Propaganda is a very powerful thing deliberately used to control or alter people’s attitudes, and those whose attitudes have already been controlled or altered, produce predictable behaviour. Propaganda does not depend on violence or bribery. It is simply the publication or broadcast of information designed to influence wartime attitudes towards a particular point of view.
Propaganda was often used in 1914. In fact, there were 4,500 cinemas built around Britain to influence propaganda. British filmmakers made over 240 war films between 1915 and 1918. Some of these films are the most famous films of war. The films were propaganda triumphs and brought the people closer to the conditions of war; this is a very powerful type of propaganda. Films were made such as the battle of Somme which was made as propaganda as it was sanitised for public display, using a mixture of stage footage and genuine battle sequences, probably one of the most remarkable films of the year.
In 1914, propaganda had developed so much that it was then divided into two main categories: State Propaganda and Private Propaganda. State Propaganda was any type of propaganda which involved the government such as newspapers which they controlled and used a combination of triumph and defamation of the enemy to influence people’s opinions of the war as they wanted all civilians to contribute to the wartime effort. Private propaganda involves attitudes coming from individuals with no form of pressure from the government such as poetry, children’s tails and comics. Comics and books for children gave across a patriotic feeling. The British were always brought across to be modest, brave and successful whilst the enemy was always portrayed as cowardly and treacherous. This type of propaganda sold very well.
These two main categories then sub-divide into three official types of propaganda: home (organised by Ministry of the Interior), enemy (organised by the War Office) and neutral (organised by the Foreign Office). Home propaganda is targeted to the own countries civilians, enemy propaganda is targeted towards the enemy and neutral propaganda is to persuade neutral people to have hatred for the ‘enemy’ and contribute towards the wartime effort. All of these included tools of imperial propaganda such as books, newspapers, paintings, poems, leaflets and posters. Posters were significantly effective because they are much personalised, targeting an individual, often in huge block capitals, cutting straight to the point. They are effective because they are throwing all types of emotions to individuals such as haste, demand, force, loyalty, guilt, honour, pride and use psychology to make you think if you don’t join the army then you are not serving your duty by contributing to the wartime effort.
Posters are also used to recruit people as well as persuading them to volunteer. I think they would like people to volunteer because a nothing is more powerful than a heart of a volunteer. Although it was soon the case that they had to start conscripting people and it was these conscripts who won the war anyway in the BEF (British Expeditionary Force).
It was very important that propaganda was thrown towards the home audience as they had many aims: recruitment for soldiers, recruitment for war industries, regulating behaviour, national security – spy mania, fundraising, maintaining public morale, using the church’s support (‘God is on your side’) and establishment of national unity behind just a cause.
By 1916, cinemas had really started to take off and other methods of conveying propaganda were introduced such as creating leaflets with explicit stories of German barbarism and how German factories were using dead bodies to turn them into fat, oil and possibly even pig’s fodder. Though it was a lie, it was spread across the world and turned Germans into ruthless beings. Most of the news stories published were true but due to their explicit content they were not thought of as lies. Some authors signed a declaration stating that they supported the war. They then used mass literacy as the department of history at Oxford University produced a five-volume explanation of why Britain was justified in going to war. This dismissed all the doubts about war being the wrong thing which then truly mobilised the minds of the nation towards war.
Propaganda was how the state took greater control over peoples lives. Propaganda told them where to work, how to spend their leisure, what to eat, what to do and especially what to think. Citizens were denied access to information that could lead them to the question ‘Is the war worth fighting?’ It was aimed to make sure that the nation could not think for themselves, therefore not realising that the war was not a good thing. The government used propaganda to eliminate any chance of the nation turning against war. It was propaganda which recruited soldiers in the first place. Also, propaganda used peer pressure. An example of this is a poster urging the wife to ask herself is her man worthy of her if he isn’t in uniform? This will then persuade her to have words with him and maybe consider having him signed up to the army to fight for his country as an obligation. Another poster was of a man sitting in a very comfortable room with his two children who were playing soldiers. His kids the asked ‘father, what did you do in the war’.
This will then put men on the spot if they were asked that in real life because it shows they didn’t totally commit themselves to the wartime effort if they were sitting there in that comfortable armchair in front of the fire. This shows that propaganda was effective to a certain extent. Also the department of information succeeded in encouraging anti-German feeling and disguising the full horrors of war. This was done by censoring letters from soldiers, reporters weren’t allowed to see battles very often, no photographs could be taken which showed dead soldiers, casualty figures weren’t available from the government, often the parliament wasn’t told how the war was going and newspapers were censored by 1915 because they didn’t want to make the readers feel depressed so they made things sound better than they really were. Propaganda was successful as it was the main tool used to promote the good side of war which will then keep the minds of the nation motivated as most of the ghastly reality is concealed. This would also emphasise the fact that propaganda was effective.
It is hard to define whether propaganda was a complete success. All in all, it was to a certain extent due to the fact that it kept the war firm despite the amount of casualties because the newspapers proved to be very successful in the way that more than half the population read newspapers during the war. The newspapers circulation even increased by double. This must’ve meant the propaganda worked because citizens must have read what the government would have wanted them to read, therefore people mobilizing themselves on their own accord demolished the reason for extreme measures of propaganda to take place.
Citizens joined their own patriotic organisations again reducing the need for too much propaganda. To a certain extent hatred was brought upon Germany by propaganda. The full horrors of war were disguised which was a great success. The good side of war was highlighted by official reports, press coverage and film material. Overall, propaganda most definitely mobilised the minds of the nation whether it was through newspapers, comics, leaflets, books, etc but the main fact is the government managed to blind the horror of war and only showed the nation what they wanted to see which would act as a boost in morale hence, the citizens will contribute more to the wartime effort which is what the government would have wanted in the first place.