WWI and WWII Propaganda Posters


27 Responses to “WWI and WWII Propaganda Posters”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Another cool post – thanks for the toons, etc.

  2. Tom Hale says:

    Propaganda is one of those words that needs to be changed in dictionaries. Sure, it can be used for good or evil but it depends on if it’s promoted by you or about you. When I think of the word, I usually think ‘Lies.’ It’s sort of like the word Patriotism, another word that I’m beginning to unconsciously associate with the word lies.

    Lies: “a deliberate gross distortion of the truth used especially as a propaganda tactic”


  3. Anonymous says:

    Mayakovsky is notable absent. I think his Polish farm girls filling German arses with holes is a classic…

  4. Shay Guy says:

    Wonder what reforms and such this country could use some more propaganda for.

  5. arkizzle / Moderator says:

    No mention of Edward Bernays yet?

    He was Sigmund Freud’s nephew, and took both Freud’s and LeBon’s ideas on human nature and basically invented the field of Public Relations. His work was some of the first to use complex psychology in advertising and political opinion-making, using techniques he called the ‘engineering of consent’.

    He was a proponent and mechanism of propaganda (indeed he wrote a book called Propaganda, in 1928) and his ideas were lapped up by Goebbels and used to build the Nazi party’s anti-Semitic campaign in the thirties.

    The BBC’s oustanding documentary The Century of Self, has some excellent backgound of his work and the influence it’s had on practically everything we do.

    If you haven’t seen it, watch it now:

    Part 1: http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=8953172273825999151
    Part 2: http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-678466363224520614
    Part 3: http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-6111922724894802811
    Part 4: http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=1122532358497501036

  6. nanuq says:

    Propaganda goes back a long ways on both sides. For the US, one of the chief architects of the use of propaganda in war was the famous (or notorious) Paul Linebarger (a.k.a. Cordwainer Smith). His book Psychological Warfare is still the standard in the field.


  7. ASIFA-Hollywood Animation Archive says:

    I just don’t like the identification of reason with selfishness.

    I don’t think reason is necessarily a bad or good thing either. It’s just another tool. It all depends on how you use it.

  8. ASIFA-Hollywood Animation Archive says:

    Even so, a fair and equal society is an idea many philosophers have arrived at, and many orators argued for, with appeals directed more to reason than emotional manipulation.

    The arguments that appeal to emotions seem to often be the ones that are remembered and revered by the average person.

    • chenille says:

      I wasn’t trying to say otherwise; I just don’t like the identification of reason with selfishness. The notion that everyone should only look out for number one is an emotional appeal too, just one to our baser rendencies.

      • Brainspore says:

        If I don’t eat then I suffer hunger. That’s a physiological sensation, not an emotional one. If you don’t eat I suffer nothing unless I have empathy for the plight of my fellow man, in which case I might share my sandwich with you.

        That doesn’t mean reason = selfishness, it just means that reason in the absence of emotion doesn’t lend itself to helping people who have nothing to offer you in return.

  9. TJ S says:

    I’d like to suggest a book that I bought this summer on Nazi propaganda, which is put out by the US Holocaust Memorial Museum.

    “State of Deception: The Power of Nazi Propaganda” is a great read, with some amazingly powerful artwork. If you happen to be near D.C., I would also suggest the exhibit at the Holocaust Memorial Museum, where you can see some of the propaganda in a large format (not to mention the other incredibly powerful exhibits they have there. Did I mention it’s free?).

    The whole thing makes you realize how so many people were so powerfully persuaded to do things they never would have otherwise considered.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Nope, I don’t buy the “propaganda is only a tool” spiel. That’s, like, metapropaganda. A most tempting seduction, but I think I’ll pass.

    If someone’s trying to push my emotional buttons, my assumption is they have no rational argument, hence the cheese. And how is mobilising a nation to war using propaganda because you can’t be bothered to explain why millions must die a good thing?

    By removing reason you remove accountability – the biggest problem of our age.

  11. ASIFA-Hollywood Animation Archive says:

    …And on the other side of the war, the exact same tool was being used by the Allies to motivate people to go to lengths they might not have otherwise to defeat the Nazis. It’s a fascinating subject.

  12. Rick York says:

    Isn’t it fascinating that the right, at least in modern western democracies, has seemed to be able create much more effective propaganda than the liberals. Of course, they learned long ago that you focus on the gut, not the brain.

    Here in Oregon, we’re going through a popular vote on two tax measures one of which would raise the minimum corporate tax from $10/year to $150/year. The other would raise the income tax on families making over $250,000/year from 9% to 11%. Some of the liberal groups supporting the increases have been showing TV ads which try to “guilt” the voters. For example, saying that if the tax doesn’t pass, schools would have fewer days. The right has only done dramatic “slice of life” ads which show people losing their jobs or closing their businesses. Which is utter bullshit. Obviously, anyone who cannot afford to pay $150/year shouldn’t be running a business.

    But, which of the two types of ads do you think is the most successful?

    Lakoff had it right but, the Democrats and the progressives never seem to get the message.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Northwestern has a great collection of WWI and WWII posters:


  14. Anonymous says:

    Come on, we are the targets of the MOST SOPHISTICATED propaganda effort in history. The central message of which is “Buying stuff will make you happy.”

  15. Kerov says:

    The nature of propaganda is to use emotion to bypass rationality. That, to me, qualifies it as a “bad thing” generally.

  16. Ambiguity says:

    But propaganda is just a tool that can be used for either good or bad. Propaganda involves bypassing the intellect and appealing directly to emotion to motivate a group of people to action.

    I suppose propaganda can be used for good, but I consider non-rational, emotional manipulation to be a not-good thing. You can argue that propaganda is good if you accept “ends justify means”-style argument–but this is a really slippery line of reasoning!

    • Brainspore says:

      I suppose propaganda can be used for good, but I consider non-rational, emotional manipulation to be a not-good thing.

      But consider the “Votes for Women” poster campaigns of the early 20th century, which made simple appeals to empathy rather than reason. Is there any purely rational argument that would persuade a male voter to support universal suffrage considering that it would ultimately diminish his own political influence?

      • hail_diskordia says:

        It is always a bad thing to use somebody’s emotions to bend them to your will. When average citizens do it, it’s manipulative; but when the government does it, if they have a good reason, it’s okay? That’s a silly idea. Education, not mindgames. I don’t care what the government (especially the government) wants me to feel or think, ad dollars don’t make right. If they want to convince me of something, they need to present an argument instead of trying to engineer my consent with a PSA or a poster. It’s playing with our heads and it’s not a good thing ever, whatever the cause.

      • chenille says:

        Is there any purely rational argument that would persuade a male voter to support universal suffrage considering that it would ultimately diminish his own political influence?

        Saying it’s not fair for women to be denied equal treatment in this respect, when they are equal in so many others, is a rational argument. That’s what makes it different from votes for little children, for an example, even though you could probably make just as strong an emotional case for it. Reason doesn’t mean self-interest.

        • Brainspore says:

          The concept of “fairness” is an emotional construct. What is the rational reason for caring if other people are treated fairly as long as I get mine? If I have no empathy for my fellow human beings then there is none. “Empathy” is the capability to share another being’s emotions and feelings.

          • chenille says:

            The concept of selfishness is also an emotional one, though, as there’s no rational reason to care if I get mine. If those are your standards for pure reason, then you’re right, nothing really qualifies.

            Even so, a fair and equal society is an idea many philosophers have arrived at, and many orators argued for, with appeals directed more to reason than emotional manipulation.

  17. NOLA_Resistance says:

    Everything your saying is true in defining Propaganda correctly but this would have never been politically correct to say this while Bush was president. Now all the sudden it’s ok to say what this word really means. Hmmmmm?

  18. Narmitaj says:

    A propaganda motive is indeed not necessarily the death of art – some of my all-time favourite movies are wartime (or just after) propaganda films, at least in part, all made by Powell & Pressburger (also famous for Black Narcissus and the recently restored The Red Shoes) and made at the behest of or with the cooperation, usually, of the Ministry of Information.

    A Canterbury Tale (1944) was in part to show what we were all fighting for, ie the landscape, history and people of Britain, plus Anglo-American cooperation and mutual understanding – none of that stops it being mysterious and magical and a bit potty too.

    Scotland-set I Know Where I’m Going! (1945) is cropping up on movie blogs now as people are saying the new movie Leap Year is a rubbishy steal of some of its ideas but without its wit. The wartime propaganda element was to encourage people not to be greedy and thoughtlessly materialistic but instead revel in the joys of community, love, hard work and good sense. Still, it’s a great rom-com with more Powell and Pressburger magic and hint of the strange, even supernatural.

    A Matter Of Life And Death (1946)(aka Stairway to Heaven, USA) started shooting on the day of the Japanese surrender and was intended to show suspicious and anti-Empire Americans that the Brits were just as freedom-loving as them and so not to be too tough on us post-war, a story told by showing there was nothing wrong with a Brit airman and an American servicewoman falling in love. AMOLAD is my favourite movie of all time – breezy, witty, again elements of mystery, underpinned by solid neurologic-type science and a rigorous approach to the fantastical elements, and a nice combo of technicolor (end-of-war England) and monochrome (the “heaven” where David Niven’s trial takes place).

    Finally, The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943), filmed in Technicolor in the UK in 1942. In fact, the propaganda element of this was a bit too strong for Churchill, who tried to ban it as possibly demoralising – its argument, mainly expressed by a clear-sighted refugee German, was effectively that to win the war the Brits would have to stop being sporting and start acting and fighting more like Nazis: no more old Blimp duffers in charge; we need young strong, ruthless men willing to fight hard and cheat if necessary; and even, in one section, a clear appeal to use torture to get info out of prisoners of war.

  19. Marja says:

    Yes, propaganda ignores reason. But it’s hardly the only persuasive instrument to ignore reason. For example, the Wilson Administration relied on assassinations, shutting down anti-war newspapers, imprisonment, and other such methods…

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