Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Propaganda, Politics & Policy (2)

In the second post in this series, I offer another image I came across at the British Library’s excellent summer exhibition, Propaganda: Power and Persuasion. Unlike the previous image, however, I think this one could easily be interpreted with contemporary relevance. Specifically, with regards to the ongoing debate in the United States about incarceration and prison reform.


This image, “Freedom American-Style” by B. Prorokov, jumped out at me immediately. The piece was produced during the Cold War (1971), and offers a Russian interpretation of the United States as a prison state. From the British Library’s page on the poster:

“In this Soviet poster, New York’s famous Statue of Liberty is parodied as a look-out tower for the American police to observe its people, mocking the idea that it is a symbol of freedom. The poster attacks and subverts American propaganda that promoted the idea of the democratic freedom of the West.”

Propaganda, Politics & Policy (1)

I recently went to the British Library’s Propaganda: Power and Persuasion exhibition (on until September 17th). It was a fascinating look at the history of propaganda, and the various ways in which politicians and other use the tools of propaganda to persuade and influence. The exhibition was filled with fascinating imagery and documents, some of which I’ll share on this blog over the next few days and weeks, with some commentary and, where possible and relevant, contemporary context and parallels.


“Hurrah, Hurrah for the Great Japanese Empire!
Picture of the Assault on Songhwan, a Great Victory for Our Troops”

大日本帝國萬々歳 成歡襲撃和軍大捷之圖

The image above is a painting by Japanese artist Mizuno Toshikata (who was part of the ukiyo-e tradition). Toshikata, who produced a number of jingoistic works in support of Japan’s overseas adventures in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries, has done something rather interesting in this piece. The image depicts eight war correspondents in the lower right corner (identified by name, although my Japanese is too rusty to offer names here), observing the Japanese assault on Chinese troops at the Battle of Songhwan/Asan, Korea, on July 29th 1894:


Given Toshikata’s role producing pro-Japanese artwork as a form of propaganda, I thought it interesting that he would include eight embedded journalists who would, themselves, have been under strict orders to present the action in a patriotic manner.

The battle depicted was, it should also be noted, the first overseas battle fought by Japan in roughly 300 years, as well as the first deployment of a new Japanese army organized entirely on the European system. Despite the Japanese government’s confidence in their abilities, the campaign’s success would no doubt have boosted morale. The presence of correspondents embedded with the army provided a perfect opportunity to trumpet the newly structured military’s success with ‘credible’ eye-witness accounts.

Friday, 19 July 2013

Excerpt: “The Tudors” by Peter Ackroyd (Macmillan)


Something a little different, today, moving beyond my usual focus on US politics and history, international relations, and Asia. I studied medieval history at school, and have maintained a life-long interest in this period. So, I am very happy to share with you a short extract from the second volume of Peter Ackroyd’s exceptional History Of England, The Tudors (published by Macmillan).

Chapter I


Ackroyd-HoE2-TheTudorsPBThe land was flowing with milk and honey. On 21 April 1509 the old king, having grown ever more harsh and rapacious, died in his palace at Richmond on the south bank of the Thames. The fact was kept secret for two days, so that the realm would not tremble. Yet the new Henry had already been proclaimed king. On 9 May the body of Henry VII was taken in a black chariot from Richmond Palace to St Paul’s Cathedral; the funeral car was attended by 1,400 formal mourners and 700 torch-bearers. But few, if any, grieved; the courtiers and household servants were already awaiting the son and heir. When the body, having been taken to the abbey of Westminster, after the funeral service was over, was lowered into its vault the heralds announced ‘le noble roy, Henri le Septie’me, est mort’. Then at once they cried out with one voice, ‘Vive le noble roy, Henri le Huitie’me ’. His title was undisputed, the first such easy succession in a century. The new king was in his seventeenth year.

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

More on Africa, China & the USA

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

This clip is from All In with Chris Hayes (which I don’t get to watch too often, with my limited internet access, but I was able to watch it today). I’ve shared it because it has a little bit of analysis of China’s (and other Asian nations’) activities and investment in Africa.