Some of the weirdest and most disturbing advertisements ever created are done so for military campaigns. They come in the form of propaganda leaflets, which are dropped by air or otherwise disseminated into a country or territory that is being invaded. Virtually every war since the beginning of the 20th century has produced these leaflets, which are also known as psyops or psychological operations and can be divided up into three categories: white, grey, and black. The intention is to use psychology and symbolism to influence members of the general population, inciting fear and, ultimately, compliance.
Governments use psyops in a variety of contexts but the most common is during war, when entire populations must be convinced that killing in the name of God and State is not murder. Citizens also need an emotional impetus to grant their government the impunity to kill civilians and children in the most brutal of ways, including via unmanned drones. All but a few countries in the world are currently engaged in war, so there are a lot of psyops in progress as you read this.
The following leaflets come to you thanks to the incredible archives of PsyWar.org. They are, in this author’s humble opinion, the most sinister psyop leaflets ever dropped:
British leaflet produced by General Headquarters in France for German troops on the Western front 1915-1918
British balloon distributed propaganda leaflets for German troops on the Western front, 1918
World War 2 Germany to Allies – “While you were away”
“Waiting in Vain”
“Life is short – Death is quicker!”
Christmas message from Soviet Union to Germany 1941-1945
Japan to Allied Troops 1941-1945 – “CAPITALISTS DEMAND RED ENDLESSLY!”
First Iraq War – 1991 – “Adhere to the following procedures to cease resistance”
“CEASE RESISTANCE BE SAFE”
“Escape to Your Home!”
IFOR/SFOR BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA 1996-2004
Operation Enduring Freedom – 2001-2002
Operation Iraqi Freedom – Coalition Psyop 2003-2004
Israel to Lebanon 2006 – “Your defenders are your destroyers”
These days, the internet has turned into a powerful new breeding ground for wartime psyops, but the psychological methods and imagery still follow the same tactics; you just have the added tools of chat rooms, social media, and forums as ways to manufacture consent.