Propaganda has been traditionally understood as the dissemination of information, especially of a biased or misleading nature, used to promote or publicize a particular political cause or point of view. It has been employed through various means like speeches, posters, and films to influence public opinion. The art of propaganda has its roots in ancient civilizations, where rulers used it to legitimize their authority and promote their agendas.
American WWII Propaganda. Posters Keep this Horror From Your Home. Invest 10 Percent in War Bonds Back Up our Battleskies! Source: Wikimedia Commons
In the modern context, propaganda has evolved to include not just state-driven narratives but also disinformation campaigns by non-state actors. The digital age has given propaganda a new platform, extending its reach and impact. Social media, for example, has become a powerful tool for spreading propaganda. The objectives remain similar: to influence public opinion, change behavior, or advance a particular agenda.
Korean primary school targeting the United States military. The Korean text reads: "Are you playing the game of catching these guys?". From Wikimedia Commons
Echoes of Empire: The Power of Japanese Propaganda
The topic of propaganda has become increasingly relevant in recent years. With the advancement of technology, people are increasingly more vulnerable to disinformation. Japan experienced a similar situation in the early 1900s and 1930s. With the rise of mass production of newspapers and magazines amidst the Russo-Japanese War, the Japanese population became instilled in nationalism and militarism. Despite the era of demilitarization and democratization that followed after World War I, the Japanese Empire, once again, became fixated on expansion. This time, advancements in radio and film propagated a sentiment for total war.
Echoes of Empire: An Analysis of Imperial Japanese Propaganda focuses on the themes of Japanese propaganda during the imperial era (1868–1945). By emphasizing the content of Japanese propaganda, the publication achieves a rigorous and holistic account of propaganda from the imperial period. The publication closely examines four key themes: Glorification, Youth, Women and Sex, and Race War. Each section discusses various forms of propaganda, both official (government and military) and unofficial (civilians and private companies). While each chapter focuses on a specific theme of Japanese propaganda, all inquire into the impact propaganda had on the Japanese on an individual and societal scale. The analysis serves to enlighten people on the mechanism and influence of propaganda and the danger of ignoring its significance.