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Jan 16 2012

And now for something completely different

Here is a page of WWII propaganda, from all sides. It’s weird to see it now with the distance of history making it more remote — it’s easy to judge it now fairly impartially. I have to say, from this sample, that Americans were rather crude and blunt; the Europeans in general had better design sense. And the Italians…whoa, fabulous! On the artistic merits of their propaganda posters, the Italians should definitely have won the war.

Here, for instance, is how the Italian fascists viewed American soldiers:

I’ve seen how US cartoonists caricatured the Germans and Japanese (short answer: full-on racist slander), but it’s eye-opening to see how the same was done to us.

(via Ptak Science Books)

50 comments

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  1. 1
    Antiochus Epiphanes

    And here I thought the Italian fascists were so high minded.

    Bad show, Italian fascists!

  2. 2
    hyperdeath

    I’m waiting for the first right-thinking person to patiently explain to us excitable liberals, how that Italian propaganda poster isn’t actually racist, and how we’re taking unnecessary offence.

  3. 3
    Hercules Grytpype-Thynne

    Is it a bad thing that one of the first things that popped into my mind when I saw that poster was Cleavon Little’s line in Blazing Saddles?

    Hey! Where the white women at?

  4. 4
    Thomathy, Such A 'Mo

    Hyperdeath, on that note, I’m waiting for such a person to simultaneously explain how the American propaganda isn’t actually racist, and how we’re taking unnecessary offence. It does, of course, cut both ways. Unfortunately, such slanderous racism was typical of everyone.

    To be completely fair, however, I must point out that I don’t think Americans (on whole) during WWII would have found that poster racist, so much as humourously inaccurate. I hear in my mind something to the effect of, ‘Dumb Italians, there aren’t that many blacks in our armed forces! Haha!’

    I’m repulsed even considering the fact that racism, or just blatant bigotry, was commonly and, worse, acceptably directed at every out-group by every in-group.

    It doesn’t make me feel any better now that people are just less open about their bigotry, or that the major targets of open bigotry have shifted.

    At least it’s just civil and no one is fighting wars right now with the same racist and bigoted propaganda …oh wait.

  5. 5
    lizdamnit

    I love these in a weird way. It’s morbidly fascinating how esthetics can be used for manipulation. Europe did have far better aritistry in their cheap ploys for nationalism and xenophobia :P Bet “gems” like the poster above will never hit a US history book, no way.

    @Antiochus Epiphanes – ever read Italian Futurists’ manifesto by Marinetti? The artistic movement had a deep relationship with fascism, and that manifesto is a piece of work, especially for the misogyny and fixation on violence..they’re similarly juvenile at their cores:

    “We will glorify war—the world’s only hygiene—militarism, patriotism, the destructive gesture of freedom-bringers, beautiful ideas worth dying for, and scorn for woman.”

    http://www.italianfuturism.org/manifestos/foundingmanifesto/

    Art nerd mode off :)

  6. 6
    feralboy12

    On the artistic merits of their propaganda posters, the Italians should definitely have won the war.

    Really? Did they have anyone as good as Dr. Seuss?

  7. 7
    Anthony K

    Really? Did they have anyone as good as Dr. Seuss?

    “Can we fight the Axis? Yes we can! We’ll fight them in taxis, we’ll fight them in a van! We’ll fight them atop climety-pimety-hatsis, no matter whether they be Japanese, Italians, or Nazis!”

    Rhyming is hella easy when you’re not compelled to stick to real words.

  8. 8
    Thomathy, Such A 'Mo

    Rhyming also seems not to be a problem if you have a pronunciation of certain vowels peculiar to a certain area, Brownian.

    Do ‘hat’ and ‘Nazis’ always rhyme for you or were you being liberal with near-rhymes? This linguist really wants to know.

  9. 9
    Rip Steakface

    Thomathy, I think he was channeling Lt. Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt in Inglourious Basterds).

  10. 10
    Anthony K

    Do ‘hat’ and ‘Nazis’ always rhyme for you or were you being liberal with near-rhymes?

    Of course ‘hat’ doesn’t rhyme with Nazis; that’s why the word I coined ended in ‘hatsis’, which does.

  11. 11
    marlorocci

    I think I may be related to that guy!

  12. 12
    HappiestSadist, Repellent Little Martyr

    lizdamnit @#5: It is kind of fascinating. But then, I did spend Saturday at an exhibit of early Soviet propaganda posters with the SO. Lots of Russian Futurism there, which seems less umm, childish than the Italian sort. Seeing as Mayakovsky shot himself in response to Stalinism, as opposed to, say, dancing about it.

  13. 13
    andusay

    Oh, PZ… sometime you are so naive. You are surprized to see that the Axis powers used racist posters? Really?

    This poster that is shown, who is that soldier? He doesn’t look black to me. And why the $2 on the statue. This doesn’t look racist at all, it looks like a commentary on the lack or art appreciation for American soldiers and by extention, America. Sort of a “we appreciate and value art but stupid Americans would steal and then sell Venus de Milo for $2, the cretins” kind of thing. So it seems more culturalist rather than racist, and unfortunately it probably has too much truth in it if so.

    That’s how it looks to me.

  14. 14
    HappiestSadist, Repellent Little Martyr

    Hey Thomathy and Hyperdeath! Apparently the answer to your question is 13 comments. Now we know.

  15. 15
    Anthony K

    Or did you mean the vowel sound in ‘hat’ and ‘Nazi’, thomathy? Sorry, I thought you were being snarky.

    For me they’re not the same—I pronounce ‘Nazi’ as if the first syllable rhymed with ‘bought’ or ‘taught’, so I assumed a more American pronunciation of ‘Nazi’ in which the first syllable does rhyme more or less with ‘hat’.

    (I recall some difficulty with my American linguistic anthropology professor: while we were discussing the IPA, ‘father’ and ‘water’ were used to illustrated different vowel sounds, which confused me until we all realised that I pronounce the ‘a’ in both more or less the same.)

  16. 16
    Anthony K

    This poster that is shown, who is that soldier? He doesn’t look black to me.

    He is clearly meant to be black.

  17. 17
    fullyladenswallow

    This reminds me of Sam Keens book, “Faces of the Enemy”.

    Also on youtube:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JDq2Ja3DlGg

  18. 18
    Thomathy, Such A 'Mo

    Brownian, I was being a bit tongue-in-cheek as I find the difference fascinating, but seriously would you pronounce ‘hatsis’ [hætsɪz] or [hætsiz] and ‘Nazis’ [nɑtsiz] or [nætsiz].

    I’m asking, because for me it’s [hætsɪz] and [nɑtsiz], so they don’t rhyme at all because all the vowels are different. The only way I could make the rhyme work would be by pronouncing both words with [æ] and [i] (that’s /a/ as in ‘cat’ and /e/ as in ‘he’ respectively, as opposed to [ɪ] and [ɑ], which are /i/ as in ‘it’ and /o/ as in ‘not’ respectively).

    It’s an honest quandary; the difference fascinates me.

  19. 19
    Thomathy, Such A 'Mo

    Damn, you beat me to it. I wasn’t being snarky; you guessed right.

    And you also explained the matter of your queer rhyming while I was responding.

    I’ve had a similar problem when I would shop across the border in Detroit. ‘Stock’ and ‘Stack’ are both pronounced like ‘stack’. That difference can lead to funny miscommunications given certain words.

  20. 20
    Thomathy, Such A 'Mo

    Happiestsadist, my first thought reading that comment was, ‘it’s a joke, right?’

    It’s the contradictory nature of the post. Starting out by calling PZ naïve because of course they used racist propaganda and then explaining how that exampled is not racist seems too stupid to be real. I’ve been surprised by less though.

    In case it is real, though, I’ll say that it must be a treat to be above racism and to be so colourblind as to be unable to see what is clearly a typical portrayal of a black person for that time.

  21. 21
    feralboy12

    This doesn’t look racist at all, it looks like a commentary on the lack or art appreciation for American soldiers and by extention, America. Sort of a “we appreciate and value art but stupid Americans would steal and then sell Venus de Milo for $2, the cretins” kind of thing. So it seems more culturalist rather than racist, and unfortunately it probably has too much truth in it if so.

    Well, we know the Nazis really appreciated art, right?

  22. 22
    Anthony K

    Thanks for that, Thomathy (I couldn’t remember my IPA well enough to transcribe the sounds I had in my head), but if you must know, it’s a near rhyme: -hatsis is plural for hatsi [hætsi] (rhyms with Patsy) so the /i/ is not [ɪ] (like Gollum’s “filthy Bagginses”).

    Anyway, I suppose the weirdest linguistic variation (to my ears, at least) is the tendency of some Americans to pronounce words like ‘measure’ with an [eɪ] as if the first syllable was ‘May’.

  23. 23
    interrobang

    Totally racist, but the “commercialisation of culture” aspect of it is not entirely that far off the mark. Ouch.

    I remember seeing another piece of Nazi propaganda that I thought was similar — it concerned colonialism in Africa. The French were depicted as lusting after the subhuman black natives (meh, not so much), the Germans were depicted as teaching the wildlife to march in orderly columns (ha!), the English were depicted as pouring alcohol into the mouth of a native being squeezed in an industrial press, while another one collected the money being squeezed out in a bucket, and a preacher stood nearby (ow!), and the Belgians were depicted as a character sitting at an elaborately-set table while a native roasted on a spit behind him (not that far off reality, actually).

  24. 24
    feralboy12

    Anyway, I suppose the weirdest linguistic variation (to my ears, at least) is the tendency of some Americans to pronounce words like ‘measure’ with an [eɪ] as if the first syllable was ‘May’.

    I had an eighth-grade english teacher try to convince us that “egg” was pronounced like that–with the long “a” sound like in “May.” Ayg.
    We didn’t buy it. He also thought the war in Vietnam was necessary and worth fighting. In 1972. We didn’t buy that, either.

  25. 25
    Ichthyic

    Hey, it was clear that Germany was deathly afraid of England with good reason!

    they had obviously struck a deal with Cthulhu to cross octopus with battleships!

    http://media-cdn.pinterest.com/upload/75294624989808280_powv0MmI_c.jpg

  26. 26
    Ichthyic

    …Or is it crabs with battleships?

    insects?

    *shrug*

    obviously some deal was struck with some demonic/old god entity.

  27. 27
    Thomathy, Such A 'Mo

    Brownian, feralboy12, that’s …interesting.

  28. 28
    freemage

    The Dr. Seuss cartoons are endlessly fascinating, honestly. In particular w/re: the racism-in-propoganda issue. At the same time that he was using outrageously stereotyped portrayals of the Japanese (including Japanese-Americans, whom he depicted as a horde of cats preparing to take over California), he was also decrying anti-black prejudices in society, going so far as to say that war industrialists who refused to hire black workers and treat them fairly were functionally guilty of treason. Seuss is one of my go-to examples for how cognitive dissonance manifests.

  29. 29
    mathilde

    interrobang # 23:

    I have found it.

    (Seite 55: Kolonialmächte)

    It is, however, not a Nazi cartoon, it dates from 1904. The Belgian is obviously King Leopold II himself.

  30. 30
    andusay

    Thomathy:

    “Starting out by calling PZ naïve because of course they used racist propaganda”

    Which is, of course, brutally naive. Is that not obvious? It must be nice to be oblivious of other cultures in history as to think that racism is somehow a uniquely American trait.

    “and then explaining how that exampled is not racist seems too stupid to be real.”

    No, you are too stupid to be real. I have seen a lot of war posters and believe it or not, they are not all racist. So it is quite possible to pick a poster that is not racist but focuses on some other aspect of the enemy. It must be nice to be so oblivious to the number of possible triggers to encite nationalism.

    “I’ll say that it must be a treat to be above racism and to be so colourblind as to be unable to see what is clearly a typical portrayal of a black person for that time”
    FFS you are a moron. I have seen many posters and other cartoons of racism but again, you are apparently unaware that there is an almost infinite variety of these that exist. I have no doubt that there are thousands of posters you could see that you would not detect as being racist as you may not be fanmiliar with the particular characteristic being referenced. I have seen Japanese posters that show Chinese in a bad light, but much of the inference of inferiority is lost on me as I don’t follow the nuances of that culture. But you don’t understand that, do you. I stand by this as being a poor portrail of black racism, at least by American standards. No doubt the Italians had their own cultural method of representing this. Clearly you missed the rest of what I posted as you were in full fit mode for my not being properly deferential to PZ.

  31. 31
    David Marjanović

    I pronounce ‘Nazi’ as if the first syllable rhymed with ‘bought’ or ‘taught’

    Cot/caught merger.

    I had an eighth-grade english teacher try to convince us that “egg” was pronounced like that–with the long “a” sound like in “May.” Ayg.

    In South Africa, New Zealand, parts of Australia or something, and upper-crust British English till something like the middle of the 20th century, [e] is used for /ɛ/ – it’s not quite [eɪ], but close.

    Sample of never and met with [e].

  32. 32
    Ichthyic

    I stand by this as being a poor portrail of black racism, at least by American standards

    this is the very ignorance you are being accused of.

    you even fail to admit that it is indeed an obvious picture of a black person, something you completely failed to recognize in your first post.

    Which is, of course, brutally naive. Is that not obvious?

    what’s brutally obvious is that his point went right over your head.

    I would best describe you as… oblivious.

  33. 33
    cm's changeable moniker (quaint, if not charming)

    @Icthyic: “insects?”.

    If they are, I’m betting they’re evil water striders.

  34. 34
    ambassadorfromverdammt

    Funny how people’s perceptions differ. To some people it is an obvious Black man, to me it is an obvious Neanderthal.

    I think the latter is more consistent with the over all message.

    Still racist, though.

  35. 35
    kermit.

    feralboy12: “I had an eighth-grade english teacher try to convince us that “egg” was pronounced like that–with the long “a” sound like in “May.” Ayg.”

    Of course we could spell it “ayg” if we were spelling phonetically. You are clearly confused, or perhaps dangerously foreign.

    You probably don’t pronounce the “R” in “wash”, either.

    Curious – does anybody rhyme:
    “What immortal hand or eye
    Could frame thy fearful symmetry?”
    – Blake

  36. 36
    craigore

    What I found to be a really good book on this was ‘Faces of the Enemy; Reflections of the Hostile Imagination, The Psychology of Enmity’ by Sam Keen. It’s a bit dated, but a very worthwhile read in my honest opinion. You’ll find its just loaded with multi-ethnic examples throughout history including the one featured in the OP (with a number of variations), and what I thought was some pretty good analysis of them.

  37. 37
    JeffreyD

    Just on the subject of propaganda posters, some wonderful Soviet safety posters.

    http://englishrussia.com/2011/01/15/look-out-soviet-bloody-posters/

    Generally and odd site, you have been warned.

  38. 38
    Anthony K

    You probably don’t pronounce the “R” in “wash”, either.

    Yes! The fellow I knew who maysured things came from Warshington state.

  39. 39
    craigore

    @Brownian
    HaHaHa

  40. 40
    elisabetht.

    Well Japanese nationalists and fascists certainly used racist images of whites and other Asians in their propaganda. (I am part Japanese.)

    We are less familiar with these examples because they do not contribute to the politics of guilt and correctness. Westerners now practically measure moral conscience by how guilty we feel about historical crimes.

    No better example exists than certain Westerners that still invoke the Crusades as self-flagellation about contemporary Middle East policy. Yet even a light survey of European history from the time before, during and after the Crusades shows plenty of Islamic aggression towards Europeans, but Westerners are conditioned to only acknowledge their wrong doing and never their legitimate examples of victimisation by external forces. This creates imbalanced perceptions of racism, the history of slavery and other wrongs.

  41. 41
    craigore

    @Brownian
    Get a Jorb.

  42. 42
    craigore

    There was almost no moral highground for anybody in WW2. It was downright vicious across the board.

  43. 43
    craigore

    @Thomathy @8
    Well if you sound anything like Brad Pitt in Inglorious Bastards… “we’re in the business of just one thing – killin’ nazis”

  44. 44
    Chris from Europe

    @23
    The artist behind that caricature was Jewish.

    See Wikipedia.

  45. 45
    julietdefarge

    It will be interesting to see how well the movie “Red Tails” does in various countries.

  46. 46
    strange gods before me ॐ

    We are less familiar with these examples because they do not contribute to the politics of guilt and correctness.

    This is once again elisabetht’s crank theory of race.

    She cannot even imagine an alternative hypothesis: we may be less familiar with the Italian cartoon here because teachers must always consider opportunity cost, and US American students can learn more about their own environment, the culture they will most likely be living and working in for the rest of their lives, by studying American propaganda rather than Italian propaganda.

  47. 47
    pelamun, the Linguist of Doom

    We are less familiar with these examples because they do not contribute to the politics of guilt and correctness. Westerners now practically measure moral conscience by how guilty we feel about historical crimes.

    No better example exists than certain Westerners that still invoke the Crusades as self-flagellation about contemporary Middle East policy. Yet even a light survey of European history from the time before, during and after the Crusades shows plenty of Islamic aggression towards Europeans, but Westerners are conditioned to only acknowledge their wrong doing and never their legitimate examples of victimisation by external forces. This creates imbalanced perceptions of racism, the history of slavery and other wrongs.

    What LM said. I used to be torn between my European and Asian heritages (and probably still are, to a certain extent), you seem to have found a twisted way of resolving the issue…

    You should talk to some people from Central Europe and what they have been taught. Even Goethe mentions the “Turks before Vienna” in his play “Faust”.

    But I wonder what are the imbalanced perceptions of slavery, colonialism and the fact that the entire world system is based on the European model conceived by the Great Powers between 1648 and 1815. Sure it’s opened up now a little bit, but I don’t see much there for Westerners to feel good about…

    Anyhow,

    to me one of the most interesting ways of de-humanising the enemy was the use of characters specifically created by the Japanese war propaganda:

    米国 beikou (“land of rice”, United States in Japanese)
    英国 eikoku (“land of heroes”, United Kingdom in Japanese)
    (Note: the characters were not chosen for their meaning but for their sound (read in Chinese it even makes sense). France would be “land of Buddha”)

    They would add the character radical for “animal” to the first character:
    These characters cannot easily be shown on a modern computer, so here

    “American dogs” http://www.zdic.net/zd/zi3/ZdicF0ZdicA4Zdic9DZdicB8.htm
    “British dogs”
    http://www.zdic.net/zd/zi3/ZdicF0ZdicA4ZdicA0Zdic89.htm

    So the characters would be pronounced the same, but at the same time they would convey that Americans and Britons are dogs.

    (Unfortunately, many ethnic minorities in China have been assigned characters for their names, that do have the animal or insect radical. Or even ethnic groups that were formerly non-Chinese, like the 閩 Min3 (虫 means bug), as in Southern Min, who are now regarded as fully Han…)

  48. 48
    Rev. BigDumbChimp
    You probably don’t pronounce the “R” in “wash”, either.

    Yes! The fellow I knew who maysured things came from Warshington state.

    I’ve got an idear

  49. 49
    sc_b606d96be3a9d79b5f47f915b6533b7e

    “No better example exists than certain Westerners that still invoke the Crusades as self-flagellation about contemporary Middle East policy. Yet even a light survey of European history from the time before, during and after the Crusades shows plenty of Islamic aggression towards Europeans, but Westerners are conditioned to only acknowledge their wrong doing and never their legitimate examples of victimisation by external forces. This creates imbalanced perceptions of racism, the history of slavery and other wrongs.”
    Non-Western history is filled with similar tales of warfare and atrocity that one can find in Western history. I doubt anyone says otherwise. Saying that the Christian world had a right to defend itself from Turkish invasion is one thing, arguing that the Crusades as they were conducted were therefore justified is short sighted.

    What about the pogroms against European Jews; should we ignore this behavior? Should we ignore the Crusader massacres that took place when they captured Jerusalem? You suggest that we should not look at the Crusades to try to understand contemporary Mideast policy. Yet the Crusaders showed an inability or disinclination to distinguish between Muslims in a very Bush-like manner; the Fatimid dynasty that controlled Jerusalem had not attacked Europe, had not harassed Christian pilgrims, as the Turks had. Is there no parallel between that unjustified aggression and the United States going to war with Iraq, which had nothing to do with 9/11? Is it not even worth considering? What about the massacre of Muslim prisoners of war, such as that ordered by Richard I at Acre; not worthy of criticism? Should we completely discount any comparison to America’s treatment of Muslim prisoners of war? The U.S. may not slaughter prisoners outright and openly, but can we learn nothing from this history?

    The Catholic Church told Crusaders that they had some sort of divine right to Jerusalem, and that they would attain salvation if they went to war with these non-Christian “infidels.” They are just one of many examples of the ugly marriage between religious superstition, opportunism, and blood-thirsty militarism that pervades history, and I have no qualms about criticizing it. Should we ignore the Fourth Crusade, where the pretense of religion was dispensed with and the Crusaders attacked fellow Christians and captured Constantinople? Does this not show that the Crusades had a bit more to do with greed and power grabbing? As an atheist, the behavior of the Crusaders fits perfectly into how I view religion; it is a lie told by men to justify their often negative behavior with invisible divine sanction. Am I wrong about the Crusaders? How so?

    The history of slavery? So because Christian Europe was besieged by Muslim invaders, this gave Europeans the right to enslave Native Americans and Africans? It had nothing to do with exploiting these people for profit? The Confederacy was fighting the Civil War to protect itself from Islamic aggression? What an absurd and dishonest extrapolation. But thank you for demonstrating the underlying ignorance of the Right Wing and Christian Conservative worldview.

  50. 50
    David Marjanović

    Funny how people’s perceptions differ. To some people it is an obvious Black man, to me it is an obvious Neanderthal.

    A middle-to-dark brown Neandertaler? Doesn’t make sense. The southernmost known Neandertalers were buried in what is now Israel.

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