9
Modern Pipelines
of Persuasion

DURING THE 1920s and 1930s, a period that embraced titanic economic expansion and, subsequently, ravaging economic collapse, the practices of public relations in particular, and of planned propaganda campaigns more generally, grew exponentially. From a variety of vantage points and roused by a range of concerns, observers noted foundational changes in the American social fabric.

One of these observers was Harold Lasswell, a political scientist who would emerge--by the mid-thirties--as the United States' foremost student and bibliographer of propaganda activities. 1 In 1927, while still a young professor at the University of Chicago, Lasswell summarized the growth of organized propaganda that had taken place over the preceding decade. 2"Propaganda," he wrote of the period since World War I, had arisen as "one of the most powerful instrumentalities in the modern world." The attempt to control opinion through the conscious manipulation of "significant symbols, or . . . by stories, rumours, reports, pictures and other forms of social communication," had become routine.

The social and political implications of this development were profound. Widespread "discussion about the ways and means of controlling public opinion," he concluded, "testifies to the collapse of the traditional species of democratic romanticism and to the rise of a dictatorial habit of mind."3

In the face of troublesome democratic ambitions that had been mounting for more than a century, corporate and governmental leaders looked to an increasingly sophisticated opinion-molding appa-

-174-

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