The Father of Spin is the first full-length biography of the legendary Edward L. Bernays, who, beginning in the 1920s, was one of the first and most successful practioners of the art of public relations. In this engrossing biography, Larry Tye uses Bernays’s life as a prism to understand the evolution of the craft of public relations and how it came to play such a critical-and sometimes insidious-role in American life.
Drawing on interviews with primary sources and voluminous private papers, Tye presents a fascinating and revealing portrait of the man who, more than any other, defined and personified public relations, a profession that today helps shape our political discourse and define our commercial choices.
Biographer Larry Tye can’t help but be entertained by his subject’s professional antics. Edward L. Bernays (1892-1995), a pioneering practitioner of public relations, zestfully ballyhooed his clients, utilizing a shrewd blend of publicity stunts, careful cultivation of the press, and solicited endorsements from “experts.” Yet journalist Tye is also aware of the moral ambiguities inherent in the career of a man who vigorously promoted cigarette smoking and whose work for the United Fruit Company played at least some role in the 1954 military overthrow of Guatemala’s democratically elected government. This judicious book balances appreciation for Bernays’ inventiveness with a sober understanding of its consequences, including the extent to which PR permeates contemporary American life. –Wendy Smith