It’s a bad evening when Google points you back to your own blog. So to get on with it, George Creel of The Committee on Public Information (CPI) had a great quote:
“In no degree was the Committee an agency of censorship, a machinery of concealment or repression. Its emphasis throughout was on the open and the positive. At no point did it seek or exercise authorities under those war laws that limited the freedom of speech and press. In all things, from first to last, without halt or change, it was a plain publicity proposition, a vast enterprise in salesmanship, the world’s greatest adventures in advertising…We did not call it propaganda, for that word, in German hands, had come to be associated with deceit and corruption. Our effort was educational and informative throughout, for we had such confidence in our case as to feel that no other argument was needed than the simple, straightforward presentation of the facts.”
The CPI being this (more Wikipedia):
The purpose of the CPI was to influence American public opinion toward supporting U.S. intervention in World War I via a prolonged propaganda campaign. Among those who participated in it were Wilson advisers Walter Lippmann and Edward Bernays, the latter of whom had remarked that “the essence of democratic society” was the “engineering of consent”, by which propaganda was the necessary method for democracies to promote and garner support for policy. Many have commented that the CPI laid the groundwork for the public relations (PR) industry. The CPI at first used material that was based on fact, but spun it to present an upbeat picture of the American war effort. Very quickly, however, the CPI began churning out raw propaganda picturing Germans as evil monsters.
So to tie up the loose ends, I’ll quote from a favorite, Allan Weisbecker’s Can’t You Get Along with Anyone:
Remember Bhopal? The toxic waste cloud released by Union Carbide that killed over 20,000 people in India back in 1984? What do you ﬁgure was the ﬁrst thing the CEO Warren Anderson did when he learned of the catastrophic misery and death his company had perpetrated? See to it that medical and evacuation people were rushed in?
No. Anderson called Union Carbide’s public relations chief, a guy named Bob Berzok, to get on the crisis management, the spin control. “Spin” (or “spin control”) is, of course, a euphemism for lying like a slug. And there’s even a euphemism for the euphemism, a description/label/concept I really like – in the morbid sense – for its Orwellian ring. Perception management.
Update: Bob Berzok left a note in the comments about this incident:
Just to set the record straight, when first learning of the Bhopal tragedy Warren Anderson decided to go the Bhopal so that he could personally help provide relief & aid immediately, along with the medical care offered the first & following days. Also, to set the record straight, Warren did not call me because at that time I wasn’t responsible for public relations or corporate communications. My responsibility at that time was employee communications. Much has been written, and this isn’t the forum to review everything…but it should be noted that Warren Anderson by going to India did so against the advice of his public relations & legal advisers. He went because he was asked by the UCC India Ltd. management & because he personally knew it was in his heart to try & help.