is false material where the source is disguised. It is propaganda
that purports to be from a source on one side of a conflict, but is actually from the opposing side. It is typically used to vilify, embarrass or misrepresent the enemy.
It contrasts with grey propaganda, the source of which is not identified, and white propaganda, in which the real source is declared. The term is also sometimes used as a synonym for particularly malicious wartime propaganda or falsification of information that is captured by an enemy.
Black propaganda may also be used on one's own side, generated by altering genuine enemy propaganda in such a way as to distort its message. This is a particularly powerful tool if the target audience has a poor understanding of the language of the enemy, and is often used to insult the intended recipients, leading to a rallying effect.
Black propaganda in World War II
, the Political Warfare Executive
operated a number of black propaganda radio stations. Gustav Siegfried Eins
(GS1) was one of the first such stations — purporting to be a clandestine German station. The speaker, 'Der Chef' purported to be a Nazi extremist, accusing Hitler and his henchmen of going soft. The station focused on alleged corruption and sexual improprieties of Nazi Party members.
Another example was the British radio station Soldatensender Calais, which purported to be a radio station for the German military. Under the direction of Sefton Delmer, a British journalist who spoke perfect Berliner German, Soldatensender Calais and its associated shortwave station, Kurzwellesender Atlantik, broadcast music, up-to-date sports scores, speeches of Adolf Hitler for "cover", and subtle propaganda.
There were British black propaganda radio stations in most of the languages of occupied Europe as well as German and Italian.. Most of these were based in the area around Woburn Abbey.
David Hare's play Licking Hitler provides a fictionalised account based on the British black propaganda efforts in World War II.
German black propaganda usually took advantage of European racism
. For example, on the night of April 27
German aircraft under cover of darkness (and possibly carrying fake Royal Air Force
markings) dropped propaganda leaflets on occupied Denmark
. These leaflets used the title of Frihedsposten
, a genuine Danish underground newspaper, and claimed that the "hour of liberation" was approaching. They instructed Danes to accept "occupation by Russian or specially trained American Negro soldiers" until the first disorders resulting from military operations is over.
The German Büro Concordia organisation operated several black propaganda radio stations (many of which pretended to broadcast illegally from within the countries they targeted).
The Tanaka Memorial
, a document describing a Japanese plan for world conquest
, beginning with the conquest of China, is now believed by most historians to be a forgery.
The following message was distributed in black propaganda leaflets dropped by the Japanese over the Philippines in World War II. It was designed to turn Filipinos against the United States:
- Guard Against Venereal Diseases
- Lately there has been a great increase in the number of venereal diseases among our officers and men owing to prolific contacts with Filipino women of dubious character.
- Due to hard times and stricken conditions brought about by the Japanese occupation of the islands, Filipino women were willing to offer themselves for a small amount of foodstuffs. It is advisable in such cases to take full protective measures by use of condoms, protective medicines, etc.; better still to hold intercourse only with wives, virgins, or women of respective character.
- Furthermore, in view of the increase in pro-American leanings, many Filipino women are more than willing to offer themselves to American soldiers, and because Filipinos have no knowledge of hygiene, disease carriers are rampant and due care must be taken.
- US Army
Black propaganda in domestic politics
Racist black propaganda
- The Protocols of the Elders of Zion claimed to be the secret protocols of a vast Jewish conspiracy, and was often used as "evidence" by conspiracy theorists and anti-Semitic groups. It is now proven to be a forgery produced by the Okhrana, the Tsarist Russian secret police.
- Another example of anti-Semitic black propaganda was Eustace Mullins's book A Racial Program for the Twentieth Century, which purported to be proof of a Jewish/Communist plot against White Americans.
- The Black Panther Coloring Book was distributed in the United States in the late 1960's in an attempt to discredit the Black Panther Party, and the civil rights movement in general.
- In Dreux, France in 1982 the National Front distributed anonymous fake letters, supposedly from an Algerian living in France to a brother living in Algeria. These fake letters, which described immigration as a method of conquering France without war, were instrumental in the National Front victory in the 1983 local council elections in Dreux.
- In the run-up to the 2007 federal election in Australia, flyers were circulated around Sydney under the name of a fake organisation called the Islamic Australia Federation. The flyers thanked the Australian Labor Party for supporting terrorism, Islamic fundamentalists, and the Bali bombing suspects. A group of Sydney-based Liberal Party members were implicated in the incident.
United States media
- During the 1972 U.S. presidential election, Donald H. Segretti, a political operative for President Richard Nixon's reelection campaign, released a faked letter, on Senator Edmund Muskie's letterhead, falsely alleging that Senator Henry "Scoop" Jackson, against whom Muskie was running for the Democratic Party's nomination, had had an illegitimate child with a seventeen-year-old. Muskie, who had been considered the frontrunner, lost the nomination to George McGovern, and Nixon was reelected. The letter was part of a campaign of so-called "dirty tricks", directed by Segretti, and uncovered as part of the Watergate Scandal. Segretti went to prison in 1974 after pleading guilty to three misdemeanor counts of distributing illegal campaign literature.
Other black propaganda examples