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Propaganda Alert

Defining Propaganda

The word “propaganda” has already been used several times, and the reader may wonder how this term is being used. The definition of propaganda has been widely debated, but there is little agreement about what it means. Some argue that all persuasive communication is propagandistic, while others suggest that only dishonest messages can be considered propaganda. Political activists of all stripes claim that they speak the truth while their opponents preach propaganda. In order to accommodate the breadth of the CPI’s activities, this discussion relies on Harold Lasswell’s broad interpretation of the term. “Not bombs nor bread,” wrote Lasswell, “but words, pictures, songs, parades, and many similar devices are the typical means of making propaganda.” According to Lasswell, “propaganda relies on symbols to attain its end: the manipulation of collective attitudes.”


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Emotional Appeals

CPI propaganda typically appealed to the heart, not to the mind. Emotional agitation is a favorite technique of the propagandist, because “any emotion may be ‘drained off’ into any activity by skillful manipulation.” An article which appeared in Scientific Monthly shortly after the war argued that “the detailed suffering of a little girl and her kitten can motivate our hatred against the Germans, arouse our sympathy for Armenians, make us enthusiastic for the Red Cross, or lead us to give money for a home for cats.” Wartime slogans such as “Bleeding Belgium,” “The Criminal Kaiser,” and “Make the World Safe For Democracy,” suggest that the CPI was no stranger to this idea. Evidence of this technique can be seen in a typical propaganda poster that portrayed an aggressive, bayonet-wielding German soldier above the caption “Beat Back The Hun With Liberty Bonds.” In this example, the emotions of hate and fear were redirected toward giving money to the war effort. It is an interesting side-note that many analysts attribute the failure of German propaganda in America to the fact that it emphasized logic over passion. According to Count von Bernstorff, a German diplomat, “the outstanding characteristic of the average American is rather a great, though superficial, sentimentality,” and German press telegrams completely failed to grasp this fact.

Yemen. Bomb. Terror. Threat. Fear. Propaganda.


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Waging war on women?–1

A Virginia lawmaker declared that God punishes women who undergo an abortion by giving them disabled children. His reasoning was that nature takes vengeance when a first-born child is aborted citing the Old Testament assertion that the “first born of every being, animal and man was dedicated to the Lord.”


One of the most famous American posters from the war, it shows the iconic “Rosie the Riveter” as an encouragement to the millions of American women who were needed to fill the traditionally male jobs now becoming vacant with the men at war.

The two world wars, especially the second, were important in showing the feasibility of women holding traditionally male jobs. While after both wars, the women employed during the war were “sent back to the kitchen”, in the long term, their crucial contribution to wartime production helped open up a vast amount of new career opportunities.

Nowadays, this poster is still seen as a symbol of feminism and female empowerment.


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  1. Tara Costa May 25, 2011 at 5:42 pm

    I am appalled by Rush Limbaugh’s use of that world but then again lets be honest we are talking about Limbaugh. I find that word so horribly demeaning and disgusting. Good examples by the way nice posts!!

    Tara Costa

  2. taracosta May 25, 2011 at 7:36 pm

    Additionally I like your emotional appeal example as this seems to be used so commonly in today’s society. Shock and Awe

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