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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 81 - 91 of 91 Add Comment < Page of 5
Tevin Thomas

Posted: Feb 13 2012, 8:34 PM

20677 if you ask me, munipulation is the same thing as lying. in the video, it said that since the outbreaks of crowds was so bad that they decided that telling civilians factual information wasnt going to work. I dont believe you tell a group of people a problem without telling them how you plan o fixing it. i dont think it was right for him to munipulate all those women into smoking cigaretts but i commend him on the way he went about doing it. he setup press and everything. some of sigman froyds ideas are still used today. people still use famous people for campaigns and similar political events. another example is "the way to get somebody to buy something is to tie it in to emotional needs". you see it in comercials today, like in a comercial for a minivan you may see a baby in a car seat and it may show the mother and portray her to be safe, careing, loving and nuturing; saying if thats how you fell toward your baby then you need that minivan. i dont agree with the fact that they believ mans desire should over power mans needs. thats a selfish thought cause that shows they only care about making their money and not the family that a man may have to take care of.
Tevin Thomas

Posted: Feb 13 2012, 8:54 PM

20677 i believ it istrue that you can change somebody if you change the enviroment around them. just like being in a "war-like" enviroment would make somebody go crazy. i dont believ that you can control your emotions. you can to an extent but not completly, but it is possible not to show them. i like their studies for comercials; the wat they showed differnet comercials and had women watch and just listen to their feedback. your definetly going to sell more of a product when you know exactly what the buyer wants. ive always believed that the success of what you are selling is based on the demand of your product and the audience you sell the product to. doing the studies they were doing, i can see how somebody wouldnt want to leave major decisions up to society, who would pick a president because their favorite famouse person was in the campaign. society was weak mentally but what gives the government the right to believe their rights and beliefs was right and not opinionated? i like the statement she made that "if you could munipulate people into voting a certain way then this is no longer a democracy that we live in. When T>V> show "the ideal/perfect life" and "the big pretty house" and they try to paint a perfect picture of what life is suppose to be like, just gives people a standard to judge theirselves by. for those people who cant live up to those standards, that adds more pressure and stress to that part of society.

Posted: Feb 13 2012, 9:16 PM

70112 Dr. Alvarado
Intro Social Work

Sigmund Freud believed that all humans had sexual hidden forces that could lead our society to mass destruction. He also realized that if you keep people happy that itís easier for you to persuade and control them. Some of Freudís beliefs are still practiced today. They have a psychotherapy ball were they dance and council each other after a magnificent dinner. People also believed that if you showed your inner feelings you were less respected. Once the war started they believed President Wilson had liberated the people by his propaganda. And if you could use propaganda for war purposes you could use it to keep peace. Sigmund Freudís nephew always wanted to do experiments to try and persuade the human mind. Experiments to persuade the mind are you kidding me! Being able to persuade woman to smoke by making them feel more powerful like a man. The more of an emotional connection to people the easier it is to persuade them. If we forget about our inner needs and wants our desires would be different. How can you change or distort someoneís mind because you can. Thatís freaky because some of Freudís beliefs are still practiced to this day. Imagine how advanced that our technology is today combined with Freudís knowledge of the past. Once the politicians started practicing Freudís beliefs it was a rap for the little guy. Similar to the way it is today. Politicians already control what is going on around us and now they know how to control us to. This reminds me of people like Hitler, John Gotti . Some would say Hitler and John Gotti were bad people. But are they really bad or are they just like anybody else who is applying Freudís beliefs for their own personal gain. Both new that people were mentally weak and by finding and playing on that weakness you could persuade people to do as you ask of them. Itís not right but itís the same thing that is going on today here in America. Our politicians tell us what they think we need to hear and nothing further. Itís all about them playing to our emotional needs. Have you ever noticed that the only time a person that doesnít follow politics sees or even knows who is running for office is during election time? I believe they sit back and watch our economy fall apart until it is election time. What do they do? They prey on poverty and certain social networks. Trying to persuade the people that if you follow me I can help you do better and turn this place around. Once elected they often fade back into the crowd and are not heard from until re-election. We are supposed to live in the freest and riches country in the world and our politicians the people we trust and believe in are using that trust in much the same way Hitler and Gotti did for their own personal gain. We need more people like Wilhelm Reich, a pupil of Freud's. He knew it was wrong to pray on peopleís inner feeling. Not only is it wrong itís immoral to me. Thatís like being a predator such as Frued describes us as having hidden prehistoric sexual tensions locked away in our subconscious mind. Reich was a star pupil but he had a conscious and a good heart. He couldnít go along with Frueds beliefs anymore and broke free. Do you think Freud had tried to use his power of persuasion on Reich. Non the less Reich new that as longed as you believed in your self that anything was possible and nothing could hold you back but you. People get destroyed when people already come up with a solution to a problem before they even know what the problem is. God made us the most intelligent people on this planet for a reason. And mind control and manipulation was not one of them. Itís all about weeding out the week to some of these people who believe there belief is the only way to practice. If that was the case we would have all been made exactly the same. Could you imagine walking down the street and seeing an exact replication of yourself? This would be a truly boring and stale place. I love me I couldnít imagine another one of me Iím too much as it is already.
it's me

Posted: Feb 16 2012, 11:16 PM

74176 All the video's say 'This videio is not available'. What happened to them?

Posted: Feb 18 2012, 4:39 PM

109153 umm break up your paragraphs because no-one can read your point of view

Posted: Aug 23 2012, 7:56 AM

I(t was really very intresting

Posted: Nov 17 2012, 10:22 AM

67246 Hey this is a great site.
I think its great of course cuz I haapen to find a good deal of consonance and resonance here. But thats just me.

Posted: Jan 16 2013, 10:31 AM

991 "Selling someone a product they don't truly need hurts no one,..."

Selling someone a product that addicts them to it and at the same time has been determined to cause serious and deadly diseases, truly does hurt someone. And it continues to this day. Smoking tobacco was a hallmark of Bernays' clever psyops on people.

Posted: Apr 18 2013, 3:49 PM

17104 video is no longer present.

Posted: Apr 18 2013, 3:59 PM

Thanks, should work now.

Posted: Jun 27 2013, 11:20 AM

98127 this is some nice perspective on the obvious web of lies perpetrated by the 'world elite' American Division. I recommend a study of Plato's allegory of the THE CAVE.
wisdom and justice to us all.
Comments 81 - 91 of 91 < Page of 5

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