Since launching National Security Cinema last year, Matt and I have encountered a lot of questions about the field. These are our answers to some of the most Frequently Asked Questions and Comments about entertainment liaison offices and the politics of Hollywood films.
Summary of Criticism: You have a book out which means your research is somehow less appropriate or maybe you’re as bad as the Hollywood machine you criticise.
Answer: We published the book to draw attention to this phenomenon in an attempt to effect change. Yes, we earn some money from it – some of which we used to fund a trip to a library in Washington DC to continue this work. But the vast majority of this research we have given away for free as a public service. If we could afford to give away free copies of the book, we would.
Summary of Criticism: This is already common knowledge.
Answer: No, it isn’t. It is public knowledge that the US military and CIA works with Hollywood, but only in certain circles. Most people in Hollywood aren’t aware of the entertainment liaison offices.
When we first started this research it was generally believed that the total number of affected products was around 200 films, along with a handful of TV shows. It was not known until we came along that the true figures were over 800 films and well over 1000 TV shows. The degree to which scripts are subject to politically-motivated changes was also unknown until we obtained and analysed these documents.
Summary of Criticism: This is all part of Operation Mockingbird.
Answer: ‘Operation Mockingbird’ is a common and convenient blanket term to cover US government media manipulation, there is nothing to suggest that it was ever a codename for such an integrated, centralised programme.
To invoke Operation Mockingbird in the context of Hollywood is not only inaccurate, it also gives the impression that all PR operations are run out of a centralised command, such as from the CIA. This is not the case and reinforcing such a perception gives an unrealistic sense of what is needed to roll back these anti-democratic forces. The only CIA documents mentioning Operation Mockingbird refer to bugging the phones of two journalists, not planting stories or rewriting movies. Misleading exaggerations and generalisations are unhelpful, particularly given the massive amount of new evidence we now have.
Summary of Criticism: Yes, this is the damn Commies and/or Jews with their propaganda!
Response: No, it really, really isn’t. As the appendices in our book make clear, the objectives of the Pentagon has nothing to do with Communism. In fact, you may remember the US killed several million people allied to the Communists during the Cold War, you fucking lunatics. NATO even sponsored a short film celebrating Nazi collaborators who murdered vast numbers of Jews. The Pentagon and State Department rewrote the film The Young Lions, starring Marlon Brando, to play down anti-semitism in the Army.
Meanwhile, the fact that Jews owned and ran most of the major studios in Hollywood didn’t stop them cow towing to the Nazis’ Hollywood consul Georg Gyssling and removing scenes depicting the suffering of Jews in Nazi Germany. Meanwhile, Hollywood screenwriters who were Communists or Communist sympathisers were blacklisted. The reality is the reverse of these conspiracy theories.
Summary of Criticism: Yep, it’s those Jews / Illuminati at it again.
Response: There’s a book called An Empire of their Own by Neil Gabler, himself a Jew, which gives a detailed analysis of Hollywood’s very strongly Jewish roots. Where we likely differ with you is that we don’t see this as evidence of a racial group sneakily taking over an entire industry to further a set of cynical, manipulative political goals. Just because black people do well at the Olympics doesn’t mean Africa is about to invade Athens.
Summary of Criticism: Steve Mnuchin is Trump’s number 3 and he produced Wonder Woman!
Response: Well spotted! There are quite a few creepy cross overs between personnel in Hollywood and Washington. The more obvious one is Steve Bannon. The Trump-supporting billionaire Mercer family’s production company Glittering Steel is also worth a mention.
Summary of Criticism: This is the same as in the music industry, isn’t it? And why didn’t you say anything about videogames?
Answer: The music industry is subject to similar market forces but it’s a harder case to say that any pop song is a piece of propaganda. The government itself has almost zero influence in music. We have written about it in detail though, inspired by posts like yours.
As for gaming, yes, there is some evidence of government involvement but there was not anything sufficient to warrant a substantial section in our book – again, there are some details on Tom’s website and in Matthew’s latest peer reviewed articles.
Summary of Criticism: It’s all funded by the CIA/Pentagon!
Answer: Well, maybe. We have spoken to someone undertaking similar work for another country who says that this level of government cooperation would not occur without direct funding. However, we have no paper trail to indicate such a thing at this time. Furthermore, Hollywood has more than enough money to fund film production, it’s the government effect on film content that is the most important element of this.
Summary of Criticism: This is all done OPENLY.
Response: No, you don’t get it and you have to read the book. The Pentagon admits to having an entertainment office. It does NOT share the script changes with the public. It does NOT admit to involvement in all films. No one knew about the 1000+ TV shows until we published the files. The only reason we have any substantive material about the CIA at all is because we, Tricia Jenkins, David McCarthy, Simon Willmetts and a couple of others acquired it and wrote it up. The occasional admission of involvement by the Pentagon doesn’t mean that they do this openly, when over 95% of supported projects are never mentioned by the Pentagon publicly.
Summary of Criticism: Hollywood films always had the Twin Towers in them prior to 9/11 and there’s a lot of symbolism deliberately inserted in films.
Answer: God, no there isn’t. An asteroid striking lower Manhattan in one moment in a Spiderman film in the 1990s isn’t evidence of predictive subliminal programming for 9/11. Inasmuch as the government-Hollywood relationship did help to sell the post-9/11 War on Terror it was mostly through hyping the threat from Arab/Muslim terrorists and glorifying the military-intelligence response.
Summary of Criticism: What about other countries? The Chinese government operates very strict movie censorship policies and many Russian-made films are only viable because of state support.
Answer: While we have serious reservations and objections to some Russian and Chinese state policies, their influence on films for the global audience is minimal in comparison to the US government’s influence. Furthermore, Russian and Chinese films do not tend towards the same outrageous glorification of military actions as US films do, both real and fictional. Also, we are concerned with what our own governments are doing, there isn’t much we can do to push back against state censorship in countries where we don’t even speak the language.
Tom Secker and Matthew Alford are co-authors of the book National Security Cinema: The Shocking New Evidence of Government Control in Hollywood.
Dr Alford is a Teaching Fellow in the Department of Politics, Language and International Studies at the University of Bath. His documentary film based on his research, The Writer with No Hands, was premiered in 2014 at Hot Docs, Toronto. He is the co-author of the new book Union Jackboot: What Your Media and Professors Don’t Tell You About British Foreign Policy.