The victims were forgotten. Rockefeller got away with it. The Age PR trumps the stone age.

Ivy Ledbetter Lee, a founding father of public relations... developed unique ideas about companies providing their own information to the public. During the big anthracite strike in 1906, the bosses appealed to him. His PR for Pennsylvania Railways was dazzling. After the Ludlow Massacre, Rockefeller summoned Lee and told him, “my public image has been tarnished, sort it out.”


Lee released one bulletin after the other, and “informed” opinion leaders. The title he chose for his bulletins was: “The struggle in Colorado for industrial freedom.” The bulletins were printed in Philadelphia, shipped to Denver, Colorado, and posted from there to appear as the common voice of all regional mining operators. In the same fashion, what they had to say about Ludlow was just as deceitful and led to a congressional investigation.

sinclairRAuthor Upton Sinclair organized a protest following the Ludlow Massacre, wearing a black armband in front of the Rockefeller Building. He was arrested.

Lee took Rockefeller to the region, dressed him in miners’ clothers; the big boss had lunch with the miners, went down into the mines, danced with their wives, embraced their children etc.

Lee didn't write about the Rockefellers' profits but rather how their investments spurred development in Colorado. He concocted figures portraying non-union mines as more productive and the wages there were higher. He distributed posters thanking workers who were forced to end strikes because their unions's resources had run out.

It wouldn’t be right to always give them the stick; on occasion a carrot had to be offered. This was the Age of PR after all.

Let's hear it now from The Red Army Choir: Sixteen Tons

redarmyIn this section we listen to the Red Army Choir’s rendering of “16 Tons.” It is a soft, instrumental version of the song performed by Stevie Wonder playing in the background throughout the Bernays episode.

While Ivy Lee was the first great activist of this age, Edward Bernays was its theorist. He was Sigmund Freud’s nephew, and he benefitted from his uncle’s ideas.


He understood that it was possible to turn people into happy, obedient creatures by satisfying their unconscious desires. The masses had a tremendous power. It was essential to ensure that the majority used that power for the sake of a minority.

It was thought that people decided according to quality and price while shopping. But the economy would stall if everyone worried about such things. To speed up the decision-making process, convincing ideas or objects were needed. Persuasion was of the essence. And this wasn't done with reason or logic, but with symbols.

Bernays appealed to women, “be equal with men, smoke cigarettes.” No one knew at the time he was consulting for a cigarette company. This was the Age of PR.

sigaraReklamFollowing Edward Bernays’ campaign, cigarettes were now called “torches of freedom”. “If you can use propaganda for war, you can use it for peace,” said Bernays. “And since the word propaganda had dirty connotations due to its use by Nazis, we developed the concept of public relations.” The demonstration he organized with a group of women he had supplied with cigarettes is the stuff of legend in the PR world. In 1922, a woman could be arrested for smoking in public.

This approach led to “the individual that dominated today’s world and wanted to consume everything.” Thus in an Adam Curtis documentary the relationship between Bernays and Freud, Bernays’ real field of action, was explained.

So, humanity, having embraced reason and science to create free individuals, making their own decisions and choices, now began to develop the science of collectively guiding people.

Some free individuals still remained; they worked in the PR departments of big companies.

Imagine that Rockefeller has this postcard printed. The PR and advertising staff swiftly intervene, and have the nasty flames and smoke added to the photo, telling us, “Who cares who dies inside, our bosses have the power.”


Ivy Lee would later work for the IG Farben company of Nazi-Germany, and leave this world with an image no PR campaign could rectify. His legacy served his boss well.

Rockefeller was in joint ventures with this industrial giant which even produced poison gas for the Nazis, but his reputation did not suffer. This was the Age of PR.


In July 2008, nine Chinese journalists put a new spin on Ivy Lee’s work. They ensured no one knew about a mining accident killing 34 workers. They weren't on the pay roll, just on the take.

ReutersCinAt this point, please open this photograph of a Chinese miner on the Reuters site. Now, let’s have a look at how many people have died in the big mining accidents in China in the last twenty years: April 1991 – 147, October 2004 – 148, November 2004 – 166, February 2005 – 214, November 2005 – 169, September 2007 – 181, September 2008 – 254, November 2009 – 104.
Additional info
goebbelsOn 19 May 1914, Ivy Lee held an address at a dinner organized by the American Railway Guild. The title of the talk was “The Railroads and Human Nature”. From the very start, PR people have wrecked their brains over this thing called “human nature”. In his talk, Lee told the railway bosses, “Since crowds do not reason, they can only be organized and stimulated through symbols and phrases.” The infamous Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels thought no different. However, the American PR guy had expressed all this in concise form long before the Nazi leader.
ivyLeeIn August 2004, the members of the Colorado Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America, posted on their website an article titled “Ivy Ledbetter Lee: PR Pioneer” by Lorenzo Chavez. It says: “Recognized as one of the pioneers of modern PR, Lee developed several tactics that we use today.” Yes. The same article mentions Lee’s activities in the aftermath of the Ludlow massacre: “In 1914 in Colorado, Lee helped deflect negative public opinion following the deaths of striking miners and their families killed by local militia at tent dwellings near Trinidad later dubbed the Ludlow Massacre.” My goodness! Why may that negative opinion have arisen?
sinclairUpton Sinclair had given Ivy Lee the nickname “Poison Ivy.” According to poet Carl Sandburg, winner of 3 Pulitzer Prizes, Ivy Lee was “below the level of the hired gunman”. Upton Sinclair was a journalist. He rose to fame with his 1906 novel “The Jungle”. In it, he portrayed the meatpacking industry, the poverty of the workers, the corruption and depravation of those in power. His account was based on first hand observation, since in 1904 he had worked undercover in meatpacking plants. The novel was first serialized in 1905 in the socialist weekly Appeal to Reason, which reached a circulation of around 550 thousand in 1910. Then, Sinclair had to publish the novel himself, because it was rejected by 5 publishing houses. The book caused a great sensation. However, it attracted attention not, as Sinclair had hoped, to poverty and the deplorable conditions workers worked in, but to the filthiness in meatpacking plants and the revolting state of meat sold in the market place. President Theodore Roosevelt accused Sinclair of “lying and exaggerating,” but faced with public uproar, had to send his own inspectors to the meatpacking district. Ultimately, food inspection laws were passed and corresponding agencies were formed. Sinclair famously responded by saying, “I aimed at the public’s heart, and by accident I hit it in the stomach.”

Adam Curtis’s documentary on Bernays explains how his nephew extensively made use of Freud’s discoveries in the field of psychoanalysis. You can watch “The Century of the Self” in parts and legally download it here. If you would first like to find out more, the BBC’s related page is here. For more information about Adam Curtis’s approach to documentary making, click here.


The German industrial giant IG Farben was one of the largest companies in the world in the first half of the 20th century. They had a fine relationship with the Nazis. In the Nazi Empire, IG Farben was the only company that had its exclusive concentration camp. Nazis gave the company slave-workers to be employed in their factories. 30 thousand people died in the camp that belonged to IG Farben. The company had built a giant factory close to Auschwitz and used to captives in the camp (around 300 thousand people) as slave labour. (In the photo above, company managers are touring the factory site with Nazi commanders) Zyklon B, the pesticide used in the infamous Holocaust gas chambers to kill millions of people in a “practical and inexpensive” manner, was produced by Degesch, a subsidiary of IG Farben. After World War II, IG Farben directors were tried for crimes committed not only in Auschwitz, in contemporary Poland, but also for similar crimes in Russia, Austria, Czechoslovakia, France and Norway. The highest sentence any director received was 8 years.


Rockefeller played a part in IG Farben directors getting away with small sentences. In order to take over the shares of the company with which they had entered into a cartel agreement before the war to divide the world into interest spheres, Nelson Rockefeller -initially Assistant Secretary of State, and then appointed private consultant to President Harry Truman, and was the grandson of the real emperor, John D.- intervened. IG Farben was not just a regular industrial company for the Nazis; it occupied a crucial place. It did not only produce poisonous gases, but also the majority of the bombs used by the Nazi army. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil Co. (now known as Exxon) continued its dealings with IG Farben throughout the war. For instance, it sold them oil that the Nazis used to fly their warplanes, which then flattened London. Furthermore, the Rockefeller Foundation began carrying out activities and drug experiments focusing on the human brain and genetics –a field the Nazis were also very fond of- before the Nazis, and in Germany itself. This collaboration continued when the Nazis came to power, and during the war.


Documents revealing correspondence between the camp commander and the Bayer Company were found at Auschwitz. In various letters, Bayer directors wrote the following to the camp commander:
auschwitz“With a view to the planned experiments with a new sleep-inducing drug we would appreciate it if you could place a number of prisoners at our disposal…” “…We confirm your response, but consider the price of 200 Reichsmark per woman to be too high. We propose to pay no more than 170 Reichsmark per woman. If this is acceptable to you, the women will be placed in our possession. We need some 150 women.” “Received the order for 150 women. Despite their macerated condition they were considered satisfactory. We will keep you informed of the developments regarding the experiment.” “The experiments were performed. All test persons died. We will contact you shortly about a new shipment.”