“… a terrified population is a weapon that allows politicians
to promote their own aims and objectives”.
Persuasive communication is inherent to the evolution of human beings. It has always been present in societies, with the intention of conveying ideologies or opinions with clear andcertain. The emergence of organized religions and societies favored the proliferation of the earliest forms of propaganda.
The purpose of this essay is to focus it on war propaganda and also on the discourse of fear. War propagandists use the latest technology to optimize communication persuasiveness. Thus, the main vehicle for propaganda during the First World War was the press, during World War II,radio and film; after 1945, television, and now digital media.
But, let’s start for the beginning, what is propaganda? We could define it as the act or effect of spreading an idea, opinion or doctrine. It comes from Latin, “things to spread”.
Originally, the propaganda was developed by the Catholic Church. The word propaganda came in the time of the Restoration. The Catholic Church was goingthrough a phase of struggle to maintain and expand its ideals in non-Catholic countries. Pope Gregory XIII set up a commission of cardinals for the purpose of spreading Catholicism and regulating ecclesiastical affairs on those countries. Later, in 1622, Pope Gregory XV founded the Santa Congregatio de Propaganda Fide, a more structured organization, consisting of a committee of cardinals whooversaw the spread of Christianity by missionaries sent to non-Christians.
But it wasn’t till the beginning of the First World War when the propaganda began to expand into the political and philosophical scope, with a specific organization. Despite its current connotations is almost always pejorative, in those days was considered even a progressive concept. The methods used then were mixed fortransmission, through the written and spoken word, image or action, among others.
Propaganda during the First World War
Contemporary war propaganda was developed after de First World War. This kind of propaganda leads to the population of a country to feel that the enemy only commits injustices, and it has a great responsibility in conflict, it is not only the military supremacy that wins a war. Whenpropaganda is transmitted effectively, it can become more dangerous that weapons.
So, in the First World War it was discovered that morality was an important military factor, and so it was understood that public opinion could no longer be ignored. Both the British and the Germans worked hard to get control of public opinion of Americans. It was the British one who proved to be more effective.They began with the creation of the Ministry of Information, in 1917, under the responsibility of Lord Beaverbrook. The censorship reigned and all propaganda campaigns were strictly controlled so that was just released the “official information”. Shortly after his entry into the First World War, Americans also created its advertising agency, the Committee for Public Opinion, revealed the highestefficiency.
The British seized the propaganda as a means of disseminating information in their favour, but at the end of the war, citizens were left with a very negative image of propaganda. All the the sacrifices that the nation had made were not rewarded with the magnanimous promises the Ministry of Information and as a result, the position of Minister of Information was abolished. As a result ofthe discrediting of propaganda, when during the Second World War the British government tried to raise awareness about the existence of Nazi concentration camps, this information was not considered by the population, because they suspected that it was, once again, just propaganda.
What about the Germans? During the World War II they were defeated in the field more psychologically than in the...