Category: Analysis

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Exemplary Piece of Propaganda

The World War II poster “If you worked as hard and fast as a Jap, we’d smash Tokyo a lot quicker” is an exemplary piece of propaganda. It presents a moderately strong verbal statement, reinforced by the number of visual effects. The combined expressiveness of a phrase and a picture constitutes an argument highly appealing to the audience of that time.


The formal definition of argument requires the claim and the evidence in favor of that claim. Looking at the poster, observer gets not only a clear affirmation, but a notion that, indeed, “Japs” must be smashed. The word “smash” is artistically augmented in a way that implies the necessity of action without questioning. “Tokyo” is singled out in a red print as an extra indication of target. Words “you” and “Jap” are underscored, contraposing observer to the enemy. The whole scene is painted on the background of a rising sun that unequivocally represents the Japanese flag. There are rows of faceless workers, whose very postures convey the extreme concentration and hard work. All these poster’s features substantiate the argument with cognitive “proof”. Poster demonizes the enemy, resorting to the features’ distortion and face darkening of the man in front. It is intended as additional evidence to the claim of poster.

According to the definition of argument, it must be addressed to certain audience and can be challenged by counterargument. It is difficult to think of a counterargument to this rather crude and emotional piece of caricature, not sinking to its level. With logical approach, the poster’s argument will cease to exist. As to the potential audience’s perception, the argument was timely and welcome. The audience was eager to accept and approve the argument, given the political situation. Therefore, the poster meets most important argument’s characteristics, as it contains both the claim and evidence, targeted at the ready audience.

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