Three wonderful WPA tourism promotion posters, smoothly converted into pro-oil posters.
In case the WPA abbreviation is new to you, it stands for Works Progress Administration and was the largest of the American New Deal agencies during the Great Depression of the 1930's. Mainly, it employed people who would otherwise have gone unemployed in building bridges, schools, parks and so on, but also had a host of talented artists on board, some of whom churned out one outstanding poster after another. Like the originals these are based on, many promoted various US tourist sites to americans.
While I'll be the first person to advocate a critical look at the motives behind wars, looking beyond the lofty ideals and rosy rhetoric modern leaders are so good at delivering nowadays (liberty, democracy, peace etc.), the pedantic know-it-all in me must protest the suggestion that all wars today are fought for oil. With recent kerfuffles in Iraq, Nigeria and Sudan in mind, it's an easy assumption to make, but recent or ongoing wars in Colombia, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and the Gaza strip suggests otherwise.
But of course, I realize that's probably taking this poster a bit too serious.
A cynic (or a realist as he would call himself) would not have much trouble arguing that this short maxim is what's at the heard of US foreign policy. You won't find the American president making such claims, nor the Pentagon or State Department, Americans have always been experts at expressing their foreign goals in purely idealistic terms.
I for my part do not believe that everything that country does abroad is power politics and cynicism, veiled in pretty words. Instead of launching into a long, boring argument about what the United States are really up to abroad, I'll quote British historian Arnold Toynbee to sum up some of the essence; "America is a large, friendly dog in a very small room. Every time it wags its tail, it knocks over a chair."
Clever coupling of a message that at first glance seemingly has nothing to do with the imagery in the poster. You get the feeling that it's a puzzle (albeit a simple one), waiting for you to solve it.
A simple, frivolous parody of an old Nazi poster, supporting the raising of funds for the construction of youth hostels.
A wonderful original poster looking nicely authoritarian, which coupled with an utterly trivial theme makes it wonderfully absurd. The theme, to my understanding, is Kermit the Frog arguing with a t-shirt salesman, found in this Sesame Street scene, a classic according to those who understand such matters.
It's the middle of the night outside of Berlin. Dr. Goebbels sleeps fitfully, as if he knows something mean is lurking in the woods outside. The window of his picturesque little cabin is open, nothing but the cold night air moving through. A strong breeze beats through the forrest, trees creaking. The man moving through the cloudy night casts no shadows, makes no noise. Minutes later, he's through the window and inside. No lubrication, just two strong arms and one very long glove.
When it's all over, the man vanishes into the night. A note is left on the floor: You just got served. - The U.S. Proctological Corps
If there was one thing US propagandists during World War II loved making, it was homo-erotic posters showing sweaty, muscly men handling huge phallic objects. This manly man, stroking a lumbering hunk of shiny brass and boom-boom-powder is a case in point.
How many times have we not heard of some bizarre, synthetic drug being invented by one country's military or the other, not to mention villains in movies and games, such as Max Payne, always with the aim of creating the super-soldier. Amphetamine and methamphetamine were particularly popular in most major forces of World War II, used to prevent fatigue. Supposedly, Hitler was administered daily doses of meth. Amphetamine was still in use among US forces as late as 2003, when four Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan were killed by friendly fire served by two American pilots high on amphetamine, an event this poster aludes to.
A simple, stupid and hilarious parody of an exuberant Soviet poster promoting farm collectivization at the start of the 1930's.
Eat your Luftwaffles. They are so light and fluffy!
Jamming in a crude waffle and making a rather obvious, cheap play on the name of Germany's airforce, this parody is really to simple and silly, but I think it's wonderful for just that reason. I mean, just look at that waffle! It's huge!
The Soviet Union, being rather big and not swamped in transportation infrastructure, could use some good aircraft to reach remote areas. Thus, it became the origin of some insane pieces of aviation design, stuff that would humble anything used by FedEx, or any other modern western airlines for that matter.
There's the Mil V-12, the world's largest helicoper, the Beriev Albatros jet-powered sea-plane, the Antonov 225 transport aircraft, heaviest airplane in the world, and of course, the fabulous Caspian Sea Monster. Luckily for aviation geeks like myself, some present-day Russians retain that sense of brilliant madness which inspired these planes, and Beriev are now supposedly developing an heir to the Sea Monster, called the BE-2500, only it'll be five times as heavy, if it's ever built.
The Spoon? A real-life movement, perhaps inspired by The Wave? More likely, it's some pointless, ironic Internet meme (or upcoming meme), though it's new to me. Cool artwork in any case, with obvious Soviet propaganda styling.
Modern Drunkard Magazine is an actual American magazine which seems to love nothing more than ripping of old ads and propaganda posters as a source of effective and funny graphic material. Their "Hate mail" section, with their own respons and commentary, is quite amusing ("I was a little busy, so I lazily fell back on the classic You Remind Me of Hitler Defense").
Parodies of the iPod silhouette adverts have been standard fare on the web for a while now, but happily, there are still good fun to be had from them, and it's very necessary. I'm tired of having to explain that "no, it's not an iPod, it's an Mp3-player" whenever someone spots my Sanza Fuze and start feeling that fond feeling of Apple brotherhood with me. For the record, no, I'm not advocating taking a Katana to any and all iPod users. Seeing as I've got quite a few misguided pod-bearing friends, that would be awfully bad manners of me.
Supposedly based on the poster of some French sci-fi movie. I have no idea what it's called, but by the looks of the poster, it's about lumpy stormtroopers or Michelin Men in a Munch-esque landscape, which I'd say is a good premise for any sci-fi.
Another two takes on the phallic ordnance theme. For more of the same, see my earlier post on US propaganda posters.
Oh, hang on, this isn't a parody, it's the real deal. These posters appeared in London during October of 2002, and are dead serious. I feel fairly sure that if something like this had turned up in my neighborhood, it would have turned me into an instant vandal, leaving this rubbish up would not have been an option.
They're so ridiculously big brother, you wouldn't even find this stuff in the Stalin-era Soviet Union. What were they thinking?!? Those eyes floating in the sky should do a good job scaring the public shitless. The fact that their pupils are made up of the London Buses logo doesn't help, they're red, evil and up to no good.
Stellar advice that everyone would do well to remember.
I'm a young guy, but I feel old when I think back to when, for a short period between Beta versions 5 to 7, I played Counterstrike. That's around 10 years ago, and every now and then, I hear that it's still hugely popular, and I scratch my head and wonder why, I never really got it. But of course, I still enjoy the original Colonization and Police Quest games, so who am I to question Counterstrikes continued popularity?
An old joke that won't get old. For the last 150 years, France's military record is less than illustrious. In the 1860's the silly Emperor Napoleon III (nephew of the original Bonaparte) decided that invading Mexico would be a good idea. It wasn't. Then, in 1870, the infinitely brighter Prussian "iron chancellor" Otto von Bismarck tricked the same emperor into launching the Franco-Prussian war, in which France was thoroughly pummeled, and Napoleon III fled into exile.
Then the First World War came along, again pitting France against Germany, and while it was technically a french victory, that was only thanks to British and American assistance. Determined not to suffer another humiliation at the hands of the Germans, the French constructed the impregnable Maginot defense line on their German border. Unfortunately, the French had forgot about the existence of Belgium on their northern border, which the Germans used as a back-door into France in the summer of 1940. The post-war years were spent loosing guerilla wars against colonial insurgents in Algeria and Indo-China. The most recent inspiration for this poster, I assume, was President Jaques Chirac's opposition to the US attack on Iraq, which was popularly interpreted as a sign of French cowardice and defeatism.
All this of course overlooks the fact that France for more than 200 years up until the defeat of Napoleon I in 1814 was Europe's most powerful nation, by far. At its apex, under Napoleon I, France controlled half of continental Europe.
Another excellent WPA tourism poster. The WPA posters really are a treasure trove of wonderful graphic material. If you like this stuff, check out the Library of Congress' 900+ collection of WPA posters. The website might be a bit dull, and many posters look a tad faded, but there's no mistaking the quality of these posters.
London seems to have a knack for weird security-related posters. Again, this is an original, appearing around London in February of 2008. Keeping in mind that London is one of the foremost tourist-attracting cities in the world, attracting millions of camera-touting tourists each year, I'm wondering what the various police agencies of London would regard as a successful response to this campaign.
After all, what's an odd photographer? Brown skin or a good tan? Beards? Turbans? How can you realistically expect lay people to be able to spot suspect people with cameras scouting targets, without it turning into a massive source of irrelevant reports? Naturally, a rosary-toating fellow with a strange hat pushing a wheelbarrow of gunpowder kegs towards Parliament is suspect, but who wouldn't report that?
A parody on the former poster, referring also to the horrific murder of electrician Jean Charles de Menezes at the hands of London Metropolitan Police officers at a tube station in July of 2005. Of Brazilian extraction, de Menezes apparently looked a bit too "terroristy" for his own good.
I'd love to hear the background of the situation depicted, the guys expression seems to suggest he's about to experience a summary execution, or the very least, being thrown in the dungeons for life, along with his entire family.
In our post on American propaganda, we included the Darth Vader-like original. In part 1 of this mini-series, the menacing Jerry under the helmet had been replaced by a similarly spooky John Ashcroft, robbing your civil liberties. To round off this post, we've got the usually friendly childhood favourite Waldo, doing his usual hiding business, albeit dressed rather uncharacteristically and looking not-so-nice with bloodshot eyes.
This post would not have been possible without these wonderful resources, highly recommended for anyone hungry for more of what they've seen so far:
The Propaganda Remix Project - The origin of a great many of the old remixed posters seen here, all done by Micah Wright. Wright has authored three books, brim full of his best remix material.
Worth1000.com Propaganda contests - Worth1000's string of propaganda photoshop contests is a great place to check out all sorts of twists made on old propaganda material. Use the drop-down box on the left to navigate between the various contests.
The White House - Not the official White House website, but rather one dedicated to all sorts of satire and humour on George W. Bush's expense, including a considerable collection of "Patriotic posters".
Modern Humorist - The origin of a couple excellent posters seen here.
...and of course, the talented PR people of London Buses, as well as London's police agencies.