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The Century of the Self: The Untold History of Controlling the Masses Through the Manipulation of Unconscious Desires
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Multimedia posted Mar 21 2006, 9:29 PM Source: InformationLiberation Print

The Century of the Self

The Untold History of Controlling the Masses Through the Manipulation of Unconscious Desires

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

We are governed, our minds are molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of. This is a logical result of the way in which our democratic society is organized."
- Edward Bernays


Adam Curtis' acclaimed series examines the rise of the all-consuming self against the backdrop of the Freud dynasty.

To many in both politics and business, the triumph of the self is the ultimate expression of democracy, where power has finally moved to the people. Certainly the people may feel they are in charge, but are they really? The Century of the Self tells the untold and sometimes controversial story of the growth of the mass-consumer society in Britain and the United States. How was the all-consuming self created, by whom, and in whose interests?

The Freud dynasty is at the heart of this compelling social history. Sigmund Freud, founder of psychoanalysis; Edward Bernays, who invented public relations; Anna Freud, Sigmund's devoted daughter; and present-day PR guru and Sigmund's great grandson, Matthew Freud.

Sigmund Freud's work into the bubbling and murky world of the subconscious changed the world. By introducing a technique to probe the unconscious mind, Freud provided useful tools for understanding the secret desires of the masses. Unwittingly, his work served as the precursor to a world full of political spin doctors, marketing moguls, and society's belief that the pursuit of satisfaction and happiness is man's ultimate goal.

Please Note: Viewers should be sure to read Ludwig Von Mises' 'The Anti-Capitalist Mentality' to balance the socialistic elements of this film.

This film was produced by BBC which is Britain's government run news channel, therefor it downplays the evils of government and plays up the vices of business. The enemy is not capitalism or 'consumption' but government and its insidious propaganda. Mass produced goods enrich society because they reduce the amount of time a person has to work to satisfy one's essential needs. Government propaganda debases society because it is used as an excuse for everything from murderous wars of aggression to oppressive economy killing taxation and regulation. When a business sells you something voluntarily you will only buy it if you think the product is worth more than the price you have to pay for it. When the government propagandizes you they are merely giving you excuses to submit to their use of force which will be bearing down on you whether you like it or not. The two are very different and this film does a disservice by confusing them. That said, it's important to understand the propagandists who serve to justify the crimes of the state. Selling someone a product they don't truly "need" hurts no one, selling people on a war they don't need gets millions of people murdered and destroys entire societies. - Chris, InformationLiberation

Happiness Machines
Part One

One: Happiness Machines

The story of the relationship between Sigmund Freud and his American nephew, Edward Bernays. Bernays invented the public relations profession in the 1920s and was the first person to take Freud's ideas to manipulate the masses. He showed American corporations how they could make people want things they didn't need by systematically linking mass-produced goods to their unconscious desires.

Bernays was one of the main architects of the modern techniques of mass-consumer persuasion, using every trick in the book, from celebrity endorsement and outrageous PR stunts, to eroticising the motorcar.

His most notorious coup was breaking the taboo on women smoking by persuading them that cigarettes were a symbol of independence and freedom. But Bernays was convinced that this was more than just a way of selling consumer goods. It was a new political idea of how to control the masses. By satisfying the inner irrational desires that his uncle had identified, people could be made happy and thus docile.

It was the start of the all-consuming self which has come to dominate today's world.

See Ludwig von Mises "The Noneconomic Objections to Capitalism" and "The Argument of Happiness" to balance the propaganda in this section.

The Engineering of Consent
Part Two

Two: The Engineering of Consent

The programme explores how those in power in post-war America used Freud's ideas about the unconscious mind to try and control the masses.

Politicians and planners came to believe Freud's underlying premise - that deep within all human beings were dangerous and irrational desires and fears. They were convinced that it was the unleashing of these instincts that had led to the barbarism of Nazi Germany. To stop it ever happening again they set out to find ways to control this hidden enemy within the human mind.

Sigmund Freud's daughter, Anna, and his nephew, Edward Bernays, provided the centrepiece philosophy. The US government, big business, and the CIA used their ideas to develop techniques to manage and control the minds of the American people. But this was not a cynical exercise in manipulation. Those in power believed that the only way to make democracy work and create a stable society was to repress the savage barbarism that lurked just under the surface of normal American life.

There is a Policeman Inside All Our Heads:
He Must Be Destroyed

Part Three

Three: There is a Policeman Inside All Our Heads: He Must Be Destroyed

In the 1960s, a radical group of psychotherapists challenged the influence of Freudian ideas in America. They were inspired by the ideas of Wilhelm Reich, a pupil of Freud's, who had turned against him and was hated by the Freud family. He believed that the inner self did not need to be repressed and controlled. It should be encouraged to express itself.

Out of this came a political movement that sought to create new beings free of the psychological conformity that had been implanted in people's minds by business and politics.

This programme shows how this rapidly developed in America through self-help movements like Werber Erhard's Erhard Seminar Training - into the irresistible rise of the expressive self: the Me Generation.

But the American corporations soon realised that this new self was not a threat but their greatest opportunity. It was in their interest to encourage people to feel they were unique individuals and then sell them ways to express that individuality. To do this they turned to techniques developed by Freudian psychoanalysts to read the inner desires of the new self.

[InfoLib Note: The portrayal of Wilhelm Reich in this film is completely wrong, Wilhelm Reich was one of the greatest men to ever live, check out his book "Listen, Little Man!"]

Eight People Sipping Wine in Kettering
Part Four

Four: Eight People Sipping Wine in Kettering

This episode explains how politicians on the left, in both Britain and America, turned to the techniques developed by business to read and fulfil the inner desires of the self.

Both New Labour, under Tony Blair, and the Democrats, led by Bill Clinton, used the focus group, which had been invented by psychoanalysts, in order to regain power. They set out to mould their policies to people's inner desires and feelings, just as capitalism had learnt to do with products.

Out of this grew a new culture of public relations and marketing in politics, business and journalism. One of its stars in Britain was Matthew Freud who followed in the footsteps of his relation, Edward Bernays, the inventor of public relations in the 1920s.

The politicians believed they were creating a new and better form of democracy, one that truly responded to the inner feelings of individual. But what they didn't realise was that the aim of those who had originally created these techniques had not been to liberate the people but to develop a new way of controlling them.

Other options to view the film:

1. Click here to watch it instantly in Real Media Format

2. Click here to get to and download it for free

3. Download it directly from the following links, right click and choose "save as".

The Century of the Self -- Part 1--Part 2--Part 3--Part 4
(right click, save as)

There are four parts. Each part is around 160 MB. The video is in MP4 format which requires VLC Media Player (

Media Lens critiques aspects of the film

The Unspoken Rule of Media Reporting: The BBC's The Century of the Self - Part 2 - Part 3

Comments 1 - 20 of 91 Add Comment Page of 5 >

Posted: Jul 28 2006, 9:00 AM

An altogether short sighted but long winded excercise aimed at excorsizing paranoia through the creation of paranoia.

Posted: Aug 05 2006, 10:58 PM

I watched the first episode and I really like this so far. It's as good as Adam Curtis's other BBC series, "The Power of Nightmares", which shows how terrorism is mostly a myth created by today's governments in order to gain power.

Posted: Aug 18 2006, 6:33 PM

69244 the final revolution indeed. I can remember the days of my massive ritalin/adderall treatment for ADD, a condition fought for thousands of years by meditating monks, who have somehow been relegated to a "new age" category, despite their never dying wisdom. Sit still, pay attention, retain what you hear: it will make you a fill in th blank. Student, Citizen, Person, it doesnt matter. Find your place. Never stop looking to the past for the answers to todays problems.

Posted: Sep 04 2006, 7:30 PM

20495 An indpeth catch22-type expose on how trying to be "individual" will ultimately fall victim and end up "cattle" to elitist goverments.
Moral: Be the student...not the studied.

Posted: Oct 01 2006, 8:01 PM

67142 For whatever reason these played so jerky that they are unwatchable. A smaller window might help, dunno. YouTube is fantastic, works every time.

Sorry to complain, the amount of effort someone has put into the information on this site is incredible. Thank you for that!

Posted: Oct 01 2006, 8:03 PM

67142 oops, just noticed the alternative viewing options. You are gooood!

Posted: Oct 19 2006, 5:27 AM

70161 A tidy British production reviewing a fragment of contemporary history. No revelations nor anything unexpected. It's a curious and interesting piece of edu-tainment. Of course, we are knowingly manipulated - it is nice to have nice things. Government should serve the wants and needs of the community. Human nature gravitates towards self-indulgence. Social responsibility requires a good measure of enlightenment. The problems and solutions are ancient history.

Posted: Dec 17 2006, 12:46 AM

216198 You were LOOKING for Big Knowledge, right?

It's all coming down - and it'll happen SOON too. There are far too many emerging examples of "the memory hole". It can't be explained away much longer. Picture this: John Lennon and Yoko Ono searching frantically for her kidnapped daughter, doing TV interviews on the streets of New York City, that is a real story, a news story that was reported in thousands of newspapers, yet it's as if it never happened AT All! No residual memory exists of that story in most people's minds. EVEN THE BIGGEST BEATLES FANS have no recollection of it. There is also the "disappearance" of Hale Boggs , the Speaker of the House of Representatives, third in the line of succession to the U.S. Presidency and the father of the well-known news reporter, Cokie Robert's. Some classified documents came out (in the 90s) that he had survived the plane "crash" when his plane went down during a commuter flight down the Alaska flight corridor (the 'crash' was really a controlled emergency landing) and that civilian and military contact had been made with the men. The accidentally released documents revealed that J. Edgar Hoover had done nothing to retrieve the Speaker of the House nor the plane's pilot or the other passenger - Hoover had also intentionally hid the reported contact information and buried the documents.

From the media cover-up of the relationship between the Hinckley Family and the Bush Family - just days after Hinckley had tried to assassinate Reagan, all the way back to the Fascist-Industrialists coup of 1933-34 against the FDR White House, we've all been MASSIVELY manipulated - by the REAL PLANETARY GOVERNMENT which is a multi-national corporate conglomerate, ran both COVERTLY AND OVERTLY by the leadership of the monotheistic religious-right, (all three branches) in conjunction, coordination and close cooperation with the political far-right.

Beware, America! IT'S COMING SOON: A falsely promoted apolalypse via "The Werther Effect" - (like they did at Jonestown with the People's Temple community - the supllcation and pacification of the public will be carried out by use of "The Martha Mitchell Effect". These are memes easily deployed, duplicated, repreated and exploited by focus group-steered mass media operations.

Turn off your radios and your TVs - turn-on your computers. Google is the sword, shield, body armor and fortress of "We The People". Use it as such.

Hop-a-Long Catastrophe (George W. Bush) is NOT stupid, he's actually just speaking the manufactured language of the brain-bleached. It only SOUNDS like ignorance to those of us who are partially awake and not 'under the enfluence'.

Are you READY?! This is THE REAL red-pill/blue-pill choice. Google the words below: Tell your friends about them, they'll wake people up! Mighty Wurlitzer, Colonia Dignidad, IG Farben, Reinhardt Gehlen, Albeit Macht Frei, Gott mit Uns, Barry Seales, OP40, Carillas Terrorista...

...Wake up. The matrix has you, Neo. Follow the white rabbit...

Posted: Dec 17 2006, 1:05 AM

216198 See YouTube.Com and / or Google Video for a documentary movie named "The Men who Stare at Goats". HaPpy NIgHTMarEs!

(Why should I be the only one losing sleep and freaked-the-fug-out by that little insane little piece of cinema veritator-tots!?)

Posted: Dec 17 2006, 12:49 PM

216198 The Beatles were the biggest band in the world, so I think I'd have remembered something like Yoko's daughter being kidnapped! You left-wing conspiracy nuts really crack me up. Why don't you people check your facts every now and then? It's ridiculous stuff like this that keeps THINKING people (like me) in the Republican conservative camp. You want some REAL TRUTH? Then check-out www.FreeRepublic.Com - we have a zero conpiracy theories policy!

Posted: Dec 31 2006, 12:08 AM

6169 "The Beatles were the biggest band in the world, so I think I'd have remembered something like Yoko's daughter being kidnapped! You left-wing conspiracy nuts really crack me up. Why don't you people check your facts every now and then?"

um, it's true, you wingnut:

.... that's one of a whole damned bunch of references to it on google. perhaps you should check the facts before you spout off, eh? you right-wingers are all the same - why let the truth get in the way of a little liberal bashing? or a little nation-destroying.

i must say, though - i'm a HUGE beatles/lennon/ono fan, but i never knew about this .... 30 years her daughter kyoko was gone!!!

from the above link:

"Yet three years ago Ono, 67, did not even know that Kyoko was alive. For years, Kyoko lived in hiding after being abducted at the age of eight by her father, eccentric American film-maker Tony Cox, Ono's second husband.

He was deeply resentful when she left him for Lennon and vowed the Beatle, whom he accused of being a depraved drug addict, would never get custody of their child.

A Christian fundamentalist, Cox initiated Kyoko into bizarre Doomsday cult The Walk.

For three decades, moving from continent to continent, she evaded investigators paid by Yoko to find her.

In November, 1997, three weeks after Emi's birth, Kyoko finally re-established contact with the woman she was brought up to believe was, like Lennon, the personification of evil. "

hey, Tony Cox sounds like a Freeper!

Posted: Jan 03 2007, 11:14 AM

68189 This is a great series for helping me to understand the technologies used to "govern" the people throughout the last century. I see that we in the US are now faced with an emminent devaluation of the dollar due to our unbelievable spending during 2005 and 2006.

The question remains: since business (busy-ness) pulled us into this mess, will it be business that digs us out of the hole when we are living in the next great depression?

Also, in light of the empowered individual's idea that "it doesn't matter what we do for others, but that we are true to ourselves": can we go on living with mass consumerism while disregarding the very real future in which the world leaves the US to its devices and moves on without us, essentially converting us into a third world developing nation striving to keep up with the countries that manufacture the goods that define our individuality?

I was struck by the Wilhelm Reich movement and the work at Eselen in California. I have graduated from a three year program like the ones talked about in that portion of these films. In the end, I still find it difficult to act from my own individual desires. I suppose this is so because when you take away the consumerism, there isn't much left. I work in wilderness each week and I hike through mountains and rivers and I know that what is left of wilderness is not very wild anymore. There aren't many animals left and there is very little old growth forest. Many of the forests I hike in were designed by Vanderbuilt's Forestry program. I can spend my time helping others and exchanging my energy for their cash, but what do I do with the cash? What is left?

I once bought a car because I knew that if I didn't have something to pay for, I wouldn't work. I realized that I couldn't just make money and put it away somewhere, but I needed to have some thing to buy.

So, when you strip consumerism away from our culture what is left?

I think that upon answering this question for yourself, you will gain some insight as to where you might spend your time and energy.

Posted: Jan 17 2007, 4:44 PM

71115 Anonymous Posted: "The Beatles were the biggest band in the world, so I think I'd have remembered something like Yoko's daughter being kidnapped! "

Your a moran. Have you ever heard of the History Channel? Watch it sometime, there is a great episode of "Declassified" which discusses the kidnapping of Yoko's daughter, you retard. Why don't you try doing some research before making yourself look like a fool.


Posted: Jan 20 2007, 10:14 AM

4248 Hop-a-long-catastrophe...that is too funny!

Posted: Feb 10 2007, 4:38 PM

68203 Every time we hurt someone else, through words or deeds, we hurt ourself. We are all connected.

Posted: Mar 12 2007, 11:25 AM

7266 "You right wing this... you left wing that..."

Wake up - you're both doing exactly what you've been bred to do: Fight one another instead of uniting to overthrow tyrants.

Posted: Mar 14 2007, 4:59 AM

67135 These videos can also be played using Media Player Classic, which is included in the ACE Mega Pro Codec package.

Cannot comment on videos yet. Am starting to watch them now.

Posted: Apr 03 2007, 1:20 PM

2121 Dear all,

I recommend

The Web of Deceit: Britain's Real Role in the World by Mark Curtis

The Blood Never Dried: A People's History of the British Empire by John Newsinger

It is worth noting the role of nations like Britain, France, the Netherlands, and Russia in formenting international conflicts, and how competitive colonialism precedes America in sowing conflicts prior to 1945 and the 1800's in Latin America.

Posted: May 13 2007, 8:09 AM

68212 but, you know, Plato laid out plans for those in power to remain in power way way back around 400BCE in The Republic (things like government run education, still being used today). It's nothing new. Governments have to have some way of preventing the people from rising up against them, always have, always will. Sooner or later, people are going to stop being told what to do and what to believe and how to act, and start thinking for themselves. It's bound to happen eventually. And when that day comes, we won't need no stinkin' government, or laws, anymore.
Robert Stirling

Posted: May 31 2007, 3:00 AM

74121 its time we woke up from our nap. stop asking your self why everything is unclear, just wipe the sleep out of your eyes and awaken, its time to work hard, and fix our problems. Insight is the answer. stop talking and start repairing our neglected and misinformed society. stop mimicing bullshit from the media and only live the truth.(remember its acting)
be brave and never fear honesty, don't be ruled by fear!!!
fear spreads like fire, but rightiousness spreads like water!!!(think about this if it dosen't make sense you should view this sight and wake up.

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