[Ms. McKinnon was good enough to take the trouble to honour my request for elaboration of her piquant polemical parentheses to her academic presentation on British propaganda in support of World War One. She blogs delightfully, thus.]"This is just a quick blog to cover some of my more personal objections to the use of propaganda during WWI which were not included in the body of my presentation on the 31st of october.
My first frustration with the propaganda machine of the British is that it used some of the most gifted minds of writers and artists to manipulate the British people, particularly young men. Authors such as Bennett, Conan Doyle, and Kipling were sent over to view "real" trench-warfare and lie to their public and I find that disgusting.
My presentation divided propaganda into several categories of my own devising, with which I will list my objections:
- Peer Pressure: This involved the classic attempt to make any man feel like "less than nothing" by insinuating that he is the only man not man enough to go to war. It invoves degrading men infront of their peers and family and forcing them to support the effort as that is supposedly synonymous with helping friends and family.
- Backward Notion of Warfare: Many of the propaganda posters of the era said things like "Forward to Victory!" while using antiquated notions of warfare to depict life in the trenches. Men on horses, and knights slaying dragons, were meant to be accurate representations of what war in the trenches would be like. This kind of thinking was what drove generals to murder millions of their own men in mass slaughter while pushing for a "break through". It is what destroyed the youth of multiple nations. It is one of the most
terrifying instances if misrepresentation in propaganda as the thinking behind it killed millions of innocents.
- Appeal to British Sympathies and Shame: This category includes visions of 'brave little Belgium' and the "What did you do in the Great War Daddy?" poster. Charity is one of the major Christian values used in Britain, even today, to manipulate the masses. It was used to pull Britain into the war to protect other, weaker nations - with this, I have little problem. Shaming a man into going to war by implying that his children may be ashamed of him later if he does not is a reprehensible act. The sense of pride in a good British workman would not stand up to such attacks, nor would his body to the rapidly fired enemy bullets. What a shameful use of tactics!
- Demonisation of the Germans: These posters only really bother me because I feel that their influence can still be felt today. In war, it is necessary to demonise the enemy, but in the form of propaganda it is also dangerous as the images are not as easily erased from the human mind as they are torn off walls.
The point is - propaganda did more than help the nation, it bled the nation until there was naught left to bleed. It falsified, to an astonishing degree, the realities of life at the front, and extended the chasm between home and the front itself. Soldiers were coming home to a different world and many found themselves unable to fit in where they had left, and unable to reconcile what they had seen with civilian visions of the war. Shame threatened by pro-war posters mutated into the guilt of war, the guilt of surving...I wonder how many would have held off volunteering, how many more would have lived, how much more life would have been valued...if not for the betrayal of the propaganda office.... "