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Prior Experience

I discuss the Prior Experience attribute of the model here with respect to both the medium and with respect to the message. As I indicated in Chapter 4, regarding the medium and technology, one’s experience with a medium affects their ability to use it as a tool. This applies to both using it to create the message as well as using it as an audience of the message. Many people these days (21st century), for example, have difficulty listening to a radio broadcast of a sports event; they prefer to see video of the game, because they cannot visualize the action. The prevalence of television and video streaming online makes almost any sports event accessible through video; however, in 1940, everyone would have been more familiar with using radio to listen to a game and try to visualize the action in their mind. Because radio was the most common broadcast tool, the general public was very familiar with listening to it as a news source. Because there is just the one mode, intermodal sensory redundancy is limited, like visual dominance, to imagined visualization of the president speaking.

With respect to the message, the general public was familiar with the war going on in Europe and that Japan was an ally of Germany. There were several news stories about Germany’s expansion into various territories and nations in Europe. The general public knew, also, of Adolph Hitler through print and radio broadcast news. The primary message that would be new to listeners was the scale to which the U.S. was in danger and the scale on which the U.S. would be assisting England and its allies in the war. F.D.R., in fact, acknowledges this danger very early in the message:

Never before since Jamestown and Plymouth Rock has our American civilization been in such danger as now. For on September 27th, 1940—this year—by an agreement signed in Berlin, three powerful nations, two in Europe and one in Asia, joined themselves together in the threat that if the United States of America interfered with or blocked the expansion program of these three nations—a program aimed at world control—they would unite in ultimate action against the United States.

The Nazi masters of Germany have made it clear that they intend not only to dominate all life and thought in their own country, but also to enslave the whole of Europe, and then to use the resources of Europe to dominate the rest of the world. It was only three weeks ago that their leader stated this: “There are two worlds that stand opposed to each other.” And then in defiant reply to his opponents he said this: “Others are correct when they say: ‘With this world we cannot ever reconcile ourselves.’’’ I can beat any other power in the world.” So said the leader of the Nazis.

For the most part, citizens of the U.S. observed with interest the happenings in Europe, knowing that the Nazis were making considerable gains. However, the U.S. was “safe” from invasion because of the oceans. The U.S. also had touted its neutrality in the war and a general policy of isolationism. However, with the realization that the Nazis would try to dominate the World, and given their vast expansion to that point, more action was needed to defend the security of the U.S. He conveys this need as well:

If Great Britain goes down, the Axis powers will control the Continents of Europe, Asia, Africa, Austral-Asia, and the high seas. And they will be in a position to bring enormous military and naval resources against this hemisphere. It is no exaggeration to say that all of us in all the Americas would be living at the point of a gun—a gun loaded with explosive bullets, economic as well as military. We should enter upon a new and terrible era in which the whole world, our hemisphere included, would be run by threats of brute force. And to survive in such a world, we would have to convert ourselves permanently into a militaristic power on the basis of war economy.

Finally, he acknowledges the scale on which the assistance to Great Britain will occur and attempts to persuade the citizens that it is the right policy as well as persuade them to participate fully.

We are planning our own defense with the utmost urgency, and in its vast scale we must integrate the war needs of Britain and the other free nations which are resisting aggression. This is not a matter of sentiment or of controversial personal opinion. It is a matter of realistic, practical military policy, based on the advice of our military experts who are in close touch with existing warfare. These military and naval experts and the members of the Congress and the Administration have a single-minded purpose: the defense of the United States.

This nation is making a great effort to produce everything that is necessary in this emergency, and with all possible speed. And this great effort requires great sacrifice. I would ask no one to defend a democracy which in turn would not defend every one in the nation against want and privation. The strength of this nation shall not be diluted by the failure of the government to protect the economic well-being of its citizens. If our capacity to produce is limited by machines, it must ever be remembered that these machines are operated by the skill and the stamina of the workers.

As the government is determined to protect the rights of the workers, so the nation has a right to expect that the men who man the machines will discharge their full responsibilities to the urgent needs of defense. The worker possesses the same human dignity and is entitled to the same security of position as the engineer or the manager or the owner. For the workers provide the human power that turns out the destroyers, and the planes, and the tanks. The nation expects our defense industries to continue operation without interruption by strikes or lockouts. It expects and insists that management and workers will reconcile their differences by voluntary or legal means, to continue to produce the supplies that are so sorely needed. And on the economic side of our great defense program, we are, as you know, bending every effort to maintain stability of prices and with that the stability of the cost of living.


The speech appeals to mirror neurons, because the president is an expert on national policy and security. The U.S. audience values his position and wants to support it, especially given the threat to national security even though the U.S. is not yet in the War. It becomes apparent to the audience that if Great Britain and its allies cannot win the War, freedoms that they have enjoyed are endangered. Consequently, the reward neural appeal is that freedom and democracy will win if all in the audience unite to assist in the allied war effort against Nazi Germany and Imperialist Japan.

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