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Public Domain Political Cartoons

Mission Statement


Key principles of propaganda

Propaganda started the Spanish- American War

Propaganda gulled the U.S. into the First World War

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The Stentorian
For the Preservation of Liberty and Individual Freedom

Mission Statement: what this domain is about.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. ...That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men. (United States Declaration of Independence)

In an ideal world, political success and control would go to the parties that show themselves the most fit (by virtue of character, integrity, and competence) to uphold and advance the natural rights of all human beings. In the real world, however, political control often goes to the parties that are best at demagoguery and public relations (propaganda).

2016: Hillary Clinton for President!

Hillary for President

"All propaganda has to be popular and has to adapt its spiritual level to the perception of the least intelligent of those towards whom it intends to direct itself" (Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf, Vol. I). Hitler proved himself right by gaining control of an entire country and then leading it to total ruin. The lesson is not that Hitler is a desirable role model but rather that his methods worked. If effective propaganda can get the people to believe the biggest whopper you can tell, the corrollary is that, if you are going to tell the truth, you had better use equally effective methods. This is the mission of
"Stentorian" comes from Stentor, a loud-voiced herald in Homer's Iliad. I adopted this name for the site because of an age-old lesson: to be effective, ideas must be communicated loudly or, more precisely, clearly and effectively.

Ancient trumpeter with a salpinx. The Roman version of the salpinx was the tuba. IMSI Master Clips, Dover Images. See also Warry, John, 1991. Alexander, 334-323 BC. Osprey Books, p. 21
An Introduction to Propaganda

Premise: Like war, politics is a form of organizational competition, and many of the principles of psychological warfare are applicable to politics.

"Propaganda consists of the planned use of any form of public or mass-produced communication designed to affect the minds and emotions of a given group for a specific purpose, whether military, economic, or political" ( Linebarger, Paul Myron Anthony. 1954. Psychological Warfare, 1954, Combat Forces Press, Washington, p. 39. Linebarger is better known as the science fiction author Cordwainer Smith. He was an eminent Sinologist, and was the godson of Sun Yat Sen.)

"...there was no point in seeking to convert the intellectuals. For intellectuals would never be converted and would anyway always yield to the stronger, 'and this will always be the man in the street.' Arguments must therefore be crude, clear and forcible, and appeal to emotions and instincts, not the intellect. Truth was unimportant and entirely subordinate to tactics and psychology... Hatred and contempt must be directed at particular individuals" (-H. Trevor-Roper (ed), The Goebbels Diaries, p. XX, cited in Regan, Geoffrey. 1987. Great Military Disasters. New York: M. Evans and Company.)

Again, Joseph Goebbels is far from a desirable role model but we had better learn from his success because the demagogues are using his methods today. Here are just a few examples:
  • "Handguns kill 12 children every day." (That depends on how you define "children.")
  • "The United States must shut down its economy to prevent global warming."
  • "George Bush stole the 2000 election."
  • "African-Americans are entitled to reparations for slavery."
  • "Israel is an expansionist country that is persecuting the Palestinians."
  • "The United States is an imperialist aggressor that attacked the harmless nation of Iraq."
As with Hitler's successes, ongoing repetition has millions of people believing the above big lies as well.

"This is my war. I bought and paid for it and if you don't stop bothering me about it I'll have you put off the earth- see!" (William Randolph Hearst to Joseph Pulitzer in "The Big Type War of the Yellow Kids," a political cartoon from the Spanish-American War.)

 There is little doubt that the "Yellow Press" played a major role in starting the Spanish-American War. The American press (and its counterparts in England) played a major role in getting the United States into the First World War.

Roman Aquilafer (eagle bearer)Roman aquilafer, or "eagle-bearer." The aquilafer was the most important standard bearer (signifer) in a Roman Legion. A legion's eagle standard was its identity and its loss was a mortal disgrace.


There is a story that an aquilafer threw his legion's standard into the enemy ranks (to incite his comrades). Had the enemy been smart, they'd have thrown it back at once! it was, the legionaries mowed them down to retrieve the standard.

There is also a story about an eagle standard's loss in Germany (Teutobergen Forest, by Quintilius Varus?- the disaster that prompted Caesar Augustus' lament, "Quintilius Varus, give back my legions!") Anyway, the Romans fought for several years until they got it back.
Key Principles
  1. The human brain is designed to process images, not words
    • "A picture is worth a thousand words" sounds trite, but it is accurate. Words are an artificial communication medium: symbols with meanings attached to them. The brain must decipher the words of an editorial or a speech, and convert them into images. Shakespeare had a lasting influence on the English language because of his talent for painting a picture with words.
    • Application to antismoking campaigns: Compare the statement, "Cigarette smoke contains carbon monoxide and, if you are a pregnant woman, gets into your baby's bloodstream," and a picture of a baby smoking a cigarette.
  2. Political cartoons are among the most effective means of communication.
    • The Yellow Press (Hearst and Pulitzer) used them to start the Spanish-American War (1898). No one ever proved that Spain blew up the battleship Maine, but the press published a cartoon of a semihuman ape wearing a Spanish uniform and holding a bloody knife.
    • Pro-English cartoonists used political cartoons to promote hatred of Germany, and to get the United States into the First World War. Germany failed to use similar methods to counteract this propaganda, which played a major role in losing the war. Hitler and Goebbels were, unfortunately, two Germans who took this lesson to heart.
    • In summary, effective cartoons (they sound so innocent, don't they?) have started wars, killed people, and changed history.
  3. Goebbels was, unfortunately, right. Arguments that will not persuade (and may even alienate) an educated person are often effective in persuading the masses.
    • Pro-gun control cartoons often feature a stereotyped, beer-swilling, pickup truck-driving, grossly overweight, and uneducated "NRA Member" as a symbol of gun rights advocates. Go back forty years and replace him with a Negro with exaggerated lips and bestial features- or sixty years, and replace him with a Jew with an exaggerated nose and other Semitic features. The principle is the same, and the NRA's failure to use the same methods against its detractors is a serious omission.
    •  If you tell a lie long enough and effectively enough, you can get the masses to believe it. For example, the Virginia Slims Tennis Tournament suggests to impressionable children and teenagers that tennis players actually smoke. Athletes have known for decades that "smoking cuts your wind." The tobacco propaganda machine is like the Ministry of Truth in George Orwell's 1984. If you work at it, you can convince the proles (proletariat) that war is peace, slavery is freedom, black is white, and two and two make five. Therefore, if you are going to tell the truth (and I do not advocate doing otherwise), you had better use the same methods or the Goebbels and Hitlers of the world will swamp you.

How the Yellow Press started the Spanish-American War
The Spanish Brute by Grant Hamilton
Hamilton, Grant. "The Spanish Brute," lithograph, Judge, 7/9/1898 

Caption: "The Spanish Brute: Adds Mutilation to Murder." 

Tombstone: "Maine Sailors Murdered by Spain" 

Bodies in background: "Mutilated U.S. Soldier" 

Source: Hess, Stephen and Kaplan, Milton. 1968. The Ungentlemanly Art: A History of American Political Cartoons. New York: Macmillan Company. 

Note: The cartoon is believed to be in the public domain, since it is more than 75 years old (World War I or earlier).

Now is it any surprise that the American public was eager to remember the Maine, fire when ready, charge up San Juan Hill, and realize the nation's Manifest Destiny? (An internal explosion from deteriorating ammunition probably destroyed the ship. Several battleships, from several countries, were blown up by their own ammunition during the First World War- in friendly harbors, without assistance from their enemies.) Spain made the error of countering with provocative anti-American cartoons (the Yankee Pig cartoon, for example, simply inflamed the Jingos*) instead of attacking the Yellow Press.  

* "We don't want to fight, but by Jingo if we do, we've got the men, we've got the ships, we've got the money, too." Originally from England, during an Anglo-Russian confrontation.

How Anglo-French propaganda drew the United States into the First World War
He Had Expected to Find the President AloneRogers, William A. "He Had Expected to Find the President Alone," New York Herald, 6/3/1915. Meeting of the German ambassador with President Woodrow Wilson. The banner in the background says, "Little Lost Children of the Lusitania."

Source: Hess, Stephen and Kaplan, Milton. 1968. The Ungentlemanly Art: A History of American Political Cartoons. New York: Macmillan Company.

Note: All cartoons are believed to be in the public domain, since they are more than 75 years old (World War I or earlier).

Another Case of Wiping Hands on the American FlagRogers, William A. "Another Case of Wiping Hands on the American Flag," New York Herald, 2/21/1917. The Kaiser, standing over the slain O'Donnell children, is wiping his bloody hands on the American flag while Uncle Sam and (possibly) Woodrow Wilson look on. 

Source: Hess, Stephen and Kaplan, Milton. 1968. The Ungentlemanly Art: A History of American Political Cartoons. New York: Macmillan Company. 

What We're Going to do to those Neutrals Will Break Our Tender HeartsRogers, William A. "What We're Going to do to those Neutrals Will Break Our Tender Hearts," New York Herald, 1/17/1917. The Kaiser (R) and von Tirpitz (L) are the "pirates." The spiked helmet on the Jolly Roger says, "Gott Mit Uns" ("God with us"), and the crossbones say, "Campaign of 1917" and "Frightfulness." Von Tirpitz was in charge of the High Seas Fleet, so the cartoon probably refers to unrestricted submarine warfare. 

Source: Hess, Stephen and Kaplan, Milton. 1968. The Ungentlemanly Art: A History of American Political Cartoons. New York: Macmillan Company.

Kultur has passed hereExcerpt from Raemaekers, Louis. "Kultur has passed here," from Raemakers' Cartoons (1917, Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday and Page). Picture of dead woman and baby. "Kultur" is German for "culture."

Source: Hess, Stephen and Kaplan, Milton. 1968. The Ungentlemanly Art: A History of American Political Cartoons. New York: Macmillan Company.

Note that this propaganda was sufficiently effective to get more than 100,000 Americans killed in someone else's war. Germany's failure to counteract it with similar propaganda cost that nation the war and the humiliation of the Versailles Treaty.


"Destroy this Mad Brute." First World War propagandaRecruiting poster, World War I. Fanged gorilla in a Prussian spiked helmet carrying off a woman. The club is labeled "Kultur" (Culture), and the gorilla is invading America. (Source: IMSI Master Clips 500,000)

"German Atrocities" propaganda from World War One. One picture shows a German soldier with a baby on his bayonet.

The English also violated the laws of war; for example, Q ships were warships that were disguised as merchant ships. When the war began, German submariners surfaced to allow merchant crews to abandon their ships before the subs sank them. The English took advantage of this chivalrous conduct to shoot at the U-boats with masked guns. The submariners, of course, decided to torpedo first and ask questions later. The English cartoonists showed German subs blowing up and drowning civilian sailors, women, and children. Germany could have counteracted this by showing Royal Navy gunners firing from behind women and children, or disguising themselves as women. The Lusitania, incidentally, probably carried munitions and this made her a legitimate target. If so, the British had no business carrying noncombatants on her. Hitler and Goebbels were, unfortunately, two Germans who learned from Germany's failure to use propaganda effectively.

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An Introduction to Propaganda
White, grey, and black propaganda. How they are used.
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Kyoto Global Warming Treaty
Don't let this big lie destroy the American economy.
To Build A Fire, Part 2. A mixture of exceprts from Al Gore's midwinter speech and Jack London's 1908 classic, with a happy ending.
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The Civil War was not about slavery and the Confederate Flag is no more a hate symbol than the Christian Cross (which is also misused by white supremacists).
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Don't let Islamofascist propagandists turn the truth on its head by confusing the good guys with the bad guys.
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A Response to Russia's Rehabilitation of Joseph Stalin
Why the Left hates Lord of the Rings
Tolkien's trilogy is a far better investment than Michael Manure's Farenheit 911 or Bowling for Columbine...
Methods to defeat Chinese censorware
Some simple methods to prevent Chinese censorship software from detecting words like "liberty," "democracy," "Taiwan," and "Tiananman Square"
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