Propaganda is distribution of political, philosophical, scientific, artistic and other views and ideas in order to impose them into public consciousness and activate the mass practical activity (Bernays, 2004).
Propaganda consists in systematic attempts to manipulate people’s opinions and persuasions by means of different symbols: words, slogans, monuments, music etc. It differs from another ways of distribution of knowledge and ideas by the aim to control people’s consciousness and behaviour. Propaganda always has a goal or a group of goals. To achieve these goals propaganda selects the facts and presents them so that they greatly influence one’s consciousness. Propaganda can hide some important facts or distort them, as well as try to distract the audience from other information sources (Bernays, 2004).
Propaganda’s subject is a social group the interests of which it expresses; its content, forms and methods, means or channels are radio, TV, printed media, systems of lecture propaganda etc.; its object is an audience or social community to which it is addressed.
Propaganda is one of the basic means of political manipulation. Propaganda cannot be compared to advertising. Advertising is a kind of selfpresentation belonging to the informative genre. Propaganda unlike advertising is not limited by strict time frames and it is no easy to reveal. Advertising, first of all, influences people’s emotion. Propaganda affects both people’s emotions and mind. Therefore, propaganda, like emotions, can be negative or positive (Jowett & O’Donnell, 2006).
The efficiency of propaganda is determined by the correlation of actual number of the attracted supporters to the planned number. It is possible to distinguish three basic criterion of effective propaganda’s content: it should be (1) a certain idea (2) easily understood by an audience and (3) steady to the criticism from outside. There should be the balance between 2 and 3, otherwise, either ideas will be unclear to the target audience or too vulnerable for a counterpropaganda (Jowett & O’Donnell, 2006).
Concerning the form, it is possible to distinguish the followings criteria: clearness of the central thesis (it should not mix with a background); attractiveness of background.
When World War II broke out, Americans were afraid to be involved in it recovering from serious losses in World War I and economic crisis. However, the government soon acknowledged that American involvement was essential, and quickly started pro-war propaganda.
It was not very successful until the Pearl Harbor accident, when the war was no longer remoted from home. Then the American propagandists started convincing the public that the war was close at hand. It was also important to begin increasing production and accumulation of materials for the war effort, because the Allies’ only great advantage was their impressive production power. As the war was spreading, America intensified the flow of propaganda, using especially the radio and visual media, most explicitly posters of which there were a wider range in more styles and in greater numbers than any other country (Zeman,1979).
Much of the government propaganda used fear as a central idea – fears of the Japanese, Nazis, economics, and religious threats. The US government used fear to maintain the worry people felt during the war allowing pictures of the enemies in a negative way to persuade the American society to do what it wanted. Which was to join government supported programs like rationing, women involvement into war industry, and justification of the war in general. War was no longer between soldiers on battlefields but between nations and their ideas. And to make the whole nation of people support the war, the influence was needed. That influence was propaganda (Navarro).
As it has been already mentioned, posters were aimed at various mass activities which could help in the war. They were also oriented on different social layers in order to cover the whole nation (Zeman,1979).
There were posters attempting to convince the viewer that the Nazi threat was closer than they thought. One of such posters depicted enemies’ portrayals in the most threatening way and was saying “Our homes are in danger now” (Navarro).
Another group of posters was designed to encourage men to enlist into the US armed forces. A typical poster showed Uncle Sam pointing at the viewer saying “I want you for the US army” or “You’ve got what it takes soldier. Now take care of what you’ve got!”
Posters, which implied that a man was dying because “someone talked,” were also very common. They meant that enemy spies were everywhere and that, according to a similar poster, “loose lips can sink ships.”
In order to increase production and labor, many posters were spread encouraging intensified labor and production as well as saving materials for the war power. One of such posters urging to save gasoline by joining a car-sharing club, was saying “When you ride alone, you ride with Hitler”. Another poster was giving advices how not to waste food: “use less wheat and meat; serve just enough; use what is left,” etc.
As most men were fighting, the government called American women to take up “war” jobs (production of weapons, arms and other necessary equipment) or even join the US army. One of the posters depicted a woman in a plant uniform holding up her fist and saying “We can do it”, another one included women in military uniforms and an inscription “For your country’s sake today – for your own sake tomorrow” (Navarro).
The US government used propaganda to convince the American society that without going to war and doing everything possible their worst fears would come true. It worked and the pushes for more production, labor, and conservation helped to win the war But this propaganda had a terrible effect on American people’s consciousness by creating a threatening world full of racism and hatred toward the whole country of people.