The PR Machine of the U.S. Military

It is an occurrence so common that it is rarely questioned or even pondered. The influence of the United States military in any film which features it. This has been a documented fact for over 50 years, in movies such as Top Gun, Black Hawk Down, We Were Soldiers, Pearl Harbor, Windtalkers, and much more. For the laymen, this is mostly about ships, planes, helicopters, and explosions, but it means much more for the average tax payer and consumer of such movies. It means that millions–if not billions–of dollars are being used to coerce general attitudes about what the military does, (re: The Military Has Usurped the State).

This is a trend already seen in full force, whether it is a NASCAR race or the recruiter’s table at your local high school. The PR machine of the military has been working in full swing in recent years, both by lending battle gear and weapons to even censoring several versions of film scripts in order to present a more “balanced” view of the organization dedicated to aggressive force against foreign powers.

This was a point recently brought up by NY Times columnist Maureen Dowd, in assessing President Obama’s chances for re-election:

The White House is also counting on the Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal big-screen version of the killing of Bin Laden to counter Obama’s growing reputation as ineffectual. The Sony film by the Oscar-winning pair who made “The Hurt Locker” will no doubt reflect the president’s cool, gutsy decision against shaky odds. Just as Obamaland was hoping, the movie is scheduled to open on Oct. 12, 2012 — perfectly timed to give a home-stretch boost to a campaign that has grown tougher.

The moviemakers are getting top-level access to the most classified mission in history from an administration that has tried to throw more people in jail for leaking classified information than the Bush administration.

It was clear that the White House had outsourced the job of manning up the president’s image to Hollywood when Boal got welcomed to the upper echelons of the White House and the Pentagon and showed up recently — to the surprise of some military officers — at a C.I.A. ceremony celebrating the hero Seals.

The cozy relationship between the military and the elites in the movie-making industry was also covered in the CBC documentary, “Hollywood and The Pentagon: A Dangerous Liaison“, available here:

The documentary examines the direct cooperation between Hollywood and the U.S. Army Motion Picture Liaison Office, always focused on using movies featuring the military as “recruiting tools”. This is a practice grounded in the propaganda days of World War Two, when film stars where routinely used for campaigns to shore up support for the war and general enlistment.

This remains to be an extensive relationship, shaping hearts and minds about what the U.S. military’s role is in broader American society. It is a tool which allows unfettered access to audiences of millions, subconsciously ignorant of Hollywood’s constant positive portrayal of an organization risking thousands of young American lives each day in battlefields across the world.

A similar practice is used in video games, with Pentagon-funded projects such as “America’s Army”. These games aim to increase recruiting and turn the game-savvy generation of today into the soldiers of tomorrow, a practice mirrored recently by the NSA to find the cyber-hackers of tomorrow.

This issue remains important because it targets a specific group of individuals. Statistically, the majority of young military recruits are poorer, uneducated, rural minorities who have no other option. Signing bonuses and promises of healthcare coverage allow droves of young men and women to be shaped and shipped off to war, where their destiny is no longer certain and their lives hang in the balance. While the cost of college continues to soar and youth unemployment reaches a new high, the option of joining the military becomes an all-too-real proposition for many of the disadvantaged in our society.

As the era of endless wars continue, the American people are routinely fed more reasons for why their young men and women must be sacrificed for the benefit of the American Empire and the political establishment. It is the same tireless message. President Barack Obama promised to remove troops from Iraq by 2009. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta has recently stated that troops will stay beyond 2012. President Obama has promised to remove troops from Afghanistan. Close to 50,000 troops will stay until 2024.

As families at home deal with the chronic unemployment, rising prices, and stubborn economic growth, one-fourth of their tax money is being funneled to politically-connected manufacturers of weapons, bombs, and planes. Thousands of their sons and daughters are dying in five continuous wars which serve to drastically harm American National Security, rather than help it, and seem to have no end in sight. As the media becomes enmeshed with the  same interests which continue to fund the PR of the military, less attention is being put on the effects of war and the rise of anti-war candidates, guaranteeing another election cycle where pressing issues of war and peace are not addressed.

No longer can this problem remain unearthed. It is in the interest of every citizen who claims a love for country and peace.


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