During my research for Hearst Over Hollywood, I interviewed the late Edward L. Bernays, a nephew of Sigmund Freud and widely recognized as the father of public relations. Bernays, who was over one hundred years old when I spoke with him, had spent a lifetime developing techniques of persuasion and creating publicity schemes that promoted corporate America and sold the public on things they never knew they needed. While some might have seen a dubious honor in being known as the creator of spin, Bernays proudly called himself a propagandist. Apparently, Bernays was never close to William Randolph Hearst, but he did work for the Hearst organization, and he was close at least in spirit to Hearst's brand of communication.
In the 1920s Bernays was hired as a consultant to Hearst's Good Housekeeping and Cosmopolitan magazines and for a corporation called Inter City Radio that was Hearst's initial attempt to form a network of radio stations that would enable him to channel his political ambitions into the nation's largest urban centers. As early as the 1910s Bernays enjoyed yellow journalism as a medium of information and entertainment. He visited the Hearst newspaper offices in New York and looked on in amusement as the paper's drama department made sure that “publicity a play received matched the amount of advertising [it purchased].” Over the years Bernays formed friendships with a number of Hearst associates. A Hearst reporter named Karl Von Weigand told Bernays over dinner in 1933 that he had just seen a copy of the spin master's book Crystallizing Public Opinion on Joseph Goebbels's “propaganda library” shelf and that he believed the Nazi Party was using Bernays's theories to guide their policies aimed at the destruction of the Jews.
In his autobiography, Bernays described the film industry as “a crude, crass, manufacturing business, run by crude, crass men,” but he never dis