Propaganda & Mass Persuasion: World War New

Thursday, March 19, 2009

World War New

In Chapter one of Paul Fussel’s “Wartime” he talks of the Second World War and how it marked the era of a new type of war. One that inevitably forced the old trends and old ways of thinking out no matter how reluctant both civilians and military personal were in letting go of their image of war. This change did not come right away though. “Wars are all alike in the beginning. The reason is psychological and compensatory: no one wants to foresee or contemplate the horror, the inevitable ruin of civilized usages, which will entail. Hence the defensive exercise of the optimistic imagination” (Fussel, Wartime p. 10)

This “optimistic imagination” played a huge role in how people viewed the war both strategically and insightfully. Looking back on the war one would almost laugh at the fact that in 1942 a colonel “pounded the table” and said “Goddam it, they’ll never retake a square foot until they get our men down there on horses and donkeys”. This quote seems like it was taken from the civil war rather than the Second World War which ended up relying on technical advances over anything else.

On the opposite end of the spectrum there was also people questioning whether those over fifty should fight since “instead of marching to war, today’s soldier rides to war on wheels”. Eventually those whose thoughts were naive were forced to rap there head around a new type of war. The military was required to change their tactics, strategies, and in some cases even their morality. If anything was proven from the war it was that war is unpredictable, one cannot rely on old ways of thinking in a new war.


Blogger A. Mattson said...

A good post.

yes, it is amazing to read some of the false assumptions of the governments, militaries, and populations about the nature of this second World War, especially since the carnage of the Great War was not that many years in the past.

The optimism that marks the beginning of a war and then becomes more somber as the war drags on is an important observation about the course of war as it is experienced by the population. It you look at the propaganda at the beginning of WWII (or the war in Iraq) you will see a marked difference in tone from the grim messages of a couple of years later. The phrase that Fussell uses 'from light to heavy duty' expresses this well. Entering the conflict you address the public with messages of inspiration and the expectation of light duty. And then, if there is no quick victory, the population must be prepared for 'heavy duty' and so the images and symbolism must change to reflect that harsh reality.

3/19/2009 6:51 PM  

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