Chapter 5: ‘Careless Talk Costs Lives’: Fighting the ‘Enemy Within’
The dangers of carelessness were a constant theme throughout wartime posters: throwing away lit cigarettes; thoughtless fuel consumption; and wastage of scarce goods – with the biggest campaign against that of rumour and ‘careless talk’. Although a phrase largely associated with the Cold War and thereafter applied to more recent events, particularly terrorist campaigns, this chapter focuses on the idea of the ‘enemy within’. The concept is clearly evident in government anti-rumour campaigns, with strong fears of a ‘Fifth Column’ to be fought by a ‘Silent Column’. The chapter considers the history of the spy and the growth of intelligence services in the UK as concerns about ‘the spy’ (largely linked to improved communications) grew in the early years of the twentieth century. It chiefly focuses on careless talk campaigns which ran throughout the war, considering how spies were identified, class and gender were represented, the range of artistic styles used, and whether humour was a suitable medium for the subject. This chapter identifies the range of thinking which underlay the ‘careless talk’ posters, including: carelessness, ‘the other’, ‘the enemy’, (in)visibility, education, citizenship, family, nation, protectionism, friendship, personal responsibility, and death and humour.
The above is an outline of one of my book chapters in the book I’m working on to turn my PhD into a publication for sale, so I was fascinated to be sent the video below … that is some strong propaganda, and amazing to see American wariness about “the enemy”:
Mass Communications Academic, @MMUBS. British Home Front Propaganda posters as researched for a PhD completed 2004. In 1997, unwittingly wrote the first history of the Keep Calm and Carry On poster, which she now follows with interest.