10 Works of Political Propaganda Campaigns That Backfired Hilariously

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Political propaganda backfire, even on master manipulators. Such propaganda’s fail for various reasons. It generally happens when the people lose faith in the government dictated by a cruel and greedy ruler. In other cases the government attempts to taint the opposition but instead the campaign backfires making the rulers look ridiculous.

10. When Obama Gave Photo Opportunity and Everyone Panicked

Political Propaganda That Hilariously Backfire

Back in 2009 terror struck thousands of New Yorkers walking down the street upon hearing a plane hovering over their heads. American President’s plain ‘Air Force One’ and an F-16 jet were seen circling the Statue of Liberty and lower Manhattan skyline around Ground Zero. After 9/11 one can imagine why New Yorkers get a little nervous when a plane flies too low over Manhattan. People were nerve-wrenched, some went so far as to evacuate offices and buildings fearing terrorist attacks, and others began frantic calls to emergency services.

Of course it wasn’t a terrorist attack only a ‘photo op’. The White House initially denied knowing anything about the photo shoot. Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg was enraged at the Obama administration for not informing him about the photo op in advance. President Obama was enraged too and ordered investigation. And of course the White House later apologizes. This endeavor of self-advertisement completely backfired and the government decided that thepublicity photos taken during the flight would not be shown to the public.

9. When a Soviet Film Made America Look Cool

Soy Cuba

After the 1959 Cuban revolution American and Cuban relationship was surfing rough waves. Cuba decided to make an anti-American film that would serve as a strong propaganda piece for the communist regime and the USSR agreed to finance it. In 1964 the Cuban-Soviet co-production ‘Soy Cuba’ (I Am Cuba) was released in the theaters. The director had intended to remonstrate the cause to the Revolution which according to him was oppressive forces like decadent American tourists, arrogant American sailors and brutal American corporations.

The film was supposed to glorify the Cuban Revolution. Instead it transmitted an alien vision of the country and reflected ‘dangerously’ fascinating images of American life. Unsurprisingly, it turned out to be a box-office bomb, a national shame and all was forgotten about such a film ever being made. The movie collected dust for 30 years until 1995, when it was rediscovered by two ‘American’ directors Martin Scorsese & Francis Ford Coppola and introduced it to the audiences who hailed it with high acclamation.

8. When The Russian Propaganda Plain Crashed

Russian Propaganda Plain Crashed

Developed in the early 1930s, ‘Tupolev ANT-20’ commonly known as the ‘Maxim Gorky’ was the largest plane of its time. Joseph Stalin had it built to flaunt the Stalinist propaganda. He had it equipped with a powerful radio set called ‘Voice from the sky’, light equipment etc to bellow patriotic slogan to people down on the ground. For the first time in aviation history, this aircraft had a ladder, which could cleverly fold itself and become a part of the floor. The aircraft could even be disassembled and transported by railroad if needed. The construction project brought together more than 800 technicians from dozens of aviation workshops and bureaus from across the USSR.  With eight motor propelling 7,000 horsepower it was a piece of wonder and pride for the dictator.

The plain was greatly promoted throughout the country. And it did set a number of world records for its lift capacity, but it was ponderously slow.

The Gorky was often escorted by single engine aircraft to compare its huge size. When the Gorky flew on May 18, 1935, one of the flying escort’s plain with pilot Nikolai Blagin decided to loop around and miscalculating the distance, slammed into one of Gorky’s huge wings. As a result the Gorky plummeted to the ground killing 45 people. The Soviets were so furious that they coined a new term – ‘blaginism’ (after the name of the pilot) which means “selfish exhibitionism and lack of proper discipline”.

7. When a Martyr Turned Out Alive

Viet Cong soldier Nguyen Van Be

A young Viet Cong soldier Nguyen Van Be became the focus, for debates on youth, heroism, and state policy throughout the course of the Vietnam War. In 1966 he had died heroically screaming “down with American Imperialists” and killing scores of Americans using a mine. The moment the story reached the media – ballets, poems, songs passionately flooded the country encouraging young men to enlist into the army. The extend of its publicity could be well imagined by the whopping thirty million leaflets, seven million cartoon leaflets, 465,000 posters, 175,000 copies of a special newspaper, 167,000 photographs, 10,000 song sheets that were published during the time. You name it, movie, television, radio, everything had Be’s face plastered on it.

But suddenly one day the dead Nguyen Van Be simply dropped in at a press conference.

Van Be wasn’t dead, he declared he had never fired a single shot. In fact he’d tried to run away but was captured and send away to a Vietnamese prison camp. After this sordid trick the Viet Cong told their audiences that American plastic surgeons had created a Van Be look-alike in order to deceive the population.

6. When The North Korean Propaganda Failed Disastrously

North Korean Propaganda

Let me introduced you to Lim Su-Kyung. She was a South Korean citizen who was widely dubbed as the ‘flower of unification’ by the North Koreans. Back in August 1989 Su-Kyung had illegally entered North Korea to participate in the “World Festival of Youth and Students“. She was welcomed by the North government with great pomp and glaring speeches of her bravery and even received an audience with the dictator Kim Il Sung. Basically they made a propaganda superstar out of her for defying the South government and crossing the border. In the street the crowd went mad who wanted to welcome her, touch her and in the process bruised her arm.

In the futuristic dystopia imagined in 1984, George Orwell wrote of a world where the only colour to be found was in the propaganda posters. Such was the case in North Korea where people were fed colourful propagandas and were taught to believe that South Korea was a military dictatorship. But Su-Kyung thoroughly amazed them with her looks and actions; she was casually dressed in jeans and t-shirt (considered non-traditional and high quality), well fed, educated and well spoken. In North Korea public speeches were not normally made by women, but Su-Kyung made powerful speeches without any embarrassment and without a script. This led to a crack in the conscience of the North people towards their beloved government.

Upon Su-Kyung’s return to South Korea she was arrested and apparently the North Korean people were worried for her safety thinking that she would face either execution or be thrown into prison till death as was the tradition in the North.

Then the North Korean government made a grave mistake of broadcasting her trial. Su-Kyung was sent to prison, and to the shock of the North people, ‘without’ her family. For in the North a traitor’s entire family are taken as political prisoners and sent to prison camps. Later she was released. North Koreans realized that the South was a lot more ‘liberal’ than they were allowed to believe. Soon the North Korean government realized their error and no further mention of the girl from the South was made ever again.

5. When N. Korean Leader’s Stupid ADS Made Him Look Stupider

Korean Leader's Stupid ADS

A seemingly bizarre idea one day struck the North Koreans and they started posting advertisements of the dictator Kim Jong Il in American and European newspapers. Strange as it may sound today, but North Korean ads were relatively common in major Western newspapers from 1969 to as late as 1997. The North Korean government issued full-page ads in The New York Times, The Guardian, The Irish Times, The London Times, The London Evening Standard, The Sun, The Boston Globe and The Washington Post glamorizing the exploits of Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il, the Juche ideology and the reunification of Korea in an attempt of appeasing the West. At least 100 advertisements were said to have been posted between the period 1969-1997.

However, the placement of ads in major Western newspapers did more harm than good; the advertisement became a source of joke and proved how lost the North Koreans were in the false world that they’d created themselves. In 1983 when Sean Garland former President of the Workers’ Party of Ireland had visited North Korea he said to his Korean comrades that those full-page ads expressing Kim Il Sung’s ideas in Irish national newspapers were “ a waste of money because nobody fucking reads them.”

4. When Chinese Ingeniuos Anti-Apple Campaign Backfire

Anti-Apple Campaign

Apple irked Chinese government when it failed to provide promised donations after an earthquake earlier in 2013. Later that year CCTV, the nation’s influential broadcaster and a leading mouthpiece of the central government exposed Apple’s after-sales program that suffered from short coming in China. Soon enough the official newspaper of the Communist Party The People’s Daily joined the attack and demanded  a rare apology  to Chinese consumers by Apple which was shortly afterwards delivered. The onslaught had occurred due to Apple’s big push into the country to make its root firmer and more profitable. It may also have been a cheap campaign led by a Chinese-owned Smartphone rival or a blackmail attempt intended to pressurize the company to spend more money in advertising at the state-owned media outlets.

So far so good, until a Hong Kong movie star made a post on a microbloging site. Alongside that post he had accidentally included an instruction from the TV station dictating when the post was to go online. This very naturally made Chinese netizens wonder whether everything, even the CCTV’s accusation was staged. The image of the government was over night transformed into that of a profit-blinded-manipulator. As if this wasn’t enough, other naive celebrities who had criticized Apple had sent their posts via Apple devices.

3. When The Guardian Tried Fixing Pen Pals For Americans

British newspaper The Guardian

The British newspaper The Guardian decided to provide the Americans with unsolicited advice on how to discharge their civic duties. The political election of the US was the target. Since the outcome of the election will affect the entire world, they reasoned, why shouldn’t non-Americans have a say in it, too? So Operation Clark County was born, in which the Guardian asked its readers to send letters to the Clark County citizen in Ohio begging them not to vote for George Bush.

Immediately about 11,000 British people signed up for the campaign. The newspaper gave out anonymous Clark County addresses to its readers which massively irked the County folks as wells as other American citizen. The Guardian was bombed with vicious letters saying “Have you not noticed that Americans don’t give two shits what Europeans think of us?” (link) and other shows of such appreciation.

To this the paper replied “Blimey, what the hell were we thinking?”  and raised the white flag. Some believe that the ‘Operation Clark County’ was responsible for George Bush’s win with 1,620 votes in the County

2. When Putin Remarkably Discovered Moss Free Urns

Putin Remarkably Discovered Moss Free Urns

The Russian president Vladimir Putin added another star to his uniform of success and turned into self-styled Indiana Jones in 2011 when he accidentally discovered Greek urns while scuba diving at a Russian archaeological site.

Earlier Putin has been seen furbishing his macho public image through a number of incidents like chase whales , riding a Harley, hunting bare-chested,  bending frying pan, arm wrestling, scaling artificial wall , taking down a judo master and even leading endangered cranes to safety in an ultralight aircraft . He’s done it all. Even played piano.

But, no one could buy this one. Critics noted that the amphorae that supposedly had been unearthed for the first time after the 6th century AD were surprisingly clean and remarkablymoss-free. And also the vases were lying only a few feet under clear water on a heavily trafficked coast.

Not surprising, this let to the creation of several parodies and served as a tipping point in Putin’s popularity. Of course his chief spokesman later confirmed that the incident was a total hoax and said that it was ‘completely normal’ to have staged it. Some Russians complain that the recent election results seem just as staged as the infamous accidental-urn-discovery.

1. When Women Wear was Used as a Tool of Mocking

Women Wear was Used as a Tool of Mocking

Back in 2009, the Iranian government’s attempt to humiliate a jailed student leader by photographing him in women’s clothes backfired when a campaign featuring Iranian men dressed in women’s clothes gained strength and triggered a debate on gender equality.

Majid Tavakoli, a prominent student leader, was arrested after giving a pro-democracy speech. Less than two hours later, the Fars news agency, reported that Tavakoli had been captured in women’s clothes preparing to escape from authorities. Some claim that the purpose behind all this was to parallel him with the disgraced president Banisadr who was alleged to have escaped from Iran by shaving his moustache and donning a woman’s headscarf.

Such effort to ridicule the opposition leader was met with outraged defiance not only in words but also in action. Humour, being the best way to make a political point Iranian men donned hijabs and posted their pictures on blogs and community websites like Facebook under unison slogans like ‘I am Majid’, ‘We are all Majid’, ‘Be a man. Send us your picture as a woman’ et al. Many of the contributing men dauntlessly showed their faces, in headscarves, while somecovered their faces and flashed ‘V’ signs. There is even a Wikipedia page in Farsi devoted to the phenomenon.

People who had witnessed Majid’s arrest cried foul-play and argued that Majid was either forced into the women’s clothing later or the picture was photoshopped.

Although the tone of the movement was initially whimsical, it touched on more profound matter of gender equality making sexuality a relevant issue. The whole phenomenon is also a portrayal of solidarity towards women in oppressed societies as well as a sign of acceptance of the notion of women as political force and not shame.