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Film and Manipulation

Here’s an anecdote related by Allistair Cooke (my alltime fave podcaster).

Now there in miniature is the whole art – and curse – of television, which is to say of cinema. In the very early days of the cinema, a Russian director explained to a class of students. He explained using only about six seconds of film what was so wonderful about this new medium and what was so devilishly effective for propaganda purposes. The essence of cinema, the Russian said, is deceit. He showed a close-up of a keyhole. Within a fraction of a second he showed a close-up of a bathtub and the head and shoulders of a young woman in it. That’s all. What never crosses your mind, he said, is that the keyhole was on a door in Moscow, and the young lady was photographed in a bathroom in Leningrad.

So put together the new institutions we live by, or, rather, that we perceive reality by. The press conference, which implies our right to know what the big boys are doing and saying backstage. Television, through which somebody presents us with our picture of the world. Thirdly and most important the abolition of front line censorship – and the question then is: can most people in a democracy support a war as steadily as a dictator can make his people support any war – by his priceless ability to choose the pictures, to hold no press conferences, to tell you what’s happening at the front.

(Here’s an index to his radio show transcripts (well from 1999 to 2004).  They are all available in Real Media format).

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