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Application of Master Symbols in Posters: Reflection on the Effect of American Flag

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Application #1 – Master Symbols

Part 1: Analyzing Three Posters

Poster #1:

  • Q: What are the names of the posters that you selected? (Copy and paste the links to the posters in your submission)
  • A: When You Ride Alone, You Ride With Hitler! https://www.archives.gov/exhibits/powers_of_persuasion/use_it_up/images_html/ride_with_hitler.html
  • Q: Describe the imagery used in each poster. What text is included in the poster? What figures appear and what are they doing? What colors are used?
  • A: In this poster, a man is depicted driving his car with a white outline of Adolf Hitler sitting next to him. The poster reads, “When you ride ALONE you ride with Hitler!” and “Join a Car-Sharing Club TODAY!” I would attribute this propaganda poster to the gasoline regulations during World War II, encouraging (and almost demanding) that citizens should join a car-sharing club to save more gasoline than necessary. If citizens aren’t willing to do this, then this poster essentially paints them as Nazi sympathizers and traitors. The colors in this poster don’t reveal much imagery; however, the white outline of Hitler sitting next to the man illustrates that those who don’t join a car-sharing club support him and the Nazi cause.
  • Q: What specific symbols used in each poster would you consider to be master symbols? What emotions might these symbols evoke from audiences?
  • A: In terms of images that I’d consider to be “master symbols,” I’d mainly choose Adolf Hitler’s uniform and the Iron Cross medal. As a medal commonly warn by German soldiers during World War II (in addition to the Swastika, although it’s not depicted in this image), I would assume this symbol would most likely evoke fear and emotional unrest from audiences, particularly Americans who resisted fascism.
  • Q: How do these symbols promote pro-democratic (white) propaganda?
  • A: Since so many Americans would’ve associated the Iron Cross with Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany, it would most likely persuade Americans to join a car-sharing club, if they haven’t already. And because the U.S. was trying to resist Nazism and fascism, this poster would define a democratic citizen as one who carpools with others to save gasoline and promote pro-American values.

Poster #2:

  • Q: What are the names of the posters that you selected? (Copy and paste the links to the posters in your submission)
  • A: Keep These Hands Off! https://www.archives.gov/exhibits/powers_of_persuasion/warning/images_html/keep_these_hands_off.html
  • Q: Describe the imagery used in each poster. What text is included in the poster? What figures appear and what are they doing? What colors are used?
  • A: In this poster, a woman and her perceived child are being reached for by two monstrous hands, one depicting a Nazi-Germany Swastika and another a Japanese Rising Sun. The poster reads, “Keep these hands off!” and “Buy the new victory bonds.” The colors used in this poster are blue, black, white, and red. While there are very few colors, their purpose is to evoke an emotional response from viewers, which is why blue (which could possibly illustrate sadness) would be used.
  • Q: What specific symbols used in each poster would you consider to be master symbols? What emotions might these symbols evoke from audiences?
  • A: Every image in this poster would want to evoke fear from an audience, but the Nazi-Germany Swastika and the Japanese Rising Sun would be considered master symbols. They would most likely provoke fear and hatred, considering those are the primary images associated with enemy nations during World War II. The image of the woman protecting her child could also be used to invoke fear, prompting viewers to fear for the safety of their wives and children from Germany and Japan.
  • Q: How do these symbols promote pro-democratic (white) propaganda?
  • A: Since so many people feared a German or Japanese global takeover, this piece of propaganda wanted to evoke an emotional/patriotic response from men that have wives and children. The whole notion that “these nations are coming for your wives and children” was a surefire way to persuade patriotic young men to join the armed forces and take the fight to both Germany and Japan.

Poster #3:

  • Q: What are the names of the posters that you selected? (Copy and paste the links to the posters in your submission)
  • A: He’s Watching You https://www.archives.gov/exhibits/powers_of_persuasion/hes_watching_you/images_html/hes_watching_you.html
  • Q: Describe the imagery used in each poster. What text is included in the poster? What figures appear and what are they doing? What colors are used?
  • A: In this poster, a dark and eerie figure is shown, glancing over an obstacle. There are lots of dark colors, such as black, gray, and dark blue to symbolize the importance of secrecy and carefulness. The poster reads, “He’s watching you,” illustrating the importance of national security during World War II and emphasizing the importance of awareness.
  • Q: What specific symbols used in each poster would you consider to be master symbols? What emotions might these symbols evoke from audiences?
  • A: While there aren’t any specific hostile images associated with this poster, the image of a spy would be perceived as a master symbol because it would cause citizens to be more hesitant to share information that could compromise national security. Throughout these propaganda posters, all of them seem to be designed to invoke fear from their targeted audience, which would be normal, everyday, law-abiding American citizens.
  • Q: How do these symbols promote pro-democratic (white) propaganda?
  • A: The idea of foreign spies infiltrating the United States would probably be terrifying enough to most people; however, the scenario in which a spy was listening to your conversations, waiting to hear compromising information would be enough to scare citizens into staying silent. While this image seems simple and somewhat factual, this piece of propaganda would promote pro-democratic ideas of loyalty by effectively scaring citizens into submission.

Part 2: How Master Symbols Have Affected Me

Out of all the master symbols, I can think of, I’d choose the American flag, a bald eagle, and the Statue of Liberty. From a young age, I was taught through school and by family that these are the most iconic American symbols. It became more evident when I began to see people hanging American flags outside their homes, having bald eagle statues in their front yards or paintings in their homes, or how the Statue of Liberty is almost always included in American-themed artwork and clothing. Furthermore, it’s also common to see two or all three of these master symbols together, whether that be on a t-shirt or artwork.

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When I became older, these symbols became more frequently used, especially on Patriot Day, or what others refer to as September 11 Remembrance Day. During middle school, we’d often watch tribute videos of the former World Trade Center and those who perished that tragic day. While watching these tributes, a depiction of the American flag blowing in the wind seemed to be a common reoccurrence. At the time, I never thought much of it. But as a high school and college student, I often saw these videos as a form of white propaganda. These images were specifically designed to continuously and repeatedly invoke feelings of fear, patriotism, and American superiority. In fact, many of today’s xenophobic predispositions of Middle Eastern immigrants were a direct bi-product of videos that included these master symbols, even though the Statue of Liberty represents diversity and the supposed “welcoming” nature of the United States.

Because I consider these 9/11 remembrance videos as a form of white propaganda, these master symbols, to me, have already been used in previous propaganda campaigns. Although I don’t find myself feeling patriotic or superior when watching these videos, I once did as a middle school student. For a modern-day propaganda campaign to be successful, the creators should incorporate the American flag, a bald eagle, the Statue of Liberty, or a combination of all three, while also appealing to the viewers’ emotions. Propaganda campaigns are often most successful when they stimulate emotional discomfort, and they come off as pro-democratic (white propaganda) as opposed to gray or black.

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Application of Master Symbols in Posters: Reflection on the Effect of American Flag. (2022, September 27). Edubirdie. Retrieved February 8, 2023, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/application-of-master-symbols-in-posters-reflection-on-the-effect-of-american-flag/
“Application of Master Symbols in Posters: Reflection on the Effect of American Flag.” Edubirdie, 27 Sept. 2022, edubirdie.com/examples/application-of-master-symbols-in-posters-reflection-on-the-effect-of-american-flag/
Application of Master Symbols in Posters: Reflection on the Effect of American Flag. [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/application-of-master-symbols-in-posters-reflection-on-the-effect-of-american-flag/> [Accessed 8 Feb. 2023].
Application of Master Symbols in Posters: Reflection on the Effect of American Flag [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Sept 27 [cited 2023 Feb 8]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/application-of-master-symbols-in-posters-reflection-on-the-effect-of-american-flag/
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