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Propaganda Posters of the WPA

Determining "Proper and Improper" Propaganda

Interactive Internet Lesson


Introduction

Propaganda is a term that has a negative connotation.  In history, it is often associated with Adolf Hitler, wars, and racism.  However, we should be aware that we are constantly bombarded with propaganda – and not all of it is bad. Some of it is intended to make us act for the good of society.  In fact, Webster’s Dictionary, defines propaganda as “the spreading of ideas to further or damage a cause”.  Currently, the State of California is embarking on a propaganda campaign aimed at educating Californians on the need to conserve energy.  Students need to be given the tools to decide whether or not the propaganda they deal with is positive or negative.

This lesson will lead you through a series of activities designed to give you the tools to distinguish good from bad propaganda by looking at the posters created by the Works Progress Administration (WPA).

1.  Go to the Propaganda Analysis Home Page.  Use the table of contents and the information found at various links to help you answer questions the following questions:

a.       Define all eight common techniques which propagandists use to spread their message.  Think of one example from today’s world that shows ONE of the eight techniques in use.  (3 points)

2.  To begin, read the selection Propaganda and Impropaganda, by Edward L. Bernays (when you get to this site, you will need to click on "Selections from the Edward L. Bernays Papers at the Library of Congress".  After getting there, choose article #17, and click "view this item").  While reading, answer the following questions:  (3 points)

a.       According to Bernays, where are we exposed to propaganda?

b.      Why was Napoleon a good example of a propagandist?

c.       According to Bernays, who would you want to be your spokesman if you were selling baseball bats?  Which propaganda technique does this display?

d.      Even though Bernays doesn’t directly deal with this, what do you think “proper” propaganda is?  What do you think “impropaganda” is?

3. Go to:  By the People, For the People:  Posters from the WPA 1936-1943.  From here go to the "Collection Highlights".  Using the links answer the questions on the following questions:  (4 points)

a.       Look at the Health and Safety poster examples.  Find ONE example of Proper Propaganda, and find ONE example of Impropaganda.  Explain your choices.

b.      Look at the WWII poster examples.  Find ONE example of Proper Propaganda, and find ONE example of Impropaganda.  Explain your choices.

4.  Find ONE political cartoon from the links below that is an example of Proper Propaganda, and find ONE political cartoon from the links below that is an example of Impropaganda:  (5 points)

ADDITIONAL LINKS

* Dr. Suess Went to War
* Propaganda Analysis Home Page - this page has a lot of information about different types of propaganda.  It includes WWI examples as well as examples from today.
* Propaganda Postcards from WWI
* Nazi Propaganda from WWII
* Persian Gulf War Propaganda

QUESTIONS?  Please send email to:  kwilliams@djusd.k12.ca.us