Friday, May 17, 2013

Potato Pete

Potato Pete 

Norman Rockwell
Rosie the Riveter
Oil on canvas
52 x 40 in. (132.1 x 101.6 cm)
Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, Arizona
Image courtesy of The Saturday Evening Post: May 29, 1943 (cover)

During the Second World, America had as one of its popular icons Rosie the Riveter a fascinating work by the brilliant artist Norman Rockwell  (Sadly not as venerated or known in Europe as in the USA) The pose is based on the Sistine Chapel ceiling image of the prophet Isaiah (Do check out The Norman Rockwell Museum website for more about this great artist)

In Britain during the War, we had Potato Pete

The two contrasting images in some ways illustrate the differences between the United States and the United Kingdom

These are only two of the images in the new exhibition in The British Library in London entitled Propaganda: Power and Persuasion

The exhibition  explores  international state propaganda from the 20th and 21st centuries.

The curator sums up the exhibition this way:
"Propaganda is all around us. It is used to fight wars and fight disease, build unity and create division. Whether monumental or commonplace, sincere or insidious, propaganda is often surprising, sometimes horrific and occasionally humorous. While it’s never neutral, it can be difficult to define and identify"
"[W]e decided to focus on state use of propaganda over the past 100 years. State use because most discussions of propaganda identified states as the most significant users; and past 100 years as the 20th and 21st centuries have experienced a huge increase in the volume, variety and tactics in propaganda. ... 
All of our lives are affected by propaganda on a scale that would have been unknown 100 years ago, and we all react to that propaganda in different ways, including in how we define and recognise propaganda in the world around us."

Things have moved far beyond Potato Pete. Propaganda by the State and vested interests is big business. And all pervasive

Propaganda can be good or it can be bad. It all depends on the purpose and the content. Few doubt Rockwell`s bona fides as a propagandist. The country was at war, a war of self defence. The message is positive and optimistic. It does not malign or subvert. On closer examination what seems lie a very simple image is a complex and profound study.  It has lasted. It has not faded as time progresses. And that is the test of the good over the bad.

In a recent speech to diplomats at the Vatican Pope Francis seemed to recognise the scale of the difficulty which faces him in trying to preach a message which is inherently counter cultural in the climate of today

He talked of the present economic and financial crisis. 
He said the financial crisis "makes us forget that its ultimate origin is to be found in a profound human crisis. In the denial of the primacy of human beings! We have created new idols. The worship of the golden calf of old has found a new and heartless image in the cult of money and the dictatorship of an economy which is faceless and lacking any truly humane goal.”
“The worldwide financial and economic crisis,” the Pontiff observed, “seems to highlight their distortions and above all the gravely deficient human perspective, which reduces men and women to just one of their needs alone, namely, consumption. Worse yet, human beings themselves are nowadays considered as consumer goods which can be used and thrown away. We have started down the path of a disposable culture."
But two points stand out in the Zenit report of his speech:
"The Bishop of Rome said this tendency is at the individual and societal level, and "it is being promoted!""
"“Concealed behind this attitude,” Francis warned, “is a rejection of ethics, a rejection of God. Ethics, like solidarity, is a nuisance! It is regarded as counterproductive: as something too human, because it relativizes money and power; as a threat, because it rejects manipulation and subjection of people: because ethics leads to God, who is situated outside the categories of the market." 
The Pope said these economists and politicians consider God as dangerous because he is "unmanageable" and he "calls man to his full realization and to independence from any kind of slavery.""

1 comment:

  1. A very good post. Particularly over the past few
    months I find myself weighed down by propaganda.
    That is the outright lies being told and repeatedly told by promoters of the war on terrorism. It makes me truly unhappy that far
    too many people believe all these lies. I am not
    calling the latter all intellectually or morally deficient. The methods of spreading
    propaganda are sophisticated and efficient. It
    has and does cause much pain and ruin.
    Thank you for another interesting post.