Propaganda & Mass Persuasion: I was putting away Bob's civilian clothes

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

I was putting away Bob's civilian clothes



On page 111 of the World War Two packet is an advertisement for War Bonds. There is a picture of a 'typical' American housewife of the period in front of her son's closet, holding a tweed jacket of his , a far away look in her eyes as she no doubt is contemplating whether he is OK. The ad copy reminds me of the speeches the 'four minute men' gave in World War One, with the woman giving a calm, yet impassioned plea for everyone to buy War Bonds to increase her son's chances of coming home alive:


"The least we can do, I thought, was to give these boys the guns, tanks, planes and ships they must have to conquer...and live."


The ad was paid for by the Bristol-Myers Corporation, 'in cooperation with the drug, cosmetic, and allied industries'. It would be easy to be cynical and criticize the ad as blatant proganda, what with a demur housewife talking about tanks. But this ad was published in 1943, at a time when Americans were dying by the thousands across the Pacifc and in North Africa, and the outcome of the war was very much in doubt. The Wars fought by the U.S. in the past twenty years seem comfortably remote compared to WW2, and I believe in the sincerity of this ad. Rich and poor, black and white, Catholic and Jew, were united to degree not often seen these days, united by fear, more than anything else. Fear for their sons, and to a lesser extent, fear for themselves and their way of life.

2 Comments:

Blogger A. Mattson said...

A thoughtful post. The ad you are commenting on tugs at the heart strings. It is an example of an emotional appeal based on a mother's love for her son. Something so personal and human. An appeal that moves the heart not a political abstraction of patriotic idealism.

3/22/2008 10:01 PM  
Blogger A. Mattson said...

A thoughtful post. The ad you are commenting on tugs at the heart strings. It is an example of an emotional appeal based on a mother's love for her son. Something so personal and human. An appeal that moves the heart not a political abstraction of patriotic idealism.

3/22/2008 10:01 PM  

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