“Torches of Freedom” was the title of an advertising campaign launched in the United States almost 100 years ago by Edward Bernays. The goal of the campaign was simple: to increase the sale of cigarettes among American women. Bernays launched a quasi-humanitarian advertising campaign presenting smoking as the culmination of women’s emancipation and renaming cigarettes, “torches of freedom”.
Since ladies in the United States did not smoke at the time, Bernays paid actresses to pose with cigarettes at public events and had their photos published in the media with a plethora of positive comments. Once outrageous behaviour established itself as “mainstream” overnight. It is not known how many American women later died of lung cancer as a result of his successful campaign, but today Bernays is considered a pioneer of modern marketing. Bernays, Sigmund Freud’s nephew, took advantage of his uncle’s discoveries in the field of crowd psychology in his work in marketing. After a series of experiments on the unsuspecting public, he found that in the age of modern media, the opinion of the masses can be kneaded like dough, producing predictable results. Similar to cigarettes, it is possible to sell the masses hamburgers, abortion, multiculturalism or a new war in the Middle East as “torches of freedom”. Additionally, it is possible to convince them which evil dictator needs to be removed today and which government enthroned tomorrow. The use of Bernays hypnotic techniques has not been limited to the United States for a long time. Today, you can use them to manipulate a Slovene and persuade him/her that he/she lives in a dictatorship, because he has to wear a mask to protect himself/herself from an infectious disease, or that mosques in Ljubljana are not a new phenomenon. Nowadays, these false “torches of freedom” linger all around us, and few people recognise them for what they are. So here’s a humble piece of advice: find freedom within yourself. Because the ability to judge for ourselves what is truth and what is a lie is perhaps the greatest wealth of a human life. Do not let it be taken from you.