Propaganda is more impactful when people don’t think it’s propaganda, and more impactful when it’s censorship you didn’t know existed. When one imagines that the American army influences only occasionally and little American films, one is enormously mistaken. The real impact is on thousands of movies made and thousands more never made. And TV shows of all kinds. Military guests and celebrations of the U.S. Army on game shows and cooking shows are no more spontaneous or civilian in origin than are the ceremonies honoring members of the U.S. Army at professional sports games—ceremonies that were paid for and choreographed by US taxpayers’ money and the US military. The “entertainment” content carefully crafted by the “entertainment” offices of the Pentagon and the CIA does more than insidiously prepare people to react differently to news about war and peace around the world. To a large extent, this replaces a different reality for people who learn very little real world news.
By David Swanson,
The U.S. military knows that few people watch boring, unbelievable news programs, let alone read boring, unbelievable newspapers, but that great masses will greedily watch long movies and TV shows without giving much thought to know if something makes sense. We know the Pentagon knows this, and what military officials are planning and plotting as a result of this, thanks to the work of hard-working researchers using the Freedom of Information Act. These researchers obtained several thousand pages of memos, notes and script rewrites. I don’t know if they put all these documents online — I sure hope they do and make the link widely available. I wish such a link was in giant type at the end of a new fantasy movie. The movie is called Theaters of War: How the Pentagon and the CIA Took Hollywood. The director, editor and narrator is Roger Stahl. The co-producers are Matthew Alford, Tom Secker, Sebastian Kaempf. They provided an important public service.
In the film we see copies and hear quotes and analysis of much of what has been discovered, and learn that there are thousands of pages that no one has yet seen because the military has refused to produce them. Film producers sign contracts with the US military or the CIA. They agree to “weave in key talking points”. While unknown amounts of this stuff remain unknown, we do know that nearly 3,000 movies and several thousand television episodes were processed by the Pentagon, and many more were processed by the CIA. In many film productions, the military effectively becomes a co-producer with veto power, in exchange for permission to use military bases, weapons, experts, and troops. The alternative is denial of these things.
But the military is not as passive as one might suggest. He actively pitches new story ideas to film and television producers. He is looking for new ideas and new collaborators who could bring them to a cinema or a laptop near you. act of bravery actually started life as a recruitment ad.
Of course, many films are made without military assistance. Many of the best never wanted it. Many who wanted it and were denied, managed to get it done anyway, sometimes at much higher expense without US tax dollars paying for the accessories. But a large number of films are made with the army. Sometimes the initial film of a series is made with the military, and the remaining episodes intentionally toe the military line. Practices are standardized. The military places a high value on this work, including for recruiting purposes.
The alliance between the military and Hollywood is the main reason why we have many successful films on certain subjects and little or none on others. The studios wrote scripts and hired the best actors for movies about things like Iran-Contra that never saw the light of day because of rejection from the Pentagon. So no one watches Iran-Contra movies for fun like they might watch a Watergate movie for fun. Thus, very few people have notions about Iran-Contra.
But with the reality of what the US military is doing being so horrible, what are, you might be wondering, the good subjects that are the subject of many movies about them? Many are fantasy or distortion. Black Hawk Down turned reality (and a book it was “based on”) upside down, as did Clear and present danger. Some, like Argo, chasing the small stories in the big ones. The scripts explicitly tell the audience that it doesn’t matter who started a war for what, that the only thing that matters is the heroism of the troops trying to survive or save a soldier.
Yet true US Army veterans are often excluded and not consulted. They often find films rejected by the Pentagon as “unrealistic” to be very realistic, and those created with Pentagon collaboration to be very unrealistic. Of course, a lot of military-influenced movies are made about the US military fighting aliens and magical creatures – not, clearly, because it’s believable but because it avoids reality. On the other hand, other military-influenced films shape people’s view of the targeted nations and dehumanize the humans living in certain places.
Don’t look up is not mentioned in Theaters of war, and presumably had no military implications (who knows?, certainly not the movie-watching public), but it uses a standard idea of military culture (the need to blow up something from space, which the US government would just love to do and you could hardly stop them) as an analogy for the need to stop destroying the planet’s climate (which you can’t easily get the US government to consider remotely) and no critics points out that the movie is an equally good or bad analogy for the need to stop building nuclear weapons – because American culture has effectively suppressed that need.
The military has written policies on what it approves and disapproves of. He disapproves of depictions of failures and crimes, which eliminate much of the reality. He rejects films about veteran suicide, racism in the military, sexual harassment and assault in the military. But he pretends to refuse to collaborate on films because they are not “realistic”.
Yet if you look closely enough at what is produced with military involvement, you will imagine that using and surviving a nuclear war is perfectly plausible. It goes back to the original Pentagon and Hollywood invention of Hiroshima and Nagasaki myths, and goes all the way back to the military influence on The next day, not to mention the transformation—paid for by people having a meltdown if their tax money helps keep someone from freezing on the street—from Godzilla of a nuclear warning on the contrary. In the original screenplay of the first Iron Man film, the hero confronted the evil arms dealers. The US military rewrote him to be a heroic arms dealer who explicitly advocated for more military funding. The sequels stayed true to this theme. The US military has announced its weapons of choice in Pontoon, Superman, fast and furious, and Transformers, the American public effectively paying to push themselves to support by paying thousands times more – for weapons they would otherwise have no interest in.
The “documentaries” shown on the Discovery, History and National Geographic channels are military advertisements for weapons. “Inside Combat Rescue” on National Geographic is recruitment propaganda. Captain Marvel exists to sell the Air Force to women. Actress Jennifer Garner has done recruitment commercials to accompany the films she has made which are themselves more effective recruitment commercials. A film called The recruit was largely written by the head of the CIA’s entertainment bureau. Shows like NCIS push the Army line. But the same goes for shows you wouldn’t expect: reality shows, game shows, talk shows (with endless family reunions), cooking shows, contest shows, and more.
I have already written about how eye in the sky was openly and proudly both completely unrealistic nonsense and influenced by the US military to shape people’s ideas about drone killings. A lot of people have little idea what’s going on. Corn Theaters of War: How the Pentagon and the CIA Took Hollywood helps us grasp its magnitude. And once we do that, we might be able to understand why polls show that much of the world fears the US military as a threat to peace, but a large part of the American public thinks the America’s wars benefit those who are grateful. We can begin to guess how it is that people in the United States condone and even glorify endless mass killing and destruction, support the threat to use or even use of nuclear weapons, and assume that states United has major enemies there who threaten its “freedoms”. viewers of Theaters of war may not all react immediately with “Holy shit! The world must think we’re crazy! But a few may wonder if it’s possible the wars don’t look like the ones in the movies – and that would be a good start.
Theaters of war ends with a recommendation, that films be required to disclose any military or CIA collaboration at the outset. The film also notes that the United States has laws against propaganda from the American public, which could make such disclosure an admission of a crime. I would add that sSince 1976, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights has stipulated that “all propaganda for war is prohibited by law”.
To find out more about this film, watch it or organize a screening, go here.
The original article can be found here