Propaganda & Mass Persuasion: Rumors of War

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Rumors of War

Rumors of War

“It is not us, we are not coward; it is the enemy-- they are too strong.”

During a period of time in a war when neither side can be sure of the final success, rumors will get out from the lower part of the military automatically--when there is something out of expect and it is something bad, there should be somebody responsible for it; if there is no one coming out to claim the responsibility, rumors will make out someone.
That explains some of the rumors about espionage during all sorts of war--to blame someone nobody actually have seen or know.
Fussell said in this chapter that "rumors of espionage, sabotage, and treason are universally popular, both because they make the war interesting and because they help explain why one's own side is not wining it faster."
This method has a lot of advantages: 1) People can complain and blame others without hurting anybody on their side. 2) This can be the eternal explanation for every frustration people suffered during the war. 3) Nobody will really try to solve those problems mentioned in these blames, simply because there is no such a problem or such problems are everywhere and are impossible to solve.
Nobody want to accept that they are coward, but when they really behave cowardly, it is very natural for them for exaggerate the ability of their enemy and their brutality.
Fussell describe the behaviors of soldiers landing at Salerno in September 1943. He mentioned that soldiers all claim that Germans knew they will come and even use loudspeaker to shout "Come on in. We've got you covered." However, that turned out to be beachmasters arrived earlier to encourage the coxswains of the gingerly approaching landing craft.
In this way, it is not hard to explain all the fancy stories from the battle field.
When soldiers first get into battlefield, their former romantic idea about war will be totally destroyed. They will no longer be fighting for democracy or liberty or anything ideological, instead, they fight for the survival of themselves and their comrades.
When they come to that stage, it is very natural for them to think themselves generally as a group of soldiers instead of a group different individual. And they naturally want their new identity can get them something rewarding.
This can easily explain all of the stories mentioned in this chapter about “Ford” and all those rumors about how to get a "Free Ford".
Ironically, at the same time, Germans were doing the same thing by making Germans believe that every Germany soldier will be able to have a Volkswagen after the war.


Blogger Mike Moore said...

Although the the spreading of "rumors of espionage, sabatoge, and treason are universally popular" according to Fussel, I think it goes a bit to far to say that "People can complain and blame others without hurting anyone on their side". I would suggest that the climate of fear and intimidation deliberately fostered through the spreading of rumors and invented threats is damaging because its serves to stifle legitimate, reasoned debate and instead inspires people to act on base emotion (which is often the intent of the proliferators of such propaganda.)

3/19/2006 8:37 PM  

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