ABSTRACT

Propaganda, then, became a major project of modem social organizations at war. Warfare as an enterprise required widespread public support, which could not be left to chance. Both public and private channels of communication became crucial to the molding and retaining of public opinion. In the twentieth century, this included the movies. In wars conducted by nation-states, govcmments relied

on their movie industries to cooperate as a propaganda agency. Political authorities came to recognize the importance of movie propaganda in perpetuating the war effort, and in many cases formed a symbiotic relationship between a private industry and public agency in producing and distributing the kinds of supportive films that the government at war required. War, then, has been a great impetus to the development of film propaganda. The official languages of power have become infused with the characteristic features of propaganda: intensification, making the language more fiery and savage; mobilization, calling on all to join the euphoria and bloodthirstiness of the impending fray; and polarization, dividing friend and foe into categories of light and darkness, good and evil, heroics and demonics. Film quickly proved to be highly adaptable to the requirements and aims of propaganda, bringing to the project of war propaganda the visual spectacle and kinetic energy peculiar to the medium. More than mere words or pictures, film could heighten our responses by depicting the war situation in intense tenns and images unfolding in a story. Film called people to support and action through inspiring them to become part of the war story. Finally, film could make audiences imagine the enemy as the demonic Other, as the personification of evil. This portrayal became especially powerful when presented in extremely polarized eiconic frames, juxtaposed against depictions of Americans as the repository of virtue and the defender of right.