter, the author of Instincts of the Herd in Peace and War.

Whenever I hear someone solving world problems at the dinner table I always remember this text... And just smile.

Full text for whoever is willing to spend time to understand how his opinion is influenced by the media.

https://eduardolbm.files.wordpress.com/ ... ernays.pdf
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Re: Edward Bernays/Wilfred Trotter on herd mentality

Post by nafod » Fri Feb 15, 2019 11:55 am

I always referred to it as Male Opinion Syndrome, though my wife has it in spades.

I remember a discussion with my wife’s 90 year old grandmother, “nafod, what do you think of space travel?”

Me: “blah, blah, saving humanity, blah”

Her:”I think it’s evil”
Don’t believe everything you think.

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Re: Edward Bernays/Wilfred Trotter on herd mentality

Post by Fat Cat » Fri Feb 15, 2019 6:17 pm

I completely agree that studying the thinking of Edward Bernays could be very valuable for most people, although from what I've read he was a genuinely malevolent person. I am not familiar with Wilfred Trotter; the quote is interesting although I don't think it's the whole story.

It's true that all of us tend to imagine expertise in fields we really don't have a grasp of. There's an old saying, "the confidence of amateurs is the envy of professionals."

At the same time, there's a disorienting quality about modern life that causes people to lose confidence in their own judgment, to doubt their own convictions, and defer to the better-credentialed when it is plain that "experts" fail with clockwork regularity. Look at the "whiz kids" of the Nixon White House and their complete bungling of the Vietnam War as an example of that. Most plain-spoken Americans with far less education or expertise could have done a better job. Or recall the Soviet apparatchiks who spent their whole lives studying economics but couldn't run an economy. Or look at health experts who have assured us of the superiority of margarine, or of low fat diets, or of the harmlessness of thalidomide. The dumbest, most gullible people I've ever met all had higher educations.

I guess what I'm really saying is that nobody really has any idea what is going on, expert and idiot alike, and that runs very counter to Bernays idea of a corporate elite shaping the opinions of society for both profit and betterment of society. And as for expounding ideas with no empirical basis, the man himself was not immune. He was a huge fan of Freud, for example, and his ideas are some of the most baseless and anti-scientific that ever gained credence.

So, lemme ask you, for regular folks: what is the utility and purpose of reading authors like Bernays or Trotter? To better manipulate? To avoid being manipulated?
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Re: Edward Bernays/Wilfred Trotter on herd mentality

Post by johno » Sat Feb 16, 2019 3:36 pm

To reinforce one's opinion of superiority?
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

W.B. Yeats

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Re: Edward Bernays/Wilfred Trotter on herd mentality

Post by Sangoma » Mon Feb 18, 2019 11:48 pm

Reading this stuff puts several things in perspective. First, every time there is a trend in the media it is likely someone is behind it. Second, most of the time we are ignorant about things we read about in the media, and, to make it worse, are ignorant about it. Three, it helps having more balanced perspective of things and, as the result, less stress. I don't take predictions of impending doom seriously, as they are likely to be wrong and to change quite soon.

Recognising limitations is hard. There is a lot of research showing that people who know the less have the highest opinions about their competence. Knowing that made me keep my mouth shut and avoid embarrassment. Sometimes. We are all suckers for the selection bias. If anything, reading works of this kind takes away the feeling of superiority.

Bernays indeed looks malevolent, but I don't think this craft gained any moral ground since his time. It has become more cynical and manipulative.

https://www.counterpunch.org/2016/07/08 ... -was-sold/
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Re: Edward Bernays/Wilfred Trotter on herd mentality

Post by nafod » Tue Feb 19, 2019 1:35 am

If you work in any sort of field where you need to sway opinions one way or another, and particularly if need to move opinions and not just reinforce them, it’d be malpractice not to know this stuff.
Don’t believe everything you think.

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Re: Edward Bernays/Wilfred Trotter on herd mentality

Post by Sangoma » Tue Feb 19, 2019 5:51 am

As unbelievable as it may sound nobody is immune to being manipulated. You would expect medical professionals, for instance, to be objective and balanced, but there are plenty of examples when commercial parties influenced medical opinion. Oxycontin is one mind blowing example: the company managed to convinced the army of doctors that opioids are not dangerous and not addictive, against massive evidence to the contrary.
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Re: Edward Bernays/Wilfred Trotter on herd mentality

Post by Fat Cat » Wed Feb 20, 2019 6:06 pm

Sangoma wrote:
Tue Feb 19, 2019 5:51 am
As unbelievable as it may sound nobody is immune to being manipulated. You would expect medical professionals, for instance, to be objective and balanced, but there are plenty of examples when commercial parties influenced medical opinion. Oxycontin is one mind blowing example: the company managed to convinced the army of doctors that opioids are not dangerous and not addictive, against massive evidence to the contrary.
I don't find that difficult to believe at all. So-called highly educated people are the most exhaustively conditioned and institutionalized of all groups. The example you give of the Sackler manipulation is a good one. At the same time, one shouldn't lose sight of the fact that it wasn't only the Sacklers making dolla-dolla billz off legal drug pushing; the doctors themselves were tripping over themselves for a slice of the (existential) "pain management" market. So basically, couple gullibility with ambition and greed and you've got a potent cocktail of mischief and human misery.
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Re: Edward Bernays/Wilfred Trotter on herd mentality

Post by nafod » Wed Feb 20, 2019 7:39 pm

I just watched this great documentary on Amazon about The Great Randi, called An Honest Liar. He spent a huge amount of time uncovering psychics and faith healers and charlatans. But people still want to believe. The psychics know what Bernard knows.

There was a funded research center in the paranormal, with “serious” science going on, that he sent two guys to, to convince them they had paranormal powers. But it was all fake. The scientists bought it, ignoring all of the controls that Randi himself recommended they use to avoid fakes. When they revealed it as a scam, one of them had a breakdown. His core belief had literally vaporized in front of him.

Highly recommend it.
Don’t believe everything you think.

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