Freeman

ARTICLE

Book Review: Professional Public Relations and Political Power by Stanley Kelley, Jr.

JULY 01, 1956 by CHARLES WOLFE

Filed Under : Collectivism

Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins Press. 247 pp. $4.50.

In one of his debates with Douglas, Abraham Lincoln observed, “He who moulds public sentiment goes deeper than he who enacts statutes or pronounces decisions. He makes statutes or decisions possible or impossible to execute.”

Inasmuch as public opinion is so decisive, anyone concerned with the national scene might well inquire: What techniques are at work moulding this opinion today? An excellent answer is found in Mr. Kelley’s book, which provides a lucid, factual account of the decline of the political boss and the rapid rise, during the past quarter-century, of the public relations man as an influencer of opinion and even as a determiner of political policy:

He stages propaganda campaigns so that legislators will find it easier, or more difficult, to pass particular laws. He works to build men into public figures and to put them into offices of government. He attempts to give political parties advantageous publicity position. He manages campaigns for pressure groups desirous of putting initiative and referendum measures into codes of public law. These kinds of participation by the public relations man in parties and politics are now frequent, and widespread geographically; they occur at all levels of government and are apparently in creasing . . . .

The author quotes a Texas editor as saying, “No newspaper could afford the staff it would take to turn out the vast amount of news that fills the papers every day.” And he cites Fortune’s conclusion that now nearly half the contents of the nation’s better newspapers comes from publicity releases. But the public relations man today is involved in far more than sending releases to newspapers.

Mr. Kelley shows, in a basic narrative buttressed by substantial case histories, how the political publicist helps determine campaign strategy, including size of promotion budget and which issues or ideas should be stressed; and how he makes ingenious use of both advertising and publicity in our enormously-expanding mass media—newspapers, magazines, radio, TV, car cards, billboards and of such varied devices as letters, postcards, handbills, and pamphlets distributed by the millions; as well as specially-written books, sound trucks, mass meetings, fan clubs, and drives for endorsements by national, state, and local organizations.

While the case histories accent the efforts of public relations in behalf of the Republican party and of campaigns to stop socialistic measures (such as the A.M.A.’s crusade against Compulsory Health Insurance), it is also perfectly plain that every artifice of the publicist has been—and will be—used to undermine a free society.

This book will help make anyone less naive concerning the factors at work in the political scene. For the libertarian, it reveals some of the techniques which will be employed to befuddle his fellow citizens (and even himself) into accepting socialism, and what methods are available to aid those engaged in resisting specific collectivistic measures.

Charles Hull Wolfe

ASSOCIATED ISSUE

July 1956

comments powered by Disqus

EMAIL UPDATES

* indicates required

CURRENT ISSUE

December 2014

Unfortunately, educating people about phenomena that are counterintuitive, not-so-easy to remember, and suggest our individual lack of human control (for starters) can seem like an uphill battle in the war of ideas. So we sally forth into a kind of wilderness, an economic fairyland. We are myth busters in a world where people crave myths more than reality. Why do they so readily embrace untruth? Primarily because the immediate costs of doing so are so low and the psychic benefits are so high.
Download Free PDF

PAST ISSUES

SUBSCRIBE

RENEW YOUR SUBSCRIPTION

Essential Works from FEE

Economics in One Lesson (full text)

By HENRY HAZLITT

The full text of Hazlitt's famed primer on economic principles: read this first!


By FREDERIC BASTIAT

Frederic Bastiat's timeless defense of liberty for all. Once read and understood, nothing ever looks the same.


By F. A. HAYEK

There can be little doubt that man owes some of his greatest suc­cesses in the past to the fact that he has not been able to control so­cial life.


By JEFFREY A. TUCKER

Leonard Read took the lessons of entrepreneurship with him when he started his ideological venture.


By LEONARD E. READ

No one knows how to make a pencil: Leonard Read's classic (Audio, HTML, and PDF)