Farewell propaganda, hello influence

On one side, a man looking to the past. Irritated, he yells into a megaphone at a crowd. In the spectrum of light separating the crowd from the device, one word: “propaganda.” Small floating images illustrate the mechanisms of propaganda from the past: traditional media such as television and radio, movies, mail or even some form of politics.

On the other side, a woman looking to the future. She smiles, but her gaze is neither sympathetic nor empathetic. She speaks to a crowd through a cell phone. In the spectrum of light emanating from her device, the word “influence” can be read. This lady is an influencer. Small floating images illustrate the mechanics of being an influencer: being on social media like Facebook and Twitter, creating videos, and the importance of “likes” and commentary about favorite tastes and products.

Between the pair, few differences. Men have given way to women, who are now more present in the audiovisual landscape and in the world of work. They are attractive – because someone dressed in rags does not get others dreaming – and in the position of “knowing,” symbolized by their large size and their confidence.

Is the influencer just a descendant of the personalities once used to convey propaganda messages? Is social media influence just a modern take on the propaganda of yesteryear?

Selling a war, a political program, a product, an idea … it has always been necessary to make people accept, convince, train, seduce, but times change.

In a war context, we called on movie stars to unite a population around a cause. We used fear to obtain the consent of a whole people. To persuade people to buy products, expensive advertisements were put together that appeared on television or in newspapers.

Today, to encourage consumption or gain membership, content creators are called upon to create a “community.” We rely on the feeling of belonging to a community of thought or tastes. However, citizens losing confidence in authority figures now lend popularity to strangers: an influencer is someone who claims their popular origin, and illustrates their daily lives, their failures and their flaws.

Are they better? Do they give a sense of déjà vu? That is the question posed by the illustration.