From Dr. Seuss to Disney, a Surprising History of Propaganda

When I was younger, I watched a lot of the Disney Channel. My favorite content was the old-school cartoons, featuring the likes of Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, and gang, although the Goofy spots were my favorite. One time I caught a program about Disney’s propaganda films from World War II.

Those animated shorts are rarely shown today, because they contain some depictions of the enemy that most people would now find racist. They were a reflection of those high anxiety times, and it’s perhaps not surprising that such an intense national event as a world war would draw in even fictional characters.

And so Donald Duck joined the war effort.

Perhaps fewer people know that Theodor Geisel, Dr. Seuss, also worked as a political cartoonist, penning anti-Nazi pieces in New York newspapers.

The below infographic looks at some of this colorful history of propaganda, from campaigns by the church to Hitler, arguably the most notorious propagandist (with his henchmen). Some of the info listed is perhaps debatable.

Some of my colleagues have “embedded” with U.S. and UN troops overseas and they would strongly disagree with the characterization of their work as “propaganda,” though others have pointed out that it could be hard to report critically on those who are responsible for keeping you safe.

Similarly, a number of people have criticized the U.S.-led effort to tear down the statue of Saddam in Iraq, but is that technically propaganda, or a PR stunt? Is there a difference?

What do you think?


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