A history of powerful ideas

A fascinating new exhibition reveals that propaganda is only as bad or as good as the ideas it propagates.

Tom Slater

Tom Slater

Topics Politics

For an exhibition centred on a word that inspires nothing but concern, dread and vitriol when it’s bandied around in Western discourse today, Propaganda: Power and Persuasion – housed at the British Library – begins with a rather twee and innocuous exhibit.

As you walk down the steps into the labyrinthine space, you’re greeted with a 1930s US government film in which a slick and suited officer jovially schools a young novice in how to glean truth from illusion in tracts and political documents. The two crack smiles, some chirpy music plays over the titles, and you’re left a little bemused.

While the word propagandist was once a badge of honour, held proudly by some of the great dissidents and troublemakers of history, it has taken on a far darker colour in the years since this film was made. Walking around this formidable collection, it’s easy to see why…

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Topics Politics


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