Twilight Mages Pt. 3: Byoir and Associates
by Seana Miracle
Carl Byoir, a founding father of the profession of Public Relations, and the man who would serve nearly a decade as E. Virgil Neal’s right hand man, was a child prodigy of the newspaper business. He started working in the industry when he was 14 years old and made managing editor of the Iowa Times by the time he was 17. He first worked under the legendary editor Joseph Pulitzer, and then worked his way up to become circulations manager for the entire Hearst newspaper empire, where he was known as the “Miracle Man” for his ability to get things done. He then studied under the educator Maria Montessori, and bought the first Montessori franchise in the United States. Because of his thorough understanding of mass media, when America joined the Allied forces in 1917, Byoir was hired as Associate Chairman of the Creel Committee of Public Information, which launched an unprecedented propaganda campaign to sell America to the world. There Byoir gained the sobriquet of “M.D.” which stood for “Multiple Director,” because of his capacity to oversee many initiatives at once.
A year later, (1918) Byoir would hire a young Edward Bernays, who was the nephew of pioneering psychologist Sigmund Freud. Byoir and Bernays shared common ground as they were both sons of Jewish immigrants and men of great ambitions. As wartime propagandists, it was up to Byoir and Bernays to exploit every method and medium available in order to sway public opinion in favor of the cause. They used a wide array of media from newspapers, posters, trade journals, magazines, radio broadcasts and film, and flooded the worldwide media with pro-American, anti-German propaganda in every language known to man. In order to save on printing costs, the Creel Committee had leading experts in education reach out to other educators worldwide, in order to teach their students about American values and ideals. Likewise, they had leading bankers and economists boast about the strength of the American economy. They even trained a volunteer army of soapbox preachers known as the “Four Minute Men” to give short speeches anywhere they could get an audience. When the war was over, they would use the same techniques to influence the public to act against their best interests in a myriad of other ways.
In 1919, Byoir and Bernays would serve as advisors to the US Delegation at the Paris Peace Conference, where they saw firsthand the astounding results of their massive propaganda campaign. Everywhere they went, President Wilson was hailed as a Great Liberator of humanity, a progressive peacemaker, who was “making the world safe for democracy.” In reality, Wilson was a notorious racist who supported Jim Crow laws and Eugenics policies such as enforced segregation and forced sterilizations. Wilson was hailed as an American patriot, though he openly and emphatically stated that the Constitution should be re-interpreted according to Social Darwinism, and that the Declaration of Independence was “of no consequence to us.” While Wilson’s motives and biases were well known to most political leaders and policy makers, it was the public’s opinion that held the most power and influence, an effect that has been termed “the Achilles Heel of Democracy.”
This tour of post-war Europe had a profound influence on the young Edward Bernays. As the former press agent for the famous opera soprano Enrico Caruso, Edward Bernays was no stranger to the strange and special effect exerted over the masses by a charismatic personality. He had seen how Caruso’s adoring fans worshipped him as though he were a living deity, and he was delighted to see the same behavior in the crowds that swirled around Wilson. As the nephew of Sigmund Freud, Bernays well knew that people were mostly unaware of what drives them to think and act the way they do, and that they could easily be influenced without their awareness. Having studied Gustave Le Bon, Bernays was aware that people were more irrational and vulnerable to suggestion and the contagion of ideas when they were in a crowd. In Paris, these ideas crystallized into a bold vision for the future, as Bernays understood at once the power of public opinion to shape policy, and the intrinsic value of being in the position to shape public opinion. He called this synthesis of psychoanalytical principles, classical conditioning and social engineering “The Engineering of Consent,” and capitalized on his newfound insights by writing several books with detailed instructions for how the ruling elite could covertly manipulate the masses without their knowledge or consent.
“The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country. …We are governed, our minds are molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of. This is a logical result of the way in which our democratic society is organized. Vast numbers of human beings must cooperate in this manner if they are to live together as a smoothly functioning society. …In almost every act of our daily lives, whether in the sphere of politics or business, in our social conduct or our ethical thinking, we are dominated by the relatively small number of persons…who understand the mental processes and social patterns of the masses. It is they who pull the wires which control the public mind.”
― Edward L. Bernays, “Propaganda”
Bernays would go on to invent the profession of Public Relations, which was yet another clever euphemism for “propaganda,” and though he is largely unknown today, he soon became one of the most influential men of the 20th century. However, Carl Byoir, who had been paid $1 a year for his work for the CPI, failed to see the profit potential of this new profession. So, while Bernays would achieve unprecedented success, his mentor and former employer would find himself in debt, unemployed, and on the verge of bankruptcy.
Rather than partner with Bernays, Byoir turned his attentions to the more time honored and lucrative business of war-profiteering, and partnered with Emanuel Victor Voska, the US Army Captain and legendary spymaster credited with the founding of the Independent Republic of Czechoslavakia. During the war, Voska had traveled extensively at his own expense and set up an elaborate international anti-German counterintelligence operation that thwarted countless plots by German agents all over the world. When the war ended, the espionage ring that Voska had created in order to help defeat the Germans, would help set up the independent Czech Republic in the wake of the fall of the Austro-Hungarian empire.
Voska’s spies are most famously responsible for revealing the Hindu-German Conspiracy, a series of plots intended to instigate revolt against the British Raj. The Hindu-German Conspiracy was the result of collusion between German agents and underground Indian revolutionaries, that unraveled in a spectacular climax that “produced several executions, one suicide, two cases of insanity and a murder.” In San Francisco, Voska’s spies exposed a massive arms dealing operation being run out of the German embassy when they intercepted the ship “Annie Larsen,” which contained eight thousand rifles and four million cartridges. The longest and most expensive trial in United States history (at the time) came to an appalling end in a San Francisco courtroom when the main defendant was assassinated on the witness stand, and his assassin killed in turn by a US Marshal.
Emanuel Voska was so singularly dedicated to his mission of counterintelligence, that he even put his own daughter to work as an undercover operative. Villa Voska would secure an invaluable position as stenographer for Dr. Heinrich Albert, the secret German paymaster for North America. Villa Voska had the ultimate inside, but she was publicly outed by pro-German propagandist George Slyvester Viereck, editor of “The Fatherland,” for being not just a spy, but the daughter of the enemy, effectively ending not just her cover, but her career.
One fateful evening in 1915, Villa Voska’s former boss, German paymaster Dr. Heinrich Albert, and the man who outed her, German propagandist George Viereck, had a meeting in New York City, and boarded an uptown train together. After they parted ways, Dr. Albert fell asleep on the train, leaving his briefcase unattended, where it was snatched up by American agents. The briefcase contained the motherlode of intelligence, including countless documents detailing a vast conspiracy of German sabotage throughout North America. It was the first definitive proof of the scope and nature of their activities.
Years later it was revealed that British intelligence had alerted Emanuel Voska that Herr Doktor would be carrying crucial intelligence in his briefcase that day, but the question remained: if Dr. Albert was carrying such invaluable information, and was well aware he was under surveillance, how could he so foolishly have let his guard down? The answer may lie with the man who was last seen in Albert’s company, George Viereck, and his connections to the notorious occultist and British secret agent Aleister Crowley.
Crowley was a double agent, who had worked for Viereck writing pro-German propaganda, and is most likely the British agent responsible for alerting Voska to Dr. Albert’s scheduled activities that day. This theory implies complicity on the part of Viereck, who happened to get off the train at Crowley’s stop, shortly before the briefcase was apprehended. Given Crowley’s reputation, some suspected occult forces at work, such as hypnosis, or some other kind of magic spell, behind Dr. Albert’s lack of situational awareness, but he also may have been drugged, or simply just tired.
George Sylvester Viereck was a militant pro-German, pro-Nazi propagandist who was rumored to be the illegitimate son of Kaiser Wilhelm I. Viereck, who counted Nikola Tesla among his closest friends, was also a talented poet, journalist and novelist, who belongs in the annals of horror fiction for writing the first book in the “psychic vampire” genre in 1907. “The House of the Vampyre” explored many of the contemporary themes of social psychology before the vernacular had been invented, and it described an abusive power dynamic between a psychic vampire and his victim that pretty accurately describes the relationship between a narcissist and a codependent.
In 1923, Viereck’s writing style caught the attention of none other than Sigmund Freud, who asked Viereck to write a popular science book about psychoanalysis. Viereck would interview both Sigmund Freud in Vienna, and Adolf Hitler in Munich, in quick succession in 1923, the same year that Freud’s nephew, Edward Bernays, published his first book “Crystallizing Public Opinion,” and also the year the Nazis held the first Nuremberg Rally, initiating a new era in mass media mind control.
Meanwhile, exploiting the newly founded Czech Republic’s fragile state following the war, Voska and Byoir had started an import/export business that charged 300 percent the going shipping rates. At first they were richly rewarded, but the auspicious partnership would soon fall apart when the market collapsed due to uncontrolled inflation. When all was said and done, Carl Byoir found himself not just broke, but deeply in debt. So, following his close affiliations with the likes of industry giants such as Joseph Pulitzer, William Randolph Hearst, Maria Montessori, George Creel, Edward Bernays and Emanuel Voska, Carl Byoir decided he wanted to go work for the master of manipulation, one E. Virgil Neal, a.k.a. X. LaMotte Sage, then one of the wealthiest men in the world.
Neal had fled to Europe after narrowly escaping arrest in America on charges of conspiracy, fraud and treason. In what was called “a grotesquely obvious swindle,” Neal, who, over the years had peddled various miracle cures for male pattern baldness, obesity, wrinkles, old age, and being too short, had finally gone too far when he claimed that his “Force of Life” medicine could cure incurable diseases and even bring the dead back to life.
The NY Tribune called him “the slickest quack in patent medicinedom,” and it was said that he had “made quackery his life’s work.” Though he was thoroughly chastised by the President of the United States, accused of treason by the FBI, charged with fraud by the Postmaster General, and vilified by the American Medical Association, he still managed to avoid any serious consequences. By 1914, Neal’s “New York Institute of Hypnotism” had sold over 1.6 million dollars (an estimated 32 million dollars today) worth of hypnotism lessons before he was run out of the country. By this time, his beautiful young wife Mollie Hurd had pulled a disappearing act, and vanished without a trace.
In Europe, using his alias X. LaMotte Sage, Neal opened the Sage Institute of Hypnotism in Paris, where it was business as usual. Despite his shadowy past as a con artist in the States, he was a well respected businessman in France, and at the time, no one suspected that the successful cosmetics baron E. Virgil Neal of Tokalon Cosmetics, was also the notorious snake oil salesman X. LaMotte Sage, who once claimed to have the power to reanimate the dead.
Carl Byoir, finding himself at rock bottom at what should have been the height of his career, responded to what Neal called “a Golden Opportunity” to push Nuxated Iron with the help of the “Greatest Advertising campaign ever launched…” As Neal intended, Byoir instantly saw the profit potential of pushing a product with high profit margins and a well funded advertising campaign, however, Neal was peddling to retail stores, and was not in the market for an ad man. So, Byoir offered to work for free, and the “Miracle Man” increased sales so dramatically that he was Vice President and General Manager of Neal’s “Nuxated Iron” company within a year.
Neal’s “Nuxated Iron” campaign is largely where we get the idea of the “red blooded American male.” Marketed primarily to soldiers returning home, i.e. “the men of blood and iron whose indomitable force and tireless energy helped win the war,” Nuxated Iron was endorsed by actors, athletes, doctors, senators, Generals, judges and even the Pope himself. Sports celebrities exemplary of self-made manliness, “men of stamina, force and success,” such as “Shoeless Joe” Jackson, Ty Cobb, and Jack Dempsey, claimed it gave them increased strength and endurance. Emblems of military bravery and leadership, such as Civil War war hero General Gibson, claimed that Nuxated Iron made men better fighters. For the men who did not help achieve victory, Nuxated Iron promised to put them “on par with the war-hardened,” a statement which contains a grain of truth, as the key ingredient in Nuxated Iron was nux vomica, or strychnine.
“We are still cursed with Nuxated Iron…and other secret remedies that the country would be better off without… We have reached a point in our existence when the patent medicine faker is to be eliminated… He lives on the gullibility of the poor, the ignorant, and the sick, and he thrives largely by means of cunningly devised, and to a great extent, fraudulent advertising.”
The Journal of the American Medical Association, Volume 70, Issue 1
BYOIR AND ASSOCIATES
Carl Byoir would achieve great success under E. Virgil Neal throughout the 1920s, though this would be considered the low point in his career. In 1930, after working for nearly a decade with E. Virgil Neal, (a known traitor, conspirator and close friend of Mussolini) Byoir would agree to be the Public Relations firm for the Cuban government under President Machado, whose highly repressive administration was responsible for murdering several young student protestors. In 1933, Byoir’s firm was similarly hired by Hitler to paint the Nazis in a favorable light. Byoir, in turn, would hire the famous pro-German propagandist, George Sylvester Viereck, to help him do it.
Public Relations men, like criminal defense attorneys, often make their living whitewashing the sins of men who have committed reprehensible acts, so the more deplorable their client, the better they have to prove to be at their job. Byoir’s colleague Ivy Lee made a name for himself as “Poison Ivy” when he was hired to clean up the Rockefellers’ sullied reputation following the Ludlow Massacre. While the decisions to work for men such as Rockefeller, Hitler, Mussolini or Machado may have eventually tarnished the PR man’s reputation as a person, or put him on the wrong side of history, he probably willingly made this sacrifice for the testament of his abilities as a spin doctor – and the financial rewards that came with it. It is not until Byoir returns to the profession of Public Relations that he finally makes his fortune, due in part, no doubt, to the occult secrets of success that he learned working for E. Virgil Neal…secrets which maybe should have been kept “occulted,” due to their potential for abuse.
How We Advertised America: The First Telling of the Amazing Story of the Committee on Public Information that Carried the Gospel of Americanism to Every Corner of the Globe
by George Creel
The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind
by Gustave Le Bon
Propaganda and Crystallizing Public Opinion
by Edward Bernays
Secret Agent 666: Aleister Crowley, British Intelligence and the Occult
by Richard B. Spence
The Unseen Power: Public Relations: A History
By Scott M. Cutlip
Insidious Foes: The Axis Fifth Column and the American HomeFront
By Francis MacDonnell