Hand gestures have always been used in political propaganda as a way to emphasize a certain message or as a way to grab attention and directly communicate with viewers on a more personal level. Let’s take a look at some hand gestures used in political propaganda…
The Victory Sign:
Tales say that the V sign was originally derived from a 2 finger military salute. It’s also been said that in medieval times, when the French captured British archers, they used to cut off their index and middle finger… so other British archers started using the gesture as a sign of defiance in battle.
In Modern history, it was Winston Churchill who first made the V sign popular after World War II. His usage of the V sign was used as V for victory. Another president who has also used the sign is Richard Nixon after the Vietnam War. He used it as a symbol of victory and peace. Peace was incorporated to its meaning because hippies who used that sign at the time would usually say the word “peace” when they flashed the V sign.
In Lebanon, the V sign has been used by Hezbollah supporters as a symbol of victory after the July 2006 war with Israel.
The Pointing Finger:
The pointing index finger was first used as a propaganda tool in 1914 in a British Army recruitment poster featuring Lord Kitchener. The poster said “Britons: Lord Kitchener Wants You. Join Your Country’s Army! God save the King”. This poster inspired several imitation posters later on… including the famous Uncle Sam WWI and WWII US army recruitment posters.
The pointing index finger in posters is effective because it aims and talks directly to the viewer as an individual. It makes the viewer feel as if he/she is being targeted directly; as if he/she is being specifically spoken to. This makes the viewer more involved, and more likely to think about and react to the message being conveyed.
In Lebanon, a propagandist poster featuring Bachir Gemayel pointing was used.
Hand gestures are an effective tool in propaganda because most humans can relate to and copy these gestures. The people repeat these gestures to express themselves, thus these gestures become a catchy means of expression and communication.