Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Pictorial propaganda (Part I--Norman Rockwell and the Four Freedoms)

Those of you who read here regularly have probably noticed I've been mulling over the uses of propaganda lately, especially here, and again (at least to a certain degree) here .

At some point it occurred to me that nearly the entire work of artist/illustrator Norman Rockwell (some consider him the former, but others say he was "only" the latter) can, in a sense, be considered to have been propaganda for America.

Case in point, the "Four Freedoms" illustrations Rockwell did for the Saturday Evening Post in 1943, which I've duplicated here (freedom from fear, freedom to worship, freedom from want, freedom of speech).

The story of the paintings is interesting in and of itself: Rockwell tried to interest the government in the project, but no dice, and so they ended up appearing at his old venue the Saturday Evening Post. Rockwell is said to have labored for six months over the project's execution, losing fifteen pounds in the process. But when he was done the response was overwhelming--and, in the end, the government realized the extraordinary value of the paintings to the war effort, organizing a sixteen-city tour and an accompanying bond drive that netted $130 million dollars, no chump change in those days.

The photos were accompanied in the magazine by an essay on each freedom, written by such luminaries as Booth Tarkington, Will Durant, Carlos Bulosan (not quite as luminous as the others), and Stephen Vincent Benet. Hard to imagine today--but then, all of it is hard to imagine today.

President Roosevelt's reaction to the project, which had been inspired by a 1941 speech of his, was the following:

I think you have done a superb job in bringing home to the plain, everyday citizen the plain, everyday truths behind the Four Freedoms...

Roosevelt was explicitly acknowledging the paintings' ability to reach "the masses" (although he didn't use that term) in a way that augmented speeches and other "mere words." The paintings tap into another part of the brain--much as aromas can--a more "feeling" part, which is one of the reasons that this sort of thing is so distrusted today; we've learned the power of images to manipulate, and that manipulation is certainly not always for the good. Witness Al Jazeera, for example.

There may be indeed a fine line between inspiration and cold-blooded manipulation. The difference between the two may be our opinion of the uses to which they are put: if we agree with those uses, it's inspiration; if we disagree, it's manipulation (I plan to go into this at somewhat greater length in a later part of this series).

I would maintain that Rockwell's paintings provided necessary and desirable inspiration to a populace who already knew what they were fighting for during WWII. Yes indeed, the pictures simplify--America is not, and never was, as simple and good as the world Rockwell portrays. But he was tapping into ideals that were--and still are--a huge part of America, and are realized in this country more fully than they are in most of the world, flawed human nature being what it is. During WWII virtually the entire country understood this, and the illustrations simply put these thoughts into an easily perceived--and very moving--form.

Note my personal favorite, the couple putting their children to sleep: "Freedom From Fear." I'm a sucker for parent-child stuff anyway, and this one struck me with unusual force. The painting is so powerful, and the choice of subject so seemingly inevitable, that it takes a moment of reflection to realize that part of Rockwell's genius was his selection of this particular scene to illustrate freedom from fear--which, after all, is an abstraction.

Anyone who thinks Rockwell is never complex should study the expression on the father's face. The children are asleep, blissfully innocent and unaware (and that's the point, isn't it?). The mother is engaged in the tender act of tucking them in, and her face reflects her gentle and loving concern. But the father stands back--although not very far--as an observer. From his ever-so-slight distance, he comments on the scene, allowing his face and posture to express, along with his love, a contemplative and pensive awareness of threatening danger. This is underscored by the headline of the newspaper he holds almost casually in his left hand, which you may be able to read in the blown-up version of the picture, here. The fragment visible is:


During WWII, American citizens were well aware of the dangers to which European civilians, including children, were exposed on a daily basis, and this generic headline brought that home (almost literally) only too well. It is a powerful appeal to one of the strongest of human emotions, the desire to protect one's children.

Rockwell's paintings weren't really for export; as far as I can see from reading about the history of the Saturday Evening Post, Rockwell's primary venue, the propaganda was for the domestic market. The Post itself was unashamed of what it saw as its mission, a charge that may seem laudable, merely quaint, or truly pernicious today, depending on the perspective of the beholder:

Inside the covers of the Post was fiction targeted at the masses. The fiction of the Saturday Evening Post was not highbrow like The New Yorker or even literary like Harper's and the Atlantic. It was popular, intended to strike a chord with the most possible people, not the most educated....When founded in the 19th Century the Post proclaimed itself neutral in politics, under Lorimer it would take on the editor's pro-business, Republican personality...At first a lot of the covers would contain an illustration which corresponded in some way to one of the stories or features inside. Lorimer would quickly abandon this strategy and instead select covers which evoked those same masses with whom he was trying to connect the contents to. He let the covers stand out as a representation of the magazine as a whole. Each issue of the Saturday Evening Post was intended from cover to cover and contents included to represent the same America that its readers were living in.

Rockwell was the magazine's main and very prolific cover artist, drawing his first for the Post in 1916 and his last in 1963, when the magazine abandoned illustrated covers in favor of photos--a move that did little to postpone its demise in 1969.

For those who are interested, here is the website of the Norman Rockwell Museum, featuring photos of virtually all of his covers, only some of which are overtly political. But I maintain that, in a way, they are all propaganda. That is probably one of the reasons so many look down on Rockwell and dislike him, and on pictorial propaganda in general (at least, if in the service of a pro-US agenda).

But more about that in Part II, tomorrow....


At 3:53 PM, March 22, 2006, Blogger Steve said...

Thanks for the link to the Rockwell site. I've always loved his stuff. Many artsy types make a show of disliking it, but I've known several abstract artists who liked his stuff as well.

I would demur on the propaganda characterization, for a couple of reasons.

First, Rockwell's great strength is that he is a superb illustrator with a wonderful sense for detail and an ability to bring his visions to canvas in a way that is warm and friendly and not terribly complicated. He rarely does grandiose or abstract themes but rather everyday themes that draw the viewer in, and oftentimes with humor or sentiment. So his paintings might not be as mind blowing as say van Gogh or one of that crowd but they are very sweet. There's room for that.

Second, more to the point of propaganda, propaganda implies art for some social or political purpose. I think that's wrong for two reasons. First, because I don't think creative artists really know what they are doing in a cosmic sense, they are engaged in an act of craftmanship, first of all, and if they try to be overtly "progressive" they may violate the internal rules of their craft.

The second reason I don't like the propaganda idea is that it supposes that all art, and frankly all self-expression is "political" whether the creator wants it to be or not. I find that POV claustrophobic and even a little tyrannical; it extends not only from creators to their audiences.

To take an example, look at the way musicians or composers in Nazi Germany or Stalinist Russia have often been abused. It's true that Prokofiev (e.g.) wrote a couple of truly so-bad-they-are-funny cantatas for Stalin (the chorus building up to a high A "STALIN!" over an orchestral crescendo has to be heard to be believed), and the plot for Alexander Nevsky (the music for which he composed) was overtly political and anti-German, so much so that Stalin suppressed it during the time of the Nazi-Soviet pact, but, why can't I, as a listener, or anyone else, listen to his stuff, and just enjoy it as music? Or literature? Or poetry? Or art? This is hard to do when someone is going to say, "Oh, I never listen/read/look at that stuff, because it's all just propaganda."

Furthermore, the propaganda meme, applied to human creativity, creates the possibility of evaluating artistic creations not on their intrinsic aesthetic merits, but rather on their political correctness. That, too, is stifling, and impoverishing.

I don't think you wanted to argue these things, just thought I'd mention a couple possible pitfalls.

At 4:09 PM, March 22, 2006, Blogger neo-neocon said...

Steve: Just a few thoughts--

Whether art is conceived of as propaganda, it can often be used as such. Although much of Rockwell's art was not conceived as propaganda, there is no question that these four paintings were conceived as propaganda, as well as used that way.

If you read my first post on propaganda, I don't see it as a bad thing--although it certainly can be bad if used to bad ends. So, to me, it's not necessarily a put-down at all.

In my next segment I will plan to get into an analysis of Soviet art, by the way, as well as my theories as to why many look down on Rockwell's art, and how his art differs from other "genre" paintings.

At least, that's my plan :-).

At 4:28 PM, March 22, 2006, Blogger Sissy Willis said...

Your Rockwell post is most illuminating. As I said in one of my own Four-Freedoms-related posts last fall, "It does not take into account the psychology of people":

We remember having reproductions of the illustrations hanging on the walls of our grade-school classrooms in the fifties and thinking even then they seemed quaintly old-fashioned. In today's world, again at war with those who would stomp on our freedoms, we see them with fresh eyes. Because Rockwell's subject matter was usually on the corny side, serious art critics tended to look down upon the artist's accomplishment, but beyond the anecdotal component -- much loved by the average American -- his compositional and painterly skills were quite remarkable.

At 5:23 PM, March 22, 2006, Blogger The probligo said...

I have been thinking about your comments on "Freedom from Fear". There is one aspect that you have not touched upon. It might just be my personal reading of the picture.

I note that Rockwell was inspired by a speech of Roosevelt's in 1941. Was that prior to or after Pearl Harbour. I suspect the later rather than earlier but please correct that.

I see another reason why the father is standing slightly behind and apart from his wife. He is holding his own future and his own fears in his hand. He knows that future is probable. He fears for his family and their future. His gaze is on the scene of his wife's love and his childrens' peace. He wants to take that scene with him into his future. He knows that perhaps tomorrow, or next week, or next month he may have to leave them and face his own fears.

At 7:11 PM, March 22, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Trackback isn't working (surprise...)

Check out 'Till Its Over Over There over at WoC.

You've got Rockwell, I've got Cagney.


At 7:50 PM, March 22, 2006, Blogger Ymarsakar said...

Your post reminds me that in this day and age, there is few if anything we need to make up to revival WWII days. The amount of videos taped by the terroists, found in Fallujah and elsewhen and where, are mind boggling stunning. Literally, mind boggling to a point at which the human mind begins to fail to grasp the meaning of those videos.

For the terroists, taping executions and tortures are both an entertainment venue and a weapon to terrorize others into ceasing their resistance to the "cause".

It would be highly catharthic for the numerous victims of Uday and Qusay to see, for themselves using their own eyes, the recreated hit and assassination of Uday and Qusay, carried out by foreign American forces. Because they knew the reality, and they had never dared hope that anyone who had the power, would kill Uday and Qusay.

It is one of the grandest and most uplifting stories of Iraq. Yet such a story cannot be told, if the witnesses and the members just sit there and let it bake in the sun. Like Black Hawk Dawn, you have to dig for witnesses, write a book, get a Hollywood movie made. Such experiences cannot be osmosed through a "few words". Or even a great many words. Black Hawk Down was the first movie that caused me to question the anti-military liberal biases I had integrated from watching television and cable. It was the first movie that portrayed American soldiers as something other than mindless, brutish, thugs in the service of a contemptible cause and leader.

When the convoy came back to the Ranger base with their wounded, I was amazed that the Rangers were standing in line to go back. I could not understand why they were so eager to rush back into the crucible of pain, death, tragedy, and sorrow. The firestorm of bullets, rpgs, and crashed helicopters. The sound of the wounded and the ever present dust, enemies, and bullet cracks. It was literally inconceivable, until I had personally seen it with my eyes. Then I could conceive it, then I could mold my mind around such a foreign concept as loyalty to a cause and to a brotherhood, beyond death, fire, and adversity.

You cannot help but feel admiration for the courage and the virtues of such men. You could also not help but feel contempt for Clinton, when he made all their sacrifices in vain when he pulled out. I hadn't considered that until I heard one of the Rangers who was there, speak on History Channel about his experiences. He said he didn't mind dieing in combat, so long as his death would mean something in the end.

Such experiences produce ties of loyalty between the viewer and the person on screen. Regardless of whether we knew each other or not. Because after seeing such will and determination, I could not condemn them to a meaningless fight just because I had personal weaknesses about a cause. Such knowledge helped in Iraq, although enemy IED psychological attacks were just as devastating to me as to anyone else at the time.

If our government and nation is truly based upon the belief that a group of citizens informed to the fullest extent by good information, can govern themselves through the wise selection of representatives of leaders, then there is no excuse not to tell the story of Qusay and Uday along with the stories of the men and women who finally ended their miserable, loathsome lives.

This is only one application of the psychology and the propaganda, learned through painstaking observation of Al Qaeda, AP, Al Rueters, Dan Rather, and Al-Jaazeera's antics.

You cannot be afraid about learning from the enemy. If your goal truly is victory, if it is truly the safety of our women and our children, then you should be willing to do whatever it takes to defeat the enemy. Including becoming more like them, including learning from them, including doing things you never would have imagined you would have done in peace time.

Bush promised to use whatever tools was at his disposal to protect the American people, you, me, our families. In my eyes at least, Bush has not made good on that promise, the promise he made right after 9/11.

In reply to steve's comments. Propaganda is about the human soul. That's it.

Artists have to know what they are crafting and why they are doing it. A writer or an artist cannot just sit down, shut off his brain, and start drawing/writing. Purpose is required.

The second reason why I don't like steve's characterization, is the assumption that propaganda is about political issues only. Rather tunnel visioned.

As for steve's thinking on Stalin and music, it looks rather compartamentalized to me. I don't think separating enjoyment and philosophical understanding from each other in specific categories, is a good idea for the human soul at large.

At its heart, propaganda is the art of persuasion as much as military science is about the art of war. Or perhaps even the science of war. Whether it persuades the eye through aesthetics, or the human ear and mind through rhetoric, does not matter.

In the end, a movie is not just entertainment as Fahrenheit, Syriana, and Munich have proven. It is a powerful means to communicate with people you would never meet.

At 8:13 PM, March 22, 2006, Blogger Steve said...

As for steve's thinking on Stalin and music, it looks rather compartamentalized to me. I don't think separating enjoyment and philosophical understanding from each other in specific categories, is a good idea for the human soul at large.

If you want to define propaganda your way, then you may. It is just not accurate to say that all creativity is directed by a desire to effect political or social change, which is the aim of what we normally call "propaganda." It's not even accurate to say that art is created for the purpose of getting people to change their minds about something really heavy (metanoia). A lot of art created under that rubric aesthetically sucks.

Most creative people have a simple idea, and then develop it according to their craft and what they want to see happen with it. It may be they have some larger message in mind, but also sometimes not. Paul McCartney woke up one morning hearing "scrambled eggs" in his head, as a theme; he was a pop music composer, so, he turned it into a song that followed the guidelines for pop song writing and called it "Yesterday." If he was a different type or person, or a different type of artist, he would have gotten a different result.

The point I was making about Prokofiev (which could be made about a great many artists) is that many could dismiss his work because he wrote hack work, or because the political import of this or that work is considered bad. But if you start looking at art from the PC POV, you end up with not much left over. (BTW, the Stalin birthday cantata I was referring to is actually a pretty good piece of music, so is Alexander Nevsky, as far as that goes.)

As for World War Two and the newspaper in the painting, Rockwell was probably thinking of the Coventry raid (killed about 2 K), or the Rotterdam raid (killed about 1 K, but it was believed to have killed about 30 K at the time). Those were two big German air raids that killed civilians. Nobody from that generation in the US gave much thought to German or Japanese victims of area bombing, of course, but that didn't come until later on, anyway.

At 8:17 PM, March 22, 2006, Blogger Asher Abrams said...

You know what the "Freedom from Fear" piece just reminded me of? Simon and Garfunkel's "Silent Night". In a weird, inverse kind of way.

For S&G, the "Seven O'clock News" provides the ironic counterpoint to "Silent Night", subverts it and undermines it. But Rockwell's stoic father, not unaware of the headlines, remains focused on the task of providing his children a silent and restful night - that they, at least, might know "freedom from fear".

At 8:29 PM, March 22, 2006, Blogger Ymarsakar said...

If you want to define propaganda your way, then you may.

It isn't that I defined it my way, rather it is that your definition is wrong.

It is just not accurate to say that all creativity is directed by a desire to effect political or social change, which is the aim of what we normally call "propaganda."

Given that you know that Neo and I don't mean propaganda in that sense, it is rather futile of you to keep druming the refrain that it is wrong to say something we have not said, now isn't it?

Changing politics is called politics. Changing society is called social engineering. Words have specific meanings, they just aren't whatever you think they mean.

At 9:04 PM, March 22, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

For some reason, it seems right to me to use THE FOUR FREEDOMS as a jumping-off place to explore the nature of propaganda - if only because I have seen some rather vicious parodies of them executed by people with a far more, shall we say, extreme political agenda. The "Freedom from Want" picture, in particular, has been victimized rather savagely over the years.

At 9:36 PM, March 22, 2006, Blogger Steve said...

Words have specific meanings, they just aren't whatever you think they mean.

Okay, I'm in. What does "propaganda" mean? I mean, you know, like in a dictionary.

I'm glad you responded however because that enables me to talk about Munich, which you brought up in your post.

Now what was the genesis of this film? Spielberg wanted to make a movie "about" the WOT and the ME. So he chose this topic. There's a message, he wanted to convey - which we can sum up in the old adage about eye for an eye leads to everyone being blind.

How did he go about doing it and how successful was he?

My feeling is that the best parts of the movie were the purely formal parts, that is, movies have conventions, in this case, suspense conventions, and these were carried out wonderfully well. In these parts, there was no "intention" other than to make a suspense movie. No "propaganda."

Then there was the dialogue, which was the main vehicle for the teaching. I thought it was adequate, inasmuch as it enabled Jews and Arabs to say things I have heard many times in my own life, so, I liked that, as far as it went. But I also thought the presentation of the dialogue was sometimes stilted. IOW, as a film, or as a work of art, it didn't work.

In addition, there was a lot of symbolism. Some critics pointed out that the need for receipts for everything was antisemitic, or fed into anti-Jewish stereotypes. But to be honest, I didn't even NOTICE that. So, what happens if a work of art is trying to tell me something, and it goes over my head? Should I deplore what I don't notice?

Another part of the symbolism -- that I read about later, was that milk=life, blood=death, and that Spielberg deliberately juxtaposed these symbols all the time.

My first reaction is: so what? That's a moronic (to me, anyway) juxtaposition. But that's why the Arab guy bought a bottle of milk to go with his wine ..... that's why Avner was channelling the Israeli massacre while making love to his wife .... etc. But that struck me as tasteless.

So, in this case, I thought as a suspense movie, it worked, as a Israeli-Palestinian dialog, well, kind of, and as symbolism or as a self-conscious work of art, I thought it sucked.

And needless to say many people had very strong opinions about it to the left and right of me.

The point being that a work of art can be good, but in ways that have nothing to do with its affirmed "purpose." Whereas, the "purpose" part often just doesn't work.

I use another example. 150 years ago, there were two novelists who wrote a lot of books about the plight of the poor, and defending their humanity. One guy, Zola, actually wrote more books, but no one reads him anymore, simply because he was a lousy writer. The other guy, Dickens, is still widely read, although few really know what he's really "Getting at." But they read him first and foremost because he was a great literary craftsman.

At 10:34 PM, March 22, 2006, Blogger goesh said...

Rockwell portrayed common values, common themes for common people and their simple bonding over the uncomplicated deaths of young men gone off to face a common foe - I'd be satisfied today with accurate reporting on the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. No message or portrayal makes the ultimate sacrifice any easier or any more appreciated, rather the violence is less questioned and challenged.

At 10:52 PM, March 22, 2006, Blogger TmjUtah said...

Number four hits home. I made it back to town in time to attend my caucus but not to stop and change out of my field clothes.

I gave my two minute speech with dried mud in my beard. My next door neighbor cleaned me up afterward...

I will represent my precinct at the state Republican convention on April 28th. I am honored, and grateful, to serve.

Rockwell was superb on two levels: he was a great artist who understood the heart of his audience.

Is it propaganda if an individual uses art to express his own feelings? I think not. Is it propaganda if a picture happens to send a message like "X is good"?

Neo, an excellent, excellent post, ma'am.

At 11:32 PM, March 22, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

On the Freedom from Fear picture:
O thus be it ever when free-men shall stand
Between their lov'd home and the war's desolation

At 12:30 AM, March 23, 2006, Blogger neo-neocon said...

steve: In my earlier comment I referred back to my earlier post on propaganda, linked in this post. I take it you still have not read it, because it provides a definition of propaganda and a link to multiple definitions of same, as well as a discussion.

I'll make it easy for you.

At 12:57 AM, March 23, 2006, Blogger Steve said...

Hi, Neo, thanks.

Okay, I read that. Just a few more comments.

I think my take on propaganda as a kind of rhetoric designed to steer people's thinking towards one thing or another is still apt.

I do not think propaganda is necessarily bad. I just don't think most creative people are engaged in it. I think they are more interested in filling the form properly, and eliciting cash and/or emotional catharsis as well.

Of course you get artists who have some grandiose concept about changing the world or saving the whales. My point is that they are rarely appreciated for that, but rather, just because their stuff is (somehow indefinably) good. And it follows from that that the intention or politics of the creator are less important than the creation.

I've been reading a lot of blogs last few weeks and I have an observation to make: way too many bloggers -- even respected ones -- are too verbose and have no editorial superego when it comes to toning down the rhetoric.

I may be vulnerable to a here, but successful propaganda has to be balanced, generous, and nice. Rockwell had all that, I will be interested to see how you spin it tomorrow.

At 7:56 AM, March 23, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

All the responses show propaganda works very well. All human speak, writing, etc. is propaganda. Your either for or against what ever the subject. The real word you are looking for is TRUTH. Evil has many doors but the LIE is the one that opens them all.

At 9:31 AM, March 23, 2006, Blogger Papa Ray said...

I have been a Rockwell fan since I was a boy (and believe me that was a long, long time ago.) but his vision of our world is so different than it is today that if he was to come back, I would hate to see what paintings he would do.

Reading and understanding the impact of illegals on America today is not something anyone wants to know let along look at for very long.

America is quickly, very quickly becoming the most northern state of Mexico.

legalize 25 million Illegals are already in these United States with over one half MILLION ADDITIONAL Illegals coming over the border EACH year.

Yet all the bills being worked by our congresscritters now not only do not solve the problem, they make it even worse.

Forget the cult of Islam, the sorry corrupt state of Mexico is going to be our downfall long before the Islamic world gets their turn.

Papa Ray
West Texas

At 9:39 AM, March 23, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The intelligence of postings on this blog always makes it a good read. Thanks, neo-neocon.

That your listing of definitions of propaganda does not include misrepresentation does not make it so. All art, whether visual, audible, or literary, is a communication. "Fair and balanced" expressions, I submit, are not artistic.

Returning to Rockwell's Four Freedoms, consider the citation neo-neocon cited in her essay, in which the SatEvePost is said to "...represent the same America that its readers were living in."

After sneering at Rockwell as a young man, in the past 20 years I have come to appreciate his art as art, not illustration; sort of a 20th century American Brueghel.

At 11:20 AM, March 23, 2006, Blogger Assistant Village Idiot said...

While acknowledging that Rockwell is over-the-top trying to be cute or funny at times (not here), I think it is important to note that he painted what the Soviets only pretended to: the common man and woman, with dignity and affection. His subjects are often poor, or even impovershed -- their success is not in their societal advancement but in their basic humanity. Though he painted us at our best, he never overidealized mankind.

None of us, probably, is consistently as admirable as the people in the paintings. But we have all had real moments of being just that, and aspire to repeating it.

At 11:41 AM, March 23, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here's an engrossing website devoted to propaganda from the World War 1 era.

All nations are represented, both friend and foe. Of course, there are the cliche Huns and the infamous 'Belgian Milkmaids', but I'd say the majority of efforts, from both sides, take the higher road, celebrating the courage of the soldiers, the rightness of the cause, the hope for victory.
Also, here and there the artistic quality is inspired.
Now it's hard not to judge it all as pure and evil propaganda, nothing but the screechings and whoopings of witchdoctors in the service of the homocidal maniacs who sent millions of young men to the slaughterhouse.
But I think that's a smug and easy way out of a hard question.

Whatever the rights and wrongs of a war, when your own country's bleeding, what in hell are you supposed to do, if you're an artist or a writer? Just sit on your high moral cloud? Give me those 'propagandists' who at least knew where their duty lay.

BTW, that's why I hate profoundly the communicating class in America today.

At 12:21 PM, March 23, 2006, Blogger Ymarsakar said...

Okay, I'm in. What does "propaganda" mean? I mean, you know, like in a dictionary.

That's like asking what ice means, since water already has a definition of it.

You use ice to describe the solid state of water. That doesn't mean ice means the same as water, which also encompasses the definition of water as a solid.

If you are refering to ice, you use ice, not the water word. If you are refering to the gaseous form of water, you use the word mist. Saying water means whatever you decided it to mean in one specific sentence, does not equal a dictionary.

As for Munich, I don't watch enemy propaganda. I saw Nick Berg's execution, simply because I wanted to see whether their propaganda could damage me on a psychological level, comparable to the damage it did to my friends and associates, who for the main part said they were disgusted and sadened and demoralized. It did not demoralize me, all mental faculties were at work deciphering the message and understanding it.

After watching Nick Berg's execution, Munich wouldn't be very interesting.

Suspense is propaganda, it is the art of convincing the audience to be in suspense. The ends to which it can be used, is the ends to which your breathing is used for, steve.

Should I deplore what I don't notice?

Weren't you noticing that the propaganda technique was rather confusing and not effective, then?

And needless to say many people had very strong opinions about it to the left and right of me.

Why would anyone be ignorant enough to have an opinion of a piece of propaganda? it is what it is.

I do not think propaganda is necessarily bad. I just don't think most creative people are engaged in it. I think they are more interested in filling the form properly, and eliciting cash and/or emotional catharsis as well.

Speaking Truth to Power steve, Truth to Power. I hat thought you would remember that.

It is weird you ask what propaganda is, steve, especially since I had already answered that before you asked the question.

At 12:29 PM, March 23, 2006, Blogger Ymarsakar said...

Goesh. And you. And everyone who somehow thinks that recognizing the utility of trust, cooperation, and other forms of positive-sum interaction is some sort of dewy-eyed Wilsonian naivete.

The coldest-eyed, hardest-hearted realist understands that without ideals around which to rally forces he is dead, and not in the long run...

Well, you need to try again then, Bezuhov, because I didn't say what you quoted.

Your philosophy is based upon ideas. Mine is based upon the will.

There is a difference, even among Republicans between ideas and will.

While not being mutually exclusive, they are quite different foundations for thought.

If you don't want to take my word for the description of my own position, Bez, then so be it.

To Neo,

I encourage you to rewrite the post about reproductive rights, Neo. Since I'm curious as to further analyses on your part. Think of this as a great opportunity, to condense your previous lost post even further.

At 2:39 PM, March 23, 2006, Blogger Daniel in Brookline said...

There's a word that's been largely absent from the discussion so far... let's talk a bit about inspiration.

I've always liked Rockwell's works -- his sense of humor and whimsy, his hyperrealism of depicting every wrinkle of clothing and crease of forehead, and, yes, his subject matter. I found his paintings, most of them, to be tremendously inspiring -- they encouraged me to aspire to the best that was within me.

There is, perhaps, a fine line between art that makes you think and art that tells you what to think, as Neo said. But let's not blur that line unnecessarily. If we depict all art as propaganda, or even potential propaganda, we effectively dismiss it all -- and why on Earth would we want to do that?

Personally, I prefer inspirational art, be it paintings, music, cinema, whatever. I am not lacking for influences that speak to my baser instincts. (Have a look at TV and magazine ads.) It's artwork that inspires me to do better that seems so scarce, and is all the more valuable for that.

Ymarsakar: I agree that a movie about Uday and Qusay, culminating in the firefight that killed them, is a great idea. It doesn't seem to have occurred to anyone in Hollywood to make such a film -- although I'm sure it would be tremendously popular across America, except for the critics -- which says a lot about Hollywood's priorities today.

Daniel in Brookline

At 2:48 PM, March 23, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

There are those who say that we are arrogant for "imposing" "our" democracy on the Iraqis. It passes as informed reasoning to say that all systems are equally valid and what may seem wrong to us may not be wrong to another culture. Who are we to say ours is better? Isn't the true arrogance the assertion that other cultures might prefer a system that denies them any or all of these four freedoms. We are so incredibly blessed to enjoy them and we should never hesitate to stand with those who long for them. The sad fact is that if the US doesn't stand up and fight for these values, it is not clear who will. Critics of the president ridicule him for his "Either you are with us or you are against us..." attitude but some things ARE black and white. Do you believe in the importance of these four freedoms or not. There is no middle ground.

At 5:10 PM, March 23, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Four Freedoms was Roosevelts third inaugaral address. He was tying the New Deal in with the 'Arsenal of Democracy' rhetoric that he had just started using. It was also the sort of thing that drove Republicans nuts (because they tended to be isolationist and opposed the New Deal).

My point in bringing this up is that the propaganda here is hardly right wing. In fact throwing 'freedom from want' and 'freedom from fear' together with the other two from the bill of rights was rather radical, and certainly not rooted in American traditions. And the images provide support for Roosevelts politics over those of his opponents.

That today these paintings can be thought of as reactionary shows the extent to which Roosevelt was sucessful. Of course he served in desperate times, but I still can't really understand how he did it all - changing the fundamental nature of American discourse permanently.

No-one reads Zola? Ugh! I've read a lot more Zola than Dickens. Sure he's much more idealogical than Dickens, but he's also more direct. Maybe those are related.

At 6:04 PM, March 23, 2006, Blogger Ymarsakar said...

Roosevelt changed the fabric of America because of the war. Or to be more accurate, Roosevelt convinced most of America to change it to a social democracy because of his leadership in a war. Roosevelt believed Stalin was doing a noble experiment, and he got most of America to believe it to or be called a traitor to the nation.

Don't feel too bad, America recovered. Look at Britain, they drove the fatal hara kiri into themselves when they sacked Churchill after the war and instituted Labour, the Democratic Socialism that is eating the British soul even now as we speak. As bad as America looks historically, it could be worse. We could have lost, both the military and the social war.

The Democrats cry a lot of warnings about how dictators use wars to change national characters and destinies, the primary they do so is because they've had a lot of experience and success with Roosevelt (D) doing the same thing they accuse Bush of.

It's just projection. Because they don't want to admit that Roosevelt had so much success because of a war, and not because his ideas on the economy were right. The fake liberals assume Bush is doing what they themselves did. The cynical ones do believe so, the ones in denial use projection and say Bush is using war to obtain power and that this would never be something they or their party would condone.

Except there is no President in American history that got 4 terms, which means 4 X 4 which is 16 years. President for Life. Is that a democracy? Truman dropped the pocking atom bomb, don't even talk about how Roosevelt was required for the war effort.

The Democrats cry out their whinny little lungs about Bush being a warmonger, but that's just to mislead you into not looking at the history of Democratic Presidents. Starting with Jefferson.

Freedom from violence, freedom from hunger, freedom to worship, and freedom to life are the four freedoms in my mind. They need not be constrained by the intellectual brackets Norman or Roosevelt put up. Things of ideas, are not so restricted in history.

As to "how" humans behave in a heirarchy and through leadership, that is simple. A human being feels personal loyalty to the person that protects his family, his children, and his own self. That human will follow his leader to hell, or any where else for that matter. It is imbedded in our genetic code, you cannot remove it. This is true of EVERY human being on this planet, in ALL of history.

You can overrule the compulsion of course, just like you can overrule the urge to mate and the urge to kill and the urge to defecate in public.

But in the end, America followed Roosevelt to the New Deal because Roosevelt was a leader. He had an iron determination with an iron will. And even though his ideas donkey ballz, his will carried him throughout his Presidency and throughout the time he had been alive.

Roosevelt, in essence, was our answer to Hitler. Churchill, was our answer to Stalin and Hitler.

Given a choice between a Churchill ending or a Roosevelt ending, I'd have chosen a Roosevelt ending, regardless of the detriments. Because I wouldn't live in Britain of the 21st century if you paid me 5 life salaries to. Money will do me no good if I am dead or a slave, which is what tends to happen if you start living in Europe.

History has a lot of dirty tricks, that the Democrats have learned. Unfortunately, the Democrats disabled our public education system by having the government run it. Thereby cutting off any possibility of a future threat, when the New Generation learns history and all the counter-tricks.

The internet, however, was not in the Democrat's plans, nor was it in the Social Democracy's new utopian plans either.

Technology saves the human race, once again. And may it forever go on blessing the good people of the United States of America.

At 9:47 PM, March 23, 2006, Blogger Ymarsakar said...

Reaction to the Four Freedoms Tour was
overwhelming. Rockwell's four paintings apparently touched feelings deemed important by a free people. The Office of War Information (OWI), finally realizing the power of these ideas and images it had once refused, printed 2.5 million copies, each accompanied by a long OWI essay.

From Neo's link. It's nice to know the Army PR office was just as incompetent back then as they are now.

At 1:59 PM, March 24, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Steve says, " way too many bloggers -- even respected ones -- are too verbose and have no editorial superego when it comes to toning down the rhetoric."

This is not your case, Neo. Well nuanced, thoughtful, literate writings are found here. Of good depth. For which all of us thank you. It's always worthwhile to visit.

At 4:38 AM, April 04, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

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