Everyone knows truth is the first casualty of war – but in a modern world where America’s wars know no bounds, propaganda operations even strike at the heart of Hollywood. Drawing on vast archives of shocking new documentation, Theaters of Command tells how the Pentagon and sometimes the CIA have had the final say over thousands of films, video-games, and TV shows, often imposing heavy rewrites. The government’s deliberate creation of what investigator Roger Stahl terms “American empire’s cinematic universe” is one of the great swindles perpetuated against an unwitting public. These actions have systematically scrubbed from the screen an unsavory century of military history including war crimes, illegal arms sales, racism and sexual assault, torture, coups, assassinations, and weapons of mass destruction. This government operation amounts to the airbrushing of entire culture, laid bare here for the first time after decades of secrecy.

If you’ve seen Top Gun or Transformers, you may have wondered: Does all of that military machinery on screen come with strings attached? Does the military actually get a crack at the script? With the release of a vast new trove of internal government documents, the answers have come into sharp focus: the US military has exercised editorial control over thousands of films and television programs. In stunning and unsettling detail, Theaters of Command tracks the full scope of Pentagon and CIA influence on everything from Lone Survivor to The Last Ship, Marvel to MTV, and James Bond to Jack Ryan. This deliberate creation of what some have called “American empire’s cinematic universe” is one of the great under-reported PR coups of our time. As these activities gain new public scrutiny, new questions arise: How have they managed to fly under the radar for so long? And where do we go from here?