In his own words, Bernays describes engineering consent as “use of an engineering approach—that is, action based only on thorough knowledge of the situation and on the application of scientific principles and tried practices to the task of getting people to support ideas and programs. Under modern conditions of political advertising and manipulation, it has become possible to talk edward said states essay pdf the engineering of consent by an elite of experts and professional politicians. Consent that is thus engineered is difficult to distinguish in any fundamental way from the consent that supports modern totalitarian governments. Were the manipulated voter to become the normal voter, the government he supports could hardly be said to rest on his consent in any traditional sense of that word.
The United States has become a small room where a single whisper is magnified thousands of times. There are two divisions in media: commercial and organized group information systems. The freedoms of press, speech, petition and assembly, the freedoms which make the engineering of consent possible, are among the most cherished guarantees in the Constitution of the United States. Under no circumstances should the engineering of consent supersede or displace the educational system, either formal or informal, in bringing about understanding by the people as the basis for their actions. The engineering of consent often does supplement the educational process.
As in physical engineering, a feasibility study must be done and a budget drawn up. The engineer of consent must be powerfully equipped with facts, with truths, with evidence before he shows himself before a public. The public’s attitudes, ideas, presumptions or prejudices result from definite influences. One must try to find out what they are in any situation in which one is working. Themes must appeal to the motives of the public. Organization also correlates the activities of any specialists who may be called upon from time to time, such as opinion researchers, fund raisers, publicity men, radio and motion picture experts, specialists for women’s clubs or foreign language groups, and the like.
Set in motion a broad activity, the success of which depends on interlocking all phases and elements of the proposed strategy, implemented by tactics that are timed to the moment of maximum effectiveness. The developing of events and circumstances that are not routine is one of the basic functions of the engineer of consent. The Theory and Practice of Public Relations: A Resumé”. The tactics of public relations” by A. Samstag illustrates varieties of strategy with sample cases before the public. He details aspects of timing, forbearance, approach, surprise, participation, association, disassociation, crossroads, personalization, bland withdrawal, apparent withdrawal, apparent runner-up, omission, reversal, mosaic, and understatement. He singles out Samstag’s chapter as “interesting, enlightening, provocative, and poignant.