Following the release of Clint Eastwood’s American Sniper,the masses of America have been chomping at the bit to slaughter Muslims. The film, which portrays the deadliest sniper in United States history, is a hit among the sect of Americans that tends to demonize Hollywood for being too liberal and anti-American.
But is that claim actually true? Hollywood churns out war films and pro-government propaganda at a rate Josef Goebbels would applaud. The propaganda is so effective that anyone who criticizes the most recent glorification of the war machine is labeled an American-hating, Muslim-loving pussy. But this is not a new trend. Argo, Zero Dark Thirty andHomeland are just a few of the relatively recent films and television shows intent on building up America’s interventionist, militaristic foreign policy. Other shows and movies glorify the FBI and police.
But why is the propaganda so effective? It helps that for decades mainstream news has been fear-mongering against Muslims and blowing the trumpets of war. The government, its politicians and agencies have played up the risks of terrorist attacks, though they are often plotted by the government.
Hollywood propaganda, then, merely has to slip in cultural, entertainment versions of these already implanted beliefs. Rather than instilling mass opinions about government and war, Hollywood reinforces them in a relatable way. One of the reasons it is so effective at this, however, is that it has the full support of the American government.
The documentary, Hollywood and the Pentagon: A Dangerous Liaison, exposes the close working relationship of Hollywood and the Pentagon. If Hollywood studios and filmmakers want to use the military’s equipment to portray war stories, they must let the government review and modify their scripts.
This “collaboration” led to the wild success of Tom Cruise’s Top Gun in the ‘80s, which inspired a huge spike in Air Force enlistments. In this case, it wasn’t that Americans hated the Air Force and Hollywood changed their minds. Rather, Hollywood romanticized the job and therefore inspired people to “care” more. This is how films like American Sniper rouse “patriotic” sentiments that drive people to shamelessly advocate mass murder. No doubt, this latest installment of war propaganda was reviewed by military officials before it was filmed and released.
By holding state-of-the art props above a filmmaker and studio’s head, the Pentagon corners them into complying. No filmmakers wants to settle for unrealistic or sub-par equipment and rather, are lured by the shiny toys of the Pentagon. Given the fact that the government has a direct channel to the masses with final say in what a military script says, it is obvious why Americans are so successfully affected by the propaganda.
It also helps that the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA)–the essential lobby of conglomerated studios headed by former Senator Chris Dodd–contributes millions to Congress in favor of internet censorship. It therefore has a vested interest in supporting the state and is known forapproving desensitizing, vulgar violence (often government-inflicted) while censoring sex.
In spite of the pervasiveness of Hollywood propaganda, however, there are signs of hope. If Hollywood films are reflections of sentiments that are already harbored, there is a large representation of opposition to mindless war and government propaganda. Take Minority Report, the Bourne Identity,the Matrix, V for Vendetta and the recent, huge success of The Hunger Games.
For every conditioned mind that adheres to the state, there is another that identifies with anti-authoritarian films such as these–all of which were massive box office successes.
House of Cards and Orange is the New Black, both hit Netflix original television series, openly portray the corruption, incompetency, and cruelty of the state.This reflects not only trends in creative expression, but a growing appetite for representation of these views. The rise of independent production companies and the Internet has limitlessly expanded the ability of artists to make anti-authoritarian cinema– perhaps even some that can change minds.
Then again, a romantic film about how Michelle and Barack Obama met in Chicago is going into production this year, so we might all be doomed.