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How'd the fire nation justify its war? Was there some kind of propaganda that the other nations' leaders were corrupt or something? Or did they just say, what, 'we can rule better than they can'?

(This probably is unlikely to not have been discussed before, but my google fu is failing me...)

The only parts of the series I remember that talk about the fire nation's justification are in S03E06 (when Roku and Sozin talk) and S03E10- S03E11 (when Zuko and Ozai talk) aaaaand what I remember is pretty much the same as what I've found:

[atla] How does firelord ozai justify a war against the rest of the world? Also what basis is there for arresting/killing the avatar? by AhDemon

  • The war was justified for the same reasons imperialism was justified in real life: spreading their wealth and prosperity to the rest of the world. - hateyoualways
  • Before the start of the war the Fire Nation was going through a period of prosperity and Sozin had the idea to bring a "brighter future" to the rest of the world by expanding the empire. - BW_Bird

I don't find them complete. How the Hell would anyone just be ok with 'we want it, so we're taking it, even if we're killing innocent government officials and innocent civilians for no reason' ? This is why I asked if there was some kind of propaganda like the other nations' leaders were corrupt or negligent or something in that the fire nation is some kind of 'saviour' of the world.

I know in the series there are propaganda throughout, but there's not really much detail. Other propaganda is seen in like S03E02 re the fire nation school or the ember island players in S03E17, but what about the propaganda before the war?

I thought the propaganda would be about, idk, how the earth monarchy is corrupt or how the water tribes are occupying territory that rightfully belongs to the fire nation because of this or that.

Guess: Or wait...maybe it's implied that there is some kind of propaganda but it's not specific because it's a kids' show, and it's left to the imagination of the viewers 'How is any such war justified?' ?

Hmmm...maybe it's like maths where you can prove a solution exists but you don't know what the solution is.

But maybe in the comics there is some explanation that wasn't given in the show?

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    If you already have the answer, why ask? Aug 7, 2022 at 6:42
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    The Firelord is an absolute monarch. He doesn't need to justify anything to anyone.
    – Valorum
    Aug 7, 2022 at 7:37
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    Multiple mentions of Fire Nation propaganda in this article; avatar.fandom.com/wiki/Fire_Nation
    – Valorum
    Aug 7, 2022 at 8:33
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    The pitch that Sozin gives to Roku is pretty standard "civilizing mission" stuff - our nation is prosperous, we must share this with the world, they're unenlightened children - that plenty of colonizers have used in real life. Is there any reason to assume that's not the argument he used on his own people?
    – Cadence
    Aug 7, 2022 at 8:34
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    @BCLC Leaving aside that... well, it literally was a kid's show... the inherent superiority of the "civilized" world and their duty to "share" that civilization with colonies was and is very common in real life, and the writers choosing to address such a heavy topic head-on, rather than dressing it up with fantastic elements, was one of their strengths.
    – Cadence
    Mar 21 at 19:11

4 Answers 4

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Thanks to Valorum for pointing out:

From the ATLA fandom page 'Fire Nation':

While an envoy from the Water Tribes sensed the spiritual disturbance and visited the death sites in the Fire Nation, Sozin reacted by spinning a propaganda campaign to blame any spiritual disturbances on the presence of the people of the Water Tribe.

and

Desperate to rebuild some stability in their lives, the people living there began to buy into Sozin's anti-Earth Kingdom propaganda, blaming the neighboring nation's lack of support and their greedy claim to Natsuo Island rather than looking into any problems with their own government.

(The rest of the parts with the word 'propaganda' appear to be after Sozin's time.)

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2nd hand answer: ZongduOfArrakis from reddit here re the 'TTRPG Roku section':

Read the TTRPG Roku section on the Fire Nation if you can! It sets up the seeds of justification for rampant xenophobia being planted about 50 years before the war began and turning the peaceful nation into one that hates all others.

The Air Nomads have a lot of interesting detail. First, the temples and the Fire Nation had such a good relationship that they had Air Nomad cultural centers in the Fire Nation. However, a renegade sect that didn't like monks working with nobility started to sabotage the temples, giving Sozin an excuse to post his military outside these centers. He started spreading propaganda that this sect called the Guiding Wind was committing violent acts (they weren't, but it was believable due to sabotage). And to make this worse, Sozin's sister joined this Air Nomad sect and wished to take him down.

The Water Tribe came to investigate when the Fire Nation started hunting the dragons, as the killings disturbed the spirits and the Tribes knew most about these issues as they lived near the dormant spirit portals and were affected the most by spiritual problems. Sozin spun a propaganda campaign that blamed the Water Tribe for causing spiritual problems instead of trying to solve them. Eventually the Fire Nation claimed an island that was considered sacred to the Water Tribe due to being a meeting point between the North and South at the equator.

The Earth Kingdom was genuinely pretty corrupt at the time. So when there was a huge volcanic eruption due to Roku causing a volcano explode when he made a mistake in controlling the Avatar State, the Earth Kingdom refused to accept refugees from the east Fire Nation, and Sozin amplified their suffering and blamed it all on the Earth Kingdom. And he ramped up a jingoistic land dispute little by little, starting with the previously unclaimed islands between the Earth Kingdom and Fire Nation that proved to be rich in natural resources needed for the industrial age.

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  • This appears to be a quote from someone unconnected with the show, making a bunch of unfounded assertions.
    – Valorum
    Aug 9, 2022 at 5:17
  • @Valorum thanks for edit and comment! I edited to say it's 2nd hand. Yeah I guess the best bet would really be the TTRPG itself.
    – BCLC
    Aug 9, 2022 at 9:05
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    Primary sources are always best. You often find that Secondary sources like this have added their own headcanon, or simply misunderstood what the Primary Source is saying. You find often that Secondary sources also selectively quote to suit their own needs
    – Valorum
    Aug 9, 2022 at 9:11
  • @Valorum right. also i posted a new answer.
    – BCLC
    Mar 21 at 16:22
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2nd hand answer from reddit by MukasTheMole here and here:

Actually in the comic Katara and the pirates silver we get to know that fire lord Sozin justified wiping out the air nomads by telling his subjects that the air nomads were evil and planned to take over the world. Because of this ani air nation propaganda Sozin made his people believe that the genocide of the air nomads was an act of defence. He also justified starting the war by saying that he just wants to share the fire nations wealth and prosperity whit the rest of the world and that the only reason the other nations fight back is because they're afraid of change or something, all of which is a lie of course to make his people think that what he's doing is right.

and

The comic is called 'Katara and the pirates silver'. It's set during book 2 in between episodes 9 and 10 (probably) and it follows katara as she's separated from the group and is forced to join a pirates crew to get back to the others. Meanwhile Aang, Sokka and Toph are attacked by a fire nation soldier who toph captures by bending earth around him. Aang try's to talk to the captured soldier in order to use why he's loyal to the fire lord and that is when he finds out that the people of the fire nation have been led to believe that he and his people were evil.

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  • This answer would be much better if you removed all of the commentary from Reddit and just posted your own answer
    – Valorum
    Mar 21 at 19:26
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2024Feb Update in netflix version:

In the fire nation's view, they are bringing balance to the world. They didn't really say much about the evils of the water tribe or earth kingdom (yet) though. (But well my own propaganda is that they are evil. Mwahahaha.)

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The sage who helps Aang says

Remember the teachings of Avatar Roku. Fire is not meant to dominate the other elements. It should exist in balance with them.

The great sage says

The only one who can provide balance is Fire Lord Ozai. He will unify the world, not the Avatar.

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