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Psychological Warfare (WWII Era Reprint)

Psychological Warfare (WWII Era Reprint) - Paul M.A. Linebarger This little book from 1948 was written by an officer who had a hand in creating propaganda in World War II. It's partly a manual for waging psychological warfare, partly anecdotes from Linebarger's work in the field, and partly musings on what makes effective or ineffective propaganda. In parts, it gets bogged down on the organizational challenges of distributing propaganda and keeping it up to date with changing conditions in war, but overall it is very readable. What is it good for?Psychological warfare dates back to the ancients. The Romans started rumors to demoralize their enemies. In the Revolutionary War, General Washington had notices posted, encouraging British troops to go back to their loving families, and not to die on this foreign continent for a cause which little concerned them. Psychological warfare has been waged in every region of the globe, for at least two thousand years, but its use really took off when populations became more literate, and new technologies (printing, radio, movies) increased the ease of getting messages out to targeted audiences. Psychological Warfare focuses on the period from World War I through the end of World War II, but most of it is very fundamental and still applies very broadly.Why is propaganda used so widely in warfare? Because it frequently works, and when it does, it is very cost effective. Successfully wearing down your enemy's will to fight, and convincing him to surrender can potentially save a lot of blood and treasure. Think of how much money it costs to keep an army in the field. Millions of dollars a day. If propaganda can cut the time needed to obtain surrender, it can save a lot of capital, as well as the lives of men who don't need to fight to capture the territory. Linebarger gives a couple convincing examples. Another common use is aimed at local people who are being occupied. If they are being occupied by an enemy, and propaganda can get them to commit acts of resistance or sabotage, it can seriously burden the occupying force. On the other hand, if friendly troops are occupying an area (as the U.S. occupied the Philippines during WWII), a campaign convincing locals of one's good intentions can greatly reduce the forces needed to hold the territory, freeing them up for more aggressive movements. There are some other, more specific uses of propaganda, which are covered as well.Let's Get Stared!So that's the motivation to write propaganda... but how do you do it? What do you write? Linebarger gets into this a bit. It isn't as easy as it looks. This book is filled with stories of propaganda efforts which didn't achieve their objectives. The best way to discuss what makes good or bad propaganda is to use examples, and the book furnishes a lot of fun ones.Surrender cards! This book is full-o-surrender cards! Every country dropped them. The idea was a soldier could show this card to the enemy and he would be treated "well", or at least not shot trying to explain his surrender to an enemy who didn't speak English. Linebarger clarifies that it's pretty easy to surrender; just put your gun down and put your hands up. The point of the cards was to get the enemy soldier thinking about giving up. Towards the end of the war, German soldiers found with an enemy surrender card in their possession were shot for treason. Linebarger emphasizes that these cards should not be put out until the enemy is truly in a situation where capitulation is a reasonable and attractive option. This should clear up any misconceptions that psychological warfare is a replacement for conventional bullets and bombs. It isn't; it's an adjunct (or "force multiplier") to conventional fighting. Dropping these cards on an enemy whose situation doesn't call for it is just a waste of resources, and an excuse for their leadership to bolster morale, saying "Look how weak they must be, if they would be considering surrender if they were in our situation! We're tougher than that!"This gets to a more basic point about propaganda: that good propaganda understands how the enemy on the ground must be feeling. It doesn't place any thoughts or ideas in the readers' minds that weren't there already; it should only magnify and encourage the ideas which are useful to [our side].This long-winded letter is supposed to foster a feeling of war-weariness in the reader. It's not as sexy and dramatic as some of the other images here, but could be very effective, in the right setting. Naturally soldiers on the front line get weary of combat hardships, and sincere wishes for peace are universal... of course we only want a peace that will be on our terms, but good propaganda never gets into controversies or specifics like that. Making a religious-based appeal to peace can diminish some of the moral high ground the enemy may feel he has.Lots of these images drive home the "It's not you we're fighting." sentiment. The idea is to break the enemy into factions: differentiate the soldier from his officers, from his nation's political leadership. The aim of propaganda is to get the soldier on the ground to surrender, so many messages hammer away at how the soldier is being abused and misused by his nation's government... how high ranking officers are corrupt, getting rich on plunder, safe in a command bunker somewhere, while the soldier and his buddies die in battle. As stated above, these communications don't create sentiments that weren't already there; they just exploit existing weaknesses. After Germany double-crossed the Soviet Union, Allied intelligence confirmed that a lot of Generals and high ranking officers secretly resented Hitler micromanaging German military strategy. He was regarded as a dilettante politician with minimal military experience (three years as a low-ranking infantryman in World War I), who was indulging Napoleanic fantasies of being a great Field Martial. Allied propaganda aimed at German officers was created to exploit these feelings. The idea of this one is pretty clear, isn't it? Tell the enemy he's doomed to die, and his side has no hope whatever of winning. Linebarger is very rational in his discussion of these types of pitches. The danger is of overreaching with predictions which don't come to pass. If you tell an enemy there's no hope, but they win that battle, they won't take you seriously next time. Also, if you tell them they might as well give up, it might strengthen their resolve. It seems the best approach is to truthfully tell all the challenges they will have to overcome. (e.g. you're outnumbered 5 to 1, we are closer to our supply lines, the locals here didn't like being a colony, we've been treating the locals well and they love us... etc)The "you're doomed" propaganda has all the subtlety of trash-talking WWF wrestlers snarling at each other before a match. Each one claims they'll rip the other in half. Obviously one of them (or both) is full of shit. If victory is in question, it is best not to issue these sorts of messages. Only putting these messages out when victory is reasonably expected greatly increases the effect when such messages are broadcast.Of note: it seems like political pundits like to issue a lot of empty "You're Doomed" prophecies. Remember Karl Rove predicting (in defiance of all polls) that the Republican party would keep its majority in the 2006 mid-term elections? That was (poorly executed) psychological warfare.Oh, this is a good one. This is counter propaganda. The image above translates from German to "Whoever Eats, Is Aiding the Enemy". It's a play on messages which appeared all over Germany getting people to conserve materials for the war effort. Typical German posters would be something along the lines of "Whoever throws away a tin can, takes a tank from the front lines." This response takes that line to an absurd extreme, but also maybe fosters the average German's war-weariness.This is "white" counterpropaganda aimed at the troops and civilians back home. Essentially it is refuting points in German propaganda, point-by-point. Linebarger is very clear that propaganda of all types should be based on the truth... perhaps with a certain editorial twist, but psychological warfare is at its most effective when it is independently-verifiable and true. This gives the speaker credibility, and lets the audience reach its own conclusions (e.g. to surrender) based on realities even his own side must face.Compare the following two posters: This "remember how we were wronged" propaganda is very effective in reminding the soldier why he is fighting. It gives the American G.I. a sense that he is fighting for honor and patriotism from a moral high ground. If this poster falls into enemy hands, there is no particular danger the Japanese could turn it around into an anti-American message, because the fact that Pearl Harbor was attacked is indisputable. The image could even stir Japanese civilians to sympathy, or at least get them to understand why we are pursuing the war against them. This is a World War I recruiting poster depicting Germanic forces as a subhuman animal (with unsubtle sexual overtones) which must be destroyed at all costs. This is not ideal propaganda, because it does not provide an honest account of the enemy. There were a lot of Americans of German descent who knew very well that Germany was not populated by rabid apes (literal or figurative). If this fell into enemy hands, it could easily be turned against the U.S. German authorities could show the German public "Look, this is what they think of us." Such an image would be expected to strengthen a German soldier's resolve to fight, and in any case would not encourage him to surrender.This is an example of "black" propaganda, meaning it was produced by one side (Japan), but was made to look like it came from another (the US, in this case). The message is ostensibly a warning to troops about venereal disease, but the hidden message meant to demoralize Filipino nationals that their women are all cheating on them with American soldiers. That is one of the most common themes in this book: telling various parties that their wives and girlfriends are being unfaithful. As Linebarger says, it comes up a lot in propaganda because it just happens to be effective.This is a page from a German comic dropped where British troops could find them. It's about an English girl who sleeps with American soldiers stationed in her town, while her beau is off fighting at the front. The image and story line is very similar to a similar comic featured in this book, created for American troops, in which an American girl back home starts sleeping with her (Jewish, it happens) boss who is getting rich on the war while her boyfriend is away fighting. On the last page, the soldier returns home missing a leg, and she decides to stay with the boss. Cruel (and racist) stuff.This is "white" propaganda; a message directly from Japan to American fighting forces, which makes no attempt to conceal its origins. The message here is that Americans who surrender to Japan will be treated well. In reality, the Japanese were second only to the Russians in how horribly they treated their captured prisoners of war, but that unpleasant truth would tend to strengthen a G.I.'s resolve against surrender.The fact that the message admits that captured Japanese soldiers are being treated well is an opportunity for counterpropaganda... American forces could copy and translate this, and show it to Japanese soldiers, in an effort to entice their easier surrender!More "white" propaganda from Japan. This leaflet was dropped on the Philippines. The tidings are basically along the lines of "Our problem isn't with you! We are friends of your people! It's just your leaders/occupiers/allies we're fighting!" As noted above, attempting to split the opposing force into factions is an old favorite in this line of work.ConclusionsI really haven't summarized the book's contents here- more like gave you a feel for what it's like. It is a little disorganized in places, but a fun read. One thing that sticks in my head after all of this, is that Linebarger makes the perhaps obvious point that propaganda loses a lot of its effect if it is recognized as such. When propaganda fails to conceal its intent, it can be laughable. The best propaganda is slick and subversive, making its points in such a way that the reader doesn't identify its agenda. Given the average American's constant exposure to advertising as well as propaganda, I'm not sure whether we are more or less sensitized to propaganda in our lives than the audiences of yesteryear. -Thanks, Manny!