The following images were collected from various websites during research for a university presentation about national identity and politics. The images are in some cases confronting, but in many cases are difficult to take seriously as the propaganda style resembles cartoons – and the idealogy is so strange to us we easily recognise it as racism. It’s not often so easy however for those of us wrapped in the cotton wool of white privilige to see these messages as the foundation for racism that still exists in the society we live in today.
The first thing we’re taught to look for when we analyse any form of media or communication is the agenda. In the following examples, the agenda of the propaganda is clear – to encourage citizens to enlist in a service related to war. National identity is created through imagery and ideas which are called upon in these ads, with messages to inspire pride in those helping and shame in those not. The surf ad below targets the ‘beach bum’, an ‘anti’ identity created during wartime to code those who prioritize leisure as lazy and unpatriotic. The images show those working as happy, smiling, contributing in ways they can be proud of. One ad even calls on a national identity which had at the time been coded as a commitment to ‘the mother country’ (cough) Britain, and asks its citizens to help keep the promise to send 50,000 more men.
The power of propaganda in these ads was so strong that it encouraged civilians to go to war.
This next photo isn’t a propaganda ad in the same way as the rest of the cartoons and posters on this page. This is a famous photograph nicknamed “Tank Man” of a man standing in front of Chinese tanks after they had taken Tiananmen Square by force after protests in 1989. We are led to believe we have access to a picture we aren’t supposed to see – a photo snuck out of the communist nation of a single rebel. If you’re a conspiracy theorist like me, you might have some other ideas about why a photo like this might have been intentionally leaked by Chinese military as a show of strength. We should also consider that he was not the only protestor, but the narrative of a whole bunch of people standing in front of tanks is visually just more protesting. A single man standing up to 4 thanks with not another person in sight suggests he is the last man standing against the inevitable take over.
Propaganda used against Japan employed every tactic, most notable to me was the emphasis on creating a visual identity of what a “Jap” supposedly looked like. I’ve read some gut wrenching stories about prison camps in the United States after Japan bombed Pearl Harbour, and their treatment makes these comic representations seem insignificant. But it is this creation of an evil creature through visual images depicting thin evil eyes, buck teeth and often sneaky expressions, that let so many people justify their racist actions. Homes were taken, Japanese Americans were rounded up on American soil and kept in prison camps for up to 4 years, and the Japanese were painted as evil. My generation has heard stories from our Grandparents, and maybe you event have a Pop who hates without reason, uses the term “Japs”, and still holds these ideas decades after this false messaging has stopped.
I’d need a few more articles to properly cover USA/Germany propaganda, but here’s a few which I used for this assignment.
These postcards make it really simple to know who you can trust – no need to think for yourself, just check for a nationality and there’s your answer! In war, a country is either on the side of ‘freedom’ (ie, *our* side, whoever *our* is to you) and the *othered* country is always on the side of ‘terror’ or ‘control’ or ‘evil’.
And finally, a few images about the identity of women in war time propaganda…