The Complicated History of Modern Propaganda


Course description

In August 1914, after declaring war on Russia, Germany launched an unprovoked attack on neutral Belgium, bringing an outraged Great Britain into the conflict. Reports of German brutality and the use of new weapons like poison gas provoked the British to develop a powerful new weapon of their own, propaganda. The Belgian Atrocities were the basis of a highly successful anti-German campaign that set a dangerous precedent with a contentious legacy. Post-war revelations that stories were fabricated caused controversy and concern over the apparent power of propaganda to manipulate a gullible public. Propaganda about the power of propaganda still prevails and informs current debates on the influence of publicity and media. Starting with the Belgian Atrocity Campaign, this talk will focus on the history of modern propaganda and explain why an understanding of that history belies the notion that citizens can be easily manipulated by propaganda. 

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