Friday, September 08, 2006

Corporate Mind Kontrol

Corporations, governments, and special interest groups spend at least 30 billion dollars annually --exclusively, to screw with your mind. Whether you hear the news on NPR or your local morning shock jock, read the New York Times or USA Today, watch C-Span or the nightly news, an enormous percentage of the news you take in will be the direct result of somebody's spin. And it's all because of a subdivision of the advertising world called the public relations industry. With 2200 public relations flacks in over 30 countries, Burson-Marsteler is the world's largest public relations firm. They represent big-name corporations (Philip Morris, AT & T, NBC), foreign nations (the governments of Indonesia, El Salvador, Kenya) and heavy-duty non-governmental organizations (the World Bank, the National Cattlemen's Beef Association,the American Petroleum Institute).

Burson-Marsteler's promotional materials boast that "the role of communications is to manage perceptions which motivate behaviors that create business results." In other words, Burson-Marsteler "manages" information to earn money. Like all the best public relations firms, who "communicate" to "create business results," they practice spin control. With so many of the world's most powerful institutions as their clients, Burson-Marsteler just happens to do spin very effectively.

Their mission is to help clients "manage issues by influencing -- in the right combination -- public attitude, public perceptions, public behavior and public policy." That mission goes for the entire PR industry. According to the U.S. Bureauof Labor Statistics, there are 118,280 PR workers in the U.S alone. To account for the historical inaccuracy of U.S. census data, both critics and proponents of the PR industry have estimated that upwards of 200,000 people work in the field. The PR industry is so huge because of corporations. Most every issue in the news today -- global warming, globalization, genetically modified foods, tobacco legislation -- affects corporations who stand to gain or lose heaps of money, depending on public reaction. Therefore, the "management" of public reaction is crucial.

If, for instance, the public does not display outrage over global warming, the auto industry can stave off costly renewable energy alternatives. If not enough people seem frightened by the existing and potential dangers of genetically modified "Frankenfoods," multinational corporations such as Monsanto will continue to rake in bundles by genetically modifying food. And if the public believes that anti-globalization protestors are simple-minded rebels without a cause, Phillip Morris, Proctor & Gamble, Starbucks and others can safely multiply their revenues overseas.

With so much cash riding on public opinion, industry has always viewed public relations as a valuable, even necessary investment. Why else would corporations throw billions of dollars a year at the PR industry?

"In societies like ours," said investigative journalist Derrick Jensen,"corporate propaganda is delivered through advertising and public relations. Most people recognize that advertising is propaganda... [but] public relations is much more insidious. Because it's disguised as information, we don't often realize we are being influenced by public relations."

And, whatever the issue may be, the public relations industry is usually behind the scenes--wagging the dog.

Labels: , , , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home