Political Censorship of the Cinema

  • Robert Justin Goldstein


During the twenty years preceding the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, a new form of entertainment was born: the motion picture. Its accessibility to mass audiences far outstripped that of any previous form of entertainment, and by general consensus the movies were viewed as a far more powerful means of communication than the theatre or the press. Given this perception that the cinema was both the most wide-reaching and powerful means yet developed of communicating with a mass audience, and conservatives’ well-established fears of the spread of ‘dangerous’ ideas through an attractive medium which could speak to all classes of the population, it is not surprising that demands for censorship of the movies developed quickly. Such demands gained widespread support among conservative elites, who generally viewed movies in much the same way as earlier authorities had perceived the theatre, as a hotbed of vice and subversion. They were especially concerned over the enormous appeal (and affordability) of the cinema to the lower classes. Thus, in 1914, a conservative Russian legislator, outraged by a newsreel depicting him in what he viewed as an ‘insulting way’, termed the movies ‘the new plague’, and warned his colleagues, ‘Beware! It may be I today, but it will be another tomorrow, and the day after loftier persons — in the service of the state — who will be ridiculed by this frightful weapon of propaganda, employed towards the revolutionisation of the popular masses.’1


Royal Decree Police Chief Mass Audience Live Theatre Political Propaganda 
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Copyright information

© Robert Justin Goldstein 1989

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robert Justin Goldstein
    • 1
  1. 1.Oakland UniversityRochesterUSA

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