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The Concise Encyclopedia of Communication by Wolfgang Donsbach

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W

War Propaganda

Robin Andersen

Fordham University

War propaganda fuses international and domestic processes in communicating one or more nations as the ‘Other,’ as worthy en masse of death and mutilation. During the twentieth century, as examples from Britain, Germany, and the US indicate, domestic as well as international media propaganda became essential for planning and engaging effectively in combat against other countries. In World War I, governments employed verbal and visual strategies that effectively influenced mass public opinion in favor of war. Since then, technological media developments and advances in communication design have been employed to promote positive attitudes toward war, albeit with varying effectiveness. Terms such as ‘public diplomacy,’ media campaign, information management, ‘stagecraft,’ spin, and even ‘militainment’ have also been deployed to characterize ever-evolving propaganda strategies.

Wartime rhetoric includes linguistic and visual strategies that either obscure the human costs or present the loss of human life as acceptable (→ Linguistics; Propaganda, Visual Communication of). Phrases such as ‘smart bombs’ assure that only military targets will be destroyed; the identification of images of dead and wounded civilians as ‘enemy propaganda’ denies their reality; and ‘collateral damage’ presents human destruction as a legitimate and inevitable by-product.

When historical frameworks are used to shape news of war, certain war events may be turned, ...

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