Steven Heller | Essays

New Age Propaganda: The Trailer

You’ve read the tweets; now see the movie...trailer. “What if a people that share a common and rich heritage can find a common future?” asks the narrator of a now well-known four-minute video produced by the Trump administration as its preamble to the historic United States/North Korean Summit held in Singapore last Tuesday. “Their story is well known but what will be their sequel?” a typical male voiceover artist intones, “Destiny Pictures presents a story of opportunity.” Yes, the promise of a better world.

Conceived as a movie trailer, the video featuring a montage of stock video footage, dramatic copyright free music and dulcet narration, Destiny Pictures has become a meme for world diplomacy and international policy-turned-reality show opening sequence.

But for all the media hoopla (including a brief cameo by Sylvester Stallone) and comic jabs, these kinds of motivational and aspirational films are nothing new. You’ve seen them at conferences, board meetings, and conventions. Before the age of political attack ads, TV commercials for office-seeking candidates played to the positive nature of the electorate. Even during wartime, in addition to sometimes vile and menacing propaganda that demonized the enemy, some psychological warfare (psyops) operations addressed how much better off the enemy would be if they surrendered to the forces of virtue. The Trump production is a combination of the two types; a smidge of menace and a touch of Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” (“Are these the shadows of the things that Will be, or are they shadows of things that May be, only?”).

Rather than psychological warfare, call this ideological “peacefare.” What makes it different from others, however, is that it was aimed at only one single viewer, Kim Jong Un. Echoing the sentiments found in the examples below, “A Story of Opportunity” may mark more than the next new wave cinema, but a new age of propaganda.

Posted in: Politics

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