Manufactured Consent Examples

This page contains a growing list of examples of the manufacturing of consent: manipulating people into supporting what you want them to support while they believe they formed their opinion using their own free will. (Read a brief a metaphor painting a picture of how the manufacturing of consent works.)

Here are the three elements used to manufacture consent:

  1. Covert Goal: The consent you want to manufacture without people knowing it.
  2. Deception Strategy: The lies you state or staged actions you orchestrate in order to create a manipulated outcome.
  3. Manipulated Outcome: The opinion shift your deception strategy creates that achieves your covert goal.

This is the dark genius of manufacturing consent: The people you manipulate don’t see that they helped you achieve something different from what they thought they were supporting.

See if you can spot in the examples below the three elements used to manufacture consent (covert goal, deception strategy and manipulated outcome):

► Opening a Huge New Market of Cigarette Smokers
► The American Dream
► Making Illness-Creating Food Seem Healthy
► Glenn Beck Manufactures Consent About Buying Gold
► Half of Information Posing as Fact in 2009 Was “Barely True” or Worse
► Balloon Boy: An Example of the Manufacturing of Consent Gone Wrong
► More examples will be added in the future.
► Do you have examples of the manufacturing of consent? Click here to send them to Dr. Gruder.

Opening a Huge New Market of Cigarette Smokers

This example is a classic prototype for a profoundly effective strategy for manufacturing consent. It reinforces the happiness, health and patriotism lies. The strategy is to invent an event that has been carefully engineered to unconsciously embed a covert message that serves a hidden agenda. As you will see, the covert message manipulates people into a new vision of power and happiness at the expense of their health in order to serve the hidden agenda of a specific business. As you read this, try to think of recent examples of this strategy.

By the 1920s smoking had become popular in the United States. Tobacco sales were big business. Yet, a huge segment of the population was still not smoking. Women. They were not allowed to smoke in public.

The American Tobacco Company saw an opportunity to explode their profits. But, how could they get large numbers of women to start smoking? In 1928 they turned to the father of modern public relations. They asked him if he could open those flood gates. This was step one in manufacturing consent: a covert goal.

Edward Bernays was the nephew of Sigmund Freud. Bernays had figured out how to use his uncle’s discoveries to covertly manipulate people.

Bernays hired a group of debutantes. Their job was to pretend to be suffragettes fighting for women’s rights. He had these women march in New York’s 1929 Easter Parade. On his signal they were going to do something quite dramatic. He arranged for press photographers to witness this. He positioned them at the place on the parade route where he would give his signal to the women.

When the women reached that location he gave them the signal. They all lit up a cigarette. The photographers wildly began taking pictures. While they did, he told the press that the women had lit “torches of freedom.” Bernays then saw to it that the photos and the “torches of freedom” phrase were publicized around the world. This was step two in manufacturing consent: a deception strategy in the form of a staged action.

Bernays wanted people to start believing that if you opposed women smoking then you opposed women’s liberation too. His stunt manufactured a huge change in public opinion. Women started associating cigarettes with freedom. It suddenly became fashionable for women to smoke cigarettes in public. This was step three in manufacturing consent: a manipulated outcome in the form of altered public opinion.

Smoking among women skyrocketed everywhere. The staged action altered public opinion in a way that achieved the covert goal. People had no idea about the deception that was perpetrated upon them. The American Tobacco Company got wildly rich through manufactured consent. Mission accomplished.

Edward Bernays had invented a secret recipe to create demand that hadn’t existed. He fine-tuned this recipe to manipulate the public into supporting a wide range of products, causes, politicians and policies. He then wrote a book explaining precisely how he succeeded at manufacturing consent. That book became the bible of a whole new breed of marketers. He titled it “Propaganda.” The public relations experts who followed Bernays become masters at manufacturing consent. For whatever the experts wanted the public to support.

Propaganda” may well be the most important book you’ve never heard of.

The American Dream

This is an example of an attempt to manufacture consent about the happiness, health, prosperity and patriotism lies.

Goals That Birthed The American Dream

After World War II the government sought social stability because many feared that what had happened in Germany could happen anywhere. The government at that time also sought to shift businesses from a wartime economy to a peacetime economy. The business world sought a larger share of workers’ paychecks.

Manipulation Strategy: Manufacturing Consent for The American Dream

  • Conformity: A cookie-cutter house in a cookie-cutter neighborhood (the home with a white picket fence). Pre-packaged foods. Strong social pressure to look like the Leave It to Beaver family. Job security – work for a big company, follow the rules, keep your job for life, retire with a solid pension. Conformity and stable high employment made the government feel secure.
  • Materialism: Pressure to Get Ahead (“Keeping up with the Jonses”). Nicer furniture. All the modern conveniences. A new car or two in the driveway Nice vacations. Businesses getting a larger share of workers’ paychecks made them feel more secure.

The American Dream became the new happiness formula. The manufacturers of consent made excessive consumerism as American as apple pie.

Results of The American Dream

Excessive consumerism and citizen docility. Equating consumerism with both happiness and patriotism was a stroke of marketing genius. Equating a steady job and a reliable retirement with happiness was also a stroke of genius: it made obedience to businesses and the government socially palatable.

The American Dream was replaced in the 1980s with a more diverse plan. It was called Lifestyle Marketing. But the goals remain the same. Excessive consumerism would keep citizens docile. It would make businesses wealthier. The economy would expand. And thus the tax base would grow.

But the most tragic result of The American Dream (and the Lifestyle Marketing approach that followed it) was that people never attained sustainable happiness no matter how faithful they were to the “happiness = excessive consumerism” formula.

Making Illness-Creating Food Seem Healthy

This is an example of an attempt to manufacture consent in service of the health lie.

Froot Loops is a processed breakfast cereal. It contains 41% sugar, partially-hydrogenated oils and artificial coloring chemicals. In other words, it is an illness producing food. In 2009, Froot Loops was awarded a “Smart Choice” seal of approval. “Smart Choices” is a food labeling system designed by and paid for by the nation’s major food manufacturers. The program is managed by the American Society of Nutrition. According to Smart Choices chairman, Mike Hughes, the Smart Choices label is to “help people make choices about healthier food.”

Leading nutritionists endorse Froot Loops as a Smart Choice food? How’s this for a prime example of the manufacturing of consent in action?

This loopiness earned the American Society of Nutrition an Integrity Disgrace Award. (Read the full story by clicking here.) This award was but a very small part of the public outcry. That outcry successfully shamed Smart Choices into withdrawing its seal from Froot Loops. That victory was merely as small skirmish that didn’t make a dent in the illness creation industry’s grip on the hijacking of health.

Glenn Beck Manufactures Consent About Gold

Here is an example of the manufacturing of consent about a form of prosperity. The form of prosperity isn’t a lie but the means used to generate business are a classic example of the manufacturing of consent.

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Fully Half of Information Claiming to Be Factual in 2009 Was Rated “Barely True” or Worse

Check the following link to a powerfully instructive look back at the manufacturing of consent in 2009. This one covers it all, including examples of manufacturing consent about the happiness, health, prosperity, patriotism and problem-solving lies.

Notice the extent to which attempts were made to manipulate your opinions instead of allowing you to come to your own opinions based on complete and unbiased information. Fully 50% of the information provided to the public that claimed to be factual in 2009 was “barely true,” “false” or worse than false: “pants-on-fire.” This is a powerful portrait of the extent to which the manufacturing of consent continues to go gangbusters in the 21st century. This analysis was provided by one of the two nonpartisan fact-checking websites for issues affecting the United States:

To Discover How the Truth Took a Beating in 2009, Click Here!

Balloon Boy: An Example of Manufacturing Consent Gone Wrong

You might recall the story of “Balloon Boy.” In October, 2009, a father in Colorado contacted authorities. He claimed that his six-year-old boy had floated away in a giant homemade flying-saucer-shaped helium balloon.

Rescue services were scrambled into action as the nation was glued to its televisions, watching the balloon hurdle for the sky. Airspace was cleared, disrupting many flights.

When the balloon finally landed, the boy was not inside. Rescue workers and citizens immediately joined together to search for the boy. In the end, he was found in his family’s basement. He had been there all along, having been hidden away by his parents.

This publicity stunt cost the public in the vicinity of $50,000 in rescue services and the subsequent investigation. This landed both parents in jail in addition to being held responsible for reimbursing some of the costs their hoax created.

This is a textbook example of a devastatingly amateur attempt at manufacturing consent. Think about the three elements in manufacturing consent: a covert goal, a deception strategy, and a manipulated outcome.

The covert goal in this case was for the parents to land their own reality TV show. The deception strategy was to stage a hoax in which the helium balloon the father had created had mysteriously gotten untethered with their six-year-old child aboard. The manipulated outcome, was to obtain high profile national publicity.

This strategy was supposed to manufacture the consent of a production company to create their reality TV show.

The obvious story here is about how the public’s compassion and support for the boy and his parents turned to disgust and rage once this hoax was revealed.

The unspoken story is that what these parents did is no different from what the manipulative segment of the marketing community perpetrates on the public every day. Well, the only difference is that these parents did and did not understand the principles of manufacturing consent well enough to pull it off.

The Covert Manipulation of Public Opinion About Health Insurance Reform by the Health Insurance Industry

Read this article about this from the National Journal’s online resource that provides an insider’s view of the lobbying and advocacy industry, aptly called Under the Influence.…


► Do you have more examples of the manufacturing of consent? Click here to send them to Dr. Gruder.

► Media & Event Planners: Interview Dr. Gruder on This Topic or Invite Him to Present on It

Take Your Next Step

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