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Jul 22, 2020

For over a hundred years, the American film industry has been promoting and glorifying U.S. foreign policy, initially working with the military and Department of Defense, and eventually, the CIA as well. From its origins as a producer of wartime propaganda like 1911’s The Military Air-Scout to its contemporary role as purveyor of high-tech action epics like Iron Man, Hollywood and the American war machine reinforce each other — myth and politics intertwine.

In the process, the entertainment industry has reaped handsome rewards. Producers, directors, and other top brass in the entertainment industry are lavished with military equipment for filming, personal tours of government headquarters, and inside information — or at least what government officials want filmmakers to believe is inside information — all under the guise of lending “authenticity” and “realism” to film and, to an extent, television shows as well.

But what are the costs of this so-called “authenticity?” How do the U.S. military and intelligence agencies use benign-sounding partnerships like “on-set consulting” and “equipment loaning” arrangements to shape and censor narratives so they make American Empire look, at worst bumbling and good natured, and, at best, heroic and pure hearted?

In Parts I and II of this three-part series on Hollywood and anti-Muslim racism, we analyzed over half a dozen films and TV shows, illustrating how state-driven narratives of U.S. nationalism and vilification of an official enemies animate Hollywood’s cultural products, namely those targeting Arabs and Iranians. On this episode, we’ll explore the intersection of U.S. military and intelligence agencies with Hollywood, taking a closer look at how the military state helps shape films and television showing that pro-U.S. messaging used to smear Muslims doesn’t happen in a vacuum, but is often subsidized by the very forces dropping bombs on them.

Our guest is Professor Matthew Alford, co-author of National Security Cinema: The Shocking New Evidence of Government Control in Hollywood.