Hollywood Pledges Allegiance to the Dollar
Pat Elder | Counter-Recruit Press | November 2018
In July, 2015 the U.S. Army Chief of Public Affairs responded to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request by releasing a massive 1,400-page list of movies and television shows his office had reviewed and influenced from 2010 to 2015.1 The list provides insight into the murky world of military censorship and sheds light on productions the Pentagon deems helpful to the recruiting effort.
The FOIA request was initiated by Tom Secker, a British-based writer who specializes in security services. The Army’s report may be found on Secker’s website, spyculture.org. Within a few weeks of Secker’s receipt of the data, just a handful of websites had reported on the significant release, including Billboard, Alternet, Salon, Techdirt, and Center for Research and Globalization. No mainstream American newspapers or TV outlets picked up the intriguing story.
The Department of Defense has several offices dedicated to providing “assistance” for a wide variety of entertainment genres. Producers of every stripe who desire military assistance in the production of “feature motion pictures, television shows, documentaries, music videos, commercial advertisements, CD-ROM games, and other audiovisual programs” are directed to contact the military service being portrayed. The Army, Air Force, Navy, and Marines operate liaison offices from four adjacent offices located on Wilshire Blvd in Los Angeles.2
Aside from fighting current wars and planning for new ones, the Pentagon spends a lot of time and energy viewing film. Recruiting-age youth increasingly rely on movies, television, YouTube and other video sources to inform and shape their world view. Some 45% of 17-year-olds say they read for pleasure no more than one to two times a year if that often. The recruiting-age population watches video.3
The Pentagon recognizes that film and television deeply influence youth, and all of American society, so military minders regularly edit the scripts for thousands of productions, including “American Idol,” “The X-Factor,” “Masterchef,” “Cupcake Wars,” numerous Oprah Winfrey shows, “Ice Road Truckers,” “Battlefield Priests,” “America’s Got Talent,” “Hawaii Five-O,” lots of BBC, History Channel and National Geographic documentaries, “War Dogs,” “Big Kitchens”— the list goes on and on. Alongside these shows are blockbuster movies like Godzilla, Transformers, and Superman: Man of Steel.4
As unlikely as it sounds, the Air Force has worked with the producers of “Jeopardy,” “The Queen Latifah Show,” “The Wheel of Fortune,” and “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.” When members of the Air Force appear on television, military minders review scripts before airing. The Army’s Office of the Chief of Public Affairs in Los Angeles (OCPA-LA) rates the productions. Although we’re familiar with films carrying ratings like G, PG, PG-13, R, or NC-17 from the Motion Picture Association of America, the Army also gives them ratings. They include:
- Supports Building Resiliency,
- Supports Restoring Balance,
- Supports Maintaining Our Combat Edge,
- Supports Adapting Our Institutions,
- Supports Modernizing Our Force.5
The Army does not assign negative ratings; instead, it summarily rejects films that it doesn’t like. Rejection by OCPA deprives filmmakers of access to military bases, ships, training, maneuvers, etc. Rejection forces filmmakers wanting to tell a story involving the military to potentially spend additional millions in production costs, effectively eliminating low-budget filmmakers not content with toeing the line.
Most of the films on the OCPA-LA list eventually receive a thumbsup, many after an intensive back-and-forth editorial review process. Films are subsequently categorized, as above, by the way they best support the Army’s mission. Producers requesting DoD assistance submit their scripts to the Office of the Assistant to the Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs (OATSD-PA), which authorizes the Military Services to provide suggestions for changes. Refusal on the part of producers regarding any DoD edits results in a rejection of assistance.6
The OCPA-LA list of films obtained and released by Secker is prefaced by this disclaimer:
NOTICE: This report contains information on the development and progress of TV programs, feature films, and other entertainment-oriented and documentary media projects. This information is shared with the Army for the purpose of determining whether the project qualifies for Department of the Army and Department of Defense support. It is pre-decisional information for our Chain-of-Command. IT IS NOT INTENDED FOR PUBLIC DISSEMINATION. The information contained in this report, if publicly disclosed, could be financially and professionally detrimental to the entertainment media production entity or individual filmmaker(s) providing the information, and would deter these companies and individuals from seeking Army assistance.
It may be professionally embarrassing to some producers when the public discovers that the financial incentive of working with the DoD entails a substantial degree of restriction and suppression of intellectual independence.
The projects in the recently released OCPA-LA list were governed by the stringent guidelines contained in Defense Instruction 5410.15, dated March 28, 1989. Many productions since 1989 have been edited and subsequently approved with little regard for these guidelines. The release of the information pursuant to the FOIA request may have led the DoD to publish new instructions in an effort to avert embarrassment under the potential spotlight of public scrutiny. The new, more subjective guidelines were made public on July 31, 2015, just three weeks after the OCPA-LA files were released to Secker. The new instructions allow the DoD to approve pretty much anything for any reason and, more importantly, to reject projects using the same fuzzy criteria.
The old policy called for “accuracy in the portrayals of DoD persons, places, equipment, operations, and events.” The new policy calls for productions to present “a reasonably realistic depiction of the Military Services and the DoD, including Service members, civilian personnel, events, missions, assets, and policies.” Reasonably realistic to whom, using what criteria? Do the top brass military censors reject projects if they deem them to be unreasonably realistic? Would scripts based on books by Chalmers Johnson, Howard Zinn, or Noam Chomsky be considered unreasonably realistic? The question penetrates to the heart of the 1st Amendment: “Congress shall make no law... abridging the freedom of speech.”
The 1989 guidelines say there should be “no implication or appearance of implication of DoD endorsement or approval of any person, product, partisan or political cause,” but the new policy leaves all of this out. It omits words like endorsement, political, or partisan. Its purposeful vagueness untethers the Pentagon from these intellectual constraints.7
Filmmakers and Pentagon brass forge a mutually beneficial partnership. War is profitable to moviemakers and the military is eager to sell its version of it. While Hollywood producers demand access to military bases, ships, planes, and personnel, the Pentagon in return rewrites scripts to enhance the military image and safeguard recruiting and retention numbers. The American public subsidizes the military access provided to filmmakers and is fed the pabulum of homogenized military propaganda while free speech is trampled.
It’s like the sanitized version of events produced by embedded American journalists during the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. Those attempting to gather stories independently were shunned, discredited, and even murdered, like those killed in the US bombings of Aljazeera offices in Kabul in 2001 and in Baghdad in 2003.
By 2010, Reporters Without Borders had recorded the deaths of 230 Tareq Ayub was killed in the US bombing of Aljazeera’s offices in Baghdad media professionals, 87% of whom were Iraqis. Many of these deaths were caused by the US military and none have been prosecuted. The Pentagon issued a statement regarding the killing of journalists who were not embedded with US troops, “Baghdad is not a safe place. You should not be there.” 8
Moviemakers intent on portraying the military whose scripts don’t appeal to Army censors are at a great disadvantage. They’re forced to spend millions more than their compliant counterparts to tell their stories with the same degree of military feel. Many can’t endure the expense. A 2002 New York Times report drives home the point of financial benefits for those surrendering editorial control.
According to the article, “When Hollywood’s Big Guns Come Right from the Source,” the military “deployed” the following equipment during the filming of The Sum of All Fears, based on the 1991 Tom Clancy book about nuclear terrorism:
- 2 B-2 bombers
- 2 F-16 fighter jets
- The National Airborne Operations Center, the highly secure communications aircraft, in a modified 747 jet, reserved for the president and his top staff in case of nuclear attack
- 3 Marine Corps CH-53E helicopters
- 1 UH-60 Army helicopter
- 4 ground vehicles
- 50 Marines and Army troops
- The John Stennis, a 97,000-ton, nuclear-powered aircraft carrier with more than 80 aircraft and a crew of 5,000
- Access to the Central Intelligence Agency’s headquarters in Langley, VA
The total charge to Paramount Pictures for use of the equipment came to less than $1 million, a relatively tiny sum.9
Clancy sold the Pentagon’s line. His novels turned-to-film caused a cultural about-face after Vietnam, helping to portray the military in a positive light.
The Pentagon is making sure its ships, bombers, and helicopters will never be used to tell a different story. Truth continues to be a casualty in war-making.
The scale of the Pentagon’s intrusion and its micromanagement of entertainment projects is disturbing, although we’re still largely in the dark regarding the extent of the DOD’s editorial tinkering with specific productions in return for cooperation. Specific changes made to movie and TV scripts by the military’s public affairs offices are classified information today, whereas the material prior to 2002 has been declassified.10 Even so, Britain’s Mirror Online reported in July 2015:
To keep Pentagon chiefs happy, some Hollywood producers have turned villains into heroes, cut central characters, changed politically sensitive settings – or added military rescue scenes to movies. Having altered scripts to accommodate Pentagon requests, many have in exchange gained inexpensive access to military locations, vehicles and gear they need to make their films. 11
This Hollywood-military nexus is nothing new. When D. W. Griffith made the silent film The Birth of a Nation in 1915, West Point engineers gave him technical advice on his Civil War battle scenes and provided him with artillery. Griffith toed the editorial line.12
In his influential 2004 book, Operation Hollywood: How the Pentagon Shapes and Censors the Movies, David Robb captures the legal argument that the military is practicing unconstitutional censorship. He writes:
Many legal experts, including famed First Amendment attorney Floyd Abrams and renowned Constitutional law professor Irwin Chemerinsky, believe that this form of censorship is a blatant violation of the First Amendment. This sort of viewpoint-based discrimination by the government in which it favors one form of speech over another is flatly inconsistent with the First Amendment,” says Abrams, who was co-counsel to the New York Times in the Pentagon Papers case.
Chemerinsky, a professor of constitutional law at the University of Southern California, agrees. The Supreme Court has said that above all, the First Amendment means that the government cannot participate in viewpoint discrimination, Chemerinsky says. “The government cannot favor some speech due to its viewpoint and disfavor others because of its viewpoint. The Court has said that when the government is giving financial benefits, it can’t decide who to give to, or not to give to, based on the viewpoint expressed.”13
During the 1970’s the American public soured on war and the military. Public opinion reflected the notion that the country had been misled about Vietnam and the war resulted in the unnecessary deaths of 58,000 American soldiers and millions of Vietnamese. Hollywood, through films like The Deer Hunter and Apocalypse Now, reflected public disgust for the military. The American public was experiencing a kind of a hangover from the unpopular war that made it largely unprofitable for Hollywood to produce big budget films glorifying war.
That changed with the release of Top Gun in 1986, and the hangover went away in a hurry. The Pentagon was ecstatic over the level of cooperation with Paramount, the film’s producer. Since then, Hollywood has generally increased its output of high-dollar war movies and has cozied up with the Pentagon to use personnel, bases, ships, fighter planes, and other tools of the trade. The offices on Wilshire Blvd. have been humming with activity since, marking up the scripts of thousands of movies.
Top Gun, starring Tom Cruise and Val Kilmer, was the number one film of 1986, grossing $176 million. The movie’s hero, Maverick, played by Cruise, helps to shoot down four MIG-28’s during a contrived battle over the Indian Ocean. Maverick triumphantly lands his F-14 on the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise and gets the girl at the end. (No offense to women intended). It sounds trivial, but the film is extraordinarily powerful with its portrayal of super-intense, high-speed dogfights between the “good guys” and the “bad guys”. Right away, droves of youth lined up to enlist in hopes of becoming fighter pilots.
Paramount Pictures offered to place a 90-second Navy recruiting advertisement at the beginning of the video cassette for Top Gun, in exchange for $1 million in credit towards their debt to the Navy for production assistance. An internal memo to the Pentagon from an advertising agency rejected the offer, noting that “Both movies are already wonderful recruiting tools for the military, particularly the Navy, and to add a recruiting commercial onto the head of what is already a two-hour recruiting commercial is redundant.”14
Lt. Sandy Stairs, the Navy’s representative while the film was in production, told the Los Angeles Times, “Navy regulations prohibit the service from ‘selectively endorsing or appearing to endorse a commercial product.’ “15 They can say anything they want. Few are paying attention, and the military is still America’s most trusted institution.
Paramount, like the rest of Hollywood, isn’t wedded to the pro-military narrative. Its allegiance is to profit. The blockbuster Forrest Gump, with some unflattering portrayals of the military, was a project of deep-pocketed Paramount Pictures.
Paramount submitted a request to the Pentagon for assistance in filming this great American classic. They wanted to use Chinook helicopters and other Vietnam-era military equipment. The Army had reservations about the film and demanded numerous changes to the script. The brass didn’t like the scene when Gump bends over, pulls down his pants, and shows President Johnson the scar on his rear end. They didn’t like the way Gump referred to his commanding officer, Lt. Dan Taylor, by his rank and first name. They also didn’t appreciate the scene in which Lt. Dan is seen crying after being ordered to send his men on a dangerous mission. In the end, Paramount refused to yield to the Pentagon’s censors.16
The Forrest Gump script runs counter to the military’s desire to sanitize films to help with recruiting and retention. Unlike Top Gun, it didn’t send potential recruits rushing to local recruiting stations.
Consider Forrest’s first encounter with the military chain of command as he enters the bus to boot camp, and his descriptions of boot camp and Lt. Dan:
Forrest Gump: Hello. I’m Forrest, Forrest Gump.
Recruit Officer: Nobody gives a hunky shit who you are, puss ball. You’re not even a low-life, scum-sucking maggot. Get your ass on the bus, you’re in the army now!
Drill Sergeant: Gump! What’s your sole purpose in this army?
Forrest Gump: To do whatever you tell me, drill sergeant!
Drill Sergeant: God damn it, Gump! You’re a goddamn genius! This is the most outstanding answer I have ever heard. You must have a goddamn I.Q. of 160. You are goddamn gifted, Private Gump.
Forrest Gump: [narrates] Now for some reason I fit in the army like one of them round pegs. It’s not really hard. You just make your bed real neat and remember to stand up straight and always answer every question with “Yes, drill sergeant.”
Drill Sergeant: ...Is that clear?
Forrest Gump: Yes, drill sergeant!
Forrest Gump: (Speaking of Lt. Dan) He was from a long great military tradition. Somebody from his family had fought and died in every single American war. I guess you could say he had a lot to live up to.17
Forrest Gump managed box office success without military cooperation. It was an exception to the rule. Since its release in 1994, no military-related film that has managed to escape censorship has come anywhere close to enjoying Gump’s commercial success. The military minders have made sure of it. Films about the military have difficulty surviving without sacrificing editorial control.
The close relationship between the movie industry and the Pentagon was further cemented with the release of Act of Valor in 2012. The film was commissioned by the Navy’s Special Warfare Command and was produced specifically to “bolster recruiting efforts.”18 The film “stars” active-duty Navy SEALs.
In a similar fashion, the Marine Corps Recruiting Command plans to use active duty soldiers for its video advertising campaigns. It held a national casting call at ten military base locations over two weeks in April 2016 to screen interested Marines.19
Only a small number of projects the Army included in its report were turned down in the end. These rejections shed light on the highest level of U.S. government complicity with Hollywood and the philosophical underpinnings of the censorship program.
The entry dated April 30, 2013, from the Army’s Office of the Chief of Public Affairs in Los Angeles (OCPA-LA) release regarding Zero Dark Thirty, shows the Army was happy to duck the extreme controversy at the highest levels of government involving the movie. From OCPA-LA:
Representatives from the DoD IG (Inspector general) visited OCPA-LA on 30 April. The purpose of the visit was a spiral increment of the DoD IG investigation into DoD’s support of the film titled “Zero Dark Thirty”. The US Army did not support the movie “Zero Dark Thirty”. Specifically, the DoD IG’s focus was on DoD Agencies and Military Services regarding the release of DoD classified and/or sensitive information to the media... OCPA-LA does not have any classified material nor do we have the means to store classified material. The DoD IG team appeared to be satisfied with the procedures and policies implemented by OCPA-LA. 20
Apparently, CIA Director Leon Panetta and Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence Michael Vickers conveyed ultra-sensitive, legally protected information to the makers of Zero Dark Thirty regarding the capture of Osama bin Laden. The CIA used White House-approved talking points to brief the filmmakers. That information, according to the CIA and as portrayed in the film, was gained using torture.21
In a sense, Zero Dark Thirty’s Producer Mark Boal and Director Kathryn Bigelow were CIA operatives. The blockbuster film implied that the use of torture led to the discovery of Osama bin Laden. The film actually begins with a statement that the movie is “based on firsthand accounts of actual events.” It seems Boal and Bigelow sold a lie to the American people.
In 2014, a Senate Intelligence Committee report on CIA interrogation techniques made it clear that torture did not factor into finding Bin Laden. Regardless, the movie’s propaganda achieved its purpose. The public was taught to be tolerant of torture and to applaud those who ordered it.22
An OCPA-LA entry regarding the movie The Hurt Locker, also produced by Boal and directed by Bigelow, was made available through a FOIA request by Secker and provides insight into the way military censors operate. According to the database, USA Today reporter Gregg Zoroya asked an OCPA-LA representative, “LTC,” for an explanation of the DOD’s decision not to support the movie. Rather than identify specific reasons why the film was rejected, readers were provided the link to Zoroya’s February 19, 2010 USA Today piece, “Veterans say ‘The Hurt Locker’ gets a lot right and wrong”.23
From the article we can pick out several objections Army censors would have us believe led to a denial of DOD cooperation:
- Filmmakers took enough liberties with war reality to cause those who know better to either grin and bear it or dismiss the movie altogether.
- There were errors in rank, patches, vernacular or procedure.
- The movie is ruined by inaccuracies, ranging from the wrong shade of uniform to a scene in which three soldiers run through Baghdad alleyways alone looking for insurgents.
- “I don’t like the way Hollywood cashes in on the troops.”
- An Iraqi drives through a military roadblock unharmed during an EOD operation. “They would have killed him, no ifs, ands or buts.”
The relative superficiality of these items suggests there were other reasons behind the Army’s rejection of the request for assistance. Although the film is largely devoid of political commentary, it is anything but an endorsement of the American war effort. The Hurt Locker follows a unit of soldiers whose mission is to defuse and dispose of “IED” bombs. The soldiers appear dispirited and fundamentally shaken by the violence they’ve been exposed to and the bloodshed they’ve caused. They seem to care very little about anything but their own survival.
The military censors condemned the film because they found it “fails to build resiliency, restore balance, or maintain our combat edge.”
The OCPA-LA list also describes Jason Dutton, a heavy metal guitarist with the band, Kings of Carnage, who requested permission to film during their concert at the Fort Irwin Army Base. The request was denied. Apparently, the music was deemed to be suitable for those on base but not suitable to be filmed for a potentially wider audience. Cameras are risky business on army bases.
We can gain a sense of the culture of the active duty crowd at Fort Irwin and the line that separates this cultural identity from that which the Army deems marketable to American society as a whole. The group’s debut album shows a kneeling, shackled man being readied for decapitation with a man’s head lying nearby.24
Another entry from OCPA-LA concerns a request from independent film producers working for National Geographic to film the story of transplant recipients at Walter Reed Medical Center. The Army censors write:
They believe transplant recipients are the way to go. They propose the following: 1. Identify four patients who will receive, arm, ear or other transplants who are willing to participate. 2. They obtain the go ahead/funding from National Geographic. 3. They film the patient pre-surgery, surgery and post-surgery. OTSG (Office of the Army Surgeon General) has declined support based on the science today, the only thing they could film would be hand transplants and the command feels that logistically they cannot support. Update: Requesting OTSG to reconsider the project.25
This request must have represented a conundrum for the Army. On the one sutured hand, the Army’s medical staff is obviously concerned with the limitations of the available science—they may be leery of the potential for a public relations setback regarding the public’s perception of recent medical advances in transplants. On the other prosthetic, the propagandists in Los Angeles see the potential payoff for recruiting. The rationale is that relatively few are killed in combat these days; instead they’re losing body parts, and that’s OK, because these parts can be re-attached—or reassembled.
Approved films also suggest the political orientation of the censors, at least regarding the nuclear issue. Consider History and Future of Nuclear Power, (2013), a documentary film by Robert Stone Productions about the history and future of nuclear power that traces nuclear power development in the United States from the Manhattan Project to the present day. Stone was given the green light to film at the White Sands Missile Range Trinity Site, where the first nuclear weapons test of an atomic bomb occurred. Stone’s film was approved by OCPA-LA because it “Supports Broader Understanding and Advocacy.”
Stone was the director of Pandora’s Promise, a 2013 documentary film about nuclear power. The film has been lambasted by the environmental community because it fails to examine the problem of spent nuclear fuel storage, the risk of weapons proliferation, and the likelihood of continued accidents. It also leaves out the exorbitant cost of new reactors. The military is rabidly pro-nuclear and Stone is their man.
OCPA-LA supported the production of Discovery’s Frontline Battle Machines, an eight-part series covering U.S. operations in Afghanistan.
The host, Mike Brewer, covered U.K. forces in the first season. Mike Brewer returns for a second season to the frontline in Afghanistan to reveal the new technology available to the US Forces in the war against terror. Each of the eight shows will feature key items of equipment from armoured troop carriers to fighter planes, helicopters, light tanks, machine guns and guided missiles. Will meet the Soldiers who operate the equipment, witnesses actual missions and travels with troops to discover how new technology has transformed the modern battlefield. Program aimed at knowledge about the vehicles and equipment that could mean the difference between life and death on the battlefield.26
OCPA-LA reported that the U.S. Central Command’s Public Affairs Office (USCENTCOM PA) also supported the production of the project. CENTCOM is one of nine unified commands in the United States military, consisting of 20 countries: Afghanistan, Bahrain, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan, and Yemen.
Brewer’s product is unabashed rah-rah over the marvels of technology applied to weapons of mass destruction. It represents the most dangerous, sensationalized brand of propaganda as it endeavors to desensitize a massive world-wide audience to the destructive power of these weapons.
Narrator: Have you ever wondered what we’re doing in Afghanistan? We’re trying out our new toys.
Narrator: Although these are weapons of death (Images of gun-toting armored personnel carriers)
Narrator: They just somehow make you feel alive. (The image is that of a massive, rapidly firing automatic machine gun mounted on a military vehicle.)
Narrator: Unfortunately, none of them get very good mileage. (Now the screen shows stacks of hundred dollar bills.)
Narrator: Which brings up the second reason we’re here. (The hundred dollar bills appear to be soaked by a steady stream of thick, black oil.)
Narrator: Watch Mike Brewer and the newest weapons of technology on Fridays at 10 in Frontline Battle Machines on the Discovery Channel.
(The next scene shows a jet fighter dropping a guided missile in slow motion. The missile is rotating. A close-up shows it is printed with three lines in succession as it moves menacingly toward its target.)
COME TO DEMOCRACY OR DEMOCRACY WILL COME TO YOU 27
The show is co-produced by the U.S. Central Command Public Affairs Office and the Discovery Channel. Everything is vetted. This is the image the U.S. wants to project to the world. Mike Brewer is a lackey for the American and British propagandists. He’s a dime a dozen. Brewer’s website carries this promotion for the film, “Mike was sitting with his wife Michelle one morning reading the newspapers and saw yet another article about how British soldiers’ equipment wasn’t up to the job.”28
Meanwhile, multinational corporate sponsors line up for viewers at home to imbibe this British-produced rubbish. It’s how propagandists operate.
The PBS Coming Back series with Wes Moore was also approved by the censors in the Army’s Office of the Chief of Public Affairs in Los Angeles.
The three-part series about returning service members undersells the costs of war, according to a review by the influential A.V. Club. “With the right degree of patient understanding and sweet reason, any subject can be turned into bland mush,” writes contributor Phil Dyess-Nugent.
That’s his takeaway from the documentary that tracks the lives of 2.5 million Americans who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan and re-enter American society. The piece concludes, “It’s just frustrating that the show itself doesn’t show a fuller, deeper sense of the cost (of war). Watching it is like seeing someone stick a Band-Aid on a bloody stump.”29
One OCPA-LA entry from November 27, 2013, addressed a proposed documentary by NBC Peacock Productions called On the Trail, a docu-series about Army Basic Training: After more than six months of Peacock Production’s unwillingness to sign the DoD Production Assistance Agreement for this project, OCPA-LA and OSD-PA (Public Affairs Office of the Secretary of Defense) are discussing the possibility of terminating negotiations with the production company. This is not a bad project, but the production company’s unwillingness to agree to the standard terms of the PAA (Production Assistance Agreement) is cause for concern
about their motivations and the type of story they want to tell. Our recommendation is that this could be a good story, but perhaps Peacock Productions is not the right production company to make the program.30
From the DoD’s perspective, it’s time to produce a documentary on basic training. If Peacock drags its feet in signing the production contract on “the type of story they want to tell” the Pentagon will find someone else to produce it.
This homogenizing process works for the Pentagon. Overwhelming numbers of Americans express tremendous confidence in the military.
In the words of David Robb,
“When the American people are seeing hundreds and hundreds of films and TV shows that have been sanitized by the military to make the military seem more heroic than it really is, and never wrong and always good, that creates a false image in the American people’s minds, and I think it helps to make the American people a more warlike people.”31
Many of the productions approved by the four military Entertainment Liaison Offices feed directly into that sewer while the Pentagon promotes a whitewashed version of the military and war. This exploitation is also evident in the world of military marketing, the subject of the next chapter.
Pat Elder is the director of the National Coalition to Protect Student Privacy, an organization that works to prohibit the automatic release of student information to military recruiting services from the nation's high schools. He is also creator of the website Counter-Recruit.org, which documents the deceptive practices used by the US military to recruit students into the armed forces.