Phân tâm học định hình văn hoá tiêu dùng

Hay Sigmund Freud, cháu trai của ông và bao thuốc là đã thay đổi hoàn toàn ngành tiếp  Mỹ như thế nào.

(Nhân làm tiểu luận về một trong những lý thuyết nhân cách mà mình chọn là Phân tâm học, dịch luôn bài này vì rất có ích.)

Có ai biết rằng Sigmund Freud, bên cạnh là cha đẻ của thuyết phân tâm học và nhà phê bình của mọi thứ liên quan tới Mỹ, lại là người có đóng góp quan trọng cho sự phát triển của nền văn hoá tiêu dùng phương Tây?

Phụ nữ chưng diện bằng thuốc được xem là biểu tượng của sự trao quyền nữ giới, cùng với bữa sáng với thịt-ba-chỉ-và-trứng là hai chiến dịch quan hệ công chúng khơi nguồn từ những ý tưởng của Freud. Sợi dây liên kết lý thuyết và thực tiễn không ai khác chính là Edward L. Bernays, người được biết đến như cha đẻ của ngành quan hệ công chúng và là cháu trai của Sigmund Freud.

Bernays sinh ra tại Vienna, Áo, vào năm 1891, tuy nhiên ông trưởng thành tại thành phố New York. Mẹ của ông là chị gái Freud và bố của ông là anh trai của vợ Freud, Martha Bernays. Ông giữ liên lạc với bác mình, và cả gia đình thường cùng Freud tận hưởng những kì nghỉ hè tại núi Alps. Bernays bắt đầu sự nghiệp định hình dư luận của mình bằng các chiến dịch truyền thông nhằm nâng cao nhận thức về bệnh truyền nhiễm và thái độ đạo đức giả với tình dục. Nhưng ông chỉ bắt đầu ứng dụng những nguyên lý của phân tâm học vào quan hệ công chúng sau khi đọc cuốn “Những bài diễn thuyết giới thiệu chung” (General Introductory Lectures) của Freud, một món quà Freud tặng cháu trai mình để cảm ơn vì hộp thuốc lá Havana.

Trong trường hợp này, một điếu thuốc thực sự còn hơn cả một điếu thuốc. Cuộc hôn nhân giữa phân tâm học và quan hệ công chúng, xúc tác bởi hộp thuốc lá Havana, đã khiến Bernays trở nên vô cùng giàu có.

Chi phối hành vi


Manipulating behaviors

Intrigued by Freud’s notion that irrational forces drive human behavior, Bernays sought to harness those forces to sell products for his clients. In his 1928 book, “Propaganda,” Bernays hypothesized that by understanding the group mind, it would be possible to manipulate people’s behavior without their even realizing it. To test this hypothesis, Bernays launched one of his most famous public relations campaigns: convincing women to smoke.

In 1929, it was taboo for women to smoke in public and those who flouted convention were thought to be sexually permissive. Bernays’ client was George Washington Hill, president of the American Tobacco Company, who envisioned breaking this taboo to broaden the market for his Lucky Strike brand. Bernays asked Hill for permission to consult with New York’s leading psychoanalyst and Freud disciple, Dr. A.A. Brill, and was granted this unusual request.

This was the first but not the last time Bernays would consult with psychoanalysts to help shape his public relations campaigns. When asked what cigarettes symbolized to women, Brill’s response was that cigarettes were symbolic of male power.

Equating smoking with challenging male power was the cornerstone of Lucky Strike’s “Torches of Freedom” campaign, which debuted during New York’s annual Easter Parade on April 1, 1929. Bernays had procured a list of debutantes from the editor of Vogue magazine and pitched the idea that they could contribute to the expansion of women’s rights by lighting up cigarettes and smoking them in the most public of places—Fifth Avenue. The press was warned beforehand and couldn’t resist the story. The “Torches of Freedom Parade” was covered not only by the local papers, but also by newspapers nationwide and internationally. Bernays was duly convinced that linking products to emotions could cause people to behave irrationally. In reality, of course, women were no freer for having taken up smoking, but linking smoking to women’s rights fostered a feeling of independence.

Bringing home the bacon

Given Freud’s addiction to cigars, his link through Bernays to women smoking is not altogether surprising. Understanding Freud’s connection to the successful marketing of cured meat is more of a stretch. The Beechnut Packing Company was suffering lagging sales in one of its key meat products: bacon. In “Propaganda” (1928), Bernays wrote about his campaign to increase bacon sales and contrasted Freud’s group psychology with behaviorist principles. An “old style” behaviorist campaign would repeat a stimulus to create a habit—inundate consumers with full-page ads and follow up with an incentive or reward by offering discount coupons. But in creating the new Freudian-style campaign, Bernays asked himself, “Who influences what the public eats?” His answer was to survey physicians and ask them whether they would recommend a light breakfast or a hearty breakfast. Physicians overwhelmingly recommended a hearty breakfast, paving the way for Bernays to convince Americans to swap their usual juice, toast and coffee for the now-ubiquitous, all-American “hearty” breakfast of bacon and eggs.

Was Freud aware of how his nephew was using psychoanalytic principles to, as Bernays termed it, “engineer consent?” From all accounts, he knew very little, but what he did know failed to impress. When Bernays sent Freud a copy of his first book, “Crystallizing Public Opinion” (1923), Freud’s terse response was “I have received your book. … As a truly American production it interested me greatly” (as cited in Justman, 1994, p. 465).

His veiled sarcasm notwithstanding, when facing financial ruin in Vienna, Freud was forced to ask his nephew for help. Bernays responded to Freud’s request by arranging to publish his works in America, which provided Freud with much-needed American dollars. And while Freud coveted fame, he drew the line at publicity. When Bernays suggested he promote himself in America by writing popular articles for Cosmopolitan, Freud was appalled by the idea. Even the father of public relations couldn’t engineer Freud’s consent to participate so openly in American popular culture.


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