Words and Actions:
Contexts and Consequences of Propaganda
To explore the relationship between propaganda and mass violence, the Museum entered into a partnership with the Fred Friendly Seminars at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. Using a role-playing format developed by television news pioneer Fred Friendly, the seminar raised a series of dilemmas drawn from real-life conflicts to confront participants with a clash of legitimate values. Panelists explored the role of propaganda in situations in which mass violence is threatened, and how the use of propaganda during the Holocaust era informs our reactions to its dissemination today.
Words and Actions: Contexts and Consequences of Propaganda was filmed in front of a live audience in the Museum's Meyerhoff Theater on the evening of January 23, 2008. Watch these brief video segments of the lively discussion.
As part of the seminar scenario, two fictitious ethnic groups—Midrainians and Southlanders—are pitted against each other in an environment of escalating hate propaganda. Will words, just words, make them kill each other?
As the hypothetical scenario unfolds, the fictitious country of Northland considers strict laws controlling the press. Watch as the panelists wrestle with the limits of free speech and incitement when genocide is threatened.
Moderated by New York University Professor of Law Arthur Miller, the expert panel consisted of:
• Danielle Allen, Professor of Classics and Political Science, Princeton University, and former Dean of Humanities at the University of Chicago
• Christiane Amanpour, Chief International Correspondent, CNN
• Hon. Irwin Cotler, Member of Parliament and former Minister of Justice of Canada
• Michael Gerson, Senior Fellow, Council on Foreign Relations; Columnist, Washington Post; and former Chief Speechwriter to President George W. Bush
• Kemal Kurspahic, Bosnian journalist; former Fellow, US Institute of Peace; and author of Prime Time Crime: Balkan Media in War and Peace
• Steven Luckert, Curator of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum special exhibition State of Deception: The Power of Nazi Propaganda
• Westley Moore, former White House Fellow, US Department of State; former Rhodes Scholar; and Captain, US Army Reserves
• Stephen Rapp, Prosecutor, Special Court for Sierra Leone, and former Chief of Prosecutions, United Nations Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda
• James P. Rubin, World Affairs Commentator, Sky News, and former Chief Spokesman, US Department of State
• J.B. Rutagarama, writer and cinematographer of Back Home, an autobiographical documentary about the aftermath of the 1994 Rwandan genocide
• Bob Schieffer, Anchor, CBS's Face the Nation, and Chief Washington Correspondent, CBS News
• Scott Straus, Assistant Professor of Political Science, University of Wisconsin, and author of The Order of Genocide: Race, Power, and War in Rwanda