Propaganda has been around since Ancient Greece, but gained popularity around the start of World War I. Propaganda is material intended to promote a particular point of view, most often based on misleading or biased information. The use of propaganda can be predatory in a sense, because it preys on human emotion. At the start of World War I, the Government turned to selling war bonds as a way to help defray the cost of the war. Americans who refused to purchase bonds often suffered from different forms of bullying. Citizens would find their houses painted yellow as a way to identify them as pacifists. At the Bagley and Sewall plant, a group of 60 workers refused to work with one “bond slacker,” causing the “slacker” to quit his job (Gross).
The historic propaganda image I chose depicts a child wearing a Nazi uniform hat with the words, “IS HE YOUR CHILD? you don’t want this! Buy WAR BONDS before is too late.” This poster was released during World War II and played on the fear of citizens, insinuating that if you didn’t purchase war bonds, the United States would lose the war and fall under Hitler’s regime. Additionally, it made parents feel that if they didn’t purchase these war bonds that they were in some way failing their children and personally responsible for any potential future destruction of the country.
The contemporary propaganda image I chose was a poster for the movie Patriots Day, starring Mark Wahlberg. The movie is based off of the Boston Marathon bombing. The poster depicts red, white, and blue shoelaces, which represent the American runners in that marathon. While the Boston Marathon bombing was tragic and justifiably deserves remembrance, I can’t help but notice how these anti-terrorist movies always premiere at an inconvenient time. Do we really need another movie that depicts brown people as terrorists, when we have epic volumes of hate crimes being committed and hate rhetoric being spewed every day?
Propaganda surrounds us every day and while it can be used in a positive way, most of the time it is negative in nature. We should consider ourselves lucky that we live in a democratic society and not an authoritarian society. Unfortunately, our current President is indifferent to the truth, but I’m hopeful that the majority of Americans understand the importance of fact checking. The digital age now plays a key part in distributing propaganda. “In 1983, 90% of the media was controlled by 50 companies. In just thirty years, it’s gone from 50, to 6” (Propaganda 2017). A specific type of cyber-propaganda called cognitive warfare, profiles individuals to change their beliefs (Propaganda). Due to the amount of time we spend on our computers daily, our computers are able to analyze a lot of data and make decisions. These algorithms are our window to the world, whether you are using Google to search, or being offered suggested followers on Twitter. Robert Epstein of the American Institute for Behavioral Research and Technology explains that Google is the “…most powerful mind-control machine ever invented in the history of the human race. And people don’t even notice it” (Propaganda).
This has become a large problem with the evolution of social media; a lot of the stories are one-sided. When you log on to Facebook, you are immediately met with ads that are catered to you. The information for this propaganda is gathered by analyzing the pages you visit, the posts you like, and the friends you interact with. Although this can be seen as beneficial, you are still only hearing one side of the story. Have you ever had déjà vu while perusing around Facebook? It often feels like Facebook is your “Big Brother” looking down on you. Propaganda can really cause you to rethink your own online presence.
“Analysis | This Is Why Authoritarian Leaders Use the ‘Big Lie’.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 26 Jan. 2017
“Any Bonds Today: Selling Support for World War II.” National Archives and Records Administration, National Archives and Records Administration
Gross, David M. “‘Bond Slackers’ Refuse to Fund Dreadful War • TPL.” Sniggle.net: The Culture Jammer’s Encyclopedia
“Propaganda In Today’s Media.” The Odyssey Online, 26 Aug. 2017,
Propaganda in the Digital Age – Mind Control on a Massive Scale.” Daily Kos
Angie St. John is currently a junior, attending ODU part time. She is majoring in English with a concentration in Professional Writing. Angie has a strong passion for human rights and hopes to contribute towards meaningful discussions this semester. Her full time gig is working for Anthem as a Legal Specialist, but in her spare time, you can find her raising good humans (12 year old fraternal twins to be exact). When Angie gets a break from parenting, you can find her singing karaoke or watching some sort of sporting event, depending upon the season.