Paradox Of Propaganda

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HISTORY OF FILM AS PROPAGANDA The oblique paradox of propaganda is that the lie in the throat becomes, by repetition, the truth in the heart. - John Grierson, documentary filmmaker. A giant airplane travels high up in the clouds. The crowds look heavenwards with anticipation. They are waving, shouting, cheering. The powerful sound of the engine adds to the mystique and the aura. Finally, He descends from the clouds as the crowds break into deafening applause. The all-too familiar chant ‘Heil Hitler, Heil Hitler’ pervades the screen. As I watch this compelling beginning of the film ‘Triumph of the Will’, directed by Leni Riefenstahl (1934), I am torn between two opposing thoughts. Is this cinema at its best or propaganda at its worst? The use of propaganda by political regimes is as old as politics itself. Each time an administration needs to convince a nation that an action is necessary, all means of mass media are pulled into action. As Nancy Snow, writes in her book Information War: American Propaganda, Free Speech and Information Control since 9-11, ‘Critical thinking ends when propaganda begins’. Before the invention of film, it was newspapers, public meetings and rallies. But perhaps none would wield as much influence as cinema. It was in 1896 that the Lumiere Brothers invented the motion camera. The earliest films were mere documents of very natural and normal activities but they overwhelmed the audiences. For example, the arrival of a train in a railway station
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