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  Report: Disinformation and Democracy

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  Movies as a Propaganda- and Disinformation-Tool in World War I and II

Movies produced in Hollywood in 1918/19 were mainly anti-German. They had some influence but the bigger effect was reached in World War II-movies.
The first propaganda movie of World War II was British.
At that time all films had to pass censoring. Most beloved were entertaining movies with propaganda messages. The enemy was shown as a beast, an animal-like creature, a brutal person without soul and as an idiot. Whereas the own people were the heroes. That was the new form of atrocity.
Leni Riefenstahl was a genius in this respect. Her movies still have an incredible power, while the majority of the other movies of that time look ridiculous today. The combination of light and shadow, the dramatic music and the mass-scenes that resembled ballet, had its effect and political consequences. Some of the German movies of that period still are on the index.

U.S.-President Theodore Roosevelt considered movies the best propaganda-instrument, as they are more subtle than other tools.

In the late twenties, movies got more and more important, in the USSR, too, like Sergei Eisenstein demonstrated with his movies. Historic events were changed into symbolism, exactly the way propaganda should function. It was disinformation - but in its most artistic form, especially in comparison to most U.S.- and European movies of that time.

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Sergei Eisenstein
Though Sergei Eisenstein (1898-1948) made only seven films in his entire career, he was the USSR's most important movie-conductor in the 1920s and 1930s. His typical style, putting mountains of metaphors and symbols into his films, is called the "intellectual montage" and was not always understood or even liked by the audience. Still, he succeeded in mixing ideological and abstract ideas with real stories. His most famous work was The Battleship Potemkin (1923).