Propaganda Analysis: Harold Lasswell

Harold Lasswell Harold Dwight Lasswell (February 13, 1902--December 18, 1978) was considered one of the most influential American political scientists and communications theorist of his time. A graduate of the University of Chicago, Lasswell found great interest in the Freudian philosophy, which sparked his interest in propaganda analysis. He, along with several other influential liberals, felt that democracies needed propaganda in order to keep the people well informed. Lasswell was the President of the World Academy of Art and Science, and the American Political Science Association. Some of his work includes: Propaganda Technique in the World War (1927), Psychopathology and Politics (1930), World Politics and Personal Insecurity (1935), and Politics: Who Gets What, When, How (1935).
[Untitled] Propaganda Analysis: Harold Lasswell - Social Impact of the Media
American Propaganda during WWI As the United States entered the war in early 1917, Woodrow Wilson was searching for methods of gaining the public’s support. During April of 1917, Wilson created the Committee on Public Information (CPI) (Committee, 2002). The focus for this committee was to find ways of gaining public support for the war. The CPI gathered all business professionals ranging from advertisers to artists to sociologists. Together they experimented with different forms of marketing and advertising techniques that they thought would intrigue the public. The first forms of information came through newspaper columns and pamphlets, which were detailed intriguing titles such as “The German Whisper, German War Practices, and Conquest and Kultur” (Committee, 2002). The goal was to have the American public realize how German forces were dominating European forces. The CPI also started putting out posters and creating large billboards, which sent messages of American pride and patriotism. Such posters included phrases as, I Want You, Help Uncle Sam and Destroy this Mad Brute (Committee, 2002). Comics were also a way to create strong opinions through comedic relief. The CPI used cartoons to poke fun at their enemies. This method was very successful because at the time comic strips were very popular (Domestic Propaganda, 2002). What had most success in America during this time was the use of propaganda within movies. Movies had recently become introduced to the public and were very popular among communities. With the introduction of propaganda movies, such as “To Hell With Kaiser” and “The Kaiser: The Beast of Berlin”, Americans began taking notice to the war and realizing how they could help (Committee, 2002). In some cases, these movies created so much anger that police were called to control riots outside movie theaters (Committee, 2002). Glenn Sparks stated that “the use of wartime propaganda sensitized the public to the fact that mass media might be used to influence public opinion on a large scale” (Sparks, 2006, p. 45). This is exactly what the CPI was trying to accomplish with their efforts for educating the public about the war.

Propaganda Analysis: Harold Lasswell - Social Impact of the Media Propaganda Analysis: Harold Lasswell - Social Impact of the MediaPropaganda Analysis: Harold Lasswell - Social Impact of the Media
Propaganda Analysis Propaganda definition is often debated upon. (2010) describes propaganda as “information, ideas, or rumors deliberately spread widely to harm a person, group, movement, institution, nation, etc” (p. 1). Leaving many to believe that by using propaganda companies are deliberately misinforming citizens in order for them to understand the message by accept that it is true. For example, (2010) defines it as “an evocative word that brings to mind images of dictatorships and wartime misinformation.” On the other hand, campaigns such as Sam Adams regarding to the American Revolution, can be defended as positive propaganda. Historians believe that these types of propaganda assured well-being, safety and benefited all citizens during the war (Townsend, 2002, p. 8). Similarly, many believe that propaganda during World War I “was considered a positive force for mobilizing public opinion during the war, researchers after the war labeled propaganda negatively, calling it ‘partisan appeal based on half-truths and devious manipulation of communication channels” (Campbell, Martin & Fabos, 2010, p. 470). Regardless, propaganda is defined as influencing the public using different techniques, slogans and symbols. Whether they are negatively or positively influenced depends on the intent of the informer. Government used forms of propaganda during World War I, as a way of organizing the public opinion. As Campbell, Martin and Fabos (2010) stated how media researchers “found that, during the war, governments routinely relied on propaganda divisions to spread ‘information’ to the public” (p. 470). These media experts believe that in order for the message to reach the public opinion, they need to use emotional symbols along with some form to spark their logical thinking as well. As Townsend (2002) explained that most campaigns “used the techniques of propaganda, persuaded persons to a course of conduct… using both emotional and logical appeals” (p. 8). Likewise, Harold Lasswell (1927) defined propaganda as “the control of opinion by significant symbols… by stories, rumors, reports, pictures and other forms of social communication” (as cited by Campbell, Martin & Fabos, 2010, p. 470). Harold Lasswell’s interest in effects of propaganda on media helped create propaganda analysis. This is the study of propaganda in mass media mediums and the concerns of its effectiveness in influencing and mobilizing public opinion and attitudes.
How and Why propaganda is important to the history of media effects Propaganda during the early 20th century helped persuade Americans to support the war. Through the use of posters, movies and newspapers the government’s Committee of Public Relations pumped so much information into Americans at the time they probably didn’t understand the wave of “We Want Youism.” During WWI and WWII Americans had limited portals to receive information about the wars. Newspapers and print advertisments were filled with information that hyped the United States and encouraged support; movies were filled with plots and action scenes demoralizing the Germans (Sparks, 2006). Propaganda efforts fueled Americans through two world wars and had a very powerful effect because of the mass audience that was receiving information. Because propaganda efforts were so successful during wartime, the idea lingered throughout the past century This idea of propaganda is important to the history of media studies in the US because now the nation faces issues of media control and the power of distribution of information. (Campbell, Martin, Fabos 2010). Information or lack there of is being shaped by media corporations and in turn shapes public attitudes. These issue are important because even during times of propaganda the public faced the troubles of deciphering the truth from the lies in the media. The use of propaganda in the past may have created skeptics when it come to believing realistic journalism and media, especially now in our times of new war. Harold Lasswell (1927) wrote Propaganda is a concession to the willfulness of the age… Monarchy and class privilege have gone the way of all flesh, and the idolatry of the individual passes for the official religion of democracy… The new antidote to willfulness is propaganda. If the mass will be free of chains of iron, it must accept its chains of silver. If it will not love, honor and obey, it must not expect to escape seduction (p.222). If we have the right to life liberty and the pursuit of happiness we must accept the grey areas that arise in a democratic lifestyle. Propaganda efforts for one, being a grey area that our government deemed necessary to keep our freedoms intact.
References (2010). Lasswell, Harold Dwight. Britannica Biographies, 1. Retrieved from MasterFILE Premier database. Campbell, R., Martin, C. R., FABOS (2009). Media and Culture: An introduction to Mass Communication. Boston: Bedford/st.Martin’s Destroy this mad brute. (n.d.). Retrieved from Feature articles - of fraud and force fast woven: domestic propaganda during the first world war. (2002). Retrieved from Help uncle sam. (n.d.). Retrieved from Hitler, A. (1925). Mein kampf. Retrieved from I want you. (n.d.). Retrieved from Lasswell, H. (1927). Propaganda techniques in the world war. New York: Peter Smith Like this Presentation? german propaganda wwi. (n.d.). Retrieved from Nazi propaganda. (n.d.). Retrieved from Propaganda war propaganda. (n.d.). Retrieved from - Sparks, G. (2006). Media effects research a basis overview. Belmont, CA: Thomson Wadworth. (2010). What is propaganda?. Retrieved on February 14, 2010 from (2010). Propaganda. Retrieved on February 14, 2010 from
Townsend, R. (2002). What is propaganda. Defining propaganda. Retrieved on February 14, 2010 from

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