The 2022 documentary Theaters of War: How the Pentagon and the CIA Conquered Hollywood is a chilling revelation of the profound collaboration between the American entertainment industry and the American state apparatus. It shows how Hollywood and other segments of the industry glorify the multi-trillion dollar war machine, condone its bloody global interventions, and attempt to condition the populace into even greater crimes.
The 87-minute film, released earlier this year and available on some streaming services, including Kanopy, is directed, edited and narrated by Roger Stahl, a professor of communication sciences at the University of Georgia.
However, Stahl’s film, which was recently screened at the Barcelona Human Rights Film Festival, has not received the publicity it deserves. This comes as no surprise, but is consistent with efforts to minimize the importance of the Biden administration’s massive increases to the Pentagon budget as part of its military operations against Russia in Ukraine and preparations for a military conflict with China. . Anything that accurately hints at or even raises concern about the real record and catastrophic consequences of US imperialist militarism is brushed aside and marginalized.
Stahl’s documentary exhausts a lot National Security Cinema: The Shocking New Evidence of Government Control in Hollywood written by Matthew Alford and Tom Secker and published in 2017 (see WSWS review) and recently obtained internal Pentagon documents and emails.
Alford, Secker and other academics, along with director Oliver Stone, two Iraq war veterans and others are interviewed in the documentary.
Of course, US military intervention in Hollywood film production is not a new phenomenon. Washington established a so-called Committee of Public Information in 1917 to formulate guidelines for the media and promote domestic support for his participation in World War I.
The film industry responded by promising to provide “slides, film leaders and trailers, posters … to disseminate the propaganda so necessary for the immediate mobilization of the great resources of the country.”
Wings (1927, directed by William Wellman), the first-ever Academy Award winner, received crucial help from the military, paving the way for a spectacular increase in this kind of collaboration after America’s entry into World War II in 1941.
While this is common knowledge, few Americans today are aware of the massive expansion of this collaboration since World War II and the censorship control that the Pentagon and CIA have over much of the mainstream entertainment industry. As Matthew Alford tells Theaters of War“The Pentagon operates like a well-oiled PR machine promoting the most violent and powerful organization in the world.”
Since the end of World War II, US-based filmmakers and television producers who wanted help from the Department of Defense (DoD) or the CIA, i.e. discounted price or free use of military equipment and facilities, technical advice and military staff as extras, must comply with the requirements of these authorities.
Directors and producers must be prepared to have their scripts vetted and then accept any changes requested. “Production Support Agreements” include direct control over subject matter, plot, and character development.