Semantic Tyranny: How Edward L. Bernays Stole Walter Lippmann’s Mojo and Got Away With It and Why It Still Matters

Sue Curry Jansen


The history of public relations has recently attracted the interest of critical media scholars. Edward L. Bernays, the author of several pioneering PR books, has profoundly influenced how critical scholars have conceived of public relations. Bernays deceptively claimed that Walter Lippmann provided the theory and that he provided the practice, creating the false impression that Lippmann was an apologist for PR. Lippmann actually denounced government and corporate publicity agents as propagandists and censors. Yet critical PR scholarship has uncritically accepted and amplified Bernays’ misrepresentation. This article seeks to correct this error by comparing the key texts: Lippmann’s Public Opinion (1922) and Bernays’ Crystallizing Public Opinion (1923).

Full Text: