In Times Past: Fake(?) News

Caption Writer

Primary Record comes from House of the Senate


Caption Writer: Analyze the image. Does it contain a caption? Does the caption help understand the image? Create a new caption for the image.

Important context: This cartoon was published in 1939, a day after German troops were deployed to invade Slovakia. Because German aggression was still fresh on the minds of the French, British, and Americans, (the three parties represented in the photo) the comic portrays the nations as unsettled and worrisome of the future of Hitler’s actions.

Icebreaker Response: This image is an American comic meant to depict the foreign fear and agitation of onlooking nations as Hitler began to deconstruct modern Europe. New caption: ” Oh oh.. do you think it’s loaded?”


This primary source comes from the Records of the U.S. Information Agency.


Bias: Analyze the image. What Bias is present? Is the image arranged to create bias? Is there unintentional bias? Is there something in this image that is controversial today, but not at the time it was created?

Important context: The caption of the image read, “Anywhere there is Communism, there is terrorism and assassination.” This image is created by the United States Information Agency in 1954, in. order to spread the fear of communism into newly divided Vietnam. This strategy is much like the “Red Scare” strategy employed on American citizens.

Icebreaker Response: The bias in this image is anti-communism. Obviously, this anti-red campaign poster was created by Americans in order to slow the rise of communism in Vietnam, in order to prevent the spread of Soviet influence in critically important countries. Obviously, modern day political campaigns do feature slander against their opposing parties, but maybe not to the extent of using words like “terrorism and assassination.”


This primary source comes from the Records of the Office of War Information.


Anomalies: Analyze the image. Write down the things that surprise you about the image. Discuss the questions with a partner and generate new anomalies.

Important Context: This poster was used by the US Department of Agriculture Forest Services. Believe it or not, is was spread in order to prevent forest fires, by creating the perception that American enemies gain advantages from our “carelessness.” I guess they needed someone more intense than Smokey the Bear.

Icebreaker Response: Honestly, I am both shocked at the discovery of this image and amused by its creativity. Obviously the anomaly here is that the US State Forest Service would consider using the perverted faces of Hitler and a Japanese soldier in order to encourage American forest goers to be careful about creating forest fires. From an era of propaganda campaigns and satire posters, I would expect nothing less.

4 Replies to “In Times Past: Fake(?) News”

  1. A great collection of propaganda posters – two I had never seen. I especially like the Hitler image. Very powerful and funny at the same time. I agree with you the forest fire one seems a stretch. Until you here the rumors bouncing around that antifa is starting the fires in Oregon.

    You might like one of my free multi-touch iBooks. “Why We Fight: WWII and the Art of Public Persuasion” it looks at Americans responding to the Pearl Harbor attack and WWII. Americans were hungry for information, and Washington responded with a PR blitz to sell the war to the American public. Was it public persuasion or propaganda? Did it inform the public or manipulate them? Did it appeal to reason or emotions? Did it rely on facts or stereotypes?

    PS. You need to check out your source URLs. The text description of the posters are part of the link. And thus the links don’t work. I you go back into your post you can highlight the description and “break” the link to that text. They will turn back into text and leave just the functioning part of the hyperlink.

  2. Hi, Alex! Great job applying these icebreakers to political posters. I think analyzing these posters or similar ones would be really engaging for students. I was also really surprised by the last poster as well. I think it’s especially relevant given the current Oregon forest fires and the several “fake news” conspiracies circulating about the cause of the fires. It seems maybe not a whole lot has changed! Overall, great job.

  3. Other Alex! Your use of the forest service poster is very timely. And really interesting how far propaganda was taken in the US at that time. Makes me wonder if parents used similar tactics to get their kids to clean there rooms, etc. Unlimited potential for a disturbing type of propaganda. This also makes me want to take a deeper look at propaganda in current day and see what similarities we find.

  4. I really liked the posters you chose. I find it super interesting that event the forestry department was getting on board with the WW2 hype and using that to their advantage to convince people to be safe with their fires. I feel like its a little dramatic, but also super applicable to today and the fires going on now.

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