Hollywood's New War Flicks

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It
was April 21, 1898, the day the United States declared war on Spain.
Soon thereafter thousands of New Yorkers sat in makeshift theaters
at vaudeville houses watching the Vitagraph Company’s version of
the seizure of a Spanish government installation in Havana by US
Army troops, an event that was still weeks from taking place. The
flickering images rallied moviegoers towards flag waving and a sense
of victory. Forget that the whole film production was fiction. The
film Tearing Down The Spanish Flag is cited as the beginning of
a relationship between motion pictures and propaganda.

Anti-German
propaganda films would follow during WWI. By 1942 the Office of
War Information oversaw the Hollywood propaganda machine. Countless
movies glorifying war were cranked out by Hollywood under the direction
of the government. It’s not like Hollywood’s role in war flicks
has been kept in total secrecy. In 1990 Clayton R. Koppes and Gregory
D. Black published their book entitled Hollywood
Goes To War: How Politics, Profits, and Propaganda Shaped World
War II Movies
(Univ. Calif. Press). The authors’ primary
concern was “to examine the enduring question of the appropriateness
of governmental coercion and censorship of private media as it was
raised by the relationship between the movie industry and the US
government.” [Amazon.com review]

A
plethora of war flicks are again hitting American picture screens.
“Black Hawk Down,” “Behind Enemy Lines,” and “We Were Soldiers,”
are a few of the film titles that have been released, or are just
about to be released. A website, www.military.com, provides a complete
run down on these movie titles.

Karl
Rove, President Bush’s special advisor, met with 40 Hollywood executives
on the second week in November, 2001, to enlist their help in the
nation’s cause, the war against terrorism. The film-makers wouldn’t
describe themselves as being involved in propaganda, just good old
fashioned patriotism. After all, George W. Bush has indicated “anyone
who is not with us, is with the terrorists.” Robert Iger, chief
operating office for the Disney studio and the ABC Network said:
“We’re not going to set out to influence opinion in a manner that
could in any way be construed as a propaganda effort backed by the
administration.” Doug Saunders, writing for the Globe & Mail,
says “Why would they need bother? For many years, Hollywood’s most
prominent products, its major studio films and TV series, have been
almost indistinguishable from government-funded propaganda.”

The
FBI, the Pentagon, NASA and other government agencies all have advisers
to Hollywood who provide military settings and equipment with the
understanding that scripts will put the government in a favorable
light. A year-old revelation that the White House paid major US
TV networks millions of dollars to insert anti-drug plots into the
scripts of prime-time series might even serve as Hollywood’s payback
for keeping the war propaganda machine going. Hollywood is accelerating
production schedules to exploit the national mood and to deliver
films that are compatible with war against the “axis of evil” that
President Bush has described.

But
strangely, Hollywood appears to be way ahead of the government.
The new war movies now being released started production long before
the terrorist attacks of September 11. In fact, the Army News Service
announced on March 7, 2001, that actors for the “Black Hawk Down”
movie trained at Army installations in Kentucky and Georgia. [Army
Link News] Either Hollywood somehow knew a war was brewing, or it
just decided to start making war movies, a whole bunch of them,
that remind one of the days of John Wayne captaining a submarine
again.

As
Doug Saunders says it: “Washington hardly needs to call Hollywood
to action for the current war. It is as if Hollywood has been fighting
it for 20 years and Washington is just catching up.” [Globe &
Mail, November 17, 2001] That 1898 movie “”Tearing Down The Spanish
Flag” chronicled war action ahead of historical events that would
follow. It appears Karl Rove’s meeting with Hollwyood executives
was just for show. Hollywood, just like General Patton, was one
step ahead.

There
have been so many suggestions as to why the US is really fighting
a war in Afghanistan, from a planned oil pipeline through Afghanistan
and Pakistan to the sea, to the standard government spiel about
bombing the Al Queda terrorists out from their caves. It’s obvious
now what the real motive is – the war is a public relations
stunt to further box office sales for Hollywood’s new war flicks!
Watch for the return of Rambo soon in theatres near you.

February
20, 2002

Bill
Sardi [send him mail] is a health
journalist who dabbles from time to time into current events. He
is the author of the book The
Iron Time Bomb
.
His website is www.askbillsardi.com.

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