Matthew Alford’s “Reel Power” and Hollywood Propaganda

Pointing out that Hollywood blockbusters are often thinly-veiled propaganda pieces used to justify US military dominance/intervention and stir up jingoistic sentiments in the American public might be pointing out the obvious. It’s not hard to see how, since the second world war, Hollywood has often produced movies that glorify the might of the US military and the “righteousness” of their mission to “bring democracy to the world” – from The Green Berets to Top Gun, action flicks and war movies have consistently promoted the idea of American exceptionalism and embraced the principle of “might makes right”. It isn’t surprising that the films most guilty of this are the ones which have had the active cooperation of the US military, with Pentagon script approval a pre-condition of access to military hardware.

Since the onset of the “War on Terror” this symbiosis between corporate Hollywood and American military institutions has accelerated to new heights. Military might is not only glorified in action films, but also in children’s movies and implicitly in other genres, so that even the most innocuous-looking romantic comedy will contain subtle allusions to American wars, brave soldiers and the American government’s self-professed altruism.

The dynamics of the “just war” of World War 2 are trotted out as the backdrop for the current wars of aggression which demand new levels of patriotism and obedience from American citizens, in an age of increasing unauthorised spying on civilians, suppression of dissent and economic hardships brought about by fraudulent banking practices.

As much as this lack of dissent from Hollywood is a consequence of Pentagon involvement in movie production, equally it is a product of self-censorship. As George Orwell said, speaking of the British press, “Unpopular ideas can be silenced, and inconvenient facts kept dark, without the need for any official ban … not because the Government intervened but because of a general tacit agreement that ‘it wouldn’t do’ to mention that particular fact.”

Given that at least forty top Hollywood executives met with Karl Rove in the wake of 9/11, coupled with the obvious pro-US slant found in most mainstream movies, it’s not unreasonable to consider the fact that Hollywood is, by and large, as right wing and militaristic-minded as the US government. After all, a closer examination of the corporate ownership of the major studios reveals a tight relationship with arms manufacturers. John E. Bryson occupied the boards of both the Walt Disney Company and the Boeing Company; General Electric – heavily involved in the development of military and surveillance technology – until recently owned 80% of Universal Studios; as for Fox, the name Rupert Murdoch says it all.

Beyond the presence of propaganda in Hollywood movies is the stamp of Hollywood in war reporting and other media. At the outset of the 1991 Persian Gulf War, stars including Meryl Streep, Tommy Lee Jones, Bette Midler and Richard Gere lined up to sing, Right or wrong, we’re all praying you’ll remain strong, that’s why we’re all here and singing along. Producer Jerry Bruckheimer, who contributed financially to George Bush and John McCain, made a documentary with the Department of Defense called, Profiles from the Front Line, about US troops in Afghanistan.

Perhaps the ultimate Hollywood star of all time, Arnold Schwarzenegger, once said, “My relationship to power and authority is that I’m all for it. People need someone to watch over them … Ninety-five percent of people in the world need to be told what to do and how to behave.” His movies certainly reinforce this ideology.

More controvertial – and certainly more audacious – is Hollywood’s involvement in news propaganda, the most striking example of this being the Jessica Lynch myth, her bravery in the hands of evil Iraqis and subsequent heroic rescue by the military in reality a pure fabrication of the Pentagon with the assistance of Jerry Bruckheimer. But then, given that the major news networks are all part of conglomerates tied both to Hollywood and the arms industry, perhaps this also shouldn’t come as a surprise.

Matthew Alford’s Reel Power: Hollywood Cinema and American Supremacy provides a decent overview of some of the more obvious examples of American cinema which serves to perpetuate the myth of American military power and projection, covering a wide range of genres, from war and action-adventure to science fiction, comedy and political drama and citing numerous films.

While it perhaps doesn’t go deep enough in its analysis – Alford appears to believe that people like Michael Moore represent genuine dissent outside the system, and he refuses to explore Hollywood in the context of false flag terrorism – nevertheless it is a thorough study into the movie industry and US foreign policy, and shows that beneath the explosions and special effects of many Hollywood movies lies an insidious underbelly.


One response to “Matthew Alford’s “Reel Power” and Hollywood Propaganda

  1. Pingback: Screen Propaganda, Hollywood and the CIA | Orwellwasright's Weblog

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