Social Psychology: An Analysis of Social Behavior

Chapter 27: Propoganda: Positive Control of Public Opinion

Kimball Young

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A. The Nature and Background of Propaganda.

1. Definition of Propaganda.— Propaganda is a word much used during the past decade. Someone once described it as "a good word gone wrong." Bernays even remarked that "there is more propaganda for and against propaganda— and more of it is false— than about most of the causes in which propaganda is utilized as a weapon." The term propaganda was first used in any modern sense with the papal establishment in 1633 of the Congregatio de propaganda fide to foster Roman Catholic missions. It meant simply religious proselyting. Today the word has acquired a rather sinister connotation. Really the word has been used in two senses— one very broad and vague, the other fairly special. The first sense is simply any form of proselyting, publicity and advertising or even education designed to change our opinions or attitudes through the techniques of suggestion. In the more special sense propaganda means an effort deliberately to manufacture popular opinions and attitudes and thus to control popular conduct; and usually the implication is that the aims of the propagandists are concealed. The objects of propaganda do not know the purposes of the makers of the propaganda. Propaganda then is the propagation of ideas, opinions and attitudes, the real purpose of which is not made clear to the hearer or reader.

The term is related to the Latin "propagare," meaning "to fasten down layers, shoots or slips of plants for the purpose of reproduction, hence to generate, reproduce, and generally to extend or increase." Etymologically, then, propaganda is not a breeding that would take place of itself; it is a forced generation.[1]

That is, propaganda means an artificial propagation, not an unconscious growth. Psychologically propaganda is much like legend- and myth-making, but it differs in this one respect. Propaganda materials are con-

(654) -sciously manufactured, while much of the legendary and mythological material in our social reality is quite unconsciously produced. The sinister aspects of propaganda are subjects of social valuation, questions of social ethics, and they need not concern us here. We simply wish to see its relation to social behavior and to examine its psychology and technique both as it is made and as it is received. We must first distinguish between propaganda and advertising. Through the techniques of suggestion, advertising attempts to influence the buying habits of the public but the usual reader knows the purposes of the advertiser. This is not so in propaganda. Propaganda may appear to be education. But education, even when it employs suggestion, is not to be confused with propaganda. Education, if it means anything not only passes on information and teaches skill, it also stimulates critical ability. In this way the most effective education might counteract propaganda.

2. History of Propaganda.— As we have already noted, the term was first employed in the founding of the Roman Catholic propaganda college. One of its most modern features was developed in the Napoleonic period when the press of France was encouraged to foster the growing Napoleonic legend. Just as Napoleon censored the news and opinion of his day in order to maintain his control, so too, he deliberately spread ideas favoring his regime. Of course the Napoleonic legend did not arise entirely from this conscious effort of Napoleon himself; but he certainly helped greatly to establish it as a popular French legend. Napoleon III deliberately re-stimulated the Napoleonic legend and used it to help maintain his own position. Guedalla's Second Empire: Bonapartism, the Prince, the Emperor is an interesting description of the revival of the legend. Bismarck not only recognized the force of censorship, he was equally aware of the value of propaganda. During the Franco-Prussian War he made every effort to build up opinions favorable to the Prussian cause in the French press as well as in the press of his own and allied countries. Later, to serve his nationalistic designs, he encouraged popular attitudes antagonistic toward England and especially toward Queen Victoria. The World War, however, called out the most colossal propaganda ,e have yet seen. Every warring country made use of all its devices and our present attitudes toward the whole war are still influenced by this propaganda.[2]

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B. Psychology of Propaganda.

1. Propaganda and Fantasy Thinking.— Propaganda-making is a part of the larger process of legend- and myth-making. Much the same psychological mechanisms are at work in both, but in propaganda the legends and myths are deliberately created. The emotional association of words and pictures with ideas and attitudes is provided by our early conditioning. Through the technique of suggestion the propagandist plays on these associations. He adds new stories, explanations and descriptions of events, all calculated to arouse our fear and anxiety and to make us avoid some things and to accept and enjoy the new legends and by projection to participate in them. Like so much of our behavior, our fears, angers, irritations, avoidances, or acceptances, loves and sympathies reflect our attachment to some particular group and our negative attitudes to other groups.

As we have seen, the legends and myths on which we are all brought up, are largely stories of our national history, of our religion and church, of our political party and of successful men in our historic groups. Propaganda is merely the conscious creation of this same sort of material in the interests of group survival and social control. The reason we believe the propaganda is merely that it fits into the unconscious attitudes which have always been satisfactory both to our own egos and to those of other members of our group. Myths and legends are necessary to preserve our morale, for morale is simply the basic set of group ideas and attitudes emotionally toned toward some common end. Propaganda, then, is merely a modern device for increasing the effects of the usually unconscious means by which we maintain our morale. We feed our egos and maintain our group solidarity out of our day-dream world. The sense of unity which is so essential to morale is increased by feeding everyone a similar set of ideas and attitudes about a critical situation. Each one of us individually projects upon the rest of the group his own attitudes toward a crisis. Since the stimuli and the emotional, experiential background are largely the same for all of us, our attitudes and reactions are going to he much alike. By conversation and observation of the action of others, each one of us is confirmed in his projection of his attitudes, and our more or less unconscious inference of group solidarity is verified. Thus our sense of group solidarity grows.

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As we noted in the previous chapter propaganda is really the reverse of censorship. When the latter has deleted facts about critical events, the propagandist is often employed to fill in the gaps. During a war, facts about the movement of troops, casualties, and international agreements may be suppressed and the public supplied with other matter in their place. Propaganda is thus a positive rather than a negative device in the control of public opinion and of our subsequent conduct. Propaganda has the psychological advantage of being creative. Censorship is fundamentally a form of restraint of movement, whether of ideas or actions, and may provoke tendencies to revolt, to throw off the source of the repression. It plays upon our fears, angers, and our prepotent pugnacity. It arouses in us feelings of unpleasantness and attitudes of disgust.

On the contrary, propaganda gives us a basis for active belief and behavior toward the situation. It may bring about an integration of our whole personality in its attitudes and actions. Our anticipatory responses of images, ideas and attitudes are made distinctly satisfying. In this sense well-manipulated propaganda is a much more effective way to influence our conduct than is censorship.

Like censorship, propaganda occurs at various levels of social organization. In the primary group it may be vicious gossip. Thus, in Lewis' Main Street Mrs. Bogart put herself out to spread unsavory rumors about one of the town school teachers. Here we have a case of propaganda as a means of social control at the simplest level. It is, however, in our present-day complex society that propaganda has its most marked effects. Since today we are so separated from the sources of news and from situations upon which we are supposed to have opinions and to make judgments, the deliberate falsification and manufacture of news and interpretations of news become increasingly easy.

C. Media and Technique of Contemporary Propaganda.

The principle media of propaganda are the organs of opinion which we have already examined. The newspaper, the pamphlet, the film, the radio, books, and the lecture constitute the principal vehicles of propaganda, We shall analyze contemporary propaganda first as we have it within our own country among various interest groups and then as we find it playing a part in international conflicts.

1. Intra-national propaganda.— The most common example of intra-

(657) national propaganda is that of our political parties. We make political propaganda for two purposes. During campaigns our major political parties employ propaganda to win votes for their candidates and measures. Minority reform groups employ propaganda to arouse our public opinion upon the issues which they think are important. Many of these groups ultimately hope to change our laws to give all social control to the organized state. Similarly special economic interests employ propaganda to secure public favor and even political action in their favor.

a. Party Propaganda.— If we define propaganda in the looser sense of deliberate effort by suggestion to influence opinion and action, political propaganda is as old as political parties. The Federalist papers, the agitation of the Native American clubs and newspapers against foreign immigration, the Know Nothing Movement, are cases in which political groups sponsored propaganda or affiliated themselves with the organizations which did. In recent years party propaganda has become a much more deliberate effort to create legends and myths of political personalities and their parties. The Republican propaganda of 1896 against the Bryan Democrats is illuminating. The deliberately stimulated fear of radical agrarian movements was especially powerful in the industrial East after the financial panic of 1893. This propaganda was so effective that the Democratic party still has to combat the legend of the bankruptcy, closed factories and hard times which supposedly accompany a Democratic regime. This is the negative picture. The positive picture is the prosperity, good times, the "full dinner pail" for the workman, the rich profits for the business and manufacturing interests which follow from a Republican administration. The Democrats, in turn, describe themselves as saviors of the country from the "Wolves of Wall Street," as the supporters of the "Common Man" against the "Intrenched Interests" of the Republicans. The Socialists and other radicals attack both the major parties. They have sold themselves to the capitalists. They follow the faulty philosophic and economic patterns of Capitalistic monopoly not only of goods, but of production and distribution. Each political party attempts to picture the opposition black and itself white. This is the essence of good propaganda and it always works. It gives a picture of one group against another,— the ever-present we-group against the others-group.

Part of political propaganda technique is the creation of heroic sagas about the personalities who are party leaders. Candidate X is the "friend

(658) of the working man." Through his own efforts he rose from digging ditches or ploughing fields to his present place in the sun. Every man may do the same! For the bourgeois class, the candidate is now a successful lawyer, business man or eminent engineer. Perhaps he has preserved his state in a crisis. It has often been said that ex-President Coolidge became a distinct hero for many people by his alleged breaking of the Boston police strike. Mr. Roosevelt was pictured as a friend of the ordinary man, as a "trust buster." He was a "Progressive." He was a man of courage who was not afraid of those who were robbing the country of its natural resources, — resources which should belong to the common man and to posterity. Mr. Wilson rose from rather humble circumstances to lead a great idealistic movement for "making the world safe for democracy," for destroying the bogey of absolutism and empire. The friends of Roosevelt and Wilson continue to employ propaganda to increase the legends of these men. Such legends, in turn, may affect party destinies. Jefferson, Jackson, and Wilson are names to conjure with before any Democratic convention. Republican heroes are Hamilton, Lincoln, and Roosevelt. Thus, whenever these legendary accounts seem to enhance the present fortunes of the party, political parties actually encourage the legends which have spontaneously grown up around national leaders of the past. No matter if the heroes had quite other views than their political descendents, it is only necessary to play upon their names and to repeat glittering generalities, and the public sets off in mass pursuit of the good things which the heroes are alleged to have striven for.

b. Minority Propaganda and Political Control.— Another example of political propaganda is the agitation carried on by minority groups within the party, who hope for the ultimate acceptance of their views by the party. If the party later obtains control of the state, these opinions may be made law. Here the line between propaganda in the narrow sense and in the broader sense of stimulation of public opinion is difficult to draw. Minorities often carry on militant campaigns to accomplish political change. Two of the best historical examples are the Abolitionist movement and the agitation of the Anti-Saloon League for the abolition of liquor traffic. Garrison and his followers profoundly affected public opinion in the North with their propaganda against slavery. Without doubt national prohibition was hastened by the vigorous propaganda of the Anti-Saloon League. In our own day, propaganda of all sorts is carried on in favor of the views of

( 659) various minority groups. Recently the public utilities organizations were discovered employing a vigorous propaganda against the public ownership of utilities. In colleges they distributed pamphlets describing the benefits of privately owned public utilities; by lectures and publicity, by lobbies in state and national legislatures, these organizations have attempted to influence public opinion. They appeal to the ideology of private ownership, to the economic doctrines of private entrepreneurs and to the scare-heads of a state socialism which would destroy individual initiative and undermine the democratic political state. Like all propaganda, this propaganda fastens its current materials onto old patterns— prejudice, ideas and attitudes which are our traditional picture of our political-economic world. This is always a world safe, sensible and warmly familiar. Changes will cut under this world, disrupt it, and bring chaos. Not infrequently the conservative masses may be made afraid of radical changes more easily than they may be made enthusiastic for changes designed for their own good. The opponents of unrestricted private manipulation of utilities use the counter arguments of the good which will accrue from municipal or state ownership of electric lighting, gas plants, waterworks and street railways. In one the individualistic thesis is erected into an ultimate, absolute value. With the opposition the collectivistic good of the community or state is emphasized.

All this is curiously analogous to the controversy over the liquor traffic. Those who favored the status quo of saloon and liquor re-imbued the doctrine of individual liberty with meaning. The Anti-Saloon Leaguers described the values which would follow our collective abolition of this pernicious evil. Their collectivistic thesis finally won the political fiat of law. It remains to be seen what the outcome of the public utilities dispute will be.

Another kind of political propaganda is based upon our moral-religious prejudices. We have already discussed this feature of the presidential campaign of 1928. Various minority associations circulated amazing tales of the corruption of Tammany Hall, of the Papal threat at American ideals in the candidacy of Mr. Smith and of the danger of the return of the saloon if the Democratic candidate were elected. While the obvious purpose of this propaganda was the defeat of Mr. Smith, it fundamentally represented a fear for the security of our current Puritan mores and for the accomplished moral reform of the prohibition of the liquor traffic.


2. International Relations and Propaganda.— Propaganda between nations is carried on today with great vigor. As the relations of men and groups cover an increasing political and economic area, international propaganda is certain to be used more frequently than ever before. We shall discuss first propaganda during international conflict. Then we shall treat of propaganda in times of peace.

a. Propaganda in War.— War-time propaganda has attracted the greatest notice in late years. The paper bullets of Mr. Creel may not have won the World War, any more than any of the single, particularistic "reasons" did, but certainly his work and that of the other Allied propaganda artists, had a distinct share in the victory. Creel's "Committee on Public Information in the United States," our official propaganda service, distributed over seventy-five million pamphlets, bulletins and leaflets. These were written in various series. We may summarize his statistical report as follows:

Of the "Red, White and Blue Series," over eighteen million pieces were distributed. In this set alone, nearly five and a half million of "How the War Came to America," over one million of "Conquest and Kultur," and one and a half million of "German War Practices," were printed. Of the "War Information Series," including such .titles as "The War Message and the Facts Behind It," and "Why America Fights Germany," nearly fifteen million were sent out. Approximately three and a half million "Loyalty Leaflets" were distributed. Over eight hundred thousand of a series called "Publications for the Friends of German Democracy" were used, made up largely of Prince Lichnowsky's, "My London Mission." An appeal to labor was made in the series called "Publications for Division of American Alliance for Labor and Democracy." This set ran to over one and a quarter million and contained such titles as, "Why Workingmen Support the War" and "German Socialists and the War." More than threequarters of a million pamphlets were employed in an effort to reach non-English speaking minorities in the "Publications for Foreign Sections." In addition to these considerably over thirty-five million miscellaneous pieces were issued, including five and a half million copies of "The Kaiserite in America," nearly five million bulletins for four-minute speakers and over a million and a half postcards .[3]

These enormous quantities of material were employed as part of the work of influencing opinion and morale among Allies, the neutrals and the enemies. While propaganda was used in earlier wars, its organization was

(661) ineffective and infantile compared to the subtle propaganda employed from 1914 to 1920 or even later, to influence public opinion and promote group morale. A number of books and hundreds of periodical articles have already been written on war propaganda .[4]

Propaganda in war time has three objectives. It is directed toward the populations at home, toward citizens of neutral countries, and finally toward the civilian populations of enemy countries and toward their military forces at the front. Using illustrations from the World War, we shall discuss the technique and psychology of these three phases of propaganda.

(i) Propaganda for Those at Home.— Propaganda directed at the citizens of our own country tries to keep up our group morale, to increase our feelings of the superiority of our in-group, and to confirm our belief in the righteousness of our war aims. Such propaganda not only praises our own high purposes, but dilates on the evil and vicious purposes of the enemy. The propagandist tries to mobilize our hatred. To do so he must circulate stories fixing upon the enemy the sole responsibility for the war. The war is not the normal outcome of the political and economic organization of the modern world, but the result of deliberate rapacity of the enemy. The first duty of a nation at war is to close its ranks against the enemy. Local differences must be forgotten. Political party lines must disappear. Various antagonistic economic groups must stop their intra-national competition in the presence of the more serious issue of national survival. This is an inevitable social-psychological process whenever the in-group is threatened. During the war it was the duty of the propagandist to produce this integration of attitudes in all the belligerent countries.

In all countries involved in the war the long training in patriotic attitudes proved stronger in time of a national crisis than the intellectual belief in the Marxian doctrine of the class struggle. The Kaiser united his people by saying that he knew no party. The Union sacrée was proclaimed in the French Chamber of Deputies and the French Senate. Gustave Hervé, an ardent socialist, sans patrie, had long belabored the capitalistic regime of France and the world. At the opening of war he changed the name of his paper from La Guerre Seciale to La Victoire, and pleaded with his Proletarian readers for national unity:

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Amis socialistes, amis syndicalistes, amis anarchistes, qui n'êtes pas seulement l'avant-garde idéaliste de l'humanité; mais qui êtes encore le nerf et la conscience de l'armée francaise, la patrie est en danger! La patrie de la Révolution est en danger! [5]

Nothing could indicate more effectively the power of the in-group ideal which is laid down in us in our early childhood. Whatever intellectual theories and aims Hervé may have adopted later in life, in the time of crisis, he succumbed to the appeal of national we-group unity. The same thing is evidenced in every country involved in the late war. People in this country, especially academic and professional persons, were amazed at the manifesto of the ninety-three German professors who in 1914 signed a document alleging Germany to be free of the guilt of starting the war. Yet, the intellectuals of France, England, and later of the United States, with few exceptions, followed the masses and the political-military leaders of their own countries. They accepted the belief in the innocence of the Allies and laid the blame on the out-group, the enemy. American professors wrote pamphlets, delivered addresses, and told their college classes all about German aggressiveness and intrigue. They demonstrated the war to be a deliberate plan of the Central Powers to dominate the world. They drew upon the history of Frederick the Great and Bismarck to prove it. They invoked the race theories of De Gobineau to show how innately pugnacious and uncultured the Teutons really are. They tore material from the heart of Nietzsche's writings to prove that his philosophy was the supreme ideology upon which Germany based her aggression. So, too, the German writers told their peoples the long story of "perfidious Albion," of the deliberate plots of French Révanche policy and of the Pan-Slavic threat to the security of the Germanic peoples.

The most common stereotype of the Allies was "German militarism." The Central Powers were fondest of "the freedom of the seas." War guilt invariably had a negative correlation with the purity of war aims. The enemy is guilty of the war. We entered the war to defend ourselves and to secure liberty and justice for all. The domestic propaganda of all the warring nations was absolutely forced to make these assertions of an ideal cause. As Lasswell said: "This permits the scrupulous to kill with a clean conscience." But it does more than that. It gives a center around which the personality may organize itself for action. On the out-group we heap all

(663) of our fears, rages, and evil thoughts. On the in-group we place the wreaths of the final victory of high and righteous ends.

Phrase-making becomes an important aid in this process. "Beat the Kaiser," "Can the Germans," "Hunt the Hun," were American favorites. As the positive statements of the in-group's war aims, such phrases as "making the world safe for democracy," "World Organization," "The United States of the Earth," "The Confederation of the World," "A World Union of Free Peoples," or "A League of Nations" were popular and satisfying. This crystallization of public feelings is the greatest accomplishment of the good propagandist.

Not only is it necessary to prove the enemy responsible for the war, and to show that he is responsible for all the evil r. suiting from it; it is important further to brace the minds of the in-group by showing really what a concrete devil he is. The casual observer often misunderstands this evocation of demonology. Tirades, with concrete examples of enemy atrocities, do not affect the enemy's behavior so much as they holster up the feelings of superiority and self-righteousness of our own nation. What is selected by the propagandist as material for the atrocity stories depends upon the mores "of the nation whose animosity is to be aroused." Lasswell cites as the most familiar of the themes: the insolence of the enemy, its sordidness, racial (inherent) perfidy, cruelty, and degeneracy, especially as regards sex crimes and other forms of terrorism. In Berlin "Rule Britannia" produced the same effects as did "Deutschland, Deutschland Uber Alles" in London or Paris. Germany's grasping for wealth was also plain. Germany wanted the British markets. The United States entered the war, according to German accounts, to enrich her own coffers. The innate perfidy of the enemy is always self-evident. Sartieux, in his book, Morale Kantienne et morale humaine (1916), wrote that:

One of the most subtle tendencies of the German character is the hypocritical lie, which appears under the guise of naive sincerity, and justifies itself by the most incredible sophisms . . . . The judgment of a Latin historian, Villeius Peterculus leas often been quoted. He found the ancient Germans a race of "born liars." [6]

Each country warned its people of the lying propaganda of the enemy nations. The Germans were much perturbed by the English and later by the

(664) American propaganda, especially that which filtered through the official press services.

The story of terrorism is a familiar one. Each side accused the other of atrocities of all sorts.

It was likewise perfectly safe for President Poincaré to flay the barbarous Germans for dropping bombs upon defenceless women and children. Very few among the Allied peoples knew, and very few of them, had they known, would have cared, that on the 26th of June, 1916, French and English aviators dropped bombs upon Karlsruhe, killing or wounding 26 women and 124 children, or that on the 22nd of September, 1915, the Allied bombers had taken a toll of 103 victims in a raid upon the same city. In the fever of combat the news of the slaughter of enemy noncombatants is apt to be met by the exulting cry that the "whelps and dams of murderous foes" are no more.[7]

This atrocity pattern became so common that before the war was over, each side began cataloguing the crimes of the others. To quote Lasswell again:

German sins were sorted into bins (by the French) which were labelled thus:

1. Violation of the neutrality of Luxemburg and Belgium.

2. Violation of French Frontier before the Declaration of War.

3. Killing of prisoners and wounded.

4. Looting, arson, rape, murder.

5. Use of forbidden bullets.

6. Use of burning liquids and asphyxiating gas.

7. Bombarding of fortresses without notice and of unfortified towns; the destruction of buildings consecrated to Religion, Art, Science and Charity.

8. Treacherous methods of warfare.

9. Cruelties inflicted on civil population.

Dr. Ernst Müller-Meiningen, a member of the German Reichstag, compiled the sins of the Entente. The general scheme of organization is indicated in the Table of Contents:

1. The Neutrality of Belgium (How Belgium connived secretly with the Allies).

2. Mobilization and the Morality of Nations.

3. Violation of the Congo Acts. The Colonial War.

4. The Employment of barbarous and warlike tribes in a European War.

5. The Violation of the Neutrality of the Suez Canal.

6. The Breach of Chinese Neutrality by Japan and England's Assault upon Kiao-Chau.


7. The use of Dum-Dum Bullets and the like.

8. Treatment of Diplomatic Representatives by the Triple Entente Countries in Violation of International Law. Acts of Diplomatic Representatives of the Triple Entente in Violation of International Law.

9. Non-observances and Violations of Red Cross Rules on the, part of the Triple Entente States.

10. Franc-Tireur Warfare and the Maltreatment of the Defenceless before and after the Declaration of War. Also the Imprisonment of Civilians.

11. Unlawful and Inhumane Methods of Conducting War Practised by the Hostile Armies and the Governments of the Triple Entente and Belgium.

12. The Russian Atrocities in East Prussia in especial.

13. Jewish Pogroms and Other Russian Atrocities in Poland, Galicia, the Caucasus, etc.

14. The "Spirit" of the Troops of the Triple Entente. Plundering, and Destruction of their own country's Property. Self-Mutilations. Verdicts upon the Troops of the Triple Entente by their own Officers.

15. The Destruction and Misuse of Telegraph Cables.

16. Further Details as to the Vendetta of Lies of the Press of the Triple Entente. A Method of Waging War contrary to all International Law. The French "Art of War."

17. The Bombardment of Towns and Villages from Aeroplanes. The use of shells that develop Gas.

18. English Business Moral and the Code of English Creditors. Deprivation of the Legal Rights of Germans in Russia and France.

19. Breaches of Neutrality on the Seas by England and the Other States of the Triple Entente. Contraband of War. Blockades, etc.[8]

These instances of the pot calling the kettle black are common features of all war-time behavior. The only addition in technique is that in the modern war these ideas are more systematically prepared for home consumption. Deliberate misrepresentation is common.

This varies from putting a false date line on a despatch, through the printing of unverified rumours, the printing of denials in order to convey an insinuation, to the "staging" of events. One of the world war fakes was the use of pictures of the Jewish pogrom of 1905, some-what retouched, as fresh enemy atrocities. Of a similar type was the following: the London Daily Mirror of August 20th, 1915, published a picture of three German Officers, who held various vessels in their hands. The sub-title was, "Three German Cavalrymen loaded with gold and silver loot," which they had taken in Poland. This was, in fact, a defaced reproduction of a picture, which had originally appeared in

(666) the Berliner Lokalanzeiger for the 9th of June, 1914, and which had shown the winners of the cavalry competition in the Grünewald.[9]

There remains but one item to add to the psychology of atrocity stories. That is to pin the label of sins on one individual or to personify the nation under some common stereotype. Thus the Kaiser was called the "Mad Dog of Europe." Sometimes the out-group is labeled as something non-human, merely animal, just as primitive tribes sometimes have tribal names meaning "We are men," or "Men," implying that all others are something else. So Kipling said in the columns of the London Morning Post for June 22, 1915: "But however the world pretends, to divide itself, there are only two divisions in the world today— human beings and Germans." One German writer, Karl Henning, combed out of various American vice commission reports cases of children's crimes, especially sex offenses, and reproduced these as typical of American life.

Another type of propaganda is the novel or diary. The British got out a book called Christine, by Alice Cholmondeley (1917) which purported to be a collection of letters written by a music student to her mother in England. The book is a picture of German militaristic Kultur bound to impress unfavorably the thousands of girls and women who read it. So too romantic tales, collections of letters, and the like we're circulated to keep the illusion of the glories of warfare and to encourage those at home.

Finally the orgy of Satanism projected upon the enemy comes to be sanctified by the church. To hate the enemy is not only to be a good citizen but a good Christian. To support the arms of the righteous against those of evil and sin is the highest mark of religious faith.

In addition to uniting intra-national factions on one aim, and to constructing atrocity stories to bolster up patriotism at home, the in-group must keep up the illusion of victory to the end. In the early days of the war in Germany, the writer recalls that the newspapers were daily filled with accounts of marvelous captures of guns, men, and materials. City after city fell, the troops of the Empire swept on to Paris. It was only a matter of days until the war would be over with the Germans triumphantly marching down the Champs-Élysées. The Allies had at the outset a much harder time to keep up the morale of their people and to give the assurance of victory:


Among the Allied powers the official thesis was that Germany, armed to the teeth and crouched to spring, had suddenly, to the consternation of the peaceful and unprepared world, invaded Belgium and swept through Northern France before the pacific and astonished Allies could recover from the shock sufficiently to stem the attack.

So far as the truth is concerned, the fact seems to be that the 'talk about "surprise attack" and "unpreparedness" was grossly exaggerated for the purpose of covering up the failure of French strategy and of preventing the total eclipse of civilian morale.[10]

While we need not here discuss the complex problem of the causes of the World War, it is interesting to note in passing how this official propaganda persists in contemporary accounts— the Sunday School version, as Beard calls it— of the origins of the war.[11] For our purposes it is sufficient to indicate that psychologically this sort of thing fosters morale, gives self-confidence and ultimately comes to color the official legends of the conflict. Nothing assists in this whole process better than the unofficial interpreters of the war for the various populaces.

There is a great advantage in having certain unofficial interpreters of the War to the public who can be relied upon to present matters in their most flattering light. Frank Symonds in the United States, Colonel Repington in England and Commander Rousset in France secured the confidence of the public and were of the greatest assistance to the authorities, for they were cogs in the machinery by which those interpretations least damaging to public morale were circulated. They were able to explain why retreats were "strategic retirements," and how evacuations could be "rectifications of the line." [12]

Propaganda was also employed to keep up friendly relations between the Allies. Thus, we in America were told how close we were to French culture, the legends of French aid in our own Revolutionary War were trotted out for use on both sides. And General Pershing's "Lafayette we are here!" was a very effective statement of this inter-allied good-will.

The development of legends about the military leaders is an aid to the morale of those at home. Popular accounts of the generals and prominent leaders were widely circulated in all the belligerent countries.


(ii) Propaganda for the Neutrals.— It is necessary to maintain a favorable impression among the spectators of any conflict— political, religious, economic, pugilistic. As two militant minorities like the Anti-Saloon League and the Association Against the Prohibition Amendment try to capture the attention of the more passive spectators of a political fight, so nations at war find it important to enlist the favorable influence of neutrals.

Since for nearly three years of the war the United States was the most powerful neutral power, the Central Powers and the Allies made tremendous efforts to enlist our support. To offset pro-British influences, the Germans attempted to stir up pro-Irish feeling in America. The French made a most effective image of suffering France "bled white" in the cause of civilization. The large German elements in our population were played upon by German propaganda. But in the end the British won, partly because their cultural traditions are nearer our own, partly because of our strong economic ties, and psychologically because they and the French used sentimental, emotional appeals. The Germans depended too much on rational arguments. They proceeded not as good propagandists, but too much as logical debaters.

Their lack of insight into the strength of emotional appeals is wonderfully illustrated in the case of Edith Cavell, the English nurse, whom the Germans shot as a spy. The British used this incident against the Germans most effectively as a most ghastly atrocity. An American newspaper man in Berlin who knew the German officer in charge of the propaganda work for the General Staff asked him why he did not do something to counteract the propaganda of the British over the shooting of Nurse Cavell, especially in view of the fact that the French had executed two German nurses under almost precisely the same circumstances. But there was "not a murmur in the German press." The American remarked to the German official:

"Why don't you do something to counteract the British propaganda in America?"

"Why, what do you mean?"

"Raise the devil about the nurses the French shot the other day."

"What? Protest? The French had a perfect right to shoot them!" [13]

While this was a rational reply, it revealed an amazing lack of sense of the nature of effective propaganda. Similarly the formal lecturers for the

(669) German cause in America were far less effective than the British travelers who came over, called casually on university and professional men, and chatted in clubs and at teas about the war. Then tales of war were rapidly spread by the eager-eared Americans who thought the tales must be true since they had been told "confidentially" by the famous British author or traveler, Mr. So and So.

A frank and clear picture of how the British reached the then neutral American public was given by Sir Gilbert Parker in the winter of 1918. He wrote:

Practically since the day the war broke out between England and the Central Powers I became responsible for American publicity. I need hardly say that the scope of my department was very extensive and its activities widely ranged. Among the activities was a weekly report to the British cabinet on the state of American opinion, and constant touch with the permanent correspondents of American newspapers in England, I also frequently arranged for important public men in England to act for us by interviews in American newspapers. Among these were Lloyd George, Viscount Grey (Earl of Falloden), Balfour, Bonar Law, Archbishop of Canterbury, Sir Edward Carson, Lord Robert Cecil, Walter Runciman (Lord Chancellor), Austin Chamberlain, Lord Cromer, Lord Curzon, Lord Gladstone, Lord Haldane, Henry James, I. Zangwill, Mrs. Hum. phry Ward, John Redmond and at least 100 others.

Among other things, we supplied 360 newspapers in the smaller States of the United States with an English newspaper, which gives a weekly review and comment of the affairs of the war. We established connection with the man in the street through cinema pictures of the Army and Navy, as well as through interviews, articles, pamphlets, etc.; and by letters in reply to individual American critics, which were printed in the chief newspapers of the State in which they lived, and were copied in newspapers of other and neighboring States. We advised and stimulated many people to write articles; we utilized the friendly services and assistance of confidential friends; we had reports from important Americans constantly (e. g. Roosevelt) and established association, by personal correspondence, with influential and eminent people of every profession in the United States, beginning with university and college presidents, professors and scientific men, and running through all the ranges of the population. We asked our friends and correspondents to arrange for speeches, debates and lectures by American citizens, but we did not encourage Britishers to go to America and preach the doctrine of entrance into the war. Besides an immense private correspondence with individuals, we had our documents and literature sent to great numbers of public libraries, Y.M.C.A. societies, universities, colleges, historical societies, clubs and newspapers.![14]

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This method influenced public opinion far more effectively than any logical arguments could ever have done. In his book on the art of influencing the American public in America, Schonemann described the British war-time propaganda in America.[15] He points out how the British employed the newspaper, the motion picture, the social club, and the church to put over their message. The effectiveness of this technique, however, lay not alone in its emotional appeal, but also in the fact that after all American ideals and attitudes were much closer to those of the British than they were to those of the Germans.

Literature of all sorts was very effective. Wells' Mr. Britling Sees It Through was enormously popular in America. British sympathizers like Roosevelt maintained close relations with the British officials and prominent men, and their leadership of opinion in this country was very effective.

Another device to catch our neutral interest was to play up the actions of our citizens who in any way assisted in the war. Any chance American in the Allied armies, any volunteer ambulance driver, nurse, or correspondent who did anything which might be considered unusual was made much of, decorated, written up in the Allied-press, and the news of his activities was scattered widely in America. This was a very effective means of influencing the American public in the war and doubtless had its part in getting us into the struggle. In general, neutrals are enlisted to write articles and even books about the belligerents toward whom they are friendly. All in all, the propaganda attack upon the neutral "boils down to the problem of leading the neutral to identify his own interests with your own in defeating the enemy . . . . The most astute means of drawing in neutral sympathy is to draw the neutral into overt co-operation in some form . . . . Among all the means to be exploited, the use of personal influence is, peculiarly important, as is the practice that in general neutrals should be addressed by neutrals." [16]

(iii) Propaganda Against the Enemy.Finally there is the propaganda directed against the morale of the enemy itself military acid civilian. During the World War several devices were used to do this. The Germans circulated ostensibly French papers in the occupied territories to undermine the morale of the French and to show what fine fellows the invaders

(671) really were. The doctrine of defeatism was circulated by leaflets, and by surreptitiously intruded news items in these papers. The enemy population was told over and over again that their cause was hopeless, that in the end they could only meet defeat.

The Americans used several types of material. Leaflets and cards dropped into German trenches emphasized the increasing strength of American arms in Europe. Over a million troops were already in France and ten to twenty times as many more were preparing in America to join their compatriots. Against this enormous power, surely the Germans could do nothing. Other leaflets and cards pointed out the privation of the loved ones at home, the hopelessness of the struggle, the fact that America was fighting a personified devil called "German Militarism," but not the gemütlich German citizen.

After the defeat of Russia, the Germans came into possession of the documents of Allied secret treaties and they tried to circulate these among the Allies. Earlier the Germans had tried to stir up anti-British sentiment in Ireland and thus divide the military attention of the British. Again to divide the military attention of the British, they tried to foment trouble among the natives in India.

All in all, the propaganda of one country against another depends for its success upon its ability to manipulate enemy morale at home, to attract neutral sympathy and even support, and finally to attack and destroy the enemy military morale. Appeals to prejudices and to common cultural backgrounds, to common historical legends and ideologies, the stimulation of fear of the enemy, and the exaggeration of contemporary crises— all these are effective. Newspapers, books, and motion pictures are effective agencies to reach public opinion. What people see in print they tend to believe. Whispering campaigns are as effective in warfare propaganda as in national or local political campaigns.

Modern publics are much like the mob. They are fickle, mobile, easily led by the nose by this and that advertisement, this or that cant phrase. this or that emotional bias. All the clever propagandist has to do to make his work effective is to remember this process. Here, emotional appeals are more effective than rational ones, as they are more effective elsewhere in social behavior and for the same reason. The successful appeal is not purely and crudely emotional. It must ring the changes on all levels. For the man in the street, for the ditch-digger and factory hand, the appeal

(672) must be primitive and elemental. For the professional man and the academician, it must be couched in more exalted terms of apparent rational meaning. But in the end, the purpose is the same,— the arousal of antagonistic attitudes and actions toward the enemy and of favorable, sympathetic, loyal, helpful attitudes and actions toward one's own national we-group. Successful propaganda agencies will employ any organizations, devices, and suggestions which will produce these attitudes. And, of course, this is as true of intra-national as of international conflict. The stage is smaller, but the psychology is the same.

b. Peace-Time International Propaganda: International propaganda may still be effective in times of peace. It is now well known that for years before 1914 the Czarist Russian government carried on pro-Russian propaganda in certain sections of the French press. Today the crises which attract international public opinion are economic problems, the migration of peoples, and the possibility of some international organization to prevent war and to promote amicable relations between nations. And even higher tariff in the United States is certain to arouse European countries to efforts to change American public opinion on our tariff. Other nations are bound to use propaganda within our own country. On the other hand, the jingoistic press of Europe may use a new tariff as a stimulus to arouse anti-American opinions abroad. Our restrictive immigration policy has already excited public opinion both in Europe and Asia. After our Japanese Exclusion Act of 1924, the Japanese displayed a good deal of anti-American sentiment. Many Japanese regarded this act as a direct blow at Japanese pride and as prima facie evidence of our aggressive policy in the Pacific. Again the problem of some sort of international political organization has been the subject of propaganda in the major nations of the world. In our country the problem has been a subject of active public discussion. Without doubt deliberate propaganda in favor of various types of international world organization has been active in this public discussion. It has undoubtedly met another deliberate propaganda of opposition to our coöperation in any such international organization.

Peace-time propaganda uses much the same sort of appeal as does the propaganda of war. The propagandist attempts to create new stereotypes, myths, and prejudices and to strengthen old ones which lend themselves to his purposes. Thus, those who favor our national isolation appeal to old stereotypes of national patriotism, of non-participation in foreign in-

( 673) -trigues, of "America for Americans." Other groups attempt to create the stereotypes and living myths of a world bound by most intimate social, economic, and political relations. They tell us that rapid communication and travel, international commerce, and the modern mobility of people have made impossible our older self-centered nationalism. They attempt to create stereotypes which will convince us emotionally, if not altogether rationally, that as peace-loving Americans we ought to adjust ourselves to these changes.


A. Further Reading: Source Book for Social Psychology, Chapter XXVII, pp. 782-826.

B. Questions and Exercises.

1. Discuss questions and exercises from assignment in Source Book, Chapter XXVII, pp. 826-27.

2. Differentiate between censorship and propaganda. What is the function of each?

3. What are the principal media for propaganda today?

4. Why are atrocity stories during a war effective as propaganda for those at home?

5. Cite illustrations of atrocity stories which you heard about the belligerents during the World War.

6. Contrast the comparative effectiveness of rational arguments and emotional appeals in changing people's opinions and attitudes.

C. Topics for Class Reports and Longer Themes.

1. See assignments for reports and longer papers in Source Book, Chapter XXVII, p. 827.

2. Report Graves, Readings in Public Opinion, Chapters XVI, XXXIII, no. 3, XXIV, nos. 1-4.

2a. Review contemporary literature on public utilities propaganda, pro and con. See Utility Corporations (Report of Federal Trade Commission), Senate Document, Part I, nos. 1-I5, 70th Congress, 1st Session, 1929; and subsequent reports. Also Raushenbush, High Power Propaganda, 1928; Mosher, et al. Electrical Utilities, the Crisis in Public Control, 1929, Chapter V.

3. Review Scott's The Menace of Nationalism in Education.

4. Review Ponsonby's Falsehoods in Wartime on war propaganda.

5. Review articles on Propaganda in Encyclopedia Britannica, 12th and 13th editions, as illustrating a change of attitude toward the whole subject. The first account was written during the heat of the World War, the

(674) second afterwards. Compare both of these with the account of the 14th edition.

6. Report Lasswell, "The Theory of Political Propaganda," American Political Science Review, 1927, vol. XXI, pp. 627-31.

7. Review Bernays, Propaganda for the viewpoint of a man actively engaged in using propaganda in business.

8. Review Hobson's Jingoism in War as illustrative of propaganda in an earlier war.

9. Analyze the propaganda techniques of the "Wets" and "Drys" in regard to national prohibition. (On the historical side, see Odegard, Pressure Politics, 1928.)


  1. F. E. Lumley, Means of Social Control, 1925, p. 186. Courtesy of The Century Company.
  2. Perhaps the best source on the whole subject of censorship and propaganda is L. M. Salmon, The Newspaper and Authority, 1923, and her companion volume, The Newspaper and the Historian, 1923.
  3. Summarized from appendix to G. Creel, How We Advertised America, 1920, pp. 455-57.
  4. For an idea of the extent of this material consult K. Young and R. D. Lawrence s Bibliography on Censorship and Propaganda, 1928, pp. 114-132. Much of the concrete material in this section is drawn from H. D. Lasswell's admirable treatise Propaganda Technique in the World War, New York, 1927.
  5. Quoted by H. D. Lasswell, Propaganda Technique in the World War, 1927, p. 55. Published by Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.
  6. Ibid., p. 79.
  7. Ibid., p. 84.
  8. Ibid., pp. 85-86.
  9. Ibid., p. 206.
  10. Ibid., p. 105.
  11. For a strong polemic on the war guilt problem, see H. E. Barnes The Genesis of the World War, 3rd ed., 1928. See also S. B. Fay, Origins of the World War, 2 vols, 1928, for an extremely critical review of the mass of material on the origins of the war which has accumulated in the past ten years.
  12. Op. cit., p. 109
  13. Quoted by Lasswell, op. cit., p. 32.
  14. G. Parker, "The United States and the War" Harper's Magazine, 1918, vol. CXXXVI, pp. 522. (This article must have been written late in 1917 or early in 1918.)
  15. F. Schonemann, Die Kunst der Massenbeeinflussung in den Vereinigten Staaten von America, Stuttgart, 1924.
  16. Lasswell, op. cit., p. 160.

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