Propaganda

Various sides of our modern political spectrum often thrown around the term “propaganda”. I’ve had it explained to me by those on both the far left and far right that our news media is nothing but propaganda. In the process, we perhaps forget what real propaganda looks like. While looking up vintage Donald Duck cartoons for the kids, I ran across this little gem about the importance of paying your taxes. (The IRS did not yet have the power to do withholding during WW2, and so government revenues relied upon people actually handing over money to the government at intervals through the year.)

Of course, this is incredibly mild compared to the propaganda put out by communist and fascist regimes during the 30s and 40s. But next time someone tells you that the Bush era was dominated by knee jerk patriotism and propaganda, consider the FDR era by comparison.

17 Responses to Propaganda

  • Save for Texas!

    I know, Donald Duck said save for taxes.

    There is a stark difference between what ‘W’ was accussed of doing and what real propaganda looks like (albeit a mild form).

  • Remember, Papa Stalin with his Gremlins from the Kremlin will beat Hitler to a pulp!

  • Ah yes, that was a classic. My daughters went around singing, “We are Russian gremlins,” for days after seeing that one.

  • There is a stark difference between what ‘W’ was accussed of doing and what real propaganda looks like (albeit a mild form).

    Tito, can you explain what the difference is, precisely? And I mean YOU, not you waiting around for someone else to explain it and then you saying “what he said.”

  • When the vast majority of [congressional] democrats voted for the war [in Iraq] with the same information that Bush received from intelligence [reports].

    Then after the fact these same democrats claim they were hoodwinked, even though they received the same intelligence [reports].

    What he will say.

  • Michael I.

    The Iraq war.

    What he will say.

  • How I wish everyone still had to save up the money for their taxes as the self employed do. Yesterday I had the annual ritual of sending off a rather large lump sum check to the IRS after spending most of the day preparing my tax returns and wrestling with fairly arcane provisions in the tax code. A pleasant way to spend the day, right up there with root canal work. Of course this goes hand in hand with my long expressed desire that election day be held on April 15. With Congress having just passed a 3.5 trillion dollar budget, I imagine quite a few Americans will be having a much closer relationship with the IRS as taxes go through the roof eventually to pay for this folly. I can imagine the type of Donald Duck cartoons Walt the conservative would be making now if he was still with us!

  • Withholding is doubtless the most insidious tool for growing government ever devised.

  • I’d rank withholding a distant second to Communist revolutions myself, but I agree it’s insidious.

  • And I guess the divine right of kings was pretty good in its day too, eh?

    Perhaps I can reformulate: the most insidious tool for the growth of government which has ever been implemented in our country.

  • Tito, once more: can you explain what the difference is, precisely?

  • Michael,

    I don’t see that Tito owes you an explanation of how there is an order of magnitude difference between New Deal and WW2 era propaganda and anything that the recent Bush administration did. It’s a fairly obvious claim.

    If you want one or two examples, however:

    As during WW1, the government very explicitly told the entertainment industry what was expected of it, and made it clear there would be consequences if the proper message was not put out. No such thing happened during the last eight years.

    Again as in WW1, WW2 propaganda relied heavily upon negative stereotypes (the Jap, the Hun) which were applied with a broad brush. This was in keeping with the idea of total war in which civilian activities and industrial work were seen as being just as much a part of the war effort and fighting. By contract, in the Iraq and Afghan wars the government constantly made it clear that our issue was not with Iraqis and Afghans in general, or Arabs in general, or Muslims in general. Some of the more feisty right wing figures complained extensively about how many times Bush referred to Islam as “a religion of peace”. This is not to say that no one used distancing stereotypes, it’s a very natural reaction during war to characterize the other, but there was a huge difference in the sort of tone which the government and entertainment establishment tried to put out compared to during the Great War and WW2.

    Overall, I think those differences are positive.

  • Ah, now, let me guess… Tito will chime in, saying “what he said.”

    I think you over-emphasize the differences. The u.s. dove into a pattern of propagandizing during the world wars, one that has continued ever since, up to and including the Obama administration. I think emphasizing the Bush administration’s use of propaganda, too, over other uses of propaganda since WWII (Clinton’s constant invocation of the black, single, lazy, welfare-receiving mother image, for example) is a bad move as well. But there is no doubt that the Bush administration has used propaganda and lies. u.s. propaganda has become more subtle, and no longer requires direct orders from Washington to Hollywood, but the propaganda is just as real and just as deadly.

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