Nuremberg: Its Lesson for Today (1948)
a film directed by Stuart Schulberg and restored by Sandra Schulberg and Josh Waletzky
A Film Unfinished (2010)
a film directed by Yael Hersonski
Hermann Göring, front right, during a recess at the Nuremberg trials, November 24, 1945. At front left is the American intelligence officer G. M. Gilbert, who served as prison psychologist and interpreter for the Nazi war criminals.
The function of propaganda is…not to make an objective study of the truth, in so far as it favors the enemy, and then set it before the masses with academic fairness; its task is to serve our own right, always and unflinchingly.
—Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf
All governments make propaganda. The difference between totalitarian government propaganda and the democratic kind is that the former has a monopoly on truth; its version of reality cannot be challenged. Past, present, and future are what the rulers say they are. Which is why, from the official point of view, there is no stigma attached to the word “propaganda” in totalitarian societies. Nazi Germany had a Ministry of Volk Enlightenment and Propaganda, and the Soviet Union a Department for Agitation and Propaganda.
The idea that rulers should impose their own realities exists, at least as an aspiration, in democracies too. It was nicely summed up by a US government official not so long ago who stated that “we [the Bush administration] create our own reality.”1 But democratic governments and parties are not supposed to dictate the truth. We expect partisanship from our politicians; they can try to make their case. But the word “propaganda” has a negative connotation. It smacks of coercion, or official lying. And so propaganda cannot be called that, but must be disguised as “news,” or “information,” or “entertainment” (Casablanca, Mrs. Miniver). The propaganda department of the US government during World War IIwas called the Office of War Information, and on several occasions during the last Iraq war heroic myths were presented as news stories.