Propaganda is everywhere whether we realize it or not. It is in the shows we watch and the books we read. Two examples of this are Shakespeare’s play Macbeth and the movie The Hunger Games. Macbeth and the Hunger Games demonstrate that the aims of propaganda are to manipulate the minds of society in order to keep them obedient to the people of power, and to benefit these rulers by masking their wrongful actions from society.
In society a lot of reverence is given to leaders, especially political ones. This makes it easier for them to create an aura around themselves that keeps people from knowing everything about them. This aura often incorporates an element of fear to keep the people from asking too many questions and to keep them in line. As Heath says, “The figure that they feared most was that of the demagogue, the unscrupulous individual who could gain power by appealing to the emotions and prejudices of the people”. This can be seen in the leaders of both Macbeth and The Hunger Games. In Macbeth, Lady Macbeth acts as the leader and uses emotional pleas to get Macbeth to do what she wants him to and kill Duncan so Macbeth can be king. She says to him, “When you durst do it, then you were a man; / And to be more than what you were, you would / Be so much more the man. Nor time nor place / Did then adhere, and yet you would make both” (1.7.49-52). This clearly draws on Macbeth’s emotions and pushes him in the direction of murder. Lady Macbeth skillfully manipulates his emotions to get what she wants as the demagogue of Heath’s quotes says. President Snow does much the same thing when he speaks to Seneca Crane about how dangerous hope is to people like them in power. He too manipulates his listener, using an emotional line of speech. Edward Barnays says, “Fortunately, the sincere and gifted politician is able, by the instrument of propaganda, to mold and form the will of the people”. This relates to The Hunger Games and Snow’s character, although he is not a “sincere politician”. No one is allowed to question this man who claims to be president but in reality is a tyrant. He has built up a public persona that keeps people in fear of him and continuing to do as he says. So when he tells Seneca “Hope, it is the only thing stronger than fear. A little hope is effective, a lot is dangerous. This fact is fine, as long as it’s contained…So, contain it” he is very effectively manipulating Crane based on his emotions, but also making it impossible for him to argue against Snow.
Another effect of the elevated status of a leader is the room it allows them to cover up their evil doing. Because they keep the public at a distance it is easier for them to hide anything they are doing from a public that might judge those actions. This allows them to maintain their air of superiority. “The voice of the people expresses the mind of the people, and that mind is made up for it by the group leaders in whom it believes and by those persons who understand the manipulation of public opinion” (Bernays). If the leader, someone like President Snow, is the voice of the people, who is to call out the leader on wrong doing? No one is and that is exactly how the leader wants it and the people think they do because the person in charge has told them they do. Lady Macbeth fulfills this role as well when she is telling Macbeth to kill Duncan. She is clearly not acting on good morals but this is concealed by her persuasive language. Heath says, “No one has a chance to challenge anything he [the president] says to his face… This is a disastrous arrangement”. If the opinion of the people is dictated by the leader then the people are completely unable to question the leader. This creates a perfect environment for hiding things. In The Hunger Games, the districts threatened with severe punishment just for saying anything against the government, let alone doing anything about it. Additionally, the Games serve as a deterrent against uprisings allowing the president and the rest of the Capitol citizens to live luxuriously. This is clear when President Snow says, “This was the uprising that rocked our land. Thirteen districts rebelled against the country that fed them, loved them, protected them… And so it was decreed that, each year, the various districts of Panem would offer up, in tribute, one young man and woman to fight to the death”. The districts are made to believe that they need the Capitol to live and that defying it would be disastrous for everyone when really it is just keeping them in check for their own benefit. Macbeth gets away with as much as he does because people believe his illusions that he is an upstanding person and not a murderer. They do not even include him as a suspect even though it happened in his own home. He even has people believing that he is good, contributing in the war and showing pity at Duncan’s death. Everyone around him believes the best of Macbeth because outwardly he seems to be a good person which covers up his rotten persona.
Propaganda is used for a variety of reasons, but works in much the same way. As seen in Macbeth and The Hunger Games, it can be used to manipulate people by playing on their emotions. Both Lady Macbeth and President Snow are shown doing just this. Propaganda can also help to cover up the ill doings of corrupt leaders. By keeping everyone at a distance they are able to manipulate their people into believing them to be something that they are not. Again, President Snow does this, as well as Macbeth himself. Both the play and the film show these to be very evident.