You seem to be assuming that propaganda has to be done in good faith, that it’s the honest presentation of an idea out of self-interest. I assume, on the contrary, that propaganda is always done in bad faith, in contrast to genuine art which is much more transparent with respect to the producer’s motives.

As the dictionary says, propaganda is “the organized dissemination of information, allegations, etc, to assist or damage the cause of a government, movement, etc.”

So I agree that Disneys Star Wars has an economic motive. As I say in the article, “Propaganda isn’t art, but a tool for manipulating the audience, the greater good being political or economic rather than artistic…But the key to propaganda is that its producers don’t have artistic goals in mind; they’re thinking about how to control their audience to win an election, say, or to earn a profit.”

The question is whether this means the producers can’t be engaging in propaganda, because they’re not true believers in the woke agenda. This would mean no advertisement could be propaganda, because corporations only pretend to care about consumers in their ads, whereas they’re really just out to make a profit. On the contrary, lying and misdirection are common in political and corporate propaganda, because the interests of the powerful often don’t sell well when stated directly. They have to be massaged and prettified to get the people on board.

Whether Kathleen Kennedy is a true believer in progressive politics is neither here nor there when it comes to whether her Star Wars movies are more propaganda than art. The key point is that they were made in bad faith, to sell toys, to tear down symbols of patriarchy, and to subvert the expectations of old-time fans and rub their noses in their irrelevance now that a younger generation can be catered to. Instead, these movies should have been just fun sci-fi adventures that touch on universal themes, like the original Star Wars.

But I agree there’s no need to say Disney’s sci-fi is “pure” propaganda. Let’s just say the dominant element in these works is propaganda rather than art. Indeed, that can be said for most blockbusters, assuming they’re not produced by a single auteur with a vision, like Spielberg’s Jaws or Lucas’s original Star Wars or Garland’s Devs, for example, the latter being a genuine work of science fictional art for television, written and directed entirely by Alex Garland. The Rise of Skywalker has seven writers and seven producers, and there was plenty of reported conflict between the director and Kennedy. That kind of corporate, committee-made blockbuster is just a big advertisement disguised as a story.

Knowledge condemns. Art redeems. I learned that as an artistic writer who did a doctorate in philosophy. We should try to see the dark comedy in all things.

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