Political communication was once the domain of deliberate (another word for political) rhetoric and public speeches, and then in the 20th century developed to include radio, television and film. Now film as a medium has taken one more step with the emergence of the Obamas and the Clintons producing what may be construed as their own propaganda masquerading as education and entertainment.
We all remember Al Gore’s documentary “An Inconvenient Truth”, and recently we have seen “Knock Down the House” profiling Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the newly elected New York Congresswoman. We have also seen a documentary on Beto O’Rourke, “Running with Beto”. Now we have the Obamas and the Clintons with much wider political agendas.
Mr. Obama said in a statement about their project, Higher Ground, “Touching on issues of race and class, democracy and civil rights and much more, we believe each of these productions won’t just entertain, but will educate, connect and inspire us all”. Mr Obama continued, “With Higher Ground Productions, we hope to bring people together around common values and uncommon stories…”. Of course all of this will be from the Obama perspective.
Our actors are “masterful storytellers”, continues Mr. Obama. But is this just a means of promoting the ideas and ideology of Michelle and Barrack Obama to young kids in the Trump era?
Now Mrs. Clinton and her daughter Chelsea have decided to follow the Obamas into this world of promoting their ideas. But the Clintons are not as popular as the Obamas are, and have seen their ratings plummet over the last year, along with the shutting down of the Clinton Foundation, Clinton Global Initiative. Even their speaking engagements and speaking tours have declined, along with their fees. Bloomberg reports that Mrs. Clinton is looking to this new political media as “a means of harnessing her influence now that she has left the political arena”. So the question is, will the public watch these new productions, given the way many people feel about the Clintons?
Propaganda, in normal usage today, has a negative connotation. It has been defined as “information, especially of a biased or misleading nature, used to promote a political cause or point of view”. So a propaganda film reproduces images, movement and sound, similar to real life situations, acted out in a story form that is designed to promote a particular message.
Imagine these proposed programmes going out at peak TV hours for children! Past generations of parents and educators were accused of indoctrination especially on social and political issues and of not giving children the right to choose their opinions. Will the Obamas and the Clintons be merely repeating what the older generation have been accused of?