Loose Lips Sink Ships

I love looking at media manipulation, and it’s often most obvious when looking at it during a warfare environment.


Telegraphs were the main way of communicating quickly over long distances, and they couldn’t reach a mass audience. We needed to justify the inhumanity of the killing by using racist posters. The media encouraged distrust of migrants in the community.

Women were pushed into work to replace the men overseas at war. They realised they were as capable as men and pushed to be able to own property or become a member of parliament. When they got the vote, the number of voters doubled. Australian women rejected conscription twice. More media texts were created by the World War veterans and the trauma and horrors they depicted made a second World War unimaginable.


Cinema came about which addressed mass audiences. There were lots of animation films made intended to educate the public. One lovely example was the ‘Loose Lips Sink Ships’, showing the protagonist telling his girlfriend or something some details about his ship leaving to go to war and a Japanese man overhearing and using the info to destroy the ship. Radio was also popular. Records became publicly available and music was an important tool for propaganda. Top singers of the day had songs with political messages.

Germany had banned jazz music as it was ‘the music of Jews/Negroes’. There were many posters about health to keep people fit to fight and work. They directly targeted troops. Women were once again pushed into the workforce at the end of the war. It stimulated feminist activism and that of African-Americans and Aboriginals.

Vietnam War

Commitment trebled, tv got big and there were finally moving images from the conflict. Guerrilla warfare was very demoralising because it was no longer simple who was being fought. Journalists were covering more of the war, they had access that was previously unavailable and the world was flooded with information about this war, which was ugly. The world saw enemy forces, country people and children dying.

The image of the US was no longer as favourable and the public were agitated by the conflict. The soldiers did not return as heroes, as they had previously. People were no longer as sympathetic as they once were. There was an increase in anti-war media.

The introduction of conscription fuelled anti-war sentiment and the public protested throughout Australia. Newspaper reporting had great influence and reflected and followed the public opinion.

Gulf War

Under a thin disguise of ‘rescuing Kuwaitis’ the US pursued oil. This time the media was more controlled and actually had a game plan. There was 24-7 war coverage and there was a massive saturation of public discourse with news of the war.

Different strategies had been created though, a new type of news called ‘infotainment’. CNN dominated the news with this format. Emphasis was placed on technology and conscious efforts were made to distance the viewer from the on ground conflict. We would see cockpit footage as the pilot pressed a button and blew up a distant target. Because the victims remained unseen the war was not as disturbing. It was dubbed a ‘clean war.’

The coverage was characterised by entertainment formats and computer game styled images. They emphasised graphics and ‘unreality’, simulations of attacks and troop formations. Maps and visual recreations were used. The media neglected coverage of death and human suffering to form a ‘bloodless coverage’. There was no massive public outcry and the war was shorter. There was no conscription and because of this people were not as worked up about the war.

War On Terror

The September 11 attacks were attributed to terrorists and there was massive international 24-7 coverage. Watching it motivated public opinion and the saturation of those images created highly emotional responses. Bush got heaps of support. There was enthusiastic rapport for a military response. On the 7th of October the first air strikes on Afghanistan from American forces commenced. There was immediate coverage and extremely emotive journalism.

Australia supported the War on Terror. In 2001 support was high but then declined both in the US and internationally. Again there were guerrilla tactics needed and the occupied people were hostile. There was a lot of coverage on troop’s behaviour and ideas of the enemy were debated.

The internet changed it all. Suddenly no-one could control the media anymore and people were taking a more active role in the types of media they received. They could look up archived news reports, access forums, watch videos of troop activity on YouTube, read blogs from all around the world including in Iraq and Afghanistan that were updated hourly or faster.

Even after a vigorous media campaign enlisting continued to drop. Mandatory national service was suggested but dropped. The government announced a ‘gap year’ campaign where students would take a year off between VCE/Yr 12 and work/uni to be spent in the army. The official government source was on YouTube. It was all highly unsuccessful.

Counter terrorism ads were similar to the posters of WWII. They kept anxiety present in society and promoted paranoia and mistrust. There was an emphasis on knowledge and suspicion and it opened the door to many racist commentaries. Muslims were dealt with harshly in the media and not long after we had the Cronulla riots.

I hate this anti-terrorism campaign.


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4 Responses to “Loose Lips Sink Ships”

  1. rayedish Says:

    Good stuff, Luli. What I also find interesting about the propaganda campaign surrounding ‘9/11’ is the stuff directed at women, particularly in America. Susan Faludi has just written a book about it detailing all the stories that appeared in the media that claimed that because of all the trauma and fear women were giving up work and ‘cocooning’ themselves away from the harsh realities of war and terrorism. These stories claim that in America women are returning to homemaking and child rearing. Faludi claims that their is little evidence to support these stories and in addition a lot of the coverage focuses (as always) on the masculine images of heroism, firefighters and soldiers.

  2. LuLi Says:

    Wow, thats quite interesting. Just another way of persuading the females of America that they aren’t cut out for the working world? I’ll have to check out that book.

  3. rayedish Says:

    I just bought it today and am itching to get reading it, but I’ve got a bunch of other stuff to get though before I will allow myself to get into it. I think that I will put up a review of it on my blog once I get through it.

  4. LuLi Says:

    Oh yeah cool, I’ll definitely be reading your review.

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