Fascism is often successful because they engage their victims on an emotional and psychological level, while the progressive movement tends to appeal to their audiences through rational and cerebral arguments.
Emotions are an innate and essential aspect of human life, while rationality is a learned skill that requires reasoning and intelligence, which can be challenging for those who have not received adequate training via education.
That is why often the audience that dance to the tunes of mass hysteria orchestrated by Fascist propaganda are people in the lower strata of the society, to whom education is either unaffordable or life is better with ignorance. Their perception of truth is based on what they see. Or what they are shown by the propaganda.
“Cinematography is the strongest weapon” – Benito Mussolini
In a country of approximately 35 million people out of which 10 million cannot read and write [Source], Benito Mussolini saw the power of cinema to misinform the public and show them how valorous they are.
Films were produced and censored under Mussolini’s regime to promote fascist ideology and appeal to the emotions of the Italian masses by depicting Italy’s glorious past and valiant efforts to defend itself against its enemies.
For example, “The Siege of the Alcazar” was an Italian film made in 1940 depicting the Spanish Civil War and portrayed fascist forces as heroic defenders of Western civilization against communism.
Some of the other Italian propaganda films were The Song of the Sun (1933), The Iron Crown (1941), Scipio Africanus: The Defeat of Hannibal (1937), and The White Squadron (1936).
In Nazi Germany, the regime used art to promote its ideology of racial superiority and anti-Semitism. Artists who did not conform to the regime’s standards were labeled “degenerate” and their works were confiscated or destroyed.
‘The Eternal Jew’ made in Germany in 1940 portrayed Jews as subhuman and evil, and blamed them for Germany’s problems. The film was meant to promote anti-Semitic beliefs and justify the persecution of Jews in Nazi Germany.
Another German film “Jud Süss” (1940) was a fictionalized account of the life of Joseph Süss Oppenheimer, a Jewish financier in 18th-century Germany. The film portrayed Jews as greedy and manipulative, and was meant to promote anti-Semitic beliefs and justify the persecution of Jews in Nazi Germany.
These films celebrate racial superiority, dehumanize the regime’s enemies, and promote a false sense of pride in a glorious past. They also encourage violence by portraying enemies as threats, and as a result, they have a harmful impact on society. Therefore, it is important to critically examine them rather than taking them at face value.
Propaganda movies in India
‘The Kashmir Files’ is a recent Indian movie that the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and the Prime Minister have encouraged party workers and even the entire nation to watch. The film depicts the persecution of Kashmiri Pandits, who were killed or forced to flee the Indian state of Kashmir.
However, the movie portrays all Muslims in Kashmir as perpetrators of the persecution, which is a gross exaggeration that fits a Fascist narrative. This portrayal is a disturbing reflection of Fascism’s tendency to dehumanize its enemies and treat them as monsters.
Unfortunately, ‘The Kashmir Files’ is not the only propaganda movie produced in recent times.
Since the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party came to power in 2014, the number of propaganda films has significantly increased.
The blockbuster movie ‘RRR’ has also faced criticism for its propaganda-like elements, as reported in Vox.
Other examples of such movies include ‘The Accidental Prime Minister’, ‘The Tashkent Files’, and ‘Thackeray’.
Propaganda Movies Worldwide
There have been several movies worldwide that have been accused of promoting propaganda.
The Birth of a Nation (2016) – This American historical drama film, directed by Nate Parker, portrays the story of Nat Turner’s slave rebellion in 1831. However, the film received criticism for glorifying white supremacy and being sympathetic to the Ku Klux Klan.
During the Cold War, both the United States and the Soviet Union produced propaganda movies that portrayed each other as the enemy.
When Artists Become Mindless Puppets
Even the most beautiful things in the world can be made repulsive in the hands of Fascists. Even the greatest of the artists can become their mindless puppets, they lose their autonomy and become tools for promoting a political agenda. This can happen in several ways:
- Coercion: Artists may be coerced into creating propaganda by threats, intimidation, or violence. For example, during the Cultural Revolution in China, artists who refused to create propaganda were labeled “counter-revolutionaries” and were subjected to public humiliation, imprisonment, or even execution.
- Bribery: Artists may be offered financial or other incentives to create propaganda. For example, in North Korea, artists who produce propaganda are rewarded with better living conditions and other privileges.
- Ideological conformity: Artists may conform to a political ideology because they genuinely believe in it or because they fear the consequences of not conforming. For example, in Nazi Germany, many artists joined the party because they saw it as a way to advance their careers or because they shared its ideology.
Propaganda is a critical element for Fascism to flourish and it may take not just the visual forms. With the power of digital media, spreading fake information via WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter is a child’s play.
To be continued..