Propaganda Effects of Wwi

Topics: World War I, Propaganda, World War II Pages: 9 (3372 words) Published: May 11, 2003
Propaganda effects of World War I

During the early 1900s a new era of warfare emerged as governments began to employ all economic, technological and psychological resources available to defeat their enemies. This concept of Total War altered the direction of humanity and governments understanding in their allocation of resources. This essay will examine the relationship between propaganda used during World War I, its effect on the masses and the absolutely essential need for the success of such campaigns in obtaining military victory. While leaflet propaganda used during the war will be the main focus, considerations will be given to other forms to illuminate the necessity of understanding and utilizing the tools of this very powerful weapon. During World War I, propaganda was widespread in most countries. Propaganda took on many forms and the primary function was to reinforce to the citizens of a nation that war was intrinsically heroic, and conversely to destroy the morale of the enemy. The actual business of physical injury had added the more subtle process of slaughter of morale, a far more difficult, but none the less effective, method of warfare. The Germans have for a long time preached it. They practiced it from the first, 'frightfulness' being merely the German interpretation of the theory of the destruction of morale. Bernhardi lays as much stress upon it as upon perfection of maneuver. The Allies, perhaps keener students of psychology, substituted persuasion for brutality, and developed a system of military propaganda that has never before been equaled. Historians generally refer to WWI as the first 'total war'. It was the first conflict in which modern industrialized societies mobilized their complete economic, technological and psychological resources in order to wage war. Unlike earlier wars, which involved relatively small numbers of soldiers on the battlefield, it affected many aspects of the lives of civilian populations and demanded enormous sacrifices and support from them. Mobilization of the home front was crucial to achieving military victory. Some of the main aspects of Total War include conscription of men into the armed services, increased government control of the economy and daily lives of citizens and subsequent loss of personal liberty. Control of the labor force, physical safety and security of civilian populations threatened are involved and of course, propaganda used to create support for the war and encourage acceptance of the necessity of personal sacrifice. Censorship of bad news about the war in newspapers and magazines to maintain morale and support for the war effort was also vital to this new age of waging war. It must be emphasized that the ultimate object of propaganda in war is the destruction of enemy morale, and its corollary, the strengthening of friendly morale. "It consists of the dissemination of ideas, designed to react in different ways upon their various recipients. The enemy must be made to feel that his cause is hopeless from the start, has no chance of ultimate success, and is based upon delusive ideals." It is usually impossible to convince the responsible organizations of the hostile nation, such as the government or the army, though it may be advantageous to hinder them in their decisions. But it is comparatively easy to influence the rank and file, civilian as well as military, and to produce an atmosphere of hopelessness fatal to success. Also, the general public of neutral nations must be supplied with the arguments of victory and of a just cause, followed by a cautious relay of every success, great or small, and by brilliant descriptions of the spirit that animates the troops. The neutral countries and individuals, especially when weak and "necessarily somewhat at the mercy of the side that eventually proves victorious, is naturally disposed to sit on the fence and lean towards the side that he imagines to be winning." (Doob, 34) Finally allied, friendly...

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