Thursday, August 11, 2011

Pentagon Propaganda and Hollywood

David Sirota makes a useful and important point about the real intersection of politics and culture in GOP balks at bin Laden film Salon 08/10/2011. He talks about the ways the Pentagon consciously shapes the framing of Hollywood films on war by doling out or withholding cooperation:

Since the state-supported "Wings" won the first Academy Award in 1927, the United States government has worked closely with Hollywood to promote, glorify and celebrate state-sanctioned violence and the importance of the armed forces in our society. In the 1980s, this partnership became a full-on Military-Entertainment Complex -- and ... it is highly political. The Pentagon grants and denies filmmakers access to taxpayer-owned military hardware on the basis of those filmmakers' ideology and message. The result is that pro-war films are effectively granted huge taxpayer subsidies whereby the government underwrites the studios' use of military planes, boats and hardware. Anti-militarist films, by contrast, are often barred from even photographing the same hardware.

This has created a dynamic whereby studio executives have been quoted publicly telling screenwriters that if they cannot get Pentagon approval for a movie, they shouldn't expect their movie ever to get made. This is why for every one vaguely antiwar movie that makes it to the theater we get dozens of blockbusters that glorify war and the military ... [my emphasis]
As Sirota notes, this is an aspect of official activity - arguably the use of taxpayers funds by our glorious generals to propagandize the American public. One of the few extensive discussions of this problem that I've ever come across was Sen. William Fulbright's The Pentagon Propaganda Machine (1970).

If our politicians and pliant media weren't so busy "honoring our troops" - which in practice often means praising our generals uncritically even when they lie in our faces - and God blessing America, they would take a closer look at this. Sirota notes that "now that the Military-Entertainment Complex appears to be serving the GOP's partisan opponent, Barack Obama, the Republican Party is up in arms." Specifically over a movie that proposes to recount the we-killed-Bin-Laden mission with generous help from the Obama White House. This doesn't surprise me. Republicans believe that honoring our troops glorifying the military should exclusively serve partisan Republican purposes. If we imagine a counterfactual world in which Republican protests over this would make Democratic protests over such activity a certainty under the next Republican Administration, I might look at this as a promising protest. Until the Democrats as a group are willing and able to act like Democrats, though, this kind of protest will only reinforce the partisan-Republican effect of such Pentagon propadanda efforts of such dubious legitimacy.

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