Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Public Relations is Propaganda

I teach public relations so I know how it works.

One of the "Fathers" of public relations is Edward Bernays. 

The incredibly interesting video, "The Century of the Self" by Adam Curtis, explicates Bernay's role in "engineering consent" in the US in the first half of the 20th century.

We read Bernay's book, Propaganda, in the public relations class that I teach.

Here are a few excerpts from that book, Propaganda, written by Edward Bernays:

The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in a democratic society”
“Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country”

“To avoid such confusion [of endless testing of options] society consents to have its choices narrowed to ideas and objects brought to its attention by propaganda of all kinds” p. 39

At a most basic level, Bernays defines propaganda as an “organized effort to spread a particular belief or doctrine” (48) / a “consistent, enduring effort to create or shape events to influence the relations of the public to an enterprise, idea or group

Bernays encouraged political leaders to promote the fear of communism in order to make the American public more malleable.

Propaganda has also been used to sell nuclear energy from the "Atoms for Peace" speech onward.

This week I've seen plenty of propaganda about nuclear energy.

In Bloomberg's BusinessWeek there is an advertisement for nuclear energy reading:

"Made in America: Nuclear Energy Produces Thousands of Jobs" with the catch phrase "Nuclear, Clean Air Energy"

Majia here: Nuclear energy may produce thousands of jobs, but the jobs it produces involved in building and running the plants are far fewer than the jobs it produces involved in treating cancer, birth defects, and circulatory diseases.

I also saw a Hitachi ad in the same issue of the BusinessWeek.

The Hitachi ad featured windmills, electric trains, a butterfly and a gleeful, running boy. The ad claims that the company "improves the environment...for future generations"

This is what Wikipedia has to say about Hitachi:
"GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH) is a provider of advanced reactors and nuclear services. It is located in Wilmington, N.C.. Established in June 2007, GEH is a global nuclear alliance created by General Electric and Hitachi. In Japan, the alliance is Hitachi-GE Nuclear Energy, Ltd.[1]

Hitachi would rather us forget that it is directly involved in nuclear.

Finally, I saw in Monday's Wall Street Journal (March 26 p. B5) a "special advertising section" that reads: 
"Korea 2012 Nuclear Security Summit: Nation's Latest Export: Nuclear Power Stations"

The text below states proudly that "South Korea is the fifth--and most recent--nation to become a nuclear power exporter, after Canada, France, Russia and the US. That status was won following 2009's mega-deal to supply four atomic power-stations, worth $18.6 billion, to the United Arab Emirates"

Together, this collection of advertisements constitute an impressive public relations assemblage.

American readers are encouraged to equate economic development [i.e., progress] with nuclear power in Taiwan.

They are encouraged to equate companies that build nuclear power plants with sustainability for future generations.

And they are encouraged to see nuclear energy as a source for job creation in the US.

All of these presumptions rest on erroneous assumptions about the net power gains (versus expenditures) involved in building, operating, maintaining, and decommissioning nuclear power plants.

Empirical analyses of the total costs, including decommissioning and health costs, of nuclear power establish that this power source is neither cost-effective, nor sustainable.

The only reason nuclear energy is profitable for the  producers is because nearly all of its costs have been externalized to various publics, including the health and environmental costs of mining, storing waste, decommissioning plants, and cleaning up mega-disasters such as Fukushima and Chernobyl.

The health costs of nuclear power are simply beyond calculation when one includes all of the lives ended prematurely.

Dr. Peter Bossew explains the false premises that nuclear power has been promoted upon in this lecture available online:

The True Price of Nuclear Power  The Economic, Environmental and Social Impacts of the Nuclear Fuel Cycle
Peter Bossew, Austria. Physicist, member of the Austrian Ecological Institute for Applied Environmental Research and the Institute for Gamma Ray Measurement, Vienna.

[excerpted] "Four theses are as follows:

            1) Nuclear power is more expensive than it is usually declared to be. And we can assume that it will become even more expensive due to the costs of the nuclear fuel cycle, for example, the costs of disposal which will continue to escalate as they have over the last decades.

            2) Atomic electricity, that is, electricity from nuclear power plants, is at least as expensive as the electricity from comparable sources of energy. For a long time, atomic power was supposedly preferable because it was not only cleaner, safer, etc., but also cheap. This is not true.

            3) In terms of environmental impact, it has often been claimed -- and it is still claimed -- that atomic power is the solution to the global warming problem, the green house effect. This is not true, it's wrong, it's ideology and propaganda. On the contrary, other sources of electricity are considerably more effective in reducing the green house effect.

            4) The most efficient method of supplying power, economically as well as ecologically, and in terms of social effects, is power that is not put to use, meaning an efficient power usage. 

Majia here: Dr. Bossew's lecture and numerous other analyses demonstrate empirically that nuclear power is not sustainable and not energy efficient.

Yet, propagandistic public relations messages by the nuclear industry strive to shape the public mind on this issue, even in the wake of the largest and unresolved industrial disaster ever (Fukushima).

Truth and fact are ignored or denied in this concerted propaganda campaign I've outlined above.

We are truly lost if the public mind is indeed as malleable as Bernays claims....

1 comment:

  1. Just wanted to say how much I enjoy your blog and how you “connect the dots” of what is happening with the nuclear industry to other concepts. The video you recommend “Century of the Self” was fascinating and should be required viewing to students and anyone that want to know what is going on in their world. I can’t wait to view the rest of the series. Thanks!