Posters, Propaganda, and Persuasion in Election Campaigns around the World and through History

Article excerpt

Seidman, Steven A. Posters, Propaganda, and Persuasion in Election Campaigns Around the World and Through History. New York: Peter Lang Publishing, 2008. 327 pp. $33.95.

The role of the election campaign poster and its less artistic and more ephemeral sibling, the broadside, gets a long overdue survey in Steven A. Seidman's book, Post- ers, Propaganda and Persuasion in Election Campaigns Around the World and Through History. As the title suggests, the book cuts a wide swath in trying to examine how and why posters were used in national political campaigns in twelve democratic countries.

Seidman, an associate professor who chairs the Department of Strategic Com- munication at Ithaca College, devotes two chapters to the United States and one chap- ter each to the two other longstanding de- mocracies: Great Britain and France. He also spends one chapter giving quick snapshots of the use of election posters in a handful of national campaigns in nine democracies in Africa, Asia, Europe, and Latin America. In a Herculean effort of collection and copyright clearance, the book also contains nearly 200 black and white reproductions of campaign posters, most of them shrunken to about 2 inches by 3 inches. Finally, the book has a short chapter on what is known about the effectiveness of posters in changing an authences beliefs and behavior. The bottom line: actual evidence of their effectiveness is contradictory or difficult to prove, but campaign consultants seem to at least believe that posters work at some level and so they continue to be used even as national campaigns focus on TV advertising.

The breadth of the book proves to be mostly a positive but also sometimes a negative. The international comparisons give the reader more than an America-centric view of campaigns and their use of posters. Including other countries gives Seidman opportunities to show how posters are important in countries with high illiteracy rates or restrictions on television advertising by candidates. The numerous reproductions of posters make the book much more interesting and easy to understand, but space is limited with so much ground to cover and the discussion of the content of the posters and why they were used as they were is often more descriptive than analytical.

You will find no semiotic or textual analysis of posters; the analysis of each poster is usually limited to a basic description of the visual elements of each poster. …