One of the largest, bloodiest and most catastrophic events in human history took place about 80 years ago, World War II. The war revolved around Hitler, the dictator who tried to claim all of Europe with a devastating crusade against the Jewish people. It is often wondered why the leaders of Germany and Japan were able to gain control of the beliefs and motives of their citizens so easily. The answer is up for debate and is determined by numerous factors. Not only were the citizens of the fascist countries persuaded to enter the war and fight for their government, but so were the Americans and Russians, each by their individual leaders. And, interestingly, this same principle may also be attributed to opinions on current events today. This is widely known as propaganda, a simple yet effective way to manipulate and sway a group of people. The Nazis, Americans and Russians used their own forms of propaganda to influence public opinion and justify their cause. Transfer, Testimonial, Glittering Generalities, Bandwagon and Name Calling were the main forms of propaganda used to manipulate and influence. Each of these categories elicit a different response in their recipients. These different strategies of persuasion were administered in each of these three countries and were extremely effective due to both the time period and the malleability of people’s minds when caught in stressful/intense situations.
The most obvious abuser of propaganda during the war was Germany. The rise of the Nazi regime was in and of itself a huge propaganda ploy. The Germans united their people under the common belief of preserving Germany. Over years of historical studies, many historians have asked: “Why [would] the average German Landser (soldier) [fight] so furiously in defense of such a deplorable regime?” The answer being: their leader, Adolf Hitler, who was of course a very cruel person, was a genius in marketing his ideologies so that they were palatable for the general public. One of the most effective and convincing forms of propaganda that Hitler, specifically, used was “testimonial.” Testimonial propaganda involves using a famous figure to persuade a large audience. In this case the famous figure was Hitler himself. He had been a politician before his acceptance as the “president” of Germany. His previous track record as a politician and an activist allowed him to persuade the public, and he began giving speeches. Slowly he was able to convince the Germans of the need to expand and protect Germany. In Hitler’s autobiography, Mein Kampf, he even says that “If you tell a big enough lie and tell it frequently enough, it will be believed.” By this use of testimonial propaganda he had successfully convinced a large portion of Germany to follow him.
Although Germany seems like the largest offender of propaganda, there may be one country that arguably abused the power of propaganda more than many of its citizens might like to admit. This country is the United States of America. At the beginning of the the second world war the US was not initially involved. They wanted to avoid any conflict with Germany – and/or Europe in general. However, when the bombing of Pearl Harbor occurred, the United States refused to have their citizens threatened by foreign nations because of their lack of participation in the war. When they decided to join the war effort, they obviously decided to side against Japan and Germany. This was because (in addition to the bombing of Pearl Harbor), in the eyes of most of the world, Germany was viewed as an evil. It was unexpected that Germany was as powerful as it was after its devastating loss in World War I. The United States underestimated them greatly, planning to fight a war of attrition and hope that eventually Germany would run out of resources. But once the United States was pulled into the mix, they did not hesitate to put propaganda all over the streets of America. The propaganda was a natural governmental response to the current global crisis their country was pulled into. Initially there were posters telling Americans not to worry and that the US was far superior to their enemies. As Germany slowly proved itself as an impending threat, the tone of the posters became more serious and urgent. There were posters that attempted to convince people to join the army, ration their food, support their soldiers and to persuade women’s husbands to join. Anything that could be advertised into a propaganda poster, was. The United States most often used “bandwagon” and “plain folk” techniques to promote their cause. These consist of appealing to the masses by making it seem like you are not normal if you do not follow their suggestions.
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