#3. The Boston Massacre
Of course, Paul Revere gets most of his street cred for his famous "midnight ride" (most of which is bullshit), but he had an equally important role in one of the most important propaganda tools of the American revolution: an engraving called The Bloody Massacre. If you touched a textbook in an American public school, you've seen it.
Now, Revere was apparently a student of the Thomas Alva Edison school of engraving, in that he simply took someone else's drawing and used it as the basis of his own. In this case he borrowed the work of a young artist named Henry Pelham and produced the broadsheet that would be the lightning-rod for the Sons of Liberty in the wake of the Boston Massacre.
What is that dog doing down there?
Why it's Pure Propaganda:
Because the image whitewashed the hell out of history in a way that would make Dan Brown blush.
Just about every element of that broadsheet was pulled directly out of either Pelham's or Paul Revere's ass, all to make the near-riot we call the Boston Massacre look more like the last half-hour of Rambo. In reality, there were seven or eight British soldiers surrounded by a screaming mob of 300 or 400 colonists. In the picture, the besieged British soldiers are transformed into a goddamn firing squad, smirking as they mow down a dozen unarmed innocents.
It was like this. More or less.
That picture swept across the colonies like wildfire. Revere sold the prints, pushing it in ads that ran in all of the Boston newspapers. Copies hung in houses all across the colonies, and the image of a row of British soldiers mowing down a bunch of pedestrians was burned into America's memory forever.
#2. The Cult of George Washington
As you may have noticed, we're hard on the founding fathers here at Cracked, and we've even taken our shots at George Washington at times. But he was unquestionably the father of the country and we don't like to think about how things would have played out without him.
That's why they named the nation's capital after him, after all. And put him on the one dollar bill:
And on our stamps:
And our schools:
And on a mountain:
And a state:
And a monument:
And carved into a statue dressed as Zeus?
What the fuck? That one almost appeared atop the Washington Monument... riding a freaking chariot.
OK, so America may have taken the whole Washington thing a little too far.
Here he is as a pastry chef.
Why it's Pure Propaganda:
While we have already mentioned the liberties taken with George's life and so-so military career, the way he's been worshiped throughout American history extends far beyond Parson Weems' bullshit story about George the lumberjack. In fact, it really extends into full-blown cult of personality status. The new USA spent decades plastering Washington's face and name onto every flat surface they could find.
Why? Well, for several reasons, but mainly because the new nation sort of needed it. The 13 colonies barely tolerated each other and the biggest danger was that the new nation would collapse into a cloud of civil wars and cannon smoke. Since the United States had little history of its own, and thus no legendary heroes to rally around, the public appeal and near-worship of Washington helped establish a single (and largely mythological) figure all of the colonies could get behind.
Keep in mind, George Washington wasn't voted into office--there were no primaries or debates or campaign ads or other candidates. They basically just declared him President, and most people were fine with that because everywhere they looked they found a reminder that the man was a god. Hell, to this day he's worshiped and glorified in classrooms, textbooks, children songs and just about every element of pop culture from commercials to movies.
Of course his own political allies were quick to promote it, but so was everybody who wanted to sell something by jumping on the Washington merchandise gravy train.
Everybody had t-shirts with this on it.
#1. Raising the Flag at Iwo Jima
That up there, friends, is a picture of the USA winning World War II. You can't tell us that it doesn't make you want to go fight in a war a little bit. It's the raising of the flag at Iwo Jima, the end of a hard-fought battle in the Pacific theater. They turned it into a kick-ass statue:
Why it's Pure Propaganda:
If you've read about the famous photo you've probably ran across accusations that it was staged. That's not necessarily true. But it was grossly misleading, and the story behind it is utterly ridiculous.
When the marines took the highest point on the island (Mount Suribachi, which dominates the land mass) they did raise a flag, and snapped a photo. This one:
You'll notice that flag is tiny, and kind of sad looking.
Still, when the Secretary of the Navy showed up to the war zone, he was so overcome at the sight he decided he wanted a copy of it. And by it, we don't mean the photo. We mean the actual flag, which there was only one copy of. Why did he want to deprive this battalion of their prized battle standard? No joke--he wanted a souvenir from the battle that he was not even in.
To keep the Secretary from stealing their flag, battalion commander Chandler Johnson had his men quickly take it down, presumably before the other guy could shimmy up the pole and grab it. He then sent one of his men after a replacement flag, with the command that he bring back a big, man-sized flag this time.
The raising of that flag is what we have the iconic photo of, the "let's put up some other flag so this asshole doesn't steal ours" flag. Oh, and we should mention that the flag wasn't marking victory, as the battle wasn't over. Half the men in this picture (Franklin Sousley, Michael Strank and Harlon Block) were dead before the Battle of Iwo Jima was won, and as for Rene Gagnon, he had to fight the longer war of being "that guy" in the picture who only shows a bit of his leg.
Still, Raising the Flag at Iwo Jima won the Pulitzer Prize for Photography, and became one of the most iconic images of the 20th Century (no doubt to the delight of FDR's propaganda department). They brought the surviving Marines in the photo home to tour the country and sell war bonds. They made a movie about it, and had them pose for a sculptor to create a memorial.
Hell, even the Soviets were so impressed they had no choice but to rip it off themselves during the Battle of Berlin. Their flag raising was staged, by the way.
The Dictator's Cut.
Do you have something funny to say about a random topic? You could be on the front page of Cracked.com tomorrow. Go here and find out how to create a Topic Page.
For more deets about the world of propaganda, check out 5 Kick-Ass Action Movies That Are Pure Propaganda and The 17 Most Unintentionally Hilarious Propaganda Posters.
And stop by our Top Picks (Updated Today! Shit!) see our propaganda campaign to bring down George Washington.