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Democrat May-June 2013 (Number 135)

British Library Exhibition - brief review

Propaganda, Persuasion and Power

This evocative exhibition breaks down the various forms of propaganda which are many. As well as being used to fight wars or a disease, readers know full well it is so easily used to create division or the far more difficult task of building unity. We could do with a good dose of the latter right now!

On display are video clips, stamps, posters, leaflets, newspapers, radio, TV and other media. These are arranged in various themes to indicate how governments and national institutions are the most prolific and by far the best expert users of propaganda. The power wielded is dramatically illustrated. The aim is to justify and validate their actions to influence the behaviour of populations and hide the truth.

The period covered is from the early 20th century to very recent times. Included are WW1, WW11 and peace posters as well as the infamous rhetoric by George W Bush over the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and that of spin master Alastair Campbell v John Pilger. An expert on language and analysis of persuasive and misuse of words is Noam Chomsky who puts a point or two in videos.

The exhibition layout includes the origins of propaganda and use by nation-states, how the "enemy" is worked up into justification for war - as it is currently being carried out over Syria but not shown.

Positive use of health campaigns and today's forms of propaganda are aired including the use of 'twitter' and 'facebook'. These with websites has helped open up social media for everybody to use to counter the avalanches of mis-information.

In the limited space not everything is covered. For instance the propaganda used to create the 'vision' and support for 'Europe' and austerity policies is missing.

The exhibition at the British Library in Euson Road London near Kings Cross and Euston stations is well worth a visit to learn how we are all subject to being subtly manipulated and is on show for your interest and analysis until 17 September. Timed tickets are available on line.

There is also a catalouge of the exhibition - David Welch: Propaganda, Power and Persuasion: British Library; large book size; 210 pp; illus, indx; pbk £19.99; ISBN978-0-7123-5700-5d