Red Propaganda?



Notice anything about these two images? The top one is an image being used by the Occupy Wall Street movement, while the bottom image was used during the Soviet period in Russia. Both use the same format, with a person, in this case a working woman and Lenin, on the Right, looking to the left, and Roman numerals on the left, with grain detailing. The OWS protesters seem to be using old propaganda from the Soviet Union and reusing it now.


Here is another image being used by OWS. Again, they are incorporating more Russian and Soviet motifs, like the sickle and hammer that is the Russian national symbol. Like in my post “What do We Really Want,” it seems like the OWS movement is taking notes from the Bolsheviks and the Soviet system. Both OWS and the Bolshevik Revolution have focused on the working class as their primary point of interest. Just to point out something, all three images that I have posted have a common primary color being used: red. Red was a symbol of Communism and still connotes that today. While it does draw the eye, does it also hint at something a bit more sinister? Food for thought.


Just a disclaimer about this site: I do not support this site, nor do I agree with everything that is mentioned on the blog. I merely used the site because that is where I found the images that I used.


6 responses to “Red Propaganda?

  1. Quick note from one technical-corrector to another: Lenin is looking to the viewer’s left, yes, but if one were to actually stand in the position of the woman in the first image it would be clear that she is looking more to her right.

    As for the ideas of there being something “sinister” and the color red being of significance:
    I will grant that the first OWS image is reminiscent of Soviet (and Chinese) propaganda and the second explicitly uses Soviet-style imagery – assuming that these are original illustrations for OWS and not Photoshop borrowings from historical propaganda – but I suspect that the color’s inclusion in the images you show has just as much to do with graphic design as it does Communism. This applies whether the content is original or not.

    There have been some studies demonstrating that the color red has a stimulating effect on people, from evoking strong emotions to more subliminal effects. Here is an overview of some of the findings. The relevance of this to your post can be seen in American propaganda.

    An American advertisement for fallout shelters that also functions as propaganda is almost entirely composed of red, acting as a danger cue alike the linked study describes – both in the pure sense and, quite likely, to make people associate Communism with danger. But if you peruse American propaganda from the World Wars, from before Communism really began to be portrayed as a global menace, you’ll see that even then red is employed often in order to catch attention and encourage people to react strongly. It’s also used for text or other graphic design elements in the “keep silent” vein of Cold War propaganda, which had less to do with Communism itself. So while the color was (and is) associated with Communism, clearly the association wasn’t/isn’t strong enough to prevent those fearful of Bolsheviks/Communists from using it.

    The OWS borrowing of imagery with strong ties to Communism has, I believe, to do with both the proven effectiveness of the imagery and OWS’s connection to a philosophy where the only sinister thing about it is the potential for people to use it to their own ill-intentioned ends – which is possible with any political system.

    TL;DR: red has been used in american propaganda for a long time; all political systems have the potential to be corrupted; ows’s agenda of economic equality can indeed be compared to communism and it’s reflected in some of their propaganda but there’s nothing inherently sinister about that – unless you have a different meaning of “sinister” than i do, in which case, semiotics!


  2. Sorry to spam you with comments, Erin, but if you’re going to take down that other post linking to the antisemitic conspiracy blog you may want to add a disclaimer/warning to the link that’s included here.

  3. I really liked this post! I do agree the similarities between the images are surprising, and I am very interested by the parallels between OWS and the Bolshevik uprising. Your post might be further strengthened by the addition of an image of signs held by OWS protestors advocating the overthrow of capitalism. Very interesting and well-written!

  4. Pingback: reacting against “something wrong” as in the propaganda of organized coercion « power of language blog: partnering with reality by JR Fibonacci

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