King's College London
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The Cartoon in Wartime Propaganda

Techniques

Irish volunteerIrish volunteerCounter-propaganda techniques were often very sophisticated.

Detailed studies were undertaken to improve the effectiveness of propaganda, including ones commissioned by Lt Col Charles Foulkes, Director of Propaganda for British forces during the Irish Civil War in 1921, and Count Julian Dobrski of the Special Operations Executive during World War Two.

These stressed the importance of simple messages, use of repetition, an appeal to self-interest and the need to avoid contradiction between messages.

They also claimed that successful counter-propaganda was based on careful intelligence and research of local politics and social and religious habits.

This was in order to appeal to the fears and prejudices of receptive audiences. For example, manuals recommended that Adolf Hitler be portrayed as a threat to the Church in propaganda aimed at predominantly Roman Catholic Italian troops.

A parody of StruwwelpeterA parody of StruwwelpeterCounter-propaganda worked best when it was part of a more coordinated campaign that included sabotage, working with resistance groups and using black propaganda alongside conventional warfare. Unfocused or vague propaganda was often counter-productive.

Training manuals also warned against inappropriate use of humour, but recommended the use of ridicule and rumour to undermine respect for Nazi leaders - for example accusing them of corruption or sexual deviancy. Flattery was another useful tactic.

One manual noted that it was better to make surrendering soldiers think they were voluntarily abandoning a useless fight than actually surrendering.

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