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1961: Eichmann on American TV

Abstract of the presentation by Jeffrey Shandler, Rutgers University, at the conference on "Filming the Eichmann Trial," February 22-23, 2009

The presentation provides an overview of the Eichmann trial on television, focusing on the problems it posed to American audiences as a media event. Covering the trial and contextualizing it for their audiences proved a challenge for American broadcasters, while watching the broadcasts often proved to be frustrating for many viewers. Central to the problems that the trial posed to American television producers and audiences was the unspectacular presence of Eichmann himself, which may have provided the foundation for many Americans’ embrace of Hannah Arendt’s assessment of the trial as an object lesson in Nazism as the banality of evil. In fact, the Eichmann trial may have inspired more satisfying programming for American viewers in the form of television dramas that transformed this long and complicated proceeding into short, straightforward, and affectively charged presentations.

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