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Armed Conflict, Propaganda, Politics, and the Public: Definitions

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US Navy recruitment poster
He's Watching You poster
This is Der Tag - Versaille Peace Treaty Signed poster
For the Conquered Steel Not Bread - Nazi bayonet through hand
Christ figure on cross being straffed by Nazi fighter plane as ghoulish Axis figures looking on
Poster in French
Chines war poster from 1940s showing large Chinese soldier overlooking caricatured Japanse soldier fleeing destruction

Armed Conflict

International Committee of the Red Cross: How is the term "Armed Conflict" defined in international humanitarian law?

International humanitarian law distinguishes two types of armed conflicts, namely:
  • international armed conflicts, opposing two or more States, and
  • non-international armed conflicts, between governmental forces and non-governmental armed groups, or between such groups only. IHL treaty law also establishes a distinction between non-international armed conflicts in the meaning of common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and non-international armed conflicts falling within the definition provided in Art. 1 of Additional Protocol II.
Legally speaking, no other type of armed conflict exists. It is nevertheless important to underline that a situation can evolve from one type of armed conflict to another, depending on the facts prevailing at a certain moment.

Uppsala University - Department of Peace and Conflict Research: Uppsala Conflict Data Program (UCDP)

A state-based armed conflict is a contested incompatibility that concerns government and/or territory where the use of armed force between two parties, of which at least one is the government of a state, results in at least 25 battle-related deaths in one calendar year.
“Armed conflict” is also referred to as “state-based conflict”, as opposed to “non-state conflict”, in which none of the warring parties is a government.

What is Propaganda?

Britannica Academic (Login required off-campus):

"Propaganda is the more or less systematic effort to manipulate other people’s beliefs, attitudes, or actions by means of symbols (words, gestures, banners, monuments, music, clothing, insignia, hairstyles, designs on coins and postage stamps, and so forth). Deliberateness and a relatively heavy emphasis on manipulation distinguish propaganda from casual conversation or the free and easy exchange of ideas. Propagandists have a specified goal or set of goals. To achieve these, they deliberately select facts, arguments, and displays of symbols and present them in ways they think will have the most effect. To maximize effect, they may omit or distort pertinent facts or simply lie, and they may try to divert the attention of the reactors (the people they are trying to sway) from everything but their own propaganda...
"Contemporary propagandists with money and imagination can use a very wide range of signs, symbols, and media to convey their messages. Signs are simply stimuli—“information bits” capable of stimulating, in some way, the human organism."

Defining Propaganda I: American Historical Association (AHA):

"Propaganda isn’t an easy thing to define, but most students agree that it has to do with any ideas or beliefs that are intentionally propagated. It uses words and word substitutes in trying to reach a goal—pictures, drawings, graphs, exhibits, parades, songs, and other devices.Of course propaganda is used in controversial matters, but it is also used to promote things that are generally acceptable and noncontroversial.So there are different kinds of propaganda. They run all the way from selfish, deceitful, and subversive effort to honest and aboveboard promotion of things that are good. Propaganda can be concealed or open, emotional or containing appeals to reason, or a combination of emotional and logical appeals."

Defining Propaganda II: American Historical Association (AHA):

"While most persons who give the matter a thought make distinctions between an objectively written news report and propaganda, they encounter difficulty when they try to define propaganda. It is one of the most troublesome words in the English language. To define it clearly and precisely, so that whenever it is used it will mean the same thing to everybody, is like trying to get your hands on an eel. You think you’ve got it-then it slips away."

What is Propaganda?: - University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign:

Haifeng Huang. “The Pathology of Hard Propaganda.” Journal of Politics, vol. 80, no. 3, July 2018, pp. 1034–38. Academic Search Complete, (Login required off-campus):

...hard propaganda can deter dissent and help maintain regime stability in the short term, but it can also decrease regime legitimacy and aggravate the government’s long-term prospects, especially when its power and control capacity do not keep up with propaganda.

Daniel C. Mattingly, Elaine Yao. "How Soft Propaganda Persuades". Comparative Political Studies, August 2022. Nexis Uni, Accessed May 2, 2023. (Login required off-campus):

An influential body of scholarship argues that authoritarian regimes design “hard” propaganda that is intentionally heavy-handed in order to signal regime power. In this study, by contrast, we link the power of propaganda to the emotional power of “soft” propaganda such as television dramas and viral social media content.

Accompanying Exhibit - May 2023

Photo of Armed Conflict and Propaganda library exhibit, May 2023

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