[PAPER] Propaganda with a Mission: Learning from the Second World War for the Christian Sector in a Digital Age


A paper submitted for the first European Association for the Study of Religion, Economics, and Culture, to be held in September in Durham:

In the Second World War, British propaganda posters were circulated using the techniques of persuasion, education, information, celebration, encouragement, morale boosting, and identification of enemies to encourage civilians to understand and undertake their responsibilities in ‘The People’s War’.

In the face of oft-reported declines in church membership, there is urgency for the church to recognize the possibilities of online spaces. The author of a PhD on the above topic developed The BIGBible Project in 2010. The Project blog curates contributions from #DIGIdisciples, questioning what it means to be a Christian in a digital age and in the digital environment. What do digital technologies allow us to do differently, and what can we learn from the past?

The conference paper will draw from the rich collection of over 2,750 #digidisciple posts to demonstrate the potential that the digital has offered the Christian sector, whilst also emphasizing continuity with the past.

University Branding?

Really interesting piece in Times Higher Education about Universities and branding (or propaganda!):

Although I hate much of the jargon of branding – “positioning”, “differentiation”, “USP” – I believe that the discipline of branding is a good thing for any organisation.

It’s a good thing because trying to build a brand forces1185407_brands_flood you to answer some fundamental “why” questions. Why should I apply to your university? Why should I work for you? Why should I fund your research? Why should I care? Why should you exist? Branding at its best is radical – it goes to the roots, and it creates change.

And the truth is that both universities and branding are changing. Universities are of course competing more than ever. Today’s (slightly unhinged) obsessionwith league tables simply shows people’s need to compare, separate and distinguish among a mass of similar-looking institutions. Students, parents, employers, academics and governments are inexorably demanding more of universities. And the digital transformation of education is only just starting. Like it or not, universities will have to explain their role, their value, to the world.

Meanwhile, branding is not what it was. It’s no longer primarily about persuasion – making people want things.

People today are well-informed, powerful and awkward, and easily decode traditional branding. They’re less “consumers” and more what the French call consommacteurs. They want to know what, in exchange for their money, time, effort and data, you will enable them to do. Many newer brands – Google, Facebook, Wikipedia – act in this way, as platforms, not as persuaders.

Read full article.

Book Review: Patriotism & Propaganda in First World War Britain

This looks like an interesting book – not reviewed by me I hasten to add:

Gradually, much of the scaffolding of the influential, but historically inaccurate, depiction of British opinion during the First World War, reflected in countless novels as well as older historical studies, is being dismantled. The disillusionment of the war poets is no longer seen as typical of soldiers’ attitudes and the fortitude of British society is increasingly recognised. The view of public opinion in 1914 as overwhelmed by war hysteria and unthinking jingoism has been replaced by one of a reluctant but resolute nation convinced of the justice of the war. But the question remains as to how morale was maintained as the conflict dragged on and the casualties and deaths mounted. David Monger addresses this question in a detailed examination of the role of the hitherto unexplored history of the National War Aims Committee (NWAC), a semi-official parliamentary organisation set up with cross-party support in the summer of 1917.

Read full review.

Playing at War?

Really interesting story on the value (or otherwise) of game playing to offer insights into politics, pandemics & propaganda:

Simulations and games can be highly effective in helping to teach students about politics and war – but often suffer from oversimplification, a lack of clear purpose or insufficient time to explore issues meaningfully.

These were among the views put forward at a workshop – held at the University of Westminster earlier this month – on the use of games to model everything from the effects of a global pandemic to last year’s London riots.

Simon Usherwood, senior lecturer in politics at the University of Surrey, opened the event by exploring “the problems of making simulations work”.

He said it was essential to develop an “appropriate level of conflict” so that participants were neither too laid back nor likely to come to blows while acting out, for example, the Middle Eastern peace process.

Read full story or visit the Centre for Political Situations and Gaming Research.

BBC2: How We Won the War

There’s a series currently in planning for BBC2, to be presented by Jules Hudson, for Autumn 2012, a travelogue across the UK uncovering civilian stories of the Second World War.

Having come across ‘The Art of War‘ at the National Archives (which they hadn’t realised was written by me), and then I guess coming across my website, I have just been in talks with them about being an expert for an episode on government propaganda (before they talk about black propaganda). I am anticipating talking about:

  • The MOI and its production/planning of posters. What purpose they thought it would achieve.
  • The artists who produced these posters, professionals, but civilians, encouraging people to partake in war.
  • Digging around in my research for reference to competitions held in factories/schools re posts.
  • Why were particular ‘famous faces’ chosen for some posters in The People’s War
  • Stats which demonstrate any effectiveness of posters, or why this can’t be established!

Look out for more info…

Talk: Seeing it through – wartime posters on the Underground @ltmuseum

Tuesday 1 March 2011
London Transport’s war posters used modern design to convey essential information to passengers and staff. Thoughtful passenger behaviour was encouraged in the humorous cartoons of Fougasse and David Langdon. More direct appeals for co-operation, or advice on sheltering and the ‘blackout’ were expressed in easy to read layouts. Other posters celebrated LT’s contribution to the war effort and London’s resilience. Seeing it Through was a series of posters commissioned from Eric Henri Kennington by London  Transport in 1944; they commemorate the everyday acts of heroism by civilian workers during the Second World War. Head Curator David Bownes, and art historian Jonathan Black, discuss London Underground’s poster campaign during the Second World War, from morale boosting propaganda to visions of post war society.
Time: 18.30 (talk lasts approximately one hour)
Tickets: Adults £8.00; senior citizens £6.00; students £4.00

Events Site. I’m guessing much of this material will come from my book chapter, so be interesting to see the angle. I’ve just been given a comp ticket, so I’ll come along and try to remember what I wrote!!

Reynoldson, F. Home Front: Propaganda 1993

A good primary school book, one of many Reynoldson has written. The book is well illustrated with photographs and poster illustrations, accompanied by clear text which, of necessity, is simplistic. There are several quotes from key figures in the war, which, if the subject is developed at a later age, will become well known!

The ‘Home Front’ is often a popular topic in schools, as so many areas of the National Curriculum can be covered. For instance, one of the topics suggested in this book is that the children are set to designing a propaganda poster of their own, based upon what they have learnt.

Buy from Amazon.