Monday, September 26, 2016

Napoleon's Newspaper

A century before Edward Bernays fathered PR, Napoleon fathered his own media channel, the Courrier de l'Armée d'Italie.

The Courrier was no ordinary rag.

Printed on expensive paper, it was handsomely designed, featuring well-laid-out articles and a summary of each issue's content in a box just below the masthead. To ensure that content was top-drawer, Napoleon hired none other than Robespierre's protégé, the accomplished journalist Marc-Antoine Jullien, as editor-in-chief.

But despite giving readers wide-ranging reportage—plus a steady stream of poems, op-eds, and letters to the editor—the Courrier remained Napoleon's mouthpiece, boosting the general's pet ideas, while shredding detractors', day in and out.

No wallflower, Napoleon contributed signed articles, too; not only military proclamations, speeches and orders of the day, but tales of French politics that painted dark pictures of conspiracies, led by pampered minorities bent on destroying good republicans everywhere ("they do not act alone; they have their auxiliaries in every department, their constituents, their agents, their writers, their armed forces, their hired assassins..." he once wrote).

The Courrier was so effective a propaganda tool, it ensured the success of the 1799 coup that made Napoleon emperor.

Sound familiar?

Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.

Imagine what Napoleon might have done with Facebook!

HAT TIP: Thanks to history buff Ann Ramsey for leading me to this story.
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