Napoleon Bonaparte’s Personal #Brand

Napoleon didn’t like sitting for portraits, and yet artists and mass market prints helped cement his legendary status. By Matthew Wills Corsican-born Napoleon Bonaparte, known for conquering much of Europe and crowning himself Emperor of the French, knew the importance of good iconography. Portraiture and propaganda were crucial elements of his life story, which began with his[…]

An American Tale: The Cold War and Propaganda

How Cold War officialdom made the world safe for propaganda. Introduction SINCE THE 2016 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS, Americans have been treated to a daily diet of news about the depth and breadth of Russian disinformation sloshing around on social media and dropped into the sweaty hands of various Trump campaign apparatchiks. In 2017, the U.S. Department of[…]

Good Public Relations: What Ancient Persian Propaganda Tells Us about the ‘Nehemiah Memoir’

Inscriptions ranging from the first Persian king, Cyrus, through Artaxerxes reveal elements in common in both Babylonian and Egyptian texts. Stretching from Egypt to the Indus River, the Persian Empire was the largest empire yet seen in the ancient Near East. Typically, the Hebrew Bible depicts ancient Near Eastern empires as divine instruments of punishment.[…]

The King’s Feast: Power and Propaganda at the Neo-Assyrian Royal Table

The Assyrian king was the main promoter of big feasts and special events, during which he played the role of leader and benefactor of his country. Banqueting is a powerful means of communication. Throughout human history, men and women have always done their best to enjoy food as much as possible in social settings in[…]

Depicting the Devil: How Propaganda Posters Portrayed Nazi Ideology

The poster became a cheap transmitter of these various messages and combined visual arts with psychological methods to incessantly repeat Nazi ideologies to the German public. In 1925, a bellicose Adolf Hitler understood that he needed the power of mass persuasion to push his political ideology on the German people. Citing propaganda as an essential component of statecraft[…]

The Propaganda Posters that Won the U.S. Home Front in World War II

Artists suddenly became soldiers on the front to win the hearts and minds of the American public. Introduction In 1917, James Montgomery Flagg created his iconic Uncle Sam poster encouraging American men to join the war cause with the clear message, “I want you for the U.S. Army!” as the U.S. ramped up preparations to enter[…]

‘Hidden Persuaders’: Advertising and Manipulation in the 1950s

Vance Packard’s ‘Hidden Persuaders’ was an exposé of the new techniques of mass manipulation developed by 1950s advertisers. Introduction In 2014, Facebook revealed details of an experiment they had carried out in collaboration with Cornell University. Researchers modified the type of content that appeared in some users’ newsfeeds. For one group, the Facebook algorithm was[…]

Weapons of Mass Persuasion: The First World War in Posters

The British poster artist Cyril Kenneth Bird, known as Fougasse, once referred to posters as “anything stuck on a wall with the objective of persuading the passer-by”. Introduction The British poster artist Cyril Kenneth Bird, known as Fougasse, once referred to posters as “anything stuck on a wall with the objective of persuading the passer-by”[…]

Propaganda and World War I: A Memorial to Forgetfulness

This year marked the centennial of the conclusion of the First World War, an anniversary that passed in this country with relatively little notice. Yesterday, my family went to a screening of They Shall Not Grow Old, Peter Jackson’s new World War I documentary, which apparently set records for a cinematic “event” (i.e. a special one- or two-day[…]