Propaganda: Power and Persuasion Exhibition @ The British Library

Whilst in central London on Tuesday, my fellow English Literature friend from uni and I decided to fit in an exhibition before Margaret Atwood’s talk at the Southbank Centre. After going to the British Library’s Writing Britain: Wastelands to Wonderlands around the same time last year, I thought it would be interesting to go and visit their newest exhibition, Propaganda: Power and Persuasion. I also thought it would link in quite nicely to the MaddAddam trilogy as the art of persuasion and propaganda is employed to ‘successful’ lengths (if you can call it that) with the BlyssPluss product, which wipes out all of humankind.

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I found the exhibition extremely haunting and effective in reminding us that propaganda pervades every area of society – it is in our news, our government campaigns, in literature and in art. It can come in a variety of different guises, many of which difficult to identify or define. For example, ads and campaigns used to combat health issues may also have underlying motivations, the main one being the drain on public finances (particularly in a society that offers free healthcare on the NHS). It was also interesting to see the progression of more advanced forms of propaganda within the twentieth century. In no other time period has propaganda been used so excessively and exhaustively as it has during a century of two world-wars, one ideological war and many major conflicts around the world.

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My postcard picture of ‘Freedom American-Style’ by B. Prorokov

However, it is now, more than ever, so much easier to disseminate ideological ideas and notions. Instead of dropping pamphlets over countries (as they did during the world wars), the internet and social media sites, such as Twitter, have provided people with new and easier ways of challenging and criticising those with power. The exhibition ends with a projection of Twitter comments on the wall near the exit with comments on the London Olympic Opening Ceremony last year, Obama’s re-election and the Sandy Hook massacre. It is interesting to see how anyone can now comment on world events on a global scale and how we can become the ‘authors of our own propaganda’, as Anoosh Chakelian believes in his review on total politics.com.

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My postcard of the British Library’s own piece of propaganda – adapted image from a British Army recruitment poster for World War 1, featuring Lord Kitchener

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