In this sense, during the First World War, because of the fact that the governments of the belligerent countries had to have the public support for the waging of the war, they acted in a propagandistic manner. More precisely, "under the name of propaganda or 'public information' (...) reports of reverses were suppressed or toned down. Victories were magnified. Everything was done, directly or indirectly, to keep people at home cheerful, confident, determined, industrious and united. Doubt and criticism, however justified, were discouraged or suppressed, and even in countries with a strong democratic tradition, the Press worked loyally with the government in galvanizing the national effort, in glorifying the national cause, and in discrediting the aims and achievements of the enemy" (Jepson, n.d.). Therefore, it can be pointed out that the entire array of techniques specific for a propagandistic process was used in this sense. The limited amount of information allowed politicians to take decisions in their own name and enabled them to be protected from public scrutiny.
Throughout the First World War alliances were made and broken, agreements were reached and disregarded. This course of events would not have been possible without a public opinion which was constantly misinformed and fed with information that was far from accurate. Woodrow Wilson's request for open diplomacy came indirectly in response to the need for a wider openness towards the people. The public opinion represents one of the most efficient mechanisms of verification in politics. It can sanction politicians or elect them as their representatives. Aware of this fact, the promoters of propaganda sought to control this capacity of the public and used every means possible to create for them a different image of the surrounding reality.
The Second World War but especially the events preceding the great conflagration is an obvious proof of this fact. The Nazi propaganda and the Soviet one were two of the most important tools in preparing the world and the German and Russian peoples for war. The Nazi propaganda followed a particular course of action. This can be explained through the fact that the propagandistic mechanism was established and led by one person, Adolf Hitler. Some argue that in fact his ministers were mere lieutenants for his massive plan of increasing the support for Hitler's cause which was the reestablishment of the power of Germany in Europe and worldwide (Fraser, 1957, 53-4). More precisely, he advocated the increase need for people to support the cause of Germany, necessity for the establishment of a powerful Nazi party. Thus, he employed the bandwagon technique but in its modern acceptation. Therefore, people came to believe that without the adherence to the Nazi party, they would be left outside the system and without the possibility of engaging in the creation of greater Germany. He used maps and presentation of events that in the end proved to be misleading in order to create for the public an image that would motivate them to take a stand against the misfortunes of history and of the European countries (Herb, 1997); in this sense, he used reverse psychology which enable him to take practical and political control of the country and of the German people.
Another line of direction for the Nazi propaganda was the Jewish problem. In order to convince the masses of the gravity of the issue of the Jewish immigrants and of the need for their extermination, Hitler used the Arian theory which stated the supremacy of the white race and the need for its purification. The information provided by this theory was by no means scientifically proven nor was any proof needed because the public did not request such a thing. They came to be indoctrinated to such an extent that the validity of the information was not an issue. Given the fact that the German people entrusted Hitler with the lead of the country, following various speeches focused on an economic rebirth and a new national identity for Germany, the people built a certain trust that in the end would lead them in the Second World War. From this point-of-view, the propagandistic means used by Hitler had the expected effects of indoctrination.
The Soviet case however was based on a different set of values. On the one hand, communism emerged from a theoretical framework promoted by Marx and Engels in the late 19th century. This automatically gave a sense of legitimacy to the arguments presented by Stalin in the 30s. On the other hand, propaganda in the Soviet way included a larger area of concern. It was a graduate process especially in East European countries in the sense that the Soviet influence entered the countries in the early 30s and became a state fact in the late 40s (Kissinger, 1995). The Russian propaganda included the political sphere in particular. Thus, national politicians were indoctrinated to such an extent as to believe in a higher set of values, the communist ones. In turn, they would advocate them to the masses. This was one of the most efficient elements of propaganda used because it allowed the communists in Russia to influence nationals who would influence the masses in their own countries, a process which gave more legitimacy to the process and resulted in the establishment of popular communism in countries such as Romania, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, or Poland.
In modern times, propaganda is considered to be a dissolute term and is often attributed negative connotations, taking into account the history of its use. However, there are voices which agree on the fact that even today propaganda is being used by some of the most important countries in the world such as the U.S. Thus, in the American case, the support for the war in Iraq and the intervention in Afghanistan is seen as a result of mass propaganda whose victim was the American public (Buncombe, 2006).
Overall, it can be concluded that indeed the use of propaganda has played an immense role in establishing the public opinion, in influencing national as well as international events, from biblical times to today.
Buncombe, Andrew. (2006) "The U.S. propaganda machine: Oh, what a lovely war." The Independent. Accessed 29 May 2008, at http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/the-us-propaganda-machine-oh-what-a-lovely-war-472002.html
Fraser, Lindley. Propaganda. London: Oxford University Press, 1957.
Herb, Guntram Henrik. (1997) Under the Map of Germany: Nationalism and Propaganda, 1918-1945. London: Rutledge.
Hertzler J.O. (1939) "The Typical Life Cycle of Dictatorships." Social Forces, Vol. 17, No. 3, pp. 303-309
Jepson, RW. (n.d.) Clear Thinking. [available online] Accessed 29 May 2008, at http://www.ourcivilisation.com/smartboard/shop/jepsonrw/chap14.htm
Kissinger, Henry. (1995) Diplomacy. London: Simon & Schuster.
Propaganda Techniques. (N.d). accessed 29 May 2008, at http://library.thinkquest.org/C0111500/proptech.htm