Propaganda and Diplomacy


The usefulness of the instrument of propaganda is now recognized by all the states of the world. But it assumed a significance of its own in the age of cold war. The foreign policy maker paid due attention to the role of propaganda and the diplomats had to perform and execute their job by sailing on winds of propaganda. A study related on propaganda and diplomacy has shown recent year’s development that diplomacy is spread through by propaganda which is contained in communications sent form one government to the other in notes, request, protests, publication, demands for apologies, declarations, official speeches and the like. Sometime, official declaration made for propaganda purposes have their own impact upon the diplomatic bargaining. Whether such declarations should be treated as sincere commitments or not, is verified by the events that occur afterwards. In most of the cases it is found that such declarations are just meant for creating propaganda.

In the time of fascism, propaganda is considering one of the essential parts of the official ideology. The fascist’s official agencies create mass hysteria by means of propaganda to enthuse people so as to deify the authority of the supreme leader.  New slogans and symbols like Mussolini’s fasces and Hitler’s Swastik are used to inspire the people to take part in a life of do or die for ht cause. Badges and fancy uniforms are distributed among the soldiers and other paramilitary forces to inculcate a feeling of importance and status.

In this age of democratic diplomacy, propaganda has become very important for the obvious reason that more and more people are becoming participants in the process of diplomacy. Besides, the advanced means of communications are creating a host of serious problems for the diplomats. The days are gone when the foreign affairs were considered to be a matter of specialized study and their conduct was left to the experts. A common man was entirely ignorant of the process of politics in the national or international affairs. Now the elements of propaganda have entered into the world of diplomacy and diplomacy is sometimes dominate by the propaganda.

Wartime Propaganda

Massive modern propaganda techniques began with World War I (1914-1918). From the beginning of the war, both German and British propagandists worked hard to win sympathy and support in the United States. A Ministry of Information was set up, as it had been during the First World War, which employed film directors, actors and entertainers throughout the war. When war broke out in September 1939, the British Government was very aware of the importance of propaganda. That is to say, providing information about the way the war was going trying to make sure that people obeyed the regulations and restrictions that were imposed by the government and keeping up people’s morale. The approach of World War II in 1939 brought many changes of using media too. To counter the propaganda being broadcast by Germany and Italy, the British government asked the BBC to offer services in Arabic and Spanish, and agreed to pay the additional costs required.



German propagandists appealed to the many Americans of German descent and to those of Irish descent who were traditionally hostile to Great Britain. Soon, however, Germany was virtually cut off from direct access to the United States. Thereafter British propaganda had little competition in the United States, and it was conducted more skillfully than that of the Germans. Once engaged in the war, the United States organized the Committee on Public Information, an official propaganda agency, to mobilize American public opinion. This committee proved highly successful, particularly in the sale of Liberty Bonds. The exploitation by the Allies of President Woodrow Wilson’s Fourteen Points, which seemed to promise a just peace for both the victors and the defeated, contributed greatly toward crystallizing opposition within the Central Powers to continuation of the war.

After World War I propaganda achieved great importance as an instrument of national policy in the totalitarian state. Germany, Italy, Japan, and the Soviet Union deliberately molded public opinion through government propaganda agencies. In Germany, Adolf Hitler established the extremely powerful ministry of propaganda headed by Paul Joseph Goebbels. Completely dominating all public statement in Germany, this agency activates the so-called war of nerves. Before each new aggressive move by Germany; for example, against Czechoslovakia in 1938, the German press and radio publicized alleged evidence of persecution of German minorities in the victim country. Incidents were manufactured and exploited to justify German intervention, and the German war machine was depicted as invincible. The technique proved effective in dividing populations, weakening the power of the victim to resist, and causing its allies to hesitate. As the European crisis intensified, German agents in France spread propaganda of defeatism. Through books, pamphlets, and venal newspapers and in the legislature and the army, they encouraged dissatisfaction with the government, distrust of allies, and fear of German military power. These divisive efforts hastened the collapse of French resistance when the German army finally struck in May 1940.

The propaganda aspects of World War II were similar to those of World War I, except that the war was greater in scope. In the 1930s the United States and Germany engaged in a propaganda war leading up to World War II. Radio played a major role, and propaganda activities overseas were more intense. Both Germany and the United Kingdom again sought to persuade American opinion. German propagandists played on anti-British sentiment, represented the war as a struggle against communism, and pictured Germany as the unbeatable champion of a new order in world affairs. German agents also gave their support to movements in the United States that supported isolationism. German propaganda efforts again proved ineffective, especially after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor; the evidence of German aggression was too clear, and American sympathies were increasingly on the side of the United Kingdom. After the United States entered the war, the Axis powers sought to weaken the morale of the Allied armed forces and civilian populations by radio propaganda. The British traitor (conspirator) William Joyce broadcast from Germany under the sardonic name “Lord Haw Haw”; the American poet Ezra Pound broadcast for the Fascist cause from Italy; U.S. forces in the South Pacific became familiar with the voice of Iva Ikuko Toguri D’Aquino, a native Californian of Japanese descent, who broadcast from Japan as “Tokyo Rose.”

Allied propaganda efforts were aimed at separating the peoples of the Axis nations from their governments, which were solely blamed for the war. Radio broadcasts and leaflets dropped from the air carried Allied propaganda to the enemy. The official U.S. propaganda agencies during World War II were the Office of War Information (OWI), charged with disseminating information at home and abroad, and the Office of Strategic Service (OSS), charged with conducting psychological warfare against the enemy. At Supreme Headquarters in the European theater of operations, the OWI and OSS were coordinated with military activities by the Psychological Warfare Division.

Cold –War Propaganda

In the period of the Cold War, a marked conflict of interests between the United States and the Soviet Union following World War II, propaganda continued to be a significant instrument of national policy. Both Democratic and Communist blocs of states attempted by sustained campaigns to win to their side the great masses of uncommitted peoples to achieve their objectives without resorting to armed conflict. Every aspect of national life and policy was exploited for purposes of propaganda. The Cold War was also marked by the use of defectors, trials, and confessions for propaganda purposes.

In this propaganda war the Communist nations seemed initially to have a distinct advantage. Because their governments controlled all media, they could largely seal off their peoples from Western propaganda. At the same time, the highly centralized governments could plan elaborate propaganda campaigns and mobilize resources to carry out their plans. They could also count on aid from Communist parties and sympathizers in other countries. Democratic states, on the other hand, could neither prevent their peoples from being exposed to Communist propaganda nor mobilize all their resources to counter it. This apparent advantage for Communist governments eroded during the 1980s, as communications technology advanced. Inability to control the spread of information was a major factor in the breakdown of many Communist regimes in Eastern Europe at the end of the decade.

The United States Information Agency (USIA), established in 1953 to conduct propaganda and cultural activities abroad, operates the Voice of America, a radio network that carries news and information about the United States in more than 40 languages to all parts of the world. In 1978 USIA functions were taken over by the International Communication Agency; its name was changed back to the U.S. Information Agency in 1982. In 1967 it was revealed that the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) had for many years covertly supported numerous American and foreign labor, student, and political organizations, such as Radio Free Europe, the efforts of which benefited U.S. foreign policies.