Wednesday, 28 July 2021

The Military-Directed Entertainment Complex

In Althusser's celebrated essay on ideology, he talks about how the ideological state apparatuses have their own repressive aspects (violence and discipline in the family and at school, sanctions and shunning in religious organisations), and how the apparatuses of repression secreted ideology. This is something we know well in this country, with the biggest and most critically acclaimed shows of recent years most likely to be cop shows. And it's barely different in the rest of Europe. But for those interested in analysing the production and consumption of shows of this kind, the default assumption is the show's creators and showrunners are (usually) working toward the values and myths repressive institutions surround themselves with. Few if anyone thinks the British military manipulate the Pride of Britain awards, for example. They're independent but ideologically conformist.

It turns out this is not the case in the United States. In this excellent video, Owen Jones speaks with Matthew Alford about his work on military interference in film and television production. He estimates that between 1911 and 2017 the military had a had in the direction of some 800 movies. Throw in TV and add the FBI, CIA, and other state security agencies and we're talking about 10,000 scripts. As Matthew argues, this might sound like tinfoil hattery but it isn't - his work has uncovered the documentation to find household favourites like the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the Terminator franchise (from the fourth film on), have been significantly interfered with in exchange for "advice" and "support" from the Pentagon and other agencies. I'm sure none of this would come as a surprise to folks here, but it's well worth hearing Matthew's argument for yourself.


Anonymous said...

The question that arises is, why do the US military think their laughable scripts will gain traction over populations? Or put another way, why are people not mockingly laughing at all the palpable nonsense?

It isn't like they can do subtle.

Not specifically the military, but I like the film Big Jim McLain simply because it is so stupidly funny. Yet the masses in the US must have watched it as if it was real or something.

We are often told children should not be allowed to watch certain films, I almost think the opposite, it is adults who can't seem to discern fact from fiction. I am pretty sure children have little problem in this regard, at least subconsciously.

Matthew Alford said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Matthew Alford said...

Thanks for the John Wayne recommendation, by the way. I haven't seen that oe but it looks unintentionally hilarious!

Matthew Alford said...

The state's minimal objectives, at least, are not quite so grand as total control of whole populations.

They're partly involved in making screen entertainment for recruitment purposes, and in that sense they are unfortunately appealing to some of the youngest and most disadvantaged sectors of society.

Beyond that, they do want to use entertainment to control narratives on broader foreign policy issues but this tends more to entail quietly removing subversive material, which can be subtle and harder to detect - at least until we come along and get the internal documents.