The human brain, capable of remarkable achievements, is paradoxically susceptible to believing the most absurd ideas. it manipulates our ability to think, leading us to believe unfounded claims about racial and religious minorities, women, or same-sex couples. Propaganda, the intentional dissemination of biased or misleading information, aims to influence and polarize public opinion, often inciting hate speech and violence, which can erode trust in democratic processes.
Propaganda preys on the human mind’s tendency to simplify complex ideas and compartmentalize them into black-and-white thinking. We tend to blame others and believe in the existence of absolute good and evil, as it reduces cognitive load and simplifies our understanding of the world. Propaganda manipulates these cognitive tendencies to further its agenda.
Films have long been used as a medium for spreading propaganda. Leni Riefenstahl’s controversial documentary, “Triumph of the Will,” released in 1935, showcased Hitler’s power and contributed to the spread of Nazi propaganda, which played a significant role in the Holocaust. In India, films like “The Tashkent Files,” “The Kashmir Files,” and “The Kerala Story” have been accused of employing Riefenstahl’s techniques to advance political agendas.
Propaganda spreads easily because it capitalizes on historical disharmonies and generational traumas. It taps into existing beliefs and amplifies them, resonating with the audience’s core convictions. Confirmation bias, the tendency to seek evidence that aligns with our existing beliefs, further contributes to the propagation of propaganda. When people encounter information that confirms their biases, they are more likely to accept it as true.
The illusory truth effect, whereby repeated exposure to a falsehood increases its perceived legitimacy, is another powerful tool of propaganda. By framing information within a particular context, propagandists control the narrative and shape audience perceptions. Linguistic framing, such as using terms like “encounter operation” to justify killings by the police, influences how the audience perceives events.
Education alone does not protect against the influence of propaganda. While education provides knowledge, it can also compartmentalize information, making individuals rigid in their beliefs. Filmmakers prioritize capturing the attention of an audience with a shrinking attention span, often overshadowing nuanced thinking with sensationalism.
The rise of propaganda films reflects a decline in nuanced thinking among filmmakers. Propaganda films captivate us easily as they actively promote sensationalism, sacrificing subtlety for attention. Mainstream movies like James Bond franchises and Amitabh Bachchan-starrers actively propagate ideologies of heroism and savior complexes.
In conclusion, propaganda thrives due to the human brain’s cognitive biases, including the tendency to simplify complex ideas and seek confirmation of existing beliefs. It exploits historical traumas, uses repetition to establish credibility, and employs framing to control narratives. While propaganda films may grab attention, they often lack the nuance required for thought-provoking cinema. Understanding the tools of propaganda and being aware of our own biases are crucial in navigating the information landscape and preserving a discerning mindset.