There was a time when propaganda films were known for what they were, propaganda. For example, during World War II Hollywood studios actively helped in the war effort. The most famous of these films was Frank Capra’s “WHY WE FIGHT”, a collection of informational films designed to explain what the war was about. Lesser known were Walt Disney’s animated films. For example….
When you watch this film you are struck at how good the animation is and how the simplest of societal roles are magnified for war production purpose. Watching these films is in some ways quaint. We like the animation and marvel at the technique. And because we know they are historical as well as propaganda, we can be detached. We see the manipulation. We see how they are trying to work.
Today, the role of propaganda films have been taken over by documentaries and cable TV. In essence, media makers make films that do little but preach to the choir. They aren’t documentaries in the sense that they are giving a balanced approach to the topic. On the right or the left, the films are calls to action. They are designed to inflame or evoke emotional responses. We are spending less time looking at problems and more time yelling at each other. Documentaries, like the political process itself, have coarsened.
The difference between now and then is far too many people don’t see the manipulation. Far too many people don’t see how they are being used and far too many people lack the critical thinking to discern when they are being sold a bunch of snake oil.
The next time you turn on Fox News, and to a lesser extent, MSNBC, turn up the critical eye. See how they are using images and words to manipulate the content. You will discover that things have not changed all that much from the 1940s an Disney’s propaganda films. The only real difference is back then we had a real enemy. Now, as Pogo once said, the “enemy is us.”