10 Failed Propaganda Campaigns In Modern History

Propagandas are essentially smear campaigns to malign the opposition. They are analogous to infomercials, devised to stifle the competition. However, failed propaganda campaigns are even worse. Conversely, propagandas can misfire, making a laughing stock of their initiators. Thus, we commence on examining top-1o propaganda campaigns failing to fire:

1. North Korea Accidentally Popularizes South Korean Protester

North Korea held the World Festival of Youth and Students in 1989, portraying a humanitarian image to the global village, which was farther from the truth itself. A South Korean leftist activist named Lim Su Kyung illegally jumped the border to partake in the festival, much to the excitement of Kim II Sung.

Truth is Stranger than Fiction

Lim Su Kyung stayed put in North Korea for 6 weeks, becoming an eye-candy for the North Korean propagandists criticizing the South Korean government. They made her a poster-child for Flower of Reunification, aspiring to reunite North Korea with South Korea. Interestingly, North Korean populace noticed how well-educated, well-fed and well-dressed Lim Su Kyung actually was, contrary to popular myth propagated about South Korean starvation, rife with poverty-stricken and ignorance.

How it Failed

Lim Su Kyung became a whistleblower against North Korean propaganda, as she introduced South Korea as a thriving modern economy, well on its way to prosperity, technological advancement and economic progress. It shook North Koreans to the core, who perceived these amenities belonged to government officials categorically.

10-Failed Propaganda Campaigns
Looks like an action movie poster

Slap on the Wrist

Landing back in South Korea, Lim Su Kyung was arrested for illegal border crossover as North Koreans feared thrashing and family imprisonment. North Korean government hot on her trail, hoping for the worst, transmitted images of Lim Su Kyung being represented by a lawyer and receiving a slap on the wrist. Her parents were interviewed at their homes. The North Korean government realized their erroneous ways and decided to withdraw. A mass exodus was observed during 1989 as North Korean populace realized the grass is greener on the other side.

 2. Research Financed to Disprove Global Warming Proves it

As 97% of scientists globally expressed their concerns about global warming, powerful individuals attempted to quell the rising tidal wave permanently. Enter the legendary Koch brothers: Pumping $61-million to justify their legitimacy of interests and safety of environment they had a high disregard for. Thus, Charles Koch stumbled across Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature, positing that global warming research was marred and distorted to express concerns using faulty tests and tampered numbers. Having faith in physicist Richard Muller, he handed out the biggest donation and decided to watch and wait. Interestingly, Richard Muller was among 3% of the global warming skeptics, the stakes were high.

10-Failed Propaganda Campaigns
Thanks to Charles Koch

How it Failed

The tables had turned; the skeptics had become believers as Richard Muller hopped on the global warming bandwagon, leaving Charles Koch at the altar. Muller was a skeptic, but a scientist, as he factored global temperatures from 250 years earlier, measured carbon dioxide levels and methods used to conduct these studies, he concluded global warming was for real, especially during recent decades.

10-Failed Propaganda Campaigns
Okay, okay. It is real

Scientists-Koch 1-0

Charles Koch began to distance himself from the entire research exercise, suggesting that his funding of the research was just a stuff of speculation, given that his source of wealth is oil refineries. Meanwhile, opponents began discrediting the research entirely given their vocal support of it previously.

 3. Spearheading Anti-Apple Campaign Graduates to Anti-China Campaign

During 2013, China bested America as the biggest market for Apple. It was simply a by-product of disposal incomes, stamping class consciousness in a relatively classless, communist country.

Winter of Discontent

Given the foreign company foraying into Chinese market usurping the domestic competition in a single gulp unsettled state-run tech companies. It sealed the days of Chinese officials earning hefty kickbacks. Thus, Chinese media embarked on a smear campaign against Apple, roping in Chinese celebrities to malign Apple at a set time. Given Apple’s indifference to this ensuing smear campaign, the Chinese government moved to plan B, allowing People’s Daily (a communist party’s off-shoot) to express their grievances, cherishing their carpentry.


10-Failed Propaganda Campaigns
Sounds gibberish, right?

How it Failed? 

The Chinese citizens unleashed a biblical barrage of onslaught against Chinese tech companies and government, voicing incompetent customer support, price increase, redundant charges, refused refunds and products breaking when touched. Thus, the term Made in China holds its relevance.

Packing up the Circus

Resultantly, public outrage widened from Chinese corporations to the Chinese leadership. Thus, the Chinese government realized the error of their ways and settled with bribing celebrities before the country descended into another large-scale civil war.

 4. Anti-Capitalist Movie Popularizes it Instead

During the 1960s, the Cubans had acquired a distaste for capitalist system and its decadent lifestyle. Given that American embargo had barred cinemas and drive-ins, its theaters were barren wastelands in short. Fidel Castro requested Russia to make a Hollywood-styled movie on his behest. Russia readily jumpstarted the project as Cuba was its communist ally.

The movie was titled Soy Cuba, released in 1964, directed by Mikhail Kalatozov. Castro even ordered soldiers on-duty to film a scene for the movie, because with Cuban Crisis almost landing the world into WWIII, the soldiers were exactly where they should be (shooting movie scenes).


10-Failed Propaganda Campaigns
Secretly, the director was bought by Uncle Sam

How it Failed

The impoverished Cubans exposed to the beautified first-world country hosting lavish pool parties was exactly what the Cubans were yearning for, it merely heightened their longing.

Soy Beans portrayed Cubans as Spanish hillbillies, whereas Kalatozov’s film-making prowess showcased Americans as the It nation.

 Cult Classic in Pop Culture

Thus, Soy Cuba was eventually hailed as a modern masterpiece in film-making for the very reason it wasn’t intended, directors such as Francis Ford Coppola and Martin Scorsese deemed it as top-shelf film-making. It is still revered today, influencing upcoming filmmakers. Resultantly, it was an exercise in futility as Soy Cuba miserably slam-dunked as an anti-capitalist/ anti-American propaganda tool.

 5. Iranian Men Imitate Iranian Student Dressed as a Woman

During Iranian presidential election of 2009, voter fraud scandal resulted in a nationwide student protest against it. Majid Tavakoli, a leader of student union was taken in custody due to spurring propaganda against the Iranian government. Pictures of him were released dressed in female apparel. He was alleged to be attempting a Tootsie seconds before arrest.

10-Failed Propaganda Campaigns
After flunking the semester

Why it Failed

As a matter of fact, Iranian citizens were well-aware that Iranian government had rallied Tavakoli to this act, in effect, inspiring students to avoid adopting a feminine stance. However, Iranian youth embarked on dressing-in-a-female apparel trend. Thus started Be a Man movement, as Iranian men took to the internet posting dressed-as-a-woman photos. A popular celebrity named Babak Takhti also climbed the bandwagon. The rival of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Mir Hussein Mousavi adored the movement. Thus, Iranian government knew its citizens had an ace up its sleeve, it needed to fold fast.

 6. A Viet Cong Pulls off a Second Coming

“A 13-year Vietnamese named Nguyen Van Be was a volunteer for shipping explosives to his comrades. A 30-minute crossfire ensued with the Americans, in which he fought with valor. He was taken into custody and interrogated about the landmines he was carrying. He demonstrated rebellion by nicking a landmine and detonated a tank with it, chanting Death to American imperialists! Long live Viet Cong Liberation Front! “


10-Failed Propaganda Campaigns
Decorated war hero (not)

Fact or Fiction?

He became a national hero, taking down 69 American soldiers with him. Songs, hymns, poems and operas were composed in his memory and children were taught his fairytale in school. He was awarded Magnificent Bravery and Indomitable Loyalty, buried under an avalanche of legends.

Why it Failed?

He was still alive and kicking in some American POW camp. He merely helped American troops in dispelling his relentless loyalty to Viet Cong which turned out to be a facade. His supposed bravery was as real as an existence of Santa Claus. He confessed the gunfire merely lasted for some minutes, with bullets rotting in the chamber. He attempted to flee the scene of the battle, but was taken by a Vietnamese soldier. Also, he was 20-years at the time, contrary to 13-years.

Picking up the Pieces

Thus, the Viet Cong pretended to celebrate his death of his fallen comrade for years and secretly ordered a failed assassination attempt to seal the deal.


7. Home by Christmas: Broken Promises

During the Korean War, a befitting instance of propaganda became etched in memory. In closing months of 1950, soldiers were anticipated to return before Christmas, abandoning crucial war equipment, including rations, ammunition and helmets.


Reason being, North Korea under their clasp and peninsula almost secured. The return before Christmas promise hit home with soldiers. However, they had neglected the Chinese intervention who unleashed a counteroffensive.

Why it Failed

Thanks to MacArthur, the then United Nations Commander-in-Chief thought the Chinese would remain in their territory, which allowed significant Chinese headway, pushing UN forces back.

10-Failed Propaganda Campaigns
Don’t believe everything

8. Airplane Crashes Airshow

Tupolev ANT-20 was the Boeing 747 of the 1930s. Designed by the Soviet Union, it was a ginormous aircraft given the primitive days of aviation. The airplane was purposed with circulating propaganda via film projectors and radio. It eventually fell in the ditch it was digging.

10-Failed Propaganda Campaigns
Looks sleek for 1935

How it Failed

In a Russian aviation airshow, a gigantic airplane was performing stunts with its minions. The Tupolex ANT-20 collided with a sidekick airplane, as it crashed in a residential area, wiping out 45 civilians along with itself.

Saving Face

The Russian authorities saw this as an international embarrassment, as cover-up efforts ensued. Citing it as pre-planned (among other excuses) they even created a diary belonging to pilot colliding into the ill-fated plane, posing him as a would-be anti-communist. Thus, a larger version of Tupolev ANT-20 was never produced, however, a smaller version appeared.

9. Holocaust Deniers Substantiate Holocaust

A famous Holocaust skeptic think tank named the Institute For Historical Review made a wager of $50,000 to prove the gassing of Jews in Auschwitz. Given that The Third Reich was thoroughly invested in ethnic cleansing on their terms, they meticulously recorded their records. According to IHR, it was a figment of a Jewish conspiracy to shore up sympathy votes, inter alia.

How it Failed?

Desperate times call for desperate measures. IHR contacted a victim of Holocaust named Mel Mermelstein. He was informed of a make-believe contest where an individual was awarded compensation when he experienced an extraordinary crisis. However, his substantiation would be adjudicated by American law as opposed to Judgment at Nuremberg.

Mr. Mermelstein was the game and submitted his notarized account of his stint at Auschwitz as evidence. The IHR doubled back on their deal to keep their end of the deal, landing themselves into a court of law (the irony!).

10-Failed Propaganda Campaigns
It’s a bittersweet symphony, this life

The judge strongly stressed the gassing of Jews as a tragic incident in history, not to be confused with a half-baked conspiracy theory cooked by the plaintiffs. As per California law, the Holocaust was established as a bitter and harsh truth of WWII.

The IHR was obligated to handover Mermelstein an amount of $50,000 along with a bonus of $40,000 for their trouble.


Umer Asad

Umer Asad invented writing, the airplane, and the internet. He was also the first person to reach the North Pole. He has flown to Mars and back in one day, and was enthusiastically greeted by the Martians. “Very strange beings,” he reported on his return. He has written one thousand highly regarded books; a team of experts is presently attempting to grasp their meaning. “It might take a century,” said the chief expert. Umer is also a great teller of stories — but not all of them are true, for instance the ones in this bio.

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