British Wartime Propagandas
The British during World War Two were masters of all kinds of media propaganda and they provide a variety of lessons into the powerful elements of effective public persuasion. Here the British had to influence the minds of their own citizens as well as convince the citizens of the United States to act in optimal ways respectively. Analysis of these two campaigns for their strategies, tactics, goals and effectiveness shows that the British government involved a high degree of customization and forethought into their campaigns in relation to their goals of the target audience behavior.
The British Home Front campaign had a series of clear goals that they wanted to achieve. Being led by the various ministers of information, the Ministry of Information’s chief goal was to mentally prepare the British people for the inevitable war that would reach their island nation. They also needed to re-spark the feelings of nationalism within its citizens that would allow them to work hard and possibly die for their nation.
As the 1930s philosopher Bertrand Russell stated “countries need propaganda to convince their people to endure hardships and acts of sacrifice for their nation.”
Firstly, they used films for propoganda. An example of this would be the film “Salvage with a Smile.” This film explains exactly how and what should be recycled for the war effort.
Another example “Dig for Victory” which was sponsored by the Ministries of Information and Agriculture. This film is about the benefits of citizens growing their own vegetables. The film displays images of happy citizens growing their own food while the commentator delivers his lines. The script of the film is written in a plain and simple way clearly telling the listener that growing your own food will aid the country. The film also goes on to say that growing food can be fun for social events. This is a direct use of the tool “socialpsychological” adaptations. The messages and information are shaped around the unique social and mental makeup of the British culture. The propagandists were British and thus knew the intricacies of British culture; like the need for social events and framed the information around this. The film says that gardening is a great way to socialize during the blitz, thus convincing the people to act a certain way and motivates them via unique social-psychological needs.
The third one was primary historical source that effectively used emotional hooks was the realm of film. The movie “London Can Take It” was an emotional hook masterpiece. Created by the Ministry of Information and the film aimed to show American audiences the reality and struggles the British civilians were going through to win the Battle of Britain and to preserve their country.The film also showed signs of being customized to the American audience.
The film also focused on the struggles of daily civilian life and the hardships that the British people had to live through. The narrator at one point describes the British people as going to work and spending the night at their respective war posts. This was aimed at Americans who also had a large civilian working base who could related to images of British people going to work and become moved by the thought of serving every night at a war post. The film also goes for images that were designed to make an impact on American feelings towards the war. One part of the film showed and elderly couple and small children trying to sleep while bombs are being dropped outside their shelter. Images like these were and are enough to gain the empathy or at least the attention of any viewer. These images also made the British people very relatable to American audiences and thus easier to sympathize with. This is in direct opposition to the way the film shows the Germans bombers described as “creatures of the night…scurry back to their own shores”, making them seem very inhuman.
To make the Germans seem even more evil the narrator and film crews were clear to show the targets of the German bombers, being “churches, hospitals, flats” or in other words innocent civilian or religious centers. This is example of emotional propaganda’s favorite tool of exaggeration. The film also target hatred for the Germans by showing pictures such as bombed out churches. This pointing out of the enemies wrongdoings is a technique. This technique calls on the propagandist to direct the attention of the viewers to the negative aspect of the enemy to make themselves look good by comparison. When this is done, the enemy will look even worse if they refute the point in the wrong way.
British World War Two propagandists also executed white propaganda well with other forms of media. Posters were intelligently designed because of their short snappy texts and powerful images. This form of propaganda was not as good at portraying a slew of information; however a picture (and a clever text) can say a thousand words and can change recipient’s thoughts and behaviors just the same. The most iconic primary source of this idea is the “Keep Calm and Carry On” poster issued by the Ministry of Information in 1939. Although this poster was never formally used, it still represents the idea of white propaganda posters perfectly. The primary goal of the piece was to remind and influence the British people to remain calm, not panic and to continue on their paths in the event of an attack on Britain.
British authorities also used this emotional hook in their posters. Many posters aimed for powerful images that would draw on historical, patriotic or emotional ties of the citizens. A great example of this would be the poster “We Beat ’em Before, We’ll Beat ’em Again” poster. This poster used a powerful image of two soldiers proudly standing their ground against an oncoming battle. The title of the piece, reflecting the only text on the page, is a clear reference to the First World War where Britain was able to defeat the Germans. Emotional hooks were and still are utilized by propagandists to unify a target group under a common historical aspect. In this case it is uniting Britons around the fact that they as a nation have already defeated this enemy in World War One.
They also used known British authors to write pieces in books, magazines, pamphlets, etc to convince the American people to join the allied cause. For example authors like Delafield and Bowen wrote poetry and short stories geared towards the hardships of women during the London Blitz. These authors also were one of the first to employ these new ideas and tactics of persuasion. The documents they wrote are a great example of fabrication propaganda. Although the fabrication was obvious as most of their stories were fiction, the idea and feelings the readers felt stayed with readers and may have subconsciously convinced readers to favor the British in the war.
The book “For What Do We Fight?” is a particularly fantastic example of British writers supplying biased views in American media. Originally published in the New York Times this article by Angel was written to combat the pro neutrality forces in the United States and to encourage the United States to accept the idea of fighting Germany. The article uses language to specifically hook Americans. A main argument of the article is to fight for the freedom of those under German control and nations that could fall under German power. The article hints that not challenging Germany would be accepting German power and authority over the conquered nations such as Poland. Angel states that by not going to war, it is to accept the rape of Poland and the possibility of fascism spreading.
In the history of the world there have always been forms of propaganda. From rumors to elaborate films, human beings have always sought to control the thoughts and actions of others in conflicts. If governments can control the minds of their people and their allies then they can have civilians work better as a unit and thus be more productive in large scale conflicts. The pen has truly proven mightier than the sword as time after time propaganda persuades nations of people to dedicate their lives to a cause.
British Wartime Propagandas