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PostPosted: Wed Jan 21, 2015 3:14 pm 
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A compelling interview with Matthew Alford, from Managing Democracy, Managing Dissent; Capitalism, Democracy and the Organisation of Consent, available as a pdf here: http://www.corporatewatch.org/publicati ... ng-dissent

Highlights:
Quote:
Chapter 6. Screening Our Screens: Propaganda and the Entertainment Industry
...

MA: Jack Valenti, the Motion Picture Association of America President used to explain it most succinctly: Washington and Hollywood are “sprung from the same DNA”. Accordingly, Hollywood follows the script, especially on foreign policy issues.

More specifically, there are four factors that determine and degrade the politics of Hollywood: only half a dozen huge companies own all the movies; advertisers play a central part in most films; the CIA and Pentagon have major roles in affecting the politics of scripts (they work on at least a third of modern films depicting US foreign policy); and powerful organisations will punish professionals who challenge the system.

The resultant underlying rules for movie content have remained consistent, implicit, and well-observed: do not question the benevolence of the US system (extra marks for gormless nationalism), do not question or call attention to the egregious power wielded by private interests (such as the oil and arms industries, the Israeli lobby), and feel free to vilify and patronise people that don’t come from countries allied to the US - especially Middle Eastern Muslims.

RF: Are these ideas formalised within the industry or are they just accepted implicitly?

MA:Both. From 1934 to 1968, there was an explicit document - the Production Code - that formalised many important elements of conformist cinema, notably ‘Section X’, which dealt specifically with the protection of ‘National Feeling’. The Code was used by its anti-Semitic head, Joseph Breen (dubbed ‘The Hitler of Hollywood’), to justify blocking scripts that opposed Nazi Germany right up to January 1940. Gotta love that National Feeling.

RF: Did the demise of the Production Code signal the end for formal controls over the industry?

MA: Far from it. Nowadays, the potential political messages emanating from the mainstream media and entertainment industry are constrained by effective informal controls, including concentrated corporate ownership; the centrality of advertising; the pervasiveness of the government as a source of information; the ability of the powerful to issue flak, and the self-serving notion that we in the West are superior and benevolent and that those who do not accept our economic and political models are backward or even hostile.

Not to mention direct interference in production. When ‘advising’ on-set, for example, the Pentagon ties the producers into a contract and ensures script alterations in exchange for providing air craft carriers, tanks, etc. If anything, this practice has escalated in recent years, and has been applied to higher budget productions than ever before, such as the Transformers series.

The role of the White House itself is often overlooked too. In the 1990s, the Clinton administration was secretly spending tens of millions of dollars paying the major networks to inject War on Drugs plots into the scripts of prime-time series such as ER, The Practice, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Smart Guy, and Beverley Hills 90210. To cite just one example, an inferior script for Chicago Hope was produced solely because it had anti-drug theme. In the episode, ravers endured drug-induced death, rape, psychosis, a nasty two-car wreck, a broken nose and a doctor’s threat to skip life-saving surgery unless the patient agreed to an incriminating urine test. You know what, kids - ‘Just say no... to government propaganda’.)

...
MA: The Pentagon, CIA, and White House almost never worry about the portrayal of capitalism in entertainment products. The advertisers and corporate owners do that for them, largely because if you leave the cinema thinking ‘That film really made me question the profit motive’, you’re not likely to buy into the franchise. There’s a reason Ken Loach doesn’t sell many lunchboxes.

It’s also important that the major studios are almost all based in New York and LA, dominated by lawyers and bankers, with a few outspoken ‘free market’ ideologues from General Electric CEO, Jack Welch to Arnold Schwarzenegger thrown in for good measure. So of course the idea of questioning the American-led economic system is just inconceivable.

Ed Herman and Noam Chomsky emphasise that the real product is not the news programme, or film, or whatever, but rather us, the audience. It all sounds a bit Matrix-y but of course it stands to reason that we are being sold to advertisers by media producers. The result is that they can charge advertisers more money if they guarantee that the film will reach a sufficiently large, affluent audience, and that it will strive to ensure that this audience is receptive to that advertising. This explains that feeling maybe you have when you watch a Bond film - it’s quite enjoyable but also feels a bit like a cheesy commercial for razors. Die Another Day had twenty companies place products on set, for which the producers received $120m.

RF: But not all Hollywood films that depict foreign policy themes are blatant paeans to American power, are they? Does the fact that some films flirt with more radical ideas indicate that Hollywood is not always so controlled?

MA: Yes, although many productions give the impression of being radical but on closer inspection are timid, misleading, or even deceptively pro-establishment narratives.

In Munich, Spielberg’s “evenhanded cry for peace”, for example, the most celebrated “anti-war” scene in the film is a two-and-a-half minute exchange between an Arab and an Israeli, which at best points out that Palestinians are motivated by a desire for ‘home’ but, more saliently, suggests that their struggle is both futile and immoral.
Hotel Rwanda (2004) condemns America’s unwillingness to stop the 1994 Rwandan genocide. In fact, the film whitewashes the Rwandan Patriotic Front’s invasion of Rwanda and apparent Presidential assassinations that triggered the crisis, its facilitation of the Tutsi and Hutu genocides, its support from the US, and its current activities in the Congo that the UN calls ‘near genocidal’, all of which have been explained by diligent on-the-ground reporters like Keith Harmon Snow.

TV series such as 24 and Alias received government cooperation but also raise the spectre of nefarious strains within government. Nevertheless, these products still fit comfortably into the myth of American Exceptionalism and promote the virtues of a national security state. 24 was created by Joel Surnow - buddy to Rush Limbaugh and open advocate of Dick Cheney’s political perspective - and promoted the use of torture and hyperbole on terrorism and official state enemies (a thinly veiled portrayal of an aggressive, nuclear Iran, for instance, throughout series eight). In other words, even conspiracy plotlines are often utilised to show the essential righteousness of the American system and its ability to weed out its own ‘bad apples’.

The same principle is advanced in some of the most celebrated ‘critical’ programmes. So Aaron Sorkin’s The West Wing (1999-2006) was indeed liberal but the White House team itself is well-meaning, competent, and idealistic, thereby preserving the idea of America as the ‘exceptional nation’. According to actor Rob Lowe, who spoke to Bill Clinton in 2000, the White House staff was “obsessed with the show” and the President himself thought it was “renewing people’s faith in public service”. The West Wing bromide worked for the Bush administration too - just after 9/11 Sorkin rushed through production a special episode about a massive terrorist threat to America entitled ‘Isaac and Ishmael’. “I’m going to blow them [the Jihadists] off the face of the earth with the fury of God’s thunder,” says Martin Sheen’s President Bartlet, in rhetoric even more Biblical than that of the real-world incumbent. In series two, the anti-globalisation movement is cut down in a stylish and impassioned speech by a White House official that concludes: “… Free trade stops wars! And we figure out a way to fix the rest. One world, one peace.”

...

Certainly, the TV industry is subject to the same pressures. Quite apart from the apolitical (Big Brother) and some real throwback products (ever see Flavor of Love?) that characterise American network television, even many of the most political, intelligent TV series are paeans to the national security state, such as E-Ring, Profiles From the Front Line, NCIS, JAG (all of which had DOD cooperation), and The Agency, The Company, Covert Affairs (all made with CIA cooperation), as well as other sympathetic products that didn’t receive the government’s stamp of approval, such as Last Resort, Tour of Duty and Homeland.

...

Of course, there are inconsistencies in the way each cultural industry is constrained ideologically. So, when you pick up a copy of Hello! magazine or read your horoscopes, though these won’t be politically enriching experiences and may even play into something worse (irrationality, celebrity worship, materialism), there is rarely a calculated, nefarious political agenda behind the product. Don’t rule it out though - even poor Spiderman and his buddies in kids’ comic strips have been paid off by the government at various times - especially to push the clunky old ‘drugs are bad’ message.
.....

In other words, the film [Strip Search]directly criticised Bush’s Patriot Act by comparing it to a dictatorship’s legal system. Barber found that: the film was aired on a Tuesday rather than the usual Saturday or Sunday night; screener tapes were not sent out to television critics; there was minimal marketing, and the original 88 minute running length was trimmed to 55 minutes. Furthermore, HBO airbrushed Strip Search from its back catalogue and have not released it on DVD, though a version is available from Amazon if you have a spare $99.

RF: How well are the parameters enforced - what, if anything, slips through
the net, and how?


MA: A handful of genuinely dissenting films are made that break down these barriers but they usually emerge in unusual circumstances and are poorly distributed. I was amazed when I saw that Warren Beatty’s explicitly pro-Socialist Bulworth had been distributed by Rupert Murdoch’s Fox. I soon discovered, though, that Beatty made the 1998 film “in complete stealth”, without revealing any political content to the studio, and skilfully negotiated complete creative control owing to Fox having backed out of making Dick Tracy. In response, Fox released Bulworth to compete with the blockbusting Godzilla.
...

RF: What happens if industry professionals break the rules?

MA: On the rare occasions that entertainment figures become politically active, then they can get burnt quite badly. Historically, the FBI mounted vicious campaigns against people like Charlie Chaplin, Orson Welles, Jean Seberg, and Jane Fonda - in Seberg’s case, J. Edgar Hoover leaked the lie that she was carrying another man’s baby, which triggered her miscarriage and suicide. Maybe Cameron is right to keep his head down.

Others just lose their jobs. One of the most radical contemporary political films to emerge from a major studio is Fight Club (1999), the explosive Brad Pitt/ Ed Norton feature which attacked ideas like consumerism and credit-culture. In this case, Rupert Murdoch, rather than the politicos at the Pentagon or Langley, declared “You have to be sick to make a movie like that”. Murdoch’s personal dislike of the “dark tone” of films like Fight Club and The Beach led to the unexpected resignation of 20th Century Fox’s head, Bill Mechanic, and a renewed trend towards conservative pictures coming from the studio.

RF: To what extent do film-makers consciously censor themselves in order to secure their film’s funding or distribution, or to what extent is it so internalised that these issues aren’t even raised or questioned?

MA: I haven’t come across much evidence of film-makers saying, ‘We really didn’t want to make an imperialist piece of junk but the studio made us’. I’d guess that few film-makers in the Hollywood system have any interest in pushing political boundaries because they are almost all political conformists - and more worryingly, several of them are real advocates of the American empire. For instance, Peter Berg, director of Battleship, recently went on Israeli TV making the case for Israel bombing Iran - this from the man who created The Kingdom, a supposedly ‘balanced’ film set against the background of the US-Saudi relationship.

But the main issue is that political responsibility just isn’t on the agenda. To illustrate, in response to the allegation that Americans are “widely perceived to be selfish and self-indulgent”, Geoff Zucker, director of NBC Entertainment said “Listen, we are not culpable for the images we portray on television”. That’s right, they have no responsibility.
....

Actually, some of the mythologizing movies are ‘successful’ largely because they are pushed so hard by the studios. For example, Disney doubled the usual release dates for Pearl Harbor, which meant it just about turned a profit.
....

RF: What are the impacts in terms of capitalism, consent and dissent of these rigid controls over our culture and entertainment?

MA: Hollywood studios are uniquely important in selling political messages, according to a very wide range of sources, including the FBI, CIA, Pentagon, and a war-time Senate Investigation that called them “gigantic engines of propaganda”.

It’s hard to measure effects, but obviously if entertainment systems work hard to promote consent, then they’re going to have a significant degree of success.
...

MA: ...

I think a recent study for the journal Managerial and Decision Economics gets it about right when is says “it is not business that film-makers dislike but rather the control of firms by profit-maximizing capitalists” and that “film-makers display little concern with workers’ problems and only rarely blame firms’ social irresponsibility on the fact that capital rather than labour is in control.”

Certainly there is almost no sense of worker solidarity on screen, which I think is a vital omission for the sake of America’s rulers. It calls to mind an episode of the [British comedy series] Comic Strip Presents… in which Hollywood money men turn a gritty script about the British miner’s strike into a schlock action piece with the ball-busting hero [union leader] Arthur Scargill, renamed “Scarface”. Hollywood loves a lone hero and displays of solidarity as in V For Vendetta, Salt of the Earth, and Spartacus, are as rare as they are inspirational.
...

MA: We should kick the CIA, Pentagon and White House out of the industry. It’s do-able - the Pentagon’s Hollywood liaison was almost axed in budget cuts during the 1990s, and a single Congresswoman forced the closure of Homeland Security’s Hollywood PR unit just on the grounds that it was a waste of $130k. In 2012, the press rounded on the Obama White House, Pentagon, and CIA for allegedly providing classified information to Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal for their feature about the assassination of Osama Bin Laden, and also raised concerns about the movie being as party political propaganda in Obama’s re-election campaign.

... If Hollywood presents bullshit on screen we should subject it to ridicule, protest, critique, and/or abandon it at the box office in the name of creative and political freedom....

http://www.corporatewatch.org/publicati ... ng-dissent


DR. Matthew Alford's bio: http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?ti ... hew_Alford

Quote:
But the past 12 years of semi-acknowledged collaboration were preceded by decades in which the CIA maintained a deep-rooted but invisible influence of Hollywood. How could it be otherwise? As the former CIA man Bob Baer - whose books on his time with the agency were the basis for Syriana - told us: "All these people that run studios - they go to Washington, they hang around with senators, they hang around with CIA directors, and everybody's on board."
http://www.theguardian.com/film/2008/no ... dley-scott



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PostPosted: Wed Jan 21, 2015 4:47 pm 
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good stuff;

as happens I tried to download Bulworth last week but, unlike almost every other mainstream movie of the past 60 years, there is not a single working torrent for the film that I could find.

Coincidence?

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PostPosted: Wed Jan 21, 2015 4:54 pm 
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Here's a torrent to the above mentioned Strip Search that seems to work: https://oldpiratebay.org/torrent/516451 ... -2004-XviD

Quote:
Strip Search is a drama film made for the HBO network, first aired on April 27, 2004. The film explores the status of individual liberties in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks and the approval of the USA PATRIOT Act. The film was directed by Sidney Lumet and written by Oz creator Tom Fontana. It stars Glenn Close, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Ken Leung, Bruno Lastra and Dean Winters. The film was first screened at the Monaco Film Premiere with Lumet in person presenting it, in the presence of Fontana.

Plot

The film is built around two main parallel stories, each containing almost identical dialogues. One story line involves Linda Sykes (Gyllenhaal), an American woman detained in the People's Republic of China, being interrogated by a military officer (Leung). In the other storyline, Sharif Bin Said (Lastra), an Arab man detained in New York City, is interrogated by two FBI agents (Winters and Close). Both characters are graduate students detained with no hard evidence and interrogated about unspecified activities which may or may not be related to terrorist plots.

In the course of the increasingly brutal interrogations, both Sykes and Bin Said are strip searched against their will by their interrogators and are subjected to a cavity search. In both cases the protagonists appear to have only tenuous connections with the suspected terrorist plots.

The film ends with the question: "Must security and safety come at the price of freedom?"

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