How Was Propaganda Used in World War I?

In World War I, propaganda was used to evoke particular emotions in its audiences, from compassion and national pride to fear and terror. Countries launched large-scale propaganda campaigns with dedicated departments to promote the war effort through enlistment and finance.

The first task for the propaganda machines of World War I was to gain control of all media outlets. This action not only shaped the way the war was seen by the citizen populations but also by the international community. This might convince young men to take up arms in defense of an immaterial ideal or sway neutral nations to stop supporting an enemy and provide aid to only one side.

The propaganda came in many forms, from newspapers to posters and speeches. Newspaper administrations were happy to feed off the propaganda machines, printing their sensational headlines. The role of newspapers was particularly apparent in the United States, where in 1914 they emphasized isolationism. By 1916, the headlines reported on both sides with neutrality, and, as 1918 neared, they moved to a position of necessary action. Posters and drawings often relied on symbolism to stir the emotions of the countries' citizens. The posters and propaganda of the Allies were more subtle than those of the Germans and, post-war, were considered superior and a large factor in the Allies' victory.