Marin County residents Tom and Lilka Breton opened a Museum of International Propaganda in San Anselmo last Saturday. The venture displays their eclectic and fascinating collection of visual artifacts, mostly 20th century, that meet their criteria for the label "propaganda."
I'll let them explain what they mean, from a poster that introduces the display:
What is Propaganda
Propaganda is the calculated manipulation of information designed to shape public opinion and behavior to predetermined ends, as desired by the propagandist. It is usually emotional and repetitive, either designed to increase enthusiasm for a proposed utopian world or to escalate rage and hatred of a designated enemy, often a religion, an economic or political system, a race or a special group. Propaganda, in its essence, is art in the service of political power. ... The best sign that propaganda has succeeded is when the people who faithfully toe the propaganda line actually believe they are acting this way of their own free will.
Other country's propaganda tends to evoke either amusement (as the heroic Kims above might inspire) or repulsion and terror, as for example, this Nazi German SS-Death's Head ring.
Many regimes have an image of women that reinforces state power. Here's a fine late Stalinist Soviet example.
This Women's Suffrage poster from the pre-World War I Pankhurst movement looks quite benign ... until you remember these ladies went in for burning politician's houses, smashing windows and assaulting policemen ...
Wars evoke denunciations: This Cuban poster (accurately) convicts Richard Nixon of slaughter in Cambodia and Laos ...
The Spanish Republic denounced the fascist bombing of Madrid in 1937 with images of broken children. In general, most cultures at war are far more willing to show graphic pictures of victims than US media consumers are accustomed to.
This image from 1988 pictures both the Kremlin and Washington as vampire bats supplying bombs (by way of Saddam Hussein's Iraq) to murder peaceful Iranians. By the standards of war propaganda, it is quite attractive.
War propaganda from the United States is notable for its racist content. From 1917, German Kaiser Wilhelm as a black ape??? Apparently that's how someone thought to mobilize the US masses.
In 1941, the Japanese enemy becomes an invading buck-toothed rat ...
This strange collection will be open Wednesdays through Sunday; admission is free. Definitely worth a visit.
Click on the pictures for larger images.
My musings on current events, current projects, current anxieties and current delights.
I started this under the Bush regime when any grain of sand thrown into the gears of the over-reaching imperial state seemed worthwhile.
I have worked to elect more and better Democrats -- and to hammer the shit out of them once we get them in office so they do the things their constituents want and need. It's a big job.
I have endured the dashed potential for a more transformational regime under Obama. The man has made himself an accomplice in the imperial crimes of his predecessor as well as committing his own. He has also almost certainly been the most progressive president most of us will live to see. I fear we'll look back on his years in office with mild gratitude for a respite from national leadership that was habitually stupid and vicious, as well as wrong.
Visitors here will find a lot of commentary on books I'm reading. I am very intentionally reading intensively offline these days. When it feels hard to find direction, it's time to learn something new.
I'm a progressive political activist who runs trails and climbs mountains whenever any are available. I've had the privilege to work for justice in Central America (Nicaragua and El Salvador), in South Africa, in the fields of California with the United Farmworkers Union, and in the cities and schools of my own country. I'm a Christian of the Episcopalian flavor; we think and argue a lot. For work, I've done a bit of it all: run an old fashioned switch-board; remodeled buildings and poured concrete; edited and published periodicals, reports and books; and organized for electoral campaigns. I am currently an independent consultant to organizations seeking "help when you have to make a fight."