What is modern propaganda? For many, it is the lies of a totalitarian state. In the 1970s, I met Leni Riefenstahl and asked her about her epic films that glorified the Nazis. Using revolutionary camera and lighting techniques, she produced a documentary form that mesmerized Germans; her 'Triumph of the Will' cast Hitler's spell.
Today, we prefer to believe that there is no submissive void. "Choice" is ubiquitous.
"All is normality on display. For [Nazi] goose-steppers, substitute the seemingly more innocuous militarisation of the total culture. And for the bombastic leader, we have the reformer manque, blithely at work [in the White House], planning and executing assassination, smiling all the while."
Just as collateral damage covers for mass murder,"austerity" has become an acceptable lie.
The militarist violence perpetrated against hundreds of thousands of nameless men, women and children by "our" governments is never a crime against humanity. Interviewing Tony Blair 10 years on from his criminal invasion of Iraq, the BBC's Kirsty Wark gifted him a moment he could only dream of. She allowed Blair to agonise over his "difficult" decision rather than call him to account for the monumental lies and bloodbath he launched. One is reminded of Albert Speer.
Hollywood has returned to its cold war role, led by liberals. Ben Affleck's Oscar-winning 'Argo' is the first feature film so integrated into the propaganda system that its subliminal warning of Iran's "threat" is offered as Obama is preparing, yet again, to attack Iran. That Affleck's "true story" of good-guys-vs-bad-Muslims is as much a fabrication as Obama's justification for his war plans is lost in PR-managed plaudits.
'Argo' is "a propaganda movie in the truest sense, one that claims to be innocent of all ideology."
That is, it debases the art of film-making to reflect an image of the power it serves.
In 1977, Carl Bernstein, famed for his Watergate reporting, disclosed that more than 400 journalists and executives of mostly liberal US media organizations had worked for the CIA in the past 25 years. They included journalists from the New York Times, Time, and the big TV broadcasters.
The US market share of cinema box-office takings in Britain often reaches 80 percent, and the small UK share is mainly for US co-productions. Films from Europe and the rest of the world account for a tiny fraction of those we are allowed to see. In my own film-making career, I have never known a time when dissenting voices in the visual arts are so few and silent.
For all the hand-wringing induced by the Leveson inquiry, the "Murdoch mold" remains intact. Phone-hacking was always a distraction, a misdemeanor compared to the media-wide drumbeat for criminal wars. According to Gallup, 99 percent of Americans believe Iran is a threat to them, just as the majority believed Iraq was responsible for the 9/11 attacks.
"Propaganda always wins," said Leni Riefenstahl, "if you allow it."