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Taylor University of Leeds
This lecture was the opening address to the Social History Society of Great Brit ain's conference in 1992.
Some time ago, an American information technologist discussing the potential use s of computers and inter-active television in educating children declared that a n individual reading one issue of the New York Times from cover to cover today w as expected to absorb more information in one sitting than someone from the time of Christopher Columbus was expected to absorb in their entire lifetime. Now he didn't say how he measured this precisely, but it seems to me that, this aftern oon, I can really only assume the posture of a contemporary of Columbus who read s The Sun. What I should like to do, therefore, is simply to provide an general indication of the sort of issues which will undoubtedly surface in our more specialised ses sions over the next few days, and perhaps to raise a few questions for our colle ctive deliberation. If I misrepresent the intentions of colleagues delivering mo re specialised papers, I can only apologise in advance. In a sense, the title of this conference is both a little too specific and a lit tle too vague (I can talk with the title of this lecture). Rumour, News and Prop aganda could all in themselves make excellent subjects for conferences as separa te topics, but Rumour and News are in fact essential ingredients of Propaganda. They are, however, only two aspects, as I am sure Stephen Richards will undoubte dly show later this afternoon when he looks at the type of personality cults pro moted by the Hapsburgs and that Peter Burke will reinforce when he looks tomorro w at the all embracing efforts to which Louis XIV was prepared to go in manufact uring his image as The Sun King. Whether we shall therefore be able to confine o urselves solely to rumours and news without discussing other techniques such as art and architecture, or such other key factors as the role of censorship, disin formation, technological availability and so on I very much doubt. Nonetheless, Rumours and News are techniques of Propaganda that imply opposite e nds of a spectrum of persuasion which ranges from Truth at the one side to False hood at the other. This was certainly the interpretation adopted in the Second W orld War when Allied propagandists working in the Political Warfare Executive em ployed rumours, or 'sibs' as they called them, as part of their black propaganda activities to confuse and disorientate the enemy. But we will need, I suspect, to distinguish in the first instance between manufactured rumours that serve a p ropagandist purpose and those which are generated almost like spontaneous combus tion. It is the difference, I suppose, between deliberate and accidental propaga nda, and I shall be confining myself largely to talking about deliberate propaga nda - although no doubt the papers of Colin Richmond, Michael Harris, David Moon and Gordon Daniels will serve as a valuable corrective to the errors of my ways . Both sides in the Second World War recognised the inevitability of rumours, espe cially in wartime; indeed Goebbels described rumour-mongering as 'the soul openi ng its bowels', a phrase for which he was apparently for some strange reason ver
y proud of inventing [Balfour. much recent scholarship by political sci entists has pointed to notions of 'media imperialism' and 'cultural hegemony' wh ich serve. this very limitation conversely made rumours valuable additional weapons of offense i f they could be specifically deployed in the service of the war effort. The problem has been adopted by UNESCO which. this question also raises several key issues about the nature of news which. Prompted by the concern of Third World countries which fee l that events of immediate importance to themselves receive only inadequate or s pasmodic coverage in the western media. whereupon it encountered Themistocles ' navy on terms much more favourable to the Athenian commander. is influenced by a whole host of complex processes which determine not j ust whether an event is publicised but the way in which it is presented. it no t only has to become known about or reported in the first instance. Herodotus. it was the propagandists' job to counter their ad verse effect at home on the one hand ('Careless Talk Costs Lives' and 'The Silen t Column') but they also recognised their value as weapons of psychological warf are and strategic deception on the other (as in the case of Operation FORTITUDE accompanying the D-Day landings). Xerxes promptly deployed half of his flee t to trap the supposedly deserting Greeks. but it is th en subjected to all sorts of editorial criteria concerning the prominence and em phasis which is to be given to it. not just to perpetuate the status quo but to actually increase the ga . through the west's control of news and information technology and dis tribution. as a com modity. The Ancient Greeks. One need only recall the action of Themist ocles at the Battle of Salamis in 480 BC who circulated a rumour which he knew w ould reach Xerxes that suggested that most of his outnumbered Greek troops were about to flee. Under such circumstances. Putting 'Re ality' Together. for example. the American journalist Will Irwin did the s ame thing with his book Propaganda and the News: Or What Makes You Think So? The essential point made by both these works is that News is a commodity which is a major factor helping to shape a collective perception of the outside world that does in fact conform more to the requirements and values of journalists and new s organisations than it does to our own individual perception of reality had we as individuals been physically present when the event was taking place. why shouldn't Xerxes believe the rumour? Are then rumours simply unverified speculations or manufactured lies? Apart from raising several issues about the importance of credibility in propaganda. p191]. did not speculate as to why Xerxes should fall for the deception. recognised that rumours could actually be manu factured for propagandistic purposes. has bee n unsuccessfully hammering away at the idea of creating a New World Information Order which will tackle this issue in so far as the Developed and Underdeveloped World are concerned. According to Herodotus. Understanding this editorial process is vital to our understanding of the collective 'reality' perceived at any given time. This was probably be cause this type of disinformation was so common in Ancient Greece where methods of verification were so limited that rumours were often treated as actual news. for the past thirty years. Apart from the extent to which these operations were systematically organised in psychological warfare between 1939 and 1945. Back in the 1930s. there was nothing new in all this. The underlying assumption was that because the re was a limit to what could be done with spontaneously generated rumours. inter estingly. I ts significance in shaping our perception of that 'reality' has been brilliantly charted by Philip Schlessinger in his study of BBC News Broadcasts. For an event to become news. While certain rumours have always resulted from perhaps inevitable speculations reflecting the sort of concerns which agit ate people at times of crisis. It is a pity Thomas Hobbes is not here to help us out with this philosophical conundrum. In a sense the point was neatly made by whoever said that when a man bites a dog that is news but the other way round is not. and part icularly of military operations. with such fatal consequences for the Persian assault on Greece.
and t hat no Total Archive exists. they recognise that there is really no s uch thing as complete objectivity because there is no such thing as an historica l certainty. Ultimately. non-fiction film offered a more familiar entree into the br ave new world of film as evidence. Early work on documentaries and newsreels in the 1930s quickly revealed that even these supposedly factual sources were not s imply windows on the past. who was among the first to teach the subject seriously in a B ritish University) initially concentrated on newsreels and documentaries. by virtue of the fact that their output is not directly attributable to them. earthquakes and the like tend to be picked up by western news o rganisations. famine. the issue nonetheless neatly illustrates some of our central issues of concern here. A field ripe for Marxist scholars. historians began some 20 years ago seriously to investigate film as a ric h source of historical evidence unique to the twentieth century. and the processes by which news historically has been selected and distri buted for specific propaganda purposes. namely the relationship of news to propa ganda. Given the natural preoccupation of hist orians with sources. picking up only on such events as disasters. nothing but the truth. a particular type of image tends to be created that serves the int erests of western media organisations more than it does the national self-intere sts of Third World countries. and thus providing a distorted . Any successful propaganda effort. What I should like to say first is that historians are uniquely well equipped t o tackle the issues raised by the whole question of news selection. predetermined by the selection process. When. and as near as possible.p between the have and have-not nations. they a re ideally placed to scrutinise the media of persuasion not just because propaga nda is inherently biased but also because the media themselves are by definition selective and thus inherently biased as well. the whole truth'. surprisingly.feature films . Reith was however talking about white propaganda because black propagandists. more traditiona . News. Even so. their judgments are invariably determined by which side side you are on in any given issue at any given time. therfore. because there are always more archives to search. in a sense.view that har dly represents the real situation in any given Third World country. is 'the shocktroops of propaganda'. The news must be credible and verifiable but the opinions which form as a result are. have a much greater latitude in the ir employment of the truth. they did not pr ovide us with unbiased records. They were the end products of a production proce ss that was affected by the same sort of biases affecting other. Thus equipped. What he meant by this was that news must form the very heart of any attempts to pers uade in a world where people crave understanding of the confusion and complexiti es around them.comprised largely of works of fiction. modern historians have really only just begun to appreciate s ome of the difficulties involved in evaluating how this bias works. No matter how hard they tr y to be objective in their conclusions. Because only floods. It wa s for this reason that the axiom of the highly successful British propaganda in the Second World War was to tell 'the truth. they are consta ntly aware of the significance of omissions and bias. This is done by controlling the news fl owing in and out of the Underdeveloped world. although they used actuality footage. black propaganda also needs to be based upo n at least a semblence of credibility if is not to backfire at some stage. The fine line which historians ha ve to tread in teaching people how to think as distinct from the propagandists' job of telling people what to think may well be illustrated in Keith Grieves' pa per on history as propaganda after this introductory lecture. must be able to cont rol the output of news and information upon which opinions are formed. perhap s partly out of caution since that other principal type of film . I shall talk about the 'as near as possible' part of that quotation in a moment.usually unfavourable . for ex ample. the pioneers (i ncluding Ken Ward. Through thei r empirical work into sources from a wide variety of viewpoints. in Lord Reith's memorable phrase. But.
they quickly learned that 'there was no intrinsic difference between "ficti on" and "factual" films as records of mass communication and that there was no d istinction in terms of importance made between them by the politicians. This wo uld be something I would be grateful to hear more about in the sessions offered by colleagues addressing the print media at this conference. And when historians such as Nicholas Pronay and Tony Aldga te began to investigate newsreels they too began to show just exactly how far th ese supposedly simple visual newspapers went beyond mere recorders of events. the effective founder of the British documentary film movement at the onset of the sound era. from idea through to research through t o final edit. Although that is a start. We should d iscard any notions of propaganda being 'good' or 'bad'. of course. I mean actually making a film.l. Charles Wenden and Ken Short turned to feature fi lms.before we can even begin to study the message. Dilwyn Porter and Mark Ellis. we n eed to first understand the nature of the medium . at some stage of editing their films suddenly understood more about the nature of film as an instrument of persuasion as they compromised their material to the requirements of the medium. they understood the power of the cinema as an instrument of propaganda. There is nothing wrong with that if you would accept my suggestion that propagan da is a practical process of persuasion and. to actually make films. Wh en the likes of Pierre Sorlin. for example. much had been done on the printed media but historians more familiar with written evidence tended to look more at the me aning of the message rather than the operational workings of the medium. To understand. the media of film and television. civil se rvants and others whose business it was deal with what was then a new factor in national life'. Terrence Rodger. Prior to this work. as an organised process of persuasion. Philip Bell and Ralph White would all agree that. the enormous significance of editing. They also came to realise that the intrinsic power of film as co mmunicator rested on its repetetive and cumulative ability to emphasise stereoty pes.which I am sure Jill Hulme will address in her analysis of national identity in the Second Worl d War. For those growing numbers of historians displaying an interest in film and telev ision. and particularly the cinema. as a practical process.how it works as an interactio n of words and images. It must be defined by reference to intent. in the process of making what is tantamount to an illustrated historical l ecture. it is rather like seeing how a journalist adapts your considered judgements to the needs of his newspape r editor. Value judgements about the p rocess are more profitably directed towards the motives which lie behind it sinc e. The point about this is that historians have only recently begun to understand t he inherently persuasive nature of the media. such as Aled Jones. historical sources. John Grierson. The very first time they had to cut a piece a film to make a particular historical point fit a particular piece of commentar y. one way to do this is to learn the basic skills of the professional commu nicators. and use those terms mere ly to describe effective or ineffective propaganda. I don't mean appearing on Newsnight or even pr esenting a television series. so vital for the twentieth century historian. and so on . we are mainly dealing with deliberate attempts to persuade others to think and behave in a manner desired by the sourc . how camera positions can affect the perceptions of the vi ewer. Some of you can no doubt detect a plug coming. altho ugh greater attention is now being given to the broadcast media of radio and tel evision. it is an in herently neutral concept. had provided a clue to those who may still have bel ieved that the camera never lied when he described his task as the 'creative tre atment of actuality'. It was for this pur pose that the InterUniversity History Film Consortium was established back in 19 68 and several historians who have taken advantage of its avowed aims are here t oday. the impact of a single film was limited compared to to the constant repetit ion of certain themes over a period of time to a mass audience . I feel sure that Peter Stead.
The annou ncement of Unconditional Surrender all but suspended the debate on war aims at h . President Wilson duly announc ed his Fourteen Points in the following month. therefore. It is essential therefore not to look at Propaganda in a vacuum. An example of propaganda dictating policy. with disasterou s consequences comes at the closing stages of the First World War. No longer would it be possible for them to do what their predecessors in the Great War had fought so hard and succ essfully to do. as Michael Winstanley will no doubt show in his session. all sorts of half-worked out and compromised solutions had to be found that merely served to destabilise Eastern Europe during the inter-war period. T here are however two very good examples of the significant dangers of this proce ss getting completely out of synch in each of the World Wars of this century. Mark Cornwall might well do so in his session on this topic. when the Paris Peace Conference was convened in 1919. Allied propagandists had something to present. At last. due largely to British propaganda having been conducted in advance of policy during 1918. The extreme conclusion to be drawn is that. As a result. Policy and propaganda. The result was an almight y mess which not only affected the creation of the newly independent states of C entral and Eastern Europe but which also helped to enhance the disillusionment o f the Italians who promptly witnessed a swing to the right and Mussolini's rapid ascendancy. Northcliffe and his staff decided to target the Dual Mona rchy in the first instance.e. the field operational requirements of propaganda needed a good deal mor e than vague promises of liberation if Crewe House's propaganda was to stand a r eal chance of promoting internal disaffection and chaos amongs the Slavs. it has to be said. namely to divide the German people from their leaders. Poles. beyond the generalities of the Wilson and Lloyd G eorge speeches concerning national self-determination for the 'oppressed nationa lities'. must go hand in hand and effective propaganda is that which is conducted in close conjunction with the policy-making process. the policy or the presentation. When Lloyd Ge orge decided to create a specific Department of Enemy Propaganda in February 191 8 under the controversial direction of Lord Northcliffe. what is propaganda if not the p resentation of policy and ideology? I'm sure I don't need to emphasise the point that judgements concerning the rightness or wrongness of a cause should therefo re be directed at the policy not the presentation. Allied propagandists knew their policy-makers had h anded Joseph Goebbels a propaganda bombshell. which was felt to be the key to the underming of Austri a-Hungary. repres entatives of the subject nationalities turned up clutching all sorts of leaflets and demanding that the promises therein be fulfilled. When such details were not forthcoming from the policy-makers. the pr opagandists went ahead anyway and made all sorts of promises about the post-war settlement that were yet to be agreed by the Allied governments. but always b y reference to the ideological and policy-making processes that prompt its emplo yment. and over longer-term periods in which the em ployment of popular culture over a sustained period of time will be a subject ad dressed by Nick Hiley in his session. Whichever comes first. Rumanians and the like. This needs to be done in both short-term campaigns. The problem was that. namely of policy-decisions of monumental im portance being made without any reference to the problems of presentation. as an afterthought at the Casablanca Conference of January 1943. is something we might con sider as being a recipe for success or failure in our historical case studies. ha ving conducted what was regarded as a highly effective propaganda campaign again st Austria-Hungary. 359(6)]. can b e found in the Second World War. rather than vice versa. Following Lloyd George's announcement of the most comprehensive declarat ion of British War Aims to date on 5 January 1918. When the Allied policy of Unconditional Surrend er was announced almost. but I couldn't possibly comment. he did so at a time whe n Allied war aims towards the Central Powers were only just beginning to be form ulated. as the weak lin in the Central Powers' chain. Well you might say that. for wh ich Cabinet approval was given on 5 March with the proviso that 'no promise shou ld be made to the subject races in Austria which we could not redeem' [cab 23/5. After all. An example of the reverse happening.
more significantly. This modern scholarship has helped to expose various significant contemporary and near contemporary notions that had r emained firmly in place until their work during the past decade. however. Mark Cornwall. only since the First Wo rld War. we cannot categorically say that X number of people signed up because of t his or that poster. propaganda meant simply the means by which an adherent of a religious doctrine disseminated his ideas to a wider audience. And prisoners of war are notorious for saying what they thin k their captors want to hear rather than what they really think. propaganda is as old as human communication itself. Peter Buitenhaus and Nick Hiley have all added t o our understanding of how British propaganda operated in allied and neutral cou ntries during and before the same period. derive from its 17th Century semantic origins in the con text of the Counter Reformation although. as Vansittartism h ad suggested all along without it ever being overt government policy. Nicholas Reeves. What they have also done to varying degrees is to provide a variety of possible measurements for that most difficult of historical problems. we fall short of definitive evidence . General Ludendorff wrote in his memoirs of how the German armies had been hypnotised as if like a rabbit by a snake. No doubt David Welch will have something to say on this aspect i n his workshop session. Although they h ave suggested. This was largely because of a massive post-World War I reaction to the British w artime use of propaganda on the part of its two principal 'victims' or targets. has added considerably to that debate through his work on the role of Allied propaganda in helping to undermine Austria-Hungary in 1917-18. I can't offer a . Goebbels could now legitimately call for an all-ou t German commitment to the Nazi war effort safely armed with an Allied assurance that Germans and Nazis would all be treated the same way. through their application of the historical method. It is. namely by pointing out that. important to recognise that propaganda has b ecome a dirty word. The religious c onnotations. Many of you are far better equipped to judge whether my generalisations can be applied to earlier periods. namely how to asses s the effectiveness of propaganda. Since the First World War. Scholars such as Mike Sanders. all Germans were regarded as Nazis and that. that British propaganda by itself may not have been quite as successful as contemporaries bel ieved in achieving its various wartime aims. for examp le. for examp le. they have had to resort to measuring tangible ou tput rather than behaviour .how many column inches were given over to a particu lar topic or how many prisoners of war possessed propaganda pamphlets. and so the only cours e remaining was for the German people to throw in their lot with the destiny of the Nazi Party. How f ar British propaganda was in fact successful either in bringing the United State s into the war in 1917 or in defeating the Central Powers the following year nec essarily remains the subject of much historical debate. namely Germany and the United States. It enabled him to convert the experience of indiscrim inate allied bombing (called 'strategic bombing' by the British and Americans) i nto a perceptional reality. however. it enabled Goebbels to unite the German people behi nd the Nazi Party like never before. the only g ood German was a dead German. an d chiefly because of the British reputation for successfully organising this old wartime weapon using newly available communications technologies. I am taking my examples mainly from the twentieth ce ntury simply because that is where my chief research has been conducted.we still don't know how ma ny of the readers who read the column inches actually behaved in the desired way as a result. the real importance of their work l ies in its analysis of propaganda in conjunction with policy. in the absence of any direct evidenc e of how the human mind thinks. As you might have gathered. at least in the western democracies. Even here. as a process of persuasion. and even when we look at specific issues such as recruitment campa igns. in so far as the Allies were concerned. Even so. especially in the aftermath of Stalingrad. Before 1914. and it was an essential prerequiste of Goebbels' Total War speech at the Sportsp alast on 18 February 1943. of course.ome but. the meaning h as changed somewhat and has assumed all sorts of perjorative connotations.
on techniques and methods. Never before had their opinions counted for so much in the survival of the state or. In 1938 the Foreign Agents Registration Ac t was passed outlawing the unregistered dissemination of foreign propaganda in A merica and. propaganda had been a useful wartime weapon but now. we must look at the propagandistic uses to which the word itself was put in order to appreciate that its changed meaning has not served historians positively. Edward Be rnays and Walter Lippmann. Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany. and most notably by Adolf Hitler wh o devoted two chapters of Mein Kampf to the study of British propaganda. she replied 'prove it didn't work'. His con clusion was that 'all that matters is propaganda'. Never before had there been quite suc h a need for governments of all kinds to devote themselves to the struggle for t he hearts and minds of the politicised masses. The defilement of the human soul is worse than the destruction of the human body'. Total Seduction.ny solutions to this problem. Rightly or wrongly. limited they even they often are. where the study of propaganda was b lossoming as an academic subject through the works of Harold Lasswell. if the message was not clear. but what those audiences actually believed as a result is a minefi eld loved by undergraduates because of its fertility as a field for often counte r-factual speculation. The work that has been done on propaganda policy and output. it fostered the illusion that there was no role for such activity amidst a c limate epitomised by Lord Ponsonby's assertion that 'the injection of the poison of hatred into men's mind's by means of falsehood is a greater evil in wartime than the actual loss of life. needs to be continued if we are to understand what policy-makers wanted audience s to believe. I have found that the first problem is how to overcome almost a genetically inco ded suspicion of the word 'propaganda'. 1914-17. in peaceti me. Perhaps one of my own got it right when. In Britain itself. all-embracing. So the stigma remained in a nation which had proved itself to be the masters of the craft between 1914 and 1918. Americans need have looked no further than the preface of H. in its destruction. Never before had so much information been availa ble to so many people with so many means open to them to express their point of view. For the British. especially for periods in which the records of pub lic opinion. In the United States during the same period. conversely. after arguing vi gorously for the effectiveness of Nazi propaganda to a group who kept saying 'pr ove it worked'. Peterson's timely 1939 book Propaganda for War: the Cam paign for American Neutrality. are few and far between.was seized upon by The Disenchanted. the notion that the United States had somehow been du ped into entering the war in 1917 by the skillful use of British propagandists o perating out of Wellington House was seized upon by isolationist elements who ar gued that America must quarantine itself from the evils of modern propaganda if it was to avoid future entanglements. But a lthough the British chose to dismantle almost in its entirity their wartime prop aganda machinery. the birth of the greatest propaganda state in history was conceived on the leaflet-strewn battlefields of the First World War and Nazi Germany turned the meaning of prop aganda into a whole new.a stab-in-the-back caused by Allied propa ganda . the emergence of a genuine pluralistic democracy following the Representation of the People Act of 1918 and the Equal Franchise Act of 10 year s later against the backdrop of advancements in the new mass media of radio and film saw British political parties develop new and more sophisticated propaganda techniques for persuading the massively expanded electorate to adopt a democrat ic course rather than emulating the example of the peoples of the Soviet Union. the notion that German ar mies had not been defeated on the field of battle but had been forced to submit due to a collapse in domestic morale . To understand this. or at least had provided the model upon which a . In Weimar Germany. particularly in Victo rious America and Defeated Germany. all this was greeted with embarassement and puzzlement.C.
they are qui te untrue. the deliberate omission of undesirabl e information or opinions. writing at a time when. Grierson was. Alexander the Great's coins for example not only reflected his wealth but. namely his statement in Rhetoric that 'the truth tends to win out over the false'. Whe n images were confined to specific locations. it lies at the very root of any attem pts to present a given case in a desired manner. In advocating censorship as an essential part of the democratic proce ss. the British were conducting the most effective propaganda campaig n of all. what was contained in the m was of much greater significance than any by-products of artistic or cultural achievement which their decorative images may have projected. thanks to technologi cal innovations in the mass media. implying something to hide or the admission of a bad cause. propagandists like himself had at their dispo sal an unprecedented degree of social penetration. as the neg ative aspect to the process of persuasion. recognised as an important element in achieving or sustaining power. their propagandistic employment was limited to the capacity of an audience to visit that location. But. directly related to the availability of communications technolog y... there is a tendency to regard censorship as a rather sinister activ ity. tell them the tales about the many and various quarrels between gods and heroes and their friends a nd relations'. Mobility changes the nature of the game.ll other modern propaganda systems were to be based. from two legs to the wheel to the sail. John Grierson was a notable thinker about the relationship between propaganda an d modern democracy. telling the truth must command goodw ill everywhere. of course. printing. whether it be a cave drawing. radio telegraphy. Julius Caesar was o ne of the first Romans to have his portrait stamped on coins during his actual l ifetime. They could do this because they had long been masters of the siamese t win of propaganda: censorship. then the evolution of propaganda is linked to speech .[in the] hope that an appeal to the Platonic principle of justice will triumph'. not only as untrue. it is.. stating that the secret of Britain's success was due to the belief that. are creatively utilised and transmitted for persuasive purposes. because he recognised the importa . a st atue or a painting. but as injurous to our future warriors'. The gloomy descriptions the y now give must be forbidden. Plato was concerned to censor adverse images of Greece's spiritual mentors stating: 'Nor can we permit stories of wars and plots and battles among the gods. say images f or example. 'out of her liberal tradition. and in the long run.. Again. fli ght and telecommunications. And the extent to which propaganda has been able to widen its potential audience is. by fostering the i llusion that propaganda was an 'un-English' activity which had no place in a mod ern democracy. in other words. and has always been. he returned to this theme in The Republic when he stated that 'the p oets must be told to speak well of that other world. architecture. cinematography and compu ters. Plato left it to his pupil Aristotle to develop another fundamental axiom of modern democratic propaganda.. If the social advancement of human beings is linked directly to the developme nt of mobility. In his discussions with Socrates at the time of the Peloponnesian War. internal combustion. But coins were val uable and thus valued and their message could be spread wherever trade flourishe d. defeat the distortions and boastings of the enemy..although we should not gain much from analysing images of ancient Greek vases since they were the tin cans of antiquity. even if Plato did not see the inherent contradiction in this statement. his deified greatness. we must certainly not . of course. An understanding of the technology of communications is therfore vital if we are to appreciate the way in which. In fact. Censorship. th rough the use of religious symbolism. not just what is said but what is not said which is. is just as essential to the process of persuasion as is the credibility of the information and opinions which are actually being empl oyed. Hence the importance of coins as the supreme form of mobile propaganda in the an cient world . And. and if we want our prospective guardians to believe that quarrelsomen ess is one of the worst of evils. telegraphy. as I have already suggested. rather than posthumously as hitherto.
Bob Scribner is in a far better position to tell you more about this in his session on Saturday. that ostensibly most bland of commodi ties. but we do not know for sure.quite the reverse in fact as priests used the newly available texts as guidebooks for their ideological messages shouted out from th e pulpits in a world being subjected increasingly to competetive ideologies. it has generated extreme views about the techniques it employed. we do not know whether it succeeds in forcing people to think and behave in a g iven way. all of which served. Perhaps it ca nnot yet do this because the moral issues are yet to be resolved. as no doubt Virginia Berridge's session on AIDS will demonstrate. I would like to suggest that because we have yet to come up with an effective method of measuring the precise impact of propaganda. alt hough the message is the very stuff of that particular phenomenon. Not that that principal medium of medieval pro paganda went into decline . of course. therefore. to change the appearance of the whole world. At the dawn of recorded history. i nterestingly in the same area. it is important to recognise that propaganda can serve the interests of the target audience. Moreover. in Francis Bacon's words. The point abou t atrocity propaganda historically is that it is a time-honoured device for esta blishing and maintaining the moral high ground against a targetted enemy. We suspect that it does this. The need to suggest quite complex messages in the form of simplistic. to return to its original meaning. Historically. But it is the creative utilisation of communications technology which gives it i ts propagandistic significance. the ancient Assyrians erected stone monuments at strategic points depicting the brutal behaviour of their troops in battle as a w arning to others who might accordingly think twice about attacking them. poets and prea chers. Iconography. was of course perfected by the Medieval Church which owed its very influence to the utilisation of simplified images and messages. Armed with the new artillery of the printing pre sses. revolutionised with the advent of printing in the 15th and 16th centuries. Whether that campaign succeeded or not. readily id entifiable. Propaganda is invariably judged to be an activity which somehow forces people to think and behave in a way they might not otherwise have done had they been left to their own devices. It is this suspicion borne of ignorance which gives the process a bad name and we would do well. Even News. Atrocit . is subject to creative processes which determine its shape and structure. of static or moving images. to transfer their intentions to a wider audience. Depending on which side you are on. it was either too s oft or too hard. Its use of scare tactics fell short of atrocity propaganda. policy-makers have employed artists and architects. you would n ever guess it from the idealised portraits and statues of him that were as widel y disseminated throughout the known world as images of the Pope are on souvinir stalls today. backed up b y the threat of Eternal Damnation. Johann Gutenberg's invention served as a quantum leap for propaganda as the shift from script to print was accompanied by the development and the com pass and gunpowder. images and to transmit those images and messages to wider audiences was. and I am sure Ann Laurence will have some int eresting things to say about this in her session on English visual images in Ire land in 1641. and that the desired behaviour somehow serves only the in terests of the propagandist. the Reformation was unleashed across Europe as a revolutionary movement wh ich fuelled the agitators who were convinced that printing was Heaven sent in th at it permitted author to speak directly to reader without the aid of the interm ediary interpretor in the pulpit. And the Emperor Augustus continued the tradit ion even though he was as physically as ugly a man as you will find.nce of money as not only a motivational factor in sustaining the support of his troops during the Civil War but also as a convenient method of reminding them wh ich side their bread was buttered. We are already seeing the beginnings of its use in the Gulf Crisis with spasmodically leaked reports of Iraqui behaviour in Kumait.
y propaganda is therefore a double-edged sword. It would be too easy to conclude that Mr Balfour had simply swallowed his own co untry's propaganda. even though afterwards countless investigations were unabl e to verify any of the atrocity stories beyond those usually associated with com bat. footage from Belsen . On the one hand it is designed t o frighten opponents and on the other to justify why we fight. even though it kept the word 'alleged' i n its title. rumours of which began to surface in 1917 based upon the absence of war graves a t Vimy Ridge. we can see how it was used to paint a particular ima ge of the enemy who must be destroyed. Robert Graves described in Goodbye to All That th e huge gap in perception of the nature of the enemy which existed between a civi lian population bombarded with atrocity propaganda and returning soldiers who ha d actually experienced combat at the front line. or of a little naked girl screaming in pain from her napalm bu rns may be the very stuff of which atrocity propaganda is made. Two a nd two was put together to make five and even the Foreign Secretary concluded fr om the evidence before him that 'while it should not be desirable that His Majes ty's Government should take any responsibility as regards the story pending the receipt of further information. had circumcized the Christians in the Ho ly City of Christ. was responsible for discrediting their use and Parliament backed him up. the death of Edith Cavell. but the problem was that such atrocities were being committed by the American side. Dachau and Auschwitz could provide no better justification for why we had foug ht. largely on the h ome front it must be stressed. And with the advent of television and the transmission of instantaneous pict ures. If we look at the Crusades. Perhaps the most infamous atroc ity story of the First World War was the so-called 'corpse conversion factory'.all these were presented in a ma nner designed to portray a particular image of 'Prussian militarism' and Hunnish barabarity which could provide Allied propagandists with the essential focus th ey required to sustain their moral offensive against the enemy. Atrocity propaganda has always relied heavily upon rumour. When Pope Urban II called for a 'great st irring of heart' to launch the First Crusade at Clermont in 1095. Lord Ponsonby's influential book. the sighting of a train loaded with the corpses of dead German sol diers and a report of a Berlin factory boiling down kadavers to make soap. If anybod y had had any doubts about declaring war on Germany in 1939. the Bryce Report was at pains to 'document' testimony to German atrocities committed in Belgium. the sinking of the Lusitania . But in the twentieth century. the burning of li brary at Louvin. Durin g the First World War. Well. The level of public scepticism was raised to such a point that when stories beg an to emerge in the 1930s and 1940s about the Nazi treatment of the Jews. propagandists might have thought that now had an ideal instrument of atroc ity propaganda. spread their blood on the altars or poured it it into baptism al fonts. according to Robert the Monk's version. the Saracens. there does not in view of the many atrocious act ions of which the Germans have been guilt appear to be any reason why it should not be true'. He went on to describe in graphic detail all sorts of horrors and ende d with the words: 'What shall I say of the appalling violation of women. Images of a Vietcong suspect being executed by Saigon Police Chief Loan during t he Tet Offensive. we have become increasingly more sceptical about its credibility. It took the filmed evidence to verify the full scale of the Holocaust. from which my earlier quotation of his wa s take. not by the e nemy and was being witnessed in full colour on 100 million television sets throu . but not in the way they had thought. with the Thirty Years War being particularly notable f or this kind of propaganda. of whic h it is more evil to speak than to keep silent'? Similar efforts have been made throughout the centuries. He was able to draw his conclusions because of the prevailin g climate of the war. there was a general disinclination to believe what were thought to be simply more rumo urs. in a sense they did. The Amenian massacres.
ghout America. there was little likelihood of this anyway. There was clearly going to be no possible Vietnam effect in the Falklands War. The very process of s electing the words or images. even for the limited numbers of journalists sailing with the Task Force who anyway quicky began to identify with their military trav elling companions. fiction. simply objective purveyors of information. The media. provided the records of policy and propaga nda output are available to us. and. namely how to correlate the connection betwee n propaganda output and human behavior. You can say. Propaganda is simply an attempt to influence t he attitudes of a specific audience. are instruments of persuasion. their inclusion or omission and even their locatio .. We will never know for certain whether any given behaviour might have been diffe rent if more or less propaganda had been directed at the target audiences. We are chiefly concerned here at this conference. by their very nature. Perhaps we need more microcosmic studies of the kind relating to local campaigns before we can draw more general conclusions about the macroc osm.w ith the calculated purpose of instilling in the recipient certain beliefs. It can. All I am saying is that there are other issues w hich cause these things to come about..often supported by the suppression of inconsistent material . Success should be measured against intent and we w ould do well to avoid such issues as to whether the means justifies the end.One wonders if in future a democracy which has uninhibited te levision coverage in every home will ever be able to fight a war. and why. how they per ceived themselves and how they wanted others to perceive them. The analysis of propaganda can tell us much about such people.. combined with a rigourous censorship system forced the BBC to use Argentinian pictures. usua lly a deliberate process. that is the difference between succes sful and unsuccessful propaganda. and television does not always deal with them adequately. Propaganda is a means to an end. however just. we would do well to stick to analysing techniques of persu asion as a means of providing us with an indication of the sort of issues which leaders and interest groups feel they need to transmit to a wider audience. argument or suggestion . with propaganda methods such as rumours and news. through the use of facts. I should therefore like to de-s tigmatise the word itself and to re-establish 'propaganda' in a sense to its pre -1914 meaning. of course. starvation and combat. value s or convictions which will serve the interests of the source. in other words. Margaret Thatcher was able to answer this question.brutality. with means . Robin Day stated: Television has a built-in bias towards depicting any conflict in terms of the vi sible brutality. In 1970. an d never can be. Given the frenzied patriotism o f the British press. If I can do anything sensible with this lecture. In the meantime. that that is what war is . In 1982. which promptly met the wrath of the Prime Minister wh o accused it of being 'unacceptably even handed'. For t he second half of the twentieth century. tell us much about ourselves. It can tell us mu ch about how predominant ideologies tend to win out over minority representation s. and the methods they employ in the process. I suspect that we will once again encounter the inevitable brick wall encountere d by all historians of propaganda. As a process of persuasion. such as censorship and the manipu lation of such factors as news and rumour. c onflict. Strict restrictions on reporting the conflict. we do at least have access to greater r ecords of public opinion against which we can at least begin to measure the succ ess of any given propaganda campaign. they are not. when we consider ends. it matters not for purposes of definition whether the desired behaviour results from the effort. usually by produc ing a desired line of action. But public opinion as a concept remains an amorp hous amalgam of individual opinions which in itself provides all sorts of method ological problems. as its title suggests.
therefore. What we really need is more propaganda. as I have attempted to show today. it is increasingly felt. really the admission of a bad cause. The challenge. perhaps inevitably. it is the motives behind the propaganda which deserve closer historical scrutiny. remove the mystique of th e 'hidden persuaders' by analysing their historical employment of propaganda tec hniques so that we can understand how our perceptions have been. It is also more inevitable with the proliferation of media technology which provides us as individuals with increased access to ever more information that can either prove our individual salvation or our collective downfall. that has made governments through the ages attempt to control what media were available. first understand the medium an d then look at how the message was transmitted and to do this we need increased education as to how the medium works and what the message means. it is the power to mould opinion. In an ever more complex information society. As the power of the public increases. We need more attempts to influence our opinions and to arouse our active participat ion in social and political processes. For every propaganda source. Secondly. Increased propaganda must be acc ompanied by increased education. And. so also do of ficial attempts to influence or control the principal means by which the public is informed in an effort to co-ordinate the views of governors and governed. But there are several important qualifications. We must. There is no point emulating Canute and trying to hold back the mounting tidal wave of information and persu asion. There is nothing to fear in this as such although. and are still b eing influenced by them. Otherwise we will remain susceptible to the tyrannies of the hidden persuaders. historically. not the propaganda itself. not less. But. is part of the process of persuasion that is propag anda. the target will be better equip ped to evaluate the merits of those differing cases. through education. there must be a coun ter-propagandist source. advertising agencies and press agen ts. and a little knowledge was enough to keep us in the position into which others found it more desirable. And. depends upon the utilis ation of modern public relations techniques. to invite criticism or create consensus. It reflects a fear of the public and usu ally derives from an assumption that the public is gullible and highly susceptib le to persuasive influences. for example. This is. and the process is not going to stop suddenl y before the next century. the sheer increase in the volume of information ava ilable has also led to an increased use of censorship. How successfully this is achieved.n on the page or the screen. Restricting the flow of news and information is an attempt to restrict opinion. in other words. increased propaganda must be accompanied by an increased access to inf ormation upon which educated opinions can be formed. It is unacceptable to allow public opinion to be any longer bombarded with news and views from a restricted number of controlled sources. I can think of no better justification for the historical analysis of propaganda in conferences such as this. is to ensure that no single propaganda source gains a monopoly over the information and images that shape o ur thoughts. this is more desirable than allowing a return to a world i n which a little was enough. We need more attempts to involve us in ma tters which are important to all of us and not just to a select few who have his torically utilised propaganda for self-serving purposes. . howeve r. telecommunications and digital data technology already provide us with mo re news and views than ever before. The alleged historical functions of propaganda have been to promote homogeneity of thought and deed and to restrict the development of the individual's capacity to think and act for him or herself. We must. It wa s Napoleon who admitted after closing down nearly every newspaper in France that 'if I had a free press I wouldn't last more than three months'.
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