Friday, 26 June 2009

Adorno and Horkheimer’s planned pro-war propaganda

In a 1943 memo to Leon Lewis, the Los Angeles lawyer of the Institute of Social Research, Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer described their ideas for a film which they hoped to interest Hollywood in making:

Since it is the general idea underlying this plan to counteract the apathy of a large part of the population, it might be advisable to take this very apathy as the point of departure. While it must be made plain that no average American wants to have anything to do with Nazism or Fascism, their aversion to “atrocity propaganda” should be made equally clear. Some of the deeper psychological mechanisms underlying their attitudes should be brought to the fore, e.g., the reasoning: “these things are so horrible that one cannot believe them, and therefore they are untrue” (self protection), or: “people who have been treated this way must have brought it on themselves.”

These snatches of conversation finally reach some very prominent Americans who believe in probing things to the quick. They should be public figures whose reputation is unimpeachable like outstanding Congressmen, representatives of commerce and industry. They should not be played by actors but the personalities themselves should appear in the motion picture. They decide that people should learn the full, unbiased truth about what Nazism means to its victims and what it would mean to Americans in the case of a Hitler victory… The skeptics shown at the beginning are present making embarrassing remarks, when they interrupt the narrators they should be answered quietly and firmly. The climax is reached when one of the hecklers asks: “Where are your eyewitnesses?” The answer is: “there are none.” Then a cemetery with a fresh Massengrab (mass-grave) flashes on the screen. We see how the skeptics of the beginning eventually are brought to the conviction: “Those devils must pay.” They are shown, their numbers increasing, finally merging with a symbolic picture of the whole American nation, marching united against the Axis.

Memorandum on a motion picture project, April 27, 1943, Max Horkheimer-Archiv, II, 10, 397

No comments: