This essay considers the question above by addressing the notion of “dictatorship” and its representation through iconography. We look at the definitions of “propaganda” and “iconic” and the context of the two dictators themselves, and then compare the techniques and actions used to promote these two individuals as icons.
Francisco Franco governed Spain with an iron fist from 1939 to 1975 following the brutal civil war of 1936 to 1939 that had overthrown the monarchy and left Spain fragmented, disunited and impoverished after participating in the First World War. He was a military man who had a leading role in the civil war and went on to form and lead a junta government; he was also a devout Catholic.
Antonio de Oliveira Salazar governed Portugal from 1933 to 1968. He was an academic, a professor of Economics at the University of Coimbra. After a period as Minister of Finance, he became Prime Minister in 1933. Salazar presented himself as an academic, not a military man, and he was a devout Catholic.
The term “dictatorship” can be described as a form of government in which absolute power rests with one person – a “dictator” – who has achieved power not through hereditary succession (like a monarch). The term “dictator” itself goes back to Roman times, meaning a person with supreme authority. Although the term usually refers to a ruler that has obtained power by force, it has also been used to define a person who can achieve any feasible social Ilham Jalal 1of 12
outcome he or she wishes. In the case of our two dictators, the first definition is relevant to Franco, while the latter description is more applicable to Salazar. “Propaganda” refers to information, ideas or rumours deliberately spread to promote the stance of a person or movement and their ideals; the information may not, is often not, rooted in reality or truth. It is interesting to note that Pope Urban VIII established a school – or College of Propaganda – for the education of priests for foreign missions, linking us back once again to Rome and the Catholic Church.
An “icon” is a picture, image or other representation of an ideal or person, so that “iconic” means something characteristic of an icon. It can be argued that both Franco and Salazar used, or allowed, iconic representations to be used to promote their ideals – or propaganda – and to preserve their status of dictatorship.
The 1920s and 30s marked the beginning of mass communications from print media to television as well as radio, giving many more people – in number and social groups – access to broadcast media. The new technology allowed Franco and Salazar, and their authoritative regimes to disseminate conservative and fascist ideals. Mass media is key to understanding how these men were able to create and hold on to power.
We will now discuss in more detail the rise of these two dictators and the iconic forms used to promote them. Francisco Franco came to public prominence (including articles in wide-circulation newspapers and illustrated 68 Discourse 24.3 weeklies) as a skilled military leader after 10 years fighting to maintain Spain’s colonial territories in North Ilham Jalal 2 of 12
Africa for which he was awarded military distinctions. In 1926 at the age of...