Logical Fallacies in Propaganda

By Zainab Gangardiwala

Chinese Women in the Workforce

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Rhetorical Situation

  • Speaker

    • The speaker of this work of propaganda is likely someone who is a proponent, or possibly even a member, of the communist system in 20th century China who believes women should be encouraged and appointed to perform first tier industrial jobs such as factory work and manufacturing.

  • Audience

    • The main audience that the artist targets is the able-bodied women of China. Because China was rigorously trying to catch up with other countries, they needed many more laborers; women were preferred in factories and in manufacturing because of their alleged patience and manual dexterity.. The secondary audience would be the communist leaders; the author is inadvertently trying to show his allegiance to communism in order to appeal to them and gain their favor.

  • Purpose

    • The illustrator of this piece of propaganda mainly hoped to motivate the females of China to step up for industrial jobs and to distance the citizens from the previous, constraining traditional values, such as the oppression of women and unequal economic classes, in order to progress as a nation and catch up to the rest of the world in terms of industrializing their economy.

  • Context

    • Because China was lagging behind in terms of industrialization during the 18th and 19th centuries, a new socialist system was established; one that not only promised better quality of life, but also encouraged all people to work in industrializing factions. Its hold on traditional values before the 19th century influenced the prevention of China from advancing as rapidly as other first world countries at the time. The communist system hoped not only to create equality between economic classes, but also between genders while they tried to increase their economic stance in the newly industrializing world.

  • Exigence

    • Because China was so behind in industrialization and technological advancement at the time, the speaker was motivated to call on the women of China so that they could help expedite the process. The communist leaders were behind this movement, so the speaker could have used this poster to his advantage by appealing to them and perhaps avoiding their indignation.

Rhetorical Strategies/Text and Images

  • Imagery

    • The woman in the picture is wearing clothes suitable for a man, including large pants, a belt, and an oversized jacket, thereby equalizing the two genders and helping bind the gender gap. The woman in the picture is also portrayed as being glowing and beautiful, proving that any woman, even those that may be deemed too fragile and “too pretty” for manual work, can and should help industrialize the country.

  • Inclusive Language

    • The utilization of the words “we” and “our” in the text shape a sense of unity between the citizens of China, especially the female citizens, who are the target audience. It creates a centripetal force that stimulates women to want to become a part of the “we” that is helping improve “our” nation.

  • Text

    • The text reads: We are proud of participating in the founding of our country's industrialisation. Along with inclusive language, certain aspects of the text help bind together the message of the poster and persuade women to join the workforce. The word “proud” is loaded in this context because it associates women with honor and nobility, something that they did not really have in the past.

    • The text is also very concise in asking what they want from female citizens; their help in “the founding of our country’s industrialisation”. There is really no verbal irony or complex diction/syntax in this phrase because the author wants to get his point across so that all of his audience understands what they are being persuaded to do.

    • The words are written in large, red letters at the bottom of the poster so that they stand out but also as an acknowledgement to China’s communist ideals, since red is the main color associated with communism.

  • Images/Placement/Color

    • The background includes a soft blue color of the sky, negating the view that factory work is confined to small, dark, polluted warehouses. The sense of openness of the poster contrasts the dark and dim feeling of real life industrial work, therefore helping persuade the audience.

    • While the woman could have been working at ground level, the author chooses to position her at an increased elevation surrounded by tall metal beams, which excites the female audience since they would never be used to working in such precarious conditions.

    • The man working in the background is placed so that he can be seen, but not enough so that his appearance takes away from the dominating woman in the front. His presence is there mainly so the audience can see the two genders performing the same strenuous tasks, and thus inspiring women and allowing them to believe that they can do what men can.

Logical Fallacies

  • Ad Populum:

    • The speaker is trying to win popular assent to a conclusion by arousing the feelings and emotions of the multitude. Essentially, by saying “we” and “our”, the author implies that many women intend to work and help industrialize the nation, thereby creating an incentive for other women to work since a majority (or at least a significant minority) of the population are working.

  • Bandwagon

    • This fallacy works hand-in-hand with ad populum. Since many women are working to industrialize the nation, the rest of the audience feels as if they must as well, or else they will not be accepted and honored in society.

  • Special Pleading

    • In 20th century China, women were approaching equality, but had not quite reached it. They were still expected to perform the tasks the “good wives” should do, such as cooking, cleaning, taking care of their children, and aiding their husbands. Therefore, many women faltered when China asked them to work industrial jobs because that would double their work-time. This poster is a form of special pleading because it is essentially saying that it is a woman’s job to help China, yet it ignores the housework aspect of a woman’s job.

  • Appeal to Flattery

    • In the past, women were frequently oppressed or simply overlooked when it came to not only politics and finance, but also family matters. This was especially true in China, a country that, for the most part of recent history, was seen as “backwards”. By implying that China now strongly desired their help, women feel as if they are an important part in aiding the country’s progression, thus providing an incentive to sign up and work.

  • Appeal to Emotion

    • The speaker intentionally shows the glowing, joyful face of a Chinese woman in order to associate favorable emotions with industrial work. Obviously, if the speaker had chosen an apathetic, tired, or even morose expression for the face of this poster, many women would not have persuaded to leave the solidarity of their home to perform manual labor.

  • Appeal to Novelty

    • As explained above, China was making intense efforts to progress - this involved distancing themselves from traditional practices and partaking in the new communist system and applying values of other developed nations, including women’s equality. The poster implies that the relatively new concept of women in the workforce is associated with new advances in industry and technology and essentially, a new and improved China. Since this concept is new, the audience is convinced that it is better.

Child Exploitation

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Rhetorical Situation

Rhetorical Situation

  • Audience:

    • The main audience of this propaganda are the common people of the early 20th century because the speaker of the poster is trying to get as many people as possible to join the IWW and resist child exploitation. The visuals of the poster help to draw the attention of mainly of adults that have children and would feel inclined to help others out. It also targets factory owners and businesses that use child labor in order to call them out on their wrongdoings and make them feel guilty.

  • Speaker:

    • This poster is a message from the IWW, the Industrial Workers Of The World, which protests the exploitation of children in textile mills. The speaker is obviously a very strong opponent of child labor, going as far as calling factory owners “thieves” for using children for their own gain.

  • Purpose:

    • The creator of this poster is trying to create a sense of pity for children who have no choice but to work in poor conditions with low wages. By doing this, the speaker hopes that the audience will be motivated to sign up for their organization, the IWW, in order to make a change and help stop corporations from exploiting childrens.

  • Context

    • At the time, the textile industry dominated the economy of Lawrence, Massachusetts. In 1912, the city's population was nearly 86,000—60,000 of whom depended directly upon the payrolls of the textile mills. The wages for workers were poor, housing conditions overcrowded, and average life expectancy in Lawrence one of the lowest in the United States. Work in the mills was hard and dangerous for the largely immigrant population of workers, many of them children who started work at an early age.

  • Exigence

    • "The Lawrence strike, one of the largest in United States history, became known as "the Bread and Roses Strike," after workers' protest signs that read, "We Want Bread, But Roses Too!" The strike, marked by violence, quickly gained national public attention and union support, and inspired this poster to be made.

Rhetorical Strategies/Text and Images

  • Imagery:

    • The two girls working hard at the mills surrounded by various metal objects and equipment paints a broader picture of many children working hard in poor conditions surrounded by dangerous machinery, large pulleys, and high metal beams. This persuades the audience to try do something to improve the precarious environment that young boys and girls must work in.

  • Symbolism:

    • The girls in comparison are thin and and frail, contrasting the older man who is moderately obese. His weight indicates his wealth, and this contrast in weight makes it seem like he is stealing it from the young children, which goes along with the theme of thievery. The effect of this symbolism is to create exaggeration and make the audience see how factory owners take away from children.

  • Hyperbole

    • This piece of propaganda exaggerates the affluence, as well as the indifference of factory owners. The large bags of money at the feet of the man alludes to the wealth he gains at the expense of the children’s labor, but obviously this is not the situation in real life; many factory owners were not as villainous as the speaker makes them seem.

    • The author also exaggerates the cruelty of the factory owners by calling them out as a “thief” A thief is generally someone who robs people so that they can spend the loot for themselves. Obviously, the owners do not directly steal from children, but the speaker wishes to exaggerate their greediness in order to add to the negative feelings of the audience.

  • Text

    • The large text at the top reads “THIEF!” in big bold capital letters. It draws attention to the poster not only because of its size and because of its dark contrast to the rest of the poster, but also because the word “thief” jumps out at the audience and creates a sense of fear and shock. It makes the audience wonder what exactly the poster is about and helps them create a connection between the negative connotation of the word thief and of factory owners who exploit children.

    • The text at the bottom reads “The worst thief is he who steals the playtime of children”, a quote from WD Haywood, the founder of the IWW. The quote is there to create guilt; “children” and “playtime” are usually associated with innocence and harmless fun, but the words “thief” and “steal” essentially negate those words so the overall sentence has a negative tone to it, making the audience feel for the children.

    • The last sentence is a clear and concise call to action; “ Join the IWW and help put the thieves to work”. The author is telling the audience exactly what they should do to help to avoid any confusion and to appeal to the mass population. The phrase “put thieves to work” makes the audience feel duty-bound to help get rid of exploitative factory owners and make them pay for the poor conditions that they put innocent children in.

  • Images/Placement/Color

    • The poster is in black and white, which may have been for a number of reasons including the expensiveness of colored printing during the time period, but the illustrator uses this to his advantage as he dresses the man looming over them in black attire while the girls are in white baggy shirts and skirts, showing the innocence of young children versus the heartlessness of corporate greed. The young girls are even portrayed working near the machines barefooted while the man has shiny black shoes; once again, the author alludes to the superfluous wealth of factory owners at the expense of the children.

    • The illustrator also uses size to his advantage by making the machine larger than the children so that they have to climb up on it, while the larger man in the foreground stands idly by. A sense of fear and pity for the children is created; the audience is appalled as their small and frail bodies are trying hard to reach the top of the large, heavy, and dangerous appliance while the factory owner does nothing to help them even though he is clearly capable of doing a better job.

Logical Fallacies

  • Ad Hominem

    • The speaker could have chosen to play a defensive argument and show just the poor working conditions of children in factories, but along with that they attack the factory owners who use children for labor, insulting them and calling them “thieves”. By doing this, the genuine discussion of the topic at hand is avoided by instead attacking the character and motive of the person that the speaker is arguing against. The audience thus pays more attention to the wrongdoings of the factory owners which makes it easier to go against them and join the IWW to “put them to work”.

  • Strawman

    • The author misrepresents the argument by essentially saying that “if you put children to work, you are a thief”. This makes it easier for the author to attack factory owners and make the audience agree with his argument that if anyone should be working in such poor factory conditions, it should be them and not the young children they take advantage of.

  • Appeal to Authority:

    • The speaker chooses to add the text “The worst thief is he who steals the playtime of children”, which is a quote from William D Haywood, the founder of the IWW. The consent from a high authority figure such as Haywood makes the audience more inclined to heed his word and follow the speakers call to action.

  • Proving Too Much

    • In the text, the author claims that “The worst thief is he who steals the playtime of children”. The usage of the word “worst” makes the statement fallacious because, it is obvious that there are worse kinds of thieves, especially those that are murderous and vicious. Essentially, the author reaches a conclusion which contradicts views that are known to be true, and they are generalizing all manufacturers who use child labor into one greedy, thieving person.

  • Appeal to Guilt:

    • The appeal to guilt is mainly targeted toward factory owners rather than the common people. When factory workers see how they’re being portrayed as heartless thieves, they would most likely feel remorseful for their actions and feel obligated to change their ways and make conditions better for their workers and stop exploiting young kids for labor.

  • Appeal to Pity

    • This appeal on the other hand is targeted to the common people. The imagery created from this poster - two young girls working hard in dangerous factory conditions - makes the audience feel sorrowful, thereby convincing them to sign up for the IWW in order to help in any way that they can.

WWII American Propaganda

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Rhetorical Situation

  • Audience:

    • During the time this poster was made, the creators of “war bonds” posters tried to target anybody who had an income. In this particular instance, the main audience are the American parents during World War II, since the speaker is specifically calling out those who care for the wellbeing of their children.

  • Speaker:

    • The speaker is most likely a strong American supporter of the US army and very involved in the politics of WWII. They are also someone who understands the extent to which people would go to in order to protect their families, as he/she cleverly uses this knowledge so that they can subtly manipulate people to buy war bonds.

  • Exigence:

    • WWII held the rank for being the most costly war in terms of not only money but also military personnel. Thus, many countries deemed it extremely important that their citizens help with debts and financing the war. However, they did not want to force the people into buying them as they did in WWI. Treasury officials at the time stated “There should be no ‘drive’ psychology, no hysteria, and no devices to honor purchasers that would stigmatize non-purchasers.” Instead, the government mounted a near-constant ad campaign, with newspapers, radio, billboards, and magazines donating over $180 million in advertising space.

  • Purpose:

    • The speaker is trying to convince American parents to help finance the war and help out the military by buying war bonds so that the US and its allies can win WWII and their children will be safe from the enemy.

  • Context:

    • A war bond is a debt security issued by a government for the purpose of financing military operations during times of war. It is an emotional appeal to patriotic citizens to lend the government their money as these bonds offer a rate of return below the market rate. Citizen responses to the bureau’s questions about war bonds don’t mention harassment or stigma. Instead, respondents found fault with the constant presence of bond advertisements, critiquing the very need for a marketing-driven approach to selling patriotic duty.

Rhetorical Strategies/Images and Text

  • Symbolism:

    • The image above illustrates a young boy around the of 4 wearing a gestapo hat and a death’s head pin on his sweater . This particular image draws on very strong symbolism of the Nazi regime for the Gestapo hat signifies that he’s been inducted in the Nazis and the Death’s Head pin indicates he’s ready to die in the act of war. Not only that, the child is also portrayed with blond hair and blue eyes, the perfect example of Hitler’s view of an infallible human. These persuade the audience and make them willing to do anything so that their child doesn’t end up like the German-looking child in the picture.

  • Hyperbole

    • An exaggeration effect is created because, for the most part, if a family does not buy war bonds, then that does not mean that their child will suffer and become part of Hitler’s program for the youth. The speaker’s desire is to emphasize the importance of buying war bonds, and evoke strong feelings in the audience and create strong impressions.

  • Imagery

    • The image of a young child, wearing the attire of the enemy, amidst a fiery, chaotic background paints a very strong broader image of German children succumbing in battle. This frightening image convinces the audience to help finance the war so that their children can be safe from this possible reality.

  • Rhetorical Question

    • The speaker poses a question in large, red, very noticeable letters: “Is this your child?”. Obviously, the question is not meant to be answered literally, but it implies that “this could be your child if you don’t act fast and buy war bonds”. Upon reading this, the audience realizes that if they don’t act on the speaker’s wishes and buy war bonds, then their children might face a very dire and disastrous fate.

  • Text

    • The large text at the top reads “Is he your child? You don’t want this!”. The first sentence happens to be tall and a dark shade of red, acting as a looming and sinister question that overwhelms the audience. As explained above, these phrases act by insinuating that it is possible for one’s child to reach the same fate as the one in the poster if they don’t do as the speaker says, making the audience fearful.

    • The illustrator continues with a direct command: “Buy war bonds”, trying to be as clear as possible and getting straight to the point. The tone of voice makes the audience feel obliged to do as the speaker says, and the following words, “before is too late!” creates a sense of urgency and tries to hasten the process of getting the audience to buy war bonds.

  • Images/Placement/Color

    • Despite the negative and dangerous tone of the poster, the boy is smiling very innocently into the faces of the audience. The lopsidedness of his gestapo hat adds on to the feeling of innocence, because a child wouldn’t know how to wear a hat properly. The innocence radiating from the poster makes the audience feel guilty, because the child doesn’t know better so it’s up to them to make sure that he and the rest of the American children are safe from Nazi Germany influence.

    • The color scheme of the poster includes a range of warm colors, alluding to the fire and chaos of war. Even without this clever use of color, the effects of war can be seen in the background behind the child, including fire, canons, and rubble. The dangerous feeling created from the background and the color makes the audience feel the need to rescue their children from the horrors of war, starting by buying war bonds.

Logical Fallacies

  • Post hoc
    • The author states that “you don’t want” the child in the poster to be “your” child, and then he poses the solution that, in order to avoid this from happening, the audience should “buy war bonds, before it’s too late”. The author is essentially saying that the only way to prevent your child from being coerced by Nazism is by buying war bonds. The speaker exaggerates his point in order to make the audience more inclined to his following his argument.

  • Black-or white

    • Similar to how he uses the post hoc fallacy, the author implies that either “you buy war bonds”, or your child becomes a Nazi devotee. It creates an “either-or” dilemma, saying that the solution for the problem can only be the purchase of war bonds. Obviously, this is false, but once again the author is trying to shock the audience so they are more prone to do as he says.

  • Slippery Slope

    • The poster is implying that if you don’t simply buy war bonds, then the consequence will be as dire as the children of the audience falling under the influence of Nazi influence, as seen by the child wearing a gestapo hat a symbol for Hitler’s regime. .

  • Straw man

    • By saying “Is he your child? You don’t want this!”, the poster implies that if you want what’s best for your child, then you will buy war bonds. The author is thus misrepresenting the argument by inadvertently attacking parents who don’t buy war bonds and making them feel guilty because they don’t care for their children.

  • Appeal to Guilt

    • The speaker effectively plays on the audience’s emotions by inducing a feeling of guilt amongst parents. The smiling, innocent face of the young child who has succumbed to Nazi influence makes the audience feel guilty and makes them wonder: are they bad parents for not buying war bonds and helping out the US army? The speaker hopes that in order to vanquish this feeling of guilt, the audience will conform to his wishes.

  • Appeal to Fear

    • Because the author chooses to family members as his main audience, he can easily target what is precious to most of them; their children. Through the picture of the innocent boy, the gestapo hat and the death head pin, and the large fiery background, the speaker combines the existing fear of war with the worry that parents constantly feel for their kids to make an argument as to why people should buy war bonds. The audience is fearful for the future of their children, so they follow the illustrator’s advice, even if it’s just as a precaution and they have little interest in actually helping finance the US military.

Communist Russia

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Rhetorical Situation

Dmitry Moor, one of the main founders of Soviet political poster design,in his poster and , “Have You Enlisted In The Army?”, intimidates Russian worker in order to ensure their commitment and support for fighting Fascism in the World War II. The ideas of Fascism in Germany and Communism in Russia are at odds, and Russia ensures that it is Communism that is the victor, in order to spread Communism throughout the world after the war.

Rhetorical Strategies/Images

  • Images/Placement

    • The look in his eyes is accusatory and forceful, as if to say to the Russian workers, “Why haven’t you signed up to be in the military yet?” This invokes fear and panic in the audience, and has them running to the nearest sign up so that they do not have to face the wrath of an angry soldier.

    • In addition, the color red is the only bright color used. In mostly all of Russian propaganda, there is always a hint of red in each piece. However, in this poster, red is the dominant color. Red symbolizes the efforts of Communism and Russia itself; even the name of their military is called the Red Army.

  • Text
    • In bright red letters, the poster captions "Have you signed up for the war?", forcefully addressing the audience. The syntax of the question along with the large block letters complements the intimidating feeling created among the viewers.

  • Allusion: Moor used the same concept as the famous recruitment artworks, such as the British First World War poster featuring Lord Kitchener, and the White Volunteer Army’s poster Why are you not in the Army? to send his message. By alluding to other posters, Moor makes the audience feel a combination of the intimidating feelings from the other posters projected in this one post

Logical Fallacies


  • Appeal to Fear

    • In Moor’s poster, the central figure with a pointing finger, encouraging men to enlist in the Red Army, is positioned against a background of smoking factories. The message and image are probably the most energetic compared to all the previous ones. To make the Red Army soldier more spectacular and powerful, Dmitry Moor uses only red and black and positions the pointing figure above the viewer’s eye level, making it clearly more dominant.

  • Appeal to Patriotism

    • The author of the piece himself greatly supports Communist Russia, and since the domineering figure is dressed in red, the audience is reminded where their loyalties lie. Compared to recruitment posters with similar images and messages, the Red Army poster implies much more strongly that there are higher values than the life of an individual, and that the figure with a pointing finger has the right to demand a personal sacrifice from anyone.

  • Loaded Question:

    • The author chooses not to make an appeal (‘join’, ‘I want you’, ‘do your duty’) or delicate enquiry (‘why are you not?’), but rather a bold investigation (‘have you [done]?’), in which no excuse would be considered acceptable. In this way, the author is directing the audience to a certain answer; either yes or no. Since “no” is deemed an unacceptable answer, the audience will feel the need to sign up in order to appease the intimidating figure.

Own Propaganda: Sweatshops

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Rhetorical Situation

  • Purpose

    • This piece of propaganda was created in the hopes that the audience who viewed it would realize where the cheap clothes they wear are coming from and how the people in poorer countries are essentially paying the price so that large retailers can sell inexpensive clothing and still make a heavy profit. Upon being educated by this, the audience is trying to be persuaded into going against certain companies that are using sweatshops by resisting the purchase of their clothing and speaking up against these injustices.

  • Audience

    • The main audience for this propaganda are people who usually buy from stores that use sweatshops such as Nike, H&M, Gap, and Zara, as well as family members and peers of these individuals. The purpose of targeting this audience is to call out people who used to buy products from these stores in hopes that they would stop and encourage their family members and peers to stop as well.

Logical Fallacies

Logical Fallacies

  • Loaded Question

    • The question being asked is: “Is the price worth it?” The literal sense of this question is referring to the cost of a commodity, such as how much money a dress costs. However, within the context of sweatshops, the “price” refers to the poor working conditions and shockingly low pay of laborers in third world countries who work vigorously for the these large corporations. The effect of this is to presuppose the claim that the speaker is making so that it cannot be answered without sounding guilty, thus making the audience feel the need to stop buying clothes from sweatshop using companies.

  • Proving Too Much

    • The text at the bottom reads “Every bit of resistance helps improve a life. Do your part”. While it may be nice to assume that every single person’s help in the audience would make a difference, this is false. The point of this is to flatter the audience and make them feel obligated to do their part so that at least someone in one of the poorer countries can live a better life.

  • False Cause
    • Through the use of guilt-inducing tactics, the propaganda makes the audience feel like if they buy clothes from these large corporations that use sweatshops, then they are contributing to the plight of these laborers. This may be true for a large minority of the population, but one person buying clothes from these stores will make no difference.

  • Appeal to Emotion

    • The highly contrasting features between a privileged girl wearing a dress and the girls in the sweatshop making the dress create a sense of empathy among the audience. For one, the brightness and colorfulness of the fitting room contrast tremendously with the dull and depressing atmosphere of the sweatshop, making the audience - many of whom fall under the right side of the poster - feel guilt and sympathy. While the girl to the right is beaming in the mirror, the girls on the right display morose and exhausted expressions, adding on to the emotional response of the audience. The bars in the windows of the sweatshop make the place seem like a prison, which corresponds with the hard labor that the workers are being forced to do. Finally, despite the plethora of clothes that workers have made, the manager in the back states that “today, each only gets $0.15”. The purpose for this is so that the audience feels as if the low wages and poor conditions of sweatshops are unjustified and are therefore more willing to resist the companies that resort to such cruelty.

  • Ad Hominem

    • While the poster does not directly attack a person, it does attack specific companies that utilize sweatshops or factories with sweatshop-like conditions. In the right with the girl trying on the dress, the logos for various companies, such as Gap, H&M, Nike, and Zara are depicted in an immaculate fashion, whereas on the sweatshop side, the logos are portrayed as broken and old, indicating that these companies don’t care about their workers and are only interested in pleasing their customers. The argument, however, ignores the benefits of these companies, such as how they’re actually helping lower the unemployment rate in underdeveloped countries through their factories.