Wednesday, January 28, 2004

The P.R. of Empire

Fascinating piece of work from Harpers, circa 1872. (Any of this sound thoroughly modern?):

"Among the damaging documents and letters found in the private cabinet of the emperor after the flight of the imperial family from France, and published, with numerous others, in the favorite French form of the brochure (pamphlet), was a plan for the “organization of the press for the approaching elections.”

It is an elaborate paper, drawn up by one of the heads of the Ministry of the Interior, in the division of the Press, and explains with wonderful frankness the modus operandi of press management under the empire. It gives an exact idea of the manner and the system by which the Emperor Napoleon managed universal suffrage, and prepared public opinion through the medium of his subsidized presses in Paris and the provinces. The fact of the existence of such a system, and of a department under the Ministry of the Interior charged with the manipulation of the French press, had long been notorious; but the perfection of the machinery and its results were first brought to light by this unexpected revelation, which is curious as well as instructive.

In the plainest possible language, and with a startling display of facts and figures, the chief of the Press Bureau shows how, where, and when imperial “inspiration” is made to manufacture public opinion.

He commences by saying that in view of the approaching elections the thorough organization of the press became a pressing necessity. The time was short, the duty urgent, especially in the departments. There the government agents, with few exceptions, had made no preparations to secure the public suffrage either in the prefectures or in the ministerial bureaus, while the opposition, by an opposite play, was manifesting an extraordinary activity for its effective organization by the establishment of new opposition journals and the improvement of the old ones. There is, therefore, a vital necessity, says the minister, for the entire reorganization of the press of the departments.

With these preliminary remarks he submits the report of the chief of the Bureau of the Departments, or, as we should phrase it, the country press, explaining in detail the progress already made and the steps to be taken, which he sums up as follows: . . .

Press Management Under the Empire: a Leaf from the Private Papers of Napoleon III
How “imperial ‘inspiration’ was made to manufacture public opinion”
By Edwin De Leon
Originally from Harper's New Monthly Magazine, vol. 45, iss. 268, September, 1872.

Posted on Monday, January 26, 2004

Posted at 05:09 PM in Current Affairs, Media, Politics | Permalink


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