Shaping public opinion, between ethics and propaganda

“Opinion  is  more  than  ever  mistress  of  the  world” said Alexis de Tocqueville in 1835. Still is. Too often, crowds seem to be lead by public sentiment rather than public opinion. According to Niccolo Machiavelli, who described in “The Prince” the means by which power is seized and preserved, rulers must, to remain in  power, either manipulate or accommodate public opinion. To ignore its existence is to risk the loss of power. The British Philosopher David Hume also noted that even the most despotic or authoritarian of governments could not disregard this public will. Nevertheless, the latter does not seem to evolve quickly as “panem et circenses“ seem to remain an appropriate drive in today’s democracies.

Is there a way to gather public opinion around a shared vision of the desirable future state of  the world? Could a mental image, may it be as vague as a dream, be effective enough so that this visionary change Inspires people to convert it into collective actions?

I believe in the very strong power of movies to influence public opinion. It’s a popular and largely widespread media that, besides being addressed to a large audience, conveys an emotional factor, ensuring the sustainability of its message. An effective media thanks to its immediate impact on its audience.

It’s acknowledged that Washington maintains soft power relations with Hollywood with an aim of influencing the world public opinion on the United  States’ image. Why not use this powerful tool for the greater good, to educate public opinion on international altruistic issues? Sustaining the fight against climate change or global poverty will be possible only if the wider civil society actively supports those efforts. Movies could help shape public opinion towards positive actions.