Reading Response #2

Watch the segments from Frank Capra’s “Why We Fight” films and Leni Riefenstahl’s “Triumph of the Will” linked to on the syllabus page. Capra’s film was one of a series he made for the US Army Signal Corps for showing to American troops in World War II. Riefenstahl made her film at Hitler’s request as a record of the 1934 Nazi party rally in Nuremberg. Both of these films have been described as propaganda. Here are three definitions of propaganda:

Pick ONE of these definitions and use that definition to indicate whether it is adequate to distinguish these two films from other films like a documentary or a newsreel. Is propaganda in the eye of the beholder — a purely subjective judgment?

1. “Propaganda may be defined as any attempt by means of persuasion, to enlist human beings on the side of one party to any dispute.” Bertrand Russell

2. “The advocacy of what we believe in is education. The advocacy of what we do not believe in is propaganda.” Edward Bernays

3. Propaganda is “dissemination of ideas, information, or rumor for the purpose of helping or injuring an institution, a cause, or a person.” Webster’s Third International

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