‘Everything is propaganda’ is written on one of the black mannequins at the start of the Propaganda exhibit on at the British Library. Instantly evoking the saying for me of ‘Everything is Political.’ What do you think of when you hear that word? I, like many, have negative connotations but this exhibit challenges the visitor to think of Propaganda as ethically neutral. It can be either good or bad.
The advert displayed around London for this exhibit uses the iconic Uncle Sam poster made for the US Army in 1917 and I have to say it was very effective in enticing me to go. From the British Library website: Propaganda: Power and Persuasion is the first exhibition to explore international state propaganda from the 20th and 21st centuries. From the eye-opening to the mind-boggling, from the beautiful to the surprising, posters, films, cartoons, sounds and texts reveal the myriad ways that states try to influence and persuade their citizens.
Every nation engages in propaganda to some extent. From images on currency, health campaigns and even monuments. I went in thinking that this exhibit would focus mainly on war propaganda. While it does feature heavily many forms are explored. The section on sporting and how it can be unifying was brilliant. A short video about the London Olympics discussed how the opening ceremony turned out to be great branding for the country.
Ultimately propaganda is marketing. Governments, private businesses, and with the proliferation of social media ordinary people use it too. The problem can be deciphering when it is manipulative and purposely used to deceive from when is it trying to do good for us.
The exhibit ends on 29th September and tickets are £9.00. There are some concessions so check here to find out. If you aren’t in London or won’t be visiting in the next few weeks there is a book by David Welsh Propaganda: Power and Persuasion which is a good alternative.
The British Library
96 Euston Road
Closet Tube: Kings Cross