One of the most important tools modern day human beings need for survival is media literacy, and unfortunately it is left off of almost all curriculums at any education level, unless you choose to study it. I say this because I have spoken to way too many people who think that they are winning the battle for their minds, that commercials don’t affect them, that the news is telling them the truth and that they are not being minutely targeted by people with vast resources to control their destinies. It’s not about being stupid; I think that most people are intelligent enough that if they were presented with the facts and a proper contextual understanding of them, they would see right through the propaganda and be outraged. Case in point, the US Military‘s heavy investment in the ideologies presented by Hollywood in many of their blockbuster movies. What got me going on this post was this: initially, this was going to be about the creepy, terrifying and hideously misguided robotics suits being commissioned by the US military from companies like Raytheon for use in the “theatre” of war. These suits ostensibly turn soldiers’ bodies into the Borg that their minds have already become, and are slated to be a part of combat in the next 5 years. I was watching a video about these suits (here) and I was horrified to see that Clark Gregg, a recurring actor from the Iron Man series, was promoting these suits as being “just like what we use in Iron Man.” Hey kids, you can be just like your hero Iron Man and go crush some foreign Charlie with your robot hands! Fuck the world!
This reminded me of an amazing episode of Al Jazeera‘s Empire that I watched a couple of years ago, “Hollywood and the War Machine,” that goes into detail about the symbiotic relationship between the major studios and the US Military Industrial Complex. The episode discusses how, in exchange for the FREE use of military equipment and facilities, Hollywood films often “tailor” their messages to suit the military’s propaganda, including completely rewriting history to paint the leaders of the US military in a positive light, instead of as the warmongering dirtbags they are. There is a division of the Pentagon, the US Department of Defense Film Liaison Unit, which looks over and edits screenplays that are submitted in exchange for the use of military resources, and sends liaison officers to oversee the filming to make sure that no “offensive” scenes make it into the movie. Any scenes that implicate the US military in war crimes, unwarranted instigation of attacks, warmongering or pursuing military involvement for financial gain are removed or rewritten, and if the directors don’t agree to the changes then Pentagon support is pulled, meaning the cost of props and filming skyrockets by millions. Empire talks to people like legendary filmmaker Oliver Stone and Phil Strub of the US Department of Defense Film Liaison Unit about the military’s involvement in shaping public perception through film. This is the kind of knowledge that should be passed to children before they are exposed to films that are tailor-made to give them a positive view of the military history of the US and potentially send them into its’ clutches. Instead of funding media literacy programs for all elementary, middle and high schools in the country, our taxes go to controlling the very media that we are told is free of government influence. My big question to the people who say that media has little or no influence on our culture: why are millions, billions, spent every year on advertising, product placement in TV and film and both overt and covert influence on media producers if it has no proven effect? After the jump, watch Empire‘s “Hollywood and the War Machine.”