The Usage of Propaganda in America: Where We Were and Where We Are Now

By (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Samuel Guerra/Released (gallery at [1]) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Our media is filled with propaganda whether you may realize it or not. As a matter of fact, propaganda can come from just about anywhere, not just the government. Propaganda is defined by Merriam-Webster as “the spreading of ideas, information, or rumor for the purpose of helping or injuring an institution, a cause, or a person.” Hearing the word, many people think about your typical pro-fascism advertisements and caricatures from WW2 or of anti-American signs from places such as North Korea. However, even America has a long history of using propaganda to deceive its people.

America’s most prevalent propaganda campaigns most often center around war and patriotism. Yes, even your beloved Uncle Sam and Rosie the Riveter are pieces of war-time propaganda. Uncle Sam was first introduced in the late 1800s but is most known for his presence on military recruitment posters during WW1 and WW2. The Uncle Sam “I want you” poster has been examined and recreated by hundreds of artists and is one of the more deceiving pieces of propaganda used by the USA. While it appears to be used to encourage voluntary enlistment, it was actually intended to give the illusion that male citizens had a choice, even though the draft was already being set up to be put in place.

Feminist icon, Rosie the Riveter, also made her appearance during WW2, serving as a way to capitalize off of the women’s rights movement to fill jobs that became available after the draft. While the normalized addition of women to the general workforce was a fantastic improvement for women who desired financial independence, Rosie the Riveter propaganda was a huge unifying force in the matter. However, just because it’s propaganda doesn’t necessarily mean it’s bad or evil!

More recently, American propaganda has taken a much different route. As social media has risen to prevalence, it has become more and more difficult for propaganda to fly under the radar for what it is. However, as media has evolved so has propaganda. Now, American propaganda leans more towards Trump discrediting the reputation and credibility of mainstream media. Although many find Trump’s rambles about “Fake News” to be hilarious and thoughtless, the similarities to Hitler’s own “Lugenpresse” or “lying press” are disturbing. Turns out, discrediting unbiased media is also a form of propaganda.

Although we do not know where the propaganda trends will lead us in the future, having a strong knowledge of where we’ve been and our history with the matter is critical to maintaining a free-thinking population.

Photo By (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Samuel Guerra/Released (gallery at [1]) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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