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Hollywood: Chronicler of War (Parts 1 & 2)

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Hollywood -- helping Americans to understand war, managing criticism and popular unrest through entertainment.
(Image by Marcus Vegas)
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Hollywood has a very friendly relationship with the Pentagon. All one has to do is look at the credits of films like Iron Man 2 or Transformers 2 . It has assisted on films like Air Force One and The Sum of All Fears.
And, it has worked to quash films produced, which would make the U.S. military's aims and intentions seem questionable to the public.

David Robb, the author of Operation Hollywood: How the Pentagon Shapes and Censors the Movies, writes

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"Hollywood and the Pentagon have a collaboration that works well for both sides. Hollywood producers get what they want -- access to billions of dollars worth of military hardware and equipment -- tanks, jet fighters, nuclear submarines and aircraft carriers -- and the military gets what it wants -- films that portray the military in a positive light; films that help the services in their recruiting efforts."
Nick Turse, a writer for who has chronicled how the U.S. military-industrial complex reaches its tentacles into all aspects of Americans' daily lives, has written about Hollywood and the Pentagon. He notes, in addition to the military working on war films, in the 1970s "a new, amped-up relationship was launched, largely in response to a growing negative impression of the U.S. military brought on by the Vietnam War -- and by the daunting prospect of having to field an all-volunteer military. The Pentagon was hungry for help in rehabilitating its image -- even lending support to 'civilian' flicks -- and the film industry was happy to oblige ." [emphasis added]

Progressives have a tendency to dismiss films as typical Hollywood fare. Films like Transformers or Iron Man are understood to be films that appeal to a commercial audience. Progressives who are concerned because of what they do to help the military's image, as it wages illegitimate wars in the Middle East, just don't go to the films. That's that. Criticism largely does not occur because they have grown accustomed to this relationship. "What do you expect?" one might ask.

In the larger scheme of things, it matters. Our silence on the commercialism and moral bankruptcy of art matters. Chris Hedges profiles how liberals let art be censored and managed by the elites and other powerful interests. The liberal class sold out, either through indifference or through conscience caving-in to those who were their employers. A quote from painter Rob Shetterly (which can be found in Hedges' book) details how corporate media fought to prevent art from radicalizing people after the Vietnam War:

...If their intent was to build a consensus good for profit, and that profit derived from war, exploitation, and imperialism, all they had to do was not report on or play art that carried a message of peace and resistance. It's not censorship. The artists are free to speak and produce. But not many people will know about it. And, because the corporate media, our sanctified free press, is now clearly part of the mechanism of propaganda for the military-industrial-congressional-complex, artists have to attack the press as much as the war profiteers and elected liars, and thus have even less likelihood of being reported on. The media hates to have its biases exposed.

Artists" or craftsmen with the power to create films that shape perceptions self-censor. They water down their messages so that they do not end up on some list that will lead their future films to not be given a green light.

Interestingly, this control of public perception of the military by the Pentagon through Hollywood is one element of U.S. superpower that WikiLeaks threatens. Not only does WikiLeaks reveal how the corporate news media is complicit in ignoring or glossing over stories of importance, of catering to powerful interests in Washington, but it undermines the work the Pentagon has done by giving Americans an opportunity to form an opinion about the military from official documents from within the military and the U.S. government. It gives them the ability to decide for themselves what to perceive -- and that's dangerous.

Now, here's the two part segment, which ran on Al Jazeera. It looks at how Hollywood chronicles U.S. wars and asks if it is a case of art imitating life, or a sinister force using art to influence life and death - and the public perception of both.

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Part 1

Part 2

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Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof Press. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure." He was an editor for

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