Propaganda Semiotics: Empirical Application of a Formal Analysis Model to Newspaper Covers from the Spanish Civil War

Antonio Pineda, Ana Isabel Barragán Romero, Antonio Macarro Tomillo

Abstract

This paper focuses on the application of a model designed for the semiotic analysis of propaganda messages. The model is applied to a sample of 182 newspaper covers gathered from the pro-Republican, Madrid edition of the newspaper ABC during the Spanish Civil War. The model refers fundamentally to the way propagandistic power institutions are semantically represented. The research mixes the quantification of empirical results with the application of formal structures and some concepts from the model. The covers are understood as unified propaganda messages composed of a single image and a single copy; the degree in which both codes converge in a single propagandistic concept, is one of the several aspects of the Semiotics of Propaganda that are studied in this paper. In order to measure such convergence, the messages are analyzed by using the concept of the “propagandeme,” that is, a minimal unit of propagandistic meaning. Results evidence that the ABC covers try to encourage the Spanish Republic’s war propaganda effort. Basically, the newspaper covers communicate a short-term discourse that aims to maintain the fighting spirit of the Spanish Republicans; however, these war messages cannot be regarded as representative of other trends in war propaganda, such as reactive communication.

Keywords

Propaganda Semiotics; Spanish Civil War Propaganda; Press and Propaganda; Spanish Republican Propaganda

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