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Propoganda Throughout History

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Propaganda is a potent political power. When used correctly, it can strike fear into the hearts of public, or invoke sense of nationality. It can be the driving force behind powerful movements. Many world events are pushed into motion through the use of propaganda- most recently and certainly an effective example is the recent KONY 2012 movement. Started by a charity organization, it aims to end the reign of war criminal Joesph Kony by inciting the public and forcing a government reaction. Comparing the KONY documentary by the Invisible Children charity to the Spies of Kaiser written by William Le Queux in 1909, the public had similar reactions- outcry and demand for government intervention. Both forms of propaganda were blown out of proportion, used incorrect information and skewed statistics but the public response was so great that in both cases, the government has been forced to respond. For KONY, it is the deployment of passive American troops by the American government. For the British government, it was the creation of the Secret Service Bureau- which sparked the creation of a larger, impressive, and enduring British intelligence service. Of course, propaganda was not the only reason the Secret Service Bureau was formed. Numerous other factors played into the creation, as well as the development of further intelligence agencies operating under the British government. In the early twentieth century, tensions ran high between European countries. Colonialism was in full swing, as European countries scrambled to gain control over smaller countries in Asia and especially Africa, which was still mostly untapped in terms of colonization. The rapid spread of colonialism in Africa was astounding- countries such as Germany strove to hold on to their colonies, many of which were only accessible by the sea.

And thus a new race began. It began innocuously enough- colonization required the control of certain parts of sea. Quickly it developed into something more powerful, and certainly more foreboding- since navies were a projection of a countries power and economic right, this race enveloped the respective navies of involved countries. Until this point, Britain had the foremost powerful navy in all of Europe, and they saw this race as a clear threat to their power. Germany was a forerunner in attempting to claim a place as a naval power- Bernhard von Bulow is quoted as saying “We do not want to place anyone into the shadows, but we also want to claim our place in the sun”. (Penzler, 6-8) Kaiser Wilhelm II’s plan of Weltpolitik, highly ambitious as it was, decided that Germany needed to become not only a continental power, but also a world one. He was very passionate about attaining power, and some may say his decision to build a large naval fleet was logical, as the Germans not only had the British to attend to, but also the Americans. (Mitchell, 21-23) Britain began to get nervous at the thought of its nearest and only conceivable threat gaining naval power. Here is where the next part of the race began- the naval race.

Here is where the British revealed a naval super power- the H.M.S Dreadnought. Literally a super ship, the Dreadnought could withstand all weathers, whether it was in the arctic or the Mediterranean. It had a twelve-inch hull of solid steel, which when fired at by standard cannonballs, barely left a mark. Incredibly revolutionary for its time, it also had rotating turrets, and could shoot at distances of up to ten thousand yards. It was the best ship available at the time, and it sparked a global arms race- everyone wanted one of these ships.

The British public began to panic. These ships were unstoppable, unheard of technology. And suddenly every country wanted to get their hands on one. People did not take into consideration, however, the setbacks. These ships were huge and cost a considerable amount of money. They took a long time to build. People underestimated this and due to propaganda at the time, believed other countries were pumping out dozens of these dreadnaughts per week. This was, of course, not true. These acts of propaganda were not government sanctioned. They were fabricated by people who took advantage of many things, such as the ease and accessibility of cheap paperback novels, as well as the publics initial panic. They capitalized on a public that trusted names of government officials. One such example of a sensationalist writer who wrote for the papers was William Le Queux. Hired by Alfred Harmsworth, he was commissioned to write books about a future war, taking advantage of the sensationalist-writing craze that was sweeping the nation at the time. This piece ended up being The Invasion of 1910 (actually written in 1906), and was incredibly profitable for Le Queux. It catapulted him to fame, and made him quite wealthy. (Clarke 405-406) Three years and many books later, he wrote another book called The Spies of Kaiser: Plotting the Downfall of England, in which he claimed to have evidence of German espionage from shipyard surveillance to industrial sabotage, as well as corroboration from various secret documents. The book made other outlandish claims such as the sheer amount of spies within Britain. Paranoia set in as people were offered ten pounds by certain British papers for information leading to the arrest of German agents operating in England. (Twigge et al., pg 20) People who had emigrated Germany in favour of Britain found themselves under scrutiny. Not just the general public was concerned however, as a committee was



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