"Propaganda is as effective a weapon as a gun." To what extent do you agree with this statement? On the accepted premise that a gun is an extremely effective weapon, with the ability to inflict fatal injuries, and to cause enough pressure on an individual to persuade them to do just about anything, the statement 'propaganda is as effective weapon as a gun' can be agreed with only to the slightest of extents because propaganda, "the material disseminated by the advocates or opponents of a doctrine or cause"1 is simply a far more effective weapon. In the context of World War One, which marked the zenith of propaganda as a psychological weapon in modern history, propaganda was utilised in many different forms, the most common of which were posters, films, post cards, brochures and artwork. This diversity was however matched with the similarly innovative military weapons of World War One; machine guns, flame-throwers, poisonous gas, heavy artillery, aircraft, and tanks. The superior effectiveness of propaganda as a weapon in World War One in fact lay in its flexibility in terms of the messages that could be successfully portrayed, and the unlimited nature of its effects. The physical weapons utilised by the Allied and Central forces in the duration of World War One each had definite effects and specific purposes; heavy artillery was an "area weapon"2, it was simply designed to cover an area of ground with fire with the explicit intentions of softening enemy lines and providing defense. Its effects could be increased with the implementation of specific strategies and tactics such as preparatory bombardments and rolling or creeping barrages, but its effects were limited not only to the battlefield, but also by tangible obstructions such as communication.
Propaganda as a weapon in World War One could however portray any message from encouraging wartime thrift to demonizing the enemy through various techniques; word games, false connections and special appeals, without any apparent repetition and it was able to reach both home fronts of participating nations and the battlefronts alike. Furthermore, because each publication of propaganda could be interpreted on so many different levels, and each slightly differently by every individual, it was the most effective weapon utilised in World War One, far more influential than any physical weapon, and thus, the statement 'propaganda is as effective weapon as a gun' can be agreed with only to the slightest of extents. Propaganda was such an effective weapon in World War One, because just about any message could be portrayed successfully. A major element to this success was the numerous techniques used, so that the same message could be "recycled and regurgitated"3 into various different forms, so that the message did in fact bombard the audience, but it didn't seem as such because it never became exhausted. The first of these techniques is word games, which was used in World War One with the use of two main devices, name calling and glittering generalities. Name calling is a device that basically "links a person or an idea"4 to a negative symbol with the objective for the audience to "reject"5 this person or idea solely on the basis on this connection.
Many Allied propaganda campaigns launched throughout World War One predominantly used this technique, with the development of the connection between the nation of Germany and Huns; members of a nomadic pastoralist people who invaded Europe in the fourth and fifth centuries A. D. and who were defeated in 455. This connection portrayed the nation of Germany and German soldiers as barbarous and destructive, examples of propaganda posters which use this technique are shown in figures one, two and three. Figure One: Figure Two: Figure Three: Figure One SOURCE: First World War. Com: Propaganda Posters, web > Figure Two SOURCE: First World War.
Com: Propaganda Posters, web > Figure Three SOURCE: First World War. Com: Propaganda Posters, web > The Central Powers also utilised this device extensively, interestingly targeting Russia most commonly with this technique. An example of this is provided in figure four, a poster from a German propaganda campaign which compares Leon Trotsky, the Russian Revolutionary theoretician and leader of the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917, to both a medieval knight and the devil, effectively portraying his ideals as "out of date and evil"6. Figure four: SOURCE: First World War.
Com: Propaganda Posters, web > The name calling device attributed to propaganda's effectiveness as a weapon during World War One as it successfully attributed to anti-German and anti-British sentiments throughout the war, emotions which needed to be present at home fronts and battlefields alike to maintain civilian and soldier support, and thus to continue the conflict. The propagandistic device, glittering generalities involves the use of "virtue words"7, such as "civilisation, Christianity, good, proper, right, democracy, patriotism, motherhood, fatherhood, science, medicine, health, and love"8, to which individuals in society have deep set ideas. The basis for this device is that these words mean different things to different people, and they can be used in different contexts to change their meaning. Therefore, the glittering generality device is essentially name calling "in reverse"9.
Name calling seeks to make the audience form a decision to reject and condemn without examining the evidence, whereas the glittering generality device seeks to make us hastily approve and accept. This technique was used in conjunction with other propagandistic techniques and devices in the majority of propaganda campaigns launched by the opposing forces of World War One as it only controlled a very small part of the publication, invariably one single printed word. An examples of a World War One propaganda poster in which this device is used are shown in figure five, a French propaganda poster. The glittering generality device can also be used quite subtly with the overall theme of the publication making use of these 'virtue' words, an example of which is shown in figure six. The US poster clearly uses patriotic symbolism with the images of the American Flag and the US navy uniform, but it does not specifically use the word patriotism.
This device was extensively used in other propaganda campaigns launched Figure Five: 'Justice.' Figure Six: Figure Five SOURCE: First World War. Com: Propaganda Posters, web > Figure Six SOURCE: First World War. Com: Propaganda Posters, web > during World War One such as those encouraging enlistment and wartime thrift. This technique particularly contributed to the effectiveness of propaganda as a weapon in World War One because it was an element that dictated the specific messages that "spoke"9 to the reader, the part of propaganda publications that arguably had the greatest impact on the viewer. False connections is a further propagandistic technique that was used during World War One. This technique is achieved with the use of the device, transfer.
The basis of the transfer device is the "carrying over of authority, sanction, and prestige of something that the audience knows and respects and reveres it to something that the propagandist would have them respect"10. In this device, symbols are also frequently used. This device was used in propaganda campaigns during World War One that were aimed at eliminating anti-war sentiments on respective home fronts, attempting to justify the nation's war effort. German campaigns of this kind often use the authority of Von Hindenburg, the prestigious German General, an example of which is shown in figure seven.
Similar Allied propaganda campaigns used cartoons such as Lord Kitchener and Uncle Sam to represent the opinions of entire nations. These symbols were also commonly used to encourage enlistment, as exemplified in figures eight and nine. Figure Seven: Figure Eight: Figure Nine: Figure Seven SOURCE: First World War. Com: Propaganda Posters, web > Figure Eight SOURCE: First World War. Com: Propaganda Posters, web > Figure Nine SOURCE: First World War. Com: Propaganda Posters, web > The transfer device was also often used in conjunction with demonization.
As exemplified in figure ten, a German propaganda poster that uses god and religion to portray a message that makes "no doubt"11 about who the public is meant to hate. Interestingly, Great Britain used religious transfer in a very different way during World War One. Any presence of religion in British propaganda was in a positive context. This is shown in figure eleven, a British propaganda poster that uses, not specifically religious transfer, but religious sentiments all the same. This device especially contributed to the Figure Ten: Figure Eleven: Figure Ten SOURCE: First World War. Com: Propaganda Posters, web > Figure Eleven: SOURCE: First World War.
Com: Propaganda Posters, web > effectiveness of propaganda as a weapon in World War One as such enlistment campaigns launched by Great Britain are among some of the most successful propaganda campaigns of World War One. Although conscription still needed to be introduced in Great Britain by 1916, the campaign, of which figure eight is an example, aided the signing up of over 3, 000, 000 volunteers in the first two years of the war. The propagandistic technique of special appeals is the final technique that attributed to the effectiveness of propaganda as a weapon in World War One. This technique is accomplished with the use of the bandwagon device.
The bandwagon device generally means that the message of the propaganda publication is basically in the form of "everyone is also doing it, and so should you"12. The effect of this device is that it makes the viewer feel as if they are being left behind, this effect is heightened by the way in which the propagandist exaggerates the urgency of the situation. The two main propaganda campaigns that this device was used in during World War One were those that encouraged women on the home fronts to join the workforce and for civilians to make financial investments in the war effort through war bond, victory bond, or war certificate programs, examples of which are shown in figures twelve and thirteen respectively. In these campaigns, this device was often employed quite Figure Twelve: Figure Thirteen: Figure Twelve SOURCE: First World War. Com: Propaganda Posters, web > Figure Thirteen SOURCE: First World War. Com: Propaganda Posters, web > subtly, so the source of the bandwagon device is quite difficult to locate in the publication.
An example of this is in figure fourteen, a German propaganda poster Figure Fourteen: SOURCE: First World War. Com: Propaganda Posters, web > encouraging the purchase of war bonds. The fact that the poster provides no elementary information about the German war loan program itself shows that it is directed at an audience that already has knowledge of the concept, something that is constant with the poster targeting an audience who have already made investments, and it is simply trying to persuade them to increase their pledge. To a viewer who has not yet made an investment, they would effectively feel as if they need to invest in the war loan in order to keep up with those around them, and the viewers who have already done so, are lead to believe that everyone around them are already in the process of making further investments, and more than likely are lead to do the same.
The use of the exclamation mark only intensifies the effectiveness of the bandwagon device by exaggerating the sense of urgency. The bandwagon device contributed to the effectiveness of propaganda as a weapon in World War One, as it helped to create the conformity among the home fronts, something that was essential for their productiveness, and thus their contribution to the war effort. This device was also imperative to the success of the large scale propaganda campaigns run by both forces to achieve funding for their respective war efforts. Propaganda was not only such an effective weapon in World War One because just about any message could be portrayed successfully, as a result of various propagandistic techniques used, but simply because of a propaganda publication's nature of having several different levels that its message can be interpreted on. This can be shown by using figure fifteen as such an example of a publication. The message of this Figure Fifteen: SOURCE: First World War.
Com: Propaganda Posters, web > poster, on a quite straight forward level, is simply that British civilians should be thrifty in their consumption of bread in light of Britain's present war commitments. This same message can however, also be interpreted with the bread symbolizing many different resources that the British people utilize. These resources, which are inferred to be consumed in British daily life with the mundanity of the bread, and to be quite essential with bread being a simple "necessity for sustaining life"13, include all food products, electricity, gas, diesel and coal. The poster quite strongly urges the viewer not to waste these resources, as what is wasted, is again demanded, and must be produced at what the message of the poster promotes to be the costly and unnecessary expense of the British nation in the context of Britain's war effort, thus taking 'a slice off Britain's loaf.' The message of this poster can be seen to subtly promote British civilians to furthermore endure severer sacrifices for Britain's war efforts.
This can be seen by the way in which the poster brings very close attention to the conduct of the viewer's lifestyle, and in this way introduces a sense of scrutiny. As a result, a great amount of guilt is placed upon the viewer, as they would be lead to question what is essentially a very private section of their life, their conduct within their homes, as the message of this poster quite strongly insinuates that such actions are an indication of one's dedication to their nation, and its commitments. This would invariably lead to individuals choosing to endure quite harsh sacrifices in order to clear their consciences that have been impacted by the message of this poster. Thus, the effectiveness of propaganda as a weapon during World War One can further be attributed to the ability of most of propaganda publications to be interpreted on a number of different levels, which also differ depending of the audience.
This makes each publication in itself extremely efficient in its dissemination, and attributes to the overwhelming success of the majority of the propaganda campaigns launched by both the Allied and Central Powers during World War One. Therefore, propaganda was an extremely effective psychological weapon employed during World War One, so much so that its effectiveness was superior to any physical weapon which was employed during the conflict, which each had specific purposes and definite effects. This was because propaganda as it appeared in World War One was so flexible, having the ability to successfully disseminate almost any message because of the use of the propagandistic techniques; word games, false connections and special appeals, and the unlimited nature of its effects; a propaganda publication's ability to be interpreted on several different levels, that can in turn vary depending on the audience. Thus, the statement, 'propaganda is as effective a weapon as a gun' can only be agreed with to the slightest of extents, because propaganda is essentially a much more effective a weapon. Word Count: 2411 Endnotes: 1.
F. G. Fowler and H. W. Fowler, (eds.
), The Concise Oxford Dictionary, Oxford University Press, London, 1976, P. 140. 2. M. McAndrew, D. Thomas and P.
Cummins, The Great War And Its Aftermath, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2001, P. 116. 3. ibid, P.
224 4. Propaganda, web > 5. ibid. 6. ibid. 7.
ibid. 8. ibid. 9.
ibid. 10. ibid. 11.
ibid. 12. ibid. 13.
F. G. Fowler and H. W. Fowler, (eds. ), op.
cit, P. 70. Bibliography: First World War. Com: Propaganda Posters. web > First World War.
Com: Propaganda Posters. web > First World War. Com: Propaganda Posters. web > Fowler, F. G. and Fowler, H.
W. (eds. ), The Concise Oxford Dictionary. Oxford University Press, London.
1976. McAndrew, M. , Thomas, D. and Cummins, P.
, The Great War And Its Aftermath. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. 2001.