Blog Post

Get Communism Off Mankind's Back; or, When Animals Attack

Get Communism Off Mankind's Back; or, When Animals Attack

For the past week, I've been doing research for my dissertation in the U.S. National Archives. Specifically, I've been looking at records and reports related to efforts by the U.S. government to use bookmobiles to spread propaganda and promote capitalism during the Cold War. I have found some really interesting, sometimes really strange stuff. (I posted over at bookmobility the other day, for example, about one of the weirdest things I'd seen. It involves dachshunds, bookmobiles, and prisoners of war.)

Here, I wanted to highlight another odd find, from another book created by the U.S. Information Agency in the early 1950s. This one was made in order to promote the use of advertising and marketing methods—identifying an audience, selling things and ideas, appealing to desires, branding, visual appeal—in U.S. foreign relations. The thesis is, essentially, that capitalists should be better than communism at marketing their product, but that so far it hadn't worked and needed to be fixed.

In addition to some remarkable racism, the book has some striking things to say about how information moves, or should be moved. On this page, for example, the unidentified authors argue for avoiding words and using images instead to communicate what they see as simple truths.

I think we can all agree on the (sometimes creepy) power of images to communicate ideas and promote allegiance to a brand. All the same, though, I’m not sure that this photo says “Let’s defeat communism, fellow freedom-lovers!” as much as “Ohmygodthebearisgoingtoeatthatguy!”

How successful do you think this image is? What does it say to you?

[co-posted at bookmobility]

No comments