Encircling Empire Reports is a selection of essays, blog posts, and news reports covering a given time period, providing links and representative extracts or key passages from each resource, usually focusing on certain countries/continents and/or processes in each report. The focus of the reports ranges from imperialism discussed in broad strokes, to specific facets of imperialism: militarization and militarism; militainment; “humanitarian intervention” and the “responsibility to protect”; regime-change; nation-building; counterinsurgency; state terrorism; the economics of empire; soft power, psychological operations, and strategic information operations; and, the ideologies and moral constructions of contemporary imperialist thought. In keeping with the dualistic theme–the empire that encircles us, and the encircling of empire by resistance and collapse–we also attempt to provide coverage of anti-imperialism, anti-war struggles, and the direct resistance against imperialist intervention, as well as covering the decline of U.S. and European geopolitical hegemony.
(When links expire–and they certainly will in many cases–either use the full title of each item, inside quotation marks, and use that as a search term, or use the expired URL and use http://web.archive.org to do a search in its Wayback Machine.)
This report covers the period from November 5, 2012 to December 31, 2012.
This and previous issues have been archived on a dedicated site—please see: ENCIRCLING EMPIRE.
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This report’s focus is on militainment, the marriage of the media and the Pentagon in producing various offspring in the form of movies and of gushing media coverage of the military. Given the layers of distraction, veneration, and celebrity-gawking surrounding the “Petraeus scandal,” that story continues to make an appearance here. In particular, this report focuses on some of the major national security movies produced by Hollywood boosters in 2012, spotlighting Argo, Battleship, and Zero Dark Thirty.
“The career trend of too many Pentagon journalists typically arrives at the same vanishing point: Over time they are co-opted by a combination of awe – interacting so closely with the most powerfully romanticized force of violence in the history of humanity – and the admirable and seductive allure of the sharp, amazingly focused demeanor of highly trained military minds. Top military officers have their shit together and it’s personally humbling for reporters who’ve never served to witness that kind of impeccable competence. These unspoken factors, not to mention the inner pull of reporters’ innate patriotism, have lured otherwise smart journalists to abandon – justifiably in their minds – their professional obligation to treat all sources equally and skeptically….
“Pentagon journalists and informed members of the public would benefit from watching ‘The Selling of the Pentagon’, a 1971 documentary. It details how, in the height of the Vietnam War, the Pentagon sophisticatedly used taxpayer money against taxpayers in an effort to sway their opinions toward the Pentagon’s desires for unlimited war. Forty years later, the techniques of shaping public opinion via media has evolved exponentially. It has reached the point where flipping major journalists is a matter of painting in their personal numbers.”
[Consumer Advisory: Do not support this industry by paying money to see any of the movies below. Instead, if you must see them, download the free torrents provided by your wonderful peers.]
“Government-Embedded Filmmaking:” Hollywood’s Love Affair with the CIA and the Pentagon–Movies in 2012
Regarding ARGO 2012 “The movie was fake. The mission was real”…
“Argo, Fuck Yourself”: Manipulating History to Suit an Insidious Anti-Iran Agenda. By Kim Nicolini. CounterPunch, October 26-28, 2012:
Hollywood venerating the CIA in a movie about a joint Hollywood-CIA operation, Argo is a movie that supposedly deals with “the 1979 Iran hostage crisis as seen through a Hollywood-CIA covert operation.” Nicolini takes the movie apart, beginning by sharing her view that,
“Argo is a total dud. Besides the fact that it is an exercise in problematic revisionist history, it’s just a crappy movie. I’m fine with using historical material to create a movie that is not wedded to being accurate, but at least the movie should be good, interesting or entertaining. Argo is none of these things. It is a crappy movie with an insidious political agenda.”
This is yet another bland piece of simplistic propaganda that makes heroes out of interventionist Americans, while relegating Iran itself to little more than a canvas:
“It [Argo] minimally alludes to the back story of the Iranian revolution but then turns the Iranians into window dressing. They are simply a backdrop that allows the film to tell its patriotic story of the American Hollywood-CIA heroic and covert operation to rescue the diplomats.”
While Argo was celebrated by so-called movie “critics,” Nicolini concludes:
“this movie is one big bore. It’s not a movie at all. It’s exceptionally underhanded political propaganda created by Hollywood to try to win over right leaning war supporters to Obama’s conservative liberal politics while appeasing centrist Leftists (which Hollywood embodies to the max) to feel good about voting for a President who supports war.”
Regarding BATTLESHIP (2012) “The battle for Earth begins at sea”…
Closing credits to Battleship:
So bad that even the Navy has to caution you not to think about it too much, while providing friendly instructions on the proper way to have “fun” with a movie the Navy helped to make:
Get on board: Don’t overthink fun ‘Battleship.’ By Chuck Vinch, Navy Times,May 18, 2012:
“Having signed on for what was always a rather silly mission — create a film with a tenuous link to a hoary Hasbro board game — Berg and the Hoebers made a strategic decision to launch the silliness so far into the ether that a viewer would be left with two clear, unambiguous choices: Get up and walk out, shaking your head and muttering darkly, or get onboard and laugh your way to the end of the adrenaline rush.
“Choose the latter option, and the bounty of nonsensical touches simply becomes part of the fun.”
YOU CONSULTED ON MY BATTLESHIP! HOW THE MILITARY AND HOLLYWOOD COLLABORATE. By Neal Ungerleider, Co.Create, May 17, 2012:
“…maintains a constant pro-military stance”
“When films feature uniformed personnel, planes, or ships–or, better yet, are military-themed, Hollywood routinely travels to the Pentagon. The Air Force, Army, Marine Corps, and Navy all share offices geared towards Hollywood in the same Los Angeles office building. Over in Washington, the Defense Department quietly maintains a Film Liaison Unit that closely collaborates with filmmakers. It’s one of the marketing world’s most interesting (or, depending on your views, unsettling) cross-promotional relationships. And odds are you wouldn’t be watching Battleship without it.”
“The Navy granted Berg and Universal extensive access to military facilities during the making of the film. Following formal military approval in 2010, principal photography took place during a U.S. Pacific Fleet training exercise and Navy advisors consulted on filming in Hawaii, San Diego, and Louisiana. Cast and crew members also spent time at sea in order to get a taste for their role and logistical demands.”
“Prior to Battleship‘s U.S. release on Friday, the Navy is sponsoring a series of free screenings at military facilities across the United States.”
For more on this, see the U.S. Air Force Entertainment Liaison Office’s website, and their questionnaire (pdf) for filmmakers applying for Air Force support.
Plus, as a form of Hollywood entertainment in itself, see the U.S. Air Force’s promotional video on its relationship with Hollywood:
Also read: Top Gun versus Sergeant Bilko? No contest, says the Pentagon, by Duncan Campbell, The Guardian, August 29, 2001:
“Hollywood film-makers have frequently changed plot lines, altered history and amended scripts at the request of the Pentagon, according to recently released military documents. Producers and directors have often agreed to changes in order to gain access to expensive military hardware or to be able to film on military property. On many occasions films have been changed so that the US armed forces are shown in a more heroic fashion. Film companies agree to the changes because doing so saves them millions in production costs. If film-makers do not agree to alterations, assistance is withheld.”
|Films which obtained cooperation (to 2001):||Films denied cooperation (to 2001):|
|• Air Force One
• The Caine Mutiny
• A Few Good Men
• From Here to Eternity
• The Longest Day
• The Hunt for Red October
• Pearl Harbour
• Patriot Games
• Top Gun
• The Jackal
• Hamburger Hill
• Hearts in Atlantis
• The Longest Day
• The American President
• Behind Enemy Lines
• Apollo 13
• Tomorrow Never Dies
• Tora! Tora! Tora!
• A Time to Kill
|• Apocalypse Now
• Broken Arrow
• Die Hard 2
• Dr Strangelove
• Forrest Gump
• Full Metal Jacket
• GI Jane
• Independence Day
• The Last Detail
• Lone Star
• Mars Attacks!
• Memphis Belle
• An Officer and a Gentleman
• Sgt Bilko
• The Thin Red Line
Also see the IMDB page for Philip M. Strub, Department of Defense liaison to Hollywood, for a full list of movies that have involved his office.
“Battleship”: Dumbest military spectacle ever? Aliens invade a Navy recruitment video and turn back the gender-politics clock in this moronic blockbuster. By Andrew O’Hehir, Salon, May 16, 2012:
“The only point of the whole exercise is to make small boys whoop and holler.”
“You know that bar over on the roughneck side of town, the one where all the jingoistic, pro-military, America-hell-yeah movies go to quaff some brewskis and swap tales about kickin’ Communist hiney? Yeah, that one. Well, when ‘Battleship’ shows up there and starts breaking beer glasses on its head, ‘Top Gun’ and ‘Red Dawn’ and ‘The Green Berets’ get to feel all grown-up and complicated and full of girly-man sensitivity. That’s how stupid it is.”
‘Battleship’ stars says best part of movie was meeting real troops and their families. By Hollie McKay, Fox News, May 15, 2012:
More gushing, cloying propaganda to serve militarism, from the “stars” of the movie:
“We actually used lots of real military service men and women in the film,” she [Brooklyn Decker] told FOX411’s Pop Tarts column. “We used active and wounded military as well as veterans that have fought over the years, so there is a lot of history to it and this adds a lot of value to the movie. I think you feel some patriotism when you watch it, and that is very special to us.”
Decker also said that they’ve screened “Battleship” for a number of U.S. troops stationed both here and overseas, and “everyone has loved it so far.”
“We did them a lot of justice. We have been to the bases and it has been exciting to bring the film to them,” she continued. “To shine a light on these guys is special, and they are thankful that we are sharing their stories.” […]
“You can read about it, you can watch it all go down, but to be a part of it hands-on was something else. For me personally, it was seeing their (troops) families and not only what these guys sacrifice being in the fight, but it was amazing seeing what their families sacrifice as well,” he [Taylor Kitsch] said.
Protecting the Pentagon Brand. By James Barber, Military.com–Under the Radar,May 9, 2012:
Battleship got the full support of the Pentagon, as explained in an email circulated by the Navy:
“Produced by Universal Pictures and directed by Peter Berg, BATTLESHIP was made with the support of the Department of Defense and the Navy. As you know, we ask ourselves some key questions before supporting a major motion picture. First, does the script accurately portray the Navy? Second, does it positively represent our service and our Sailors? Third, can we support a film without impacting our operations? And finally, do we believe that it could have a positive impact on recruiting? In the case of BATTLESHIP, we felt the answer was “Yes” to each of those questions.
In addition, there are risks not to participating as well. Whether or not we supported Battleship, the film was going to be made — it was going to carry our brand and represent who we are to the American people. We can’t take everyone out to our ships, but we can work with Hollywood and bring the Navy to life on the big screen. Consequently, it’s in our best interest to engage and make sure that movies like Battleship accurately portray who we are and what we do as a Navy.
Following DoD approval in 2010, the film’s production began in early 2010, and principal photography took place during the Pacific Fleet’s RIMPAC training exercise later that year. Because filming took place on top of already scheduled training events, it did not impair the exercise and there was no cost to the Navy or American taxpayers. Additional filming also took place in Hawaii, San Diego, and on a film set in Baton Rouge, La., constructed by Universal Studios. The end result is a film that provides movie-goers with a realistic look of the Navy and our Sailors operating at sea — scenes that I think reflect well on the Navy.
These statements produce the comical conclusion that yes, indeed, Rihanna does “accurately portray the Navy”:
Of no concern to the Pentagon is how its tax-payer funded loot of weaponry is selectively deployed to favour only some speech, over others. The next comical suggestion then is that U.S. citizens involuntarily pay grand sums to the state in order to be instructed on what they can say, and what they should think. Totalitarianism anyone? Perhaps at some point more U.S. citizens will wake up to discover that they are in effect already being ruled by a corporate-backed military junta, but one should not hold high hopes.
Regarding ZERO DARK THIRTY (2012) “The greatest manhunt in history”…
From the same director of the Academy award-winning piece of puerile rubbish titled “The Hurt Locker,” we have another appalling U.S. escapade into the heart of darkness, where torture and homoerotic abuse are validated as authentically American animal-management techniques, and above all, successful ones. The movie, thankfully, has been carefully and diligently torn to pieces in a number of reviews, from which some key passages are reproduced below.
The truth about Zero Dark Thirty: this torture fantasy degrades us all: Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal’s film claims to be ‘based on a true story’ but no non-fiction writer could take such liberties. By Michael Wolff, The Guardian, December 24, 2012:
“…a nasty piece of pulp and propaganda.”
“…a dreary and predictable movie…”
“…silly, stick-figure and cartoonish movie…”
“Bigelow, more a special-effects cinematographer than a movie director, and Boal, a run-of-the-mill scriptwriter, have, like many in Hollywood, only average or sub-par dramatic skills.”
“The controversy about the movie involves its unambiguous cause and effect assertion that the torture of al-Qaida principals and hangers on was the key to finding Osama bin Laden – ie: torture works. Pretty much everybody in the intelligence community in a position to say this isn’t true has said it isn’t. And then there’s the girl-alone-against-the-world narrative: Maya, our heroine, thinks about nothing else but Osama bin Laden for almost 10 years and because of this single-minded obsession, American forces are able to find and kill him. That according to everybody and anybody, and to common sense, is hogwash too.”
Zero Dark Thirty: Torture, Take Two: Maybe Torture Doesn’t Work But Kathryn Bigelow Seems to Like It. By Peter Lee. CounterPunch, December 21-23, 2012:
“The film is grim, and grimly convincing, as a picture of the United States and the CIA spending billions of dollars to bulldoze through a world they despise to kill a man they hate.” […]
“….Bigelow is interested in torture less as a moral dilemma than as a test of personal strength and determination—for the torturer. She apparently regards torturers as potentially cool, because they are out there, on the edge, dealing with the challenge, testing the limits of law, social norms, morality, and endurance, and thereby testing themselves.” […]
“I don’t know any torturers, at least I don’t think I do, but color me unpersuaded concerning their heroic stature based on what I read about the careful, calculated, and legalistic cruelty practiced in the enhanced interrogation program at Guantanamo and the sadism inflicted on helpless, hapless (and sometimes innocent) detainees at places like Bagram.” […]
“The element of the torture scenes (yes, there are several, torture is not just a tone-setting appetizer at the beginning of the film) that I found least convincing was the Hemingwayesque portrayal of the core confrontation between Clarke and detainee ‘Amar’ (Reda Kateb).
“There is a lot of macho-man ‘bro’ing (as in ‘If you lie to me, I’m going to hurt you, bro’) and a brief, absurd scene in which Clarke engages in some manly wrassling to subdue Kateb for a session of waterboarding.
“Subsequently, Clarke and Chastain are shown dining al fresco on Arab fare on a sun dappled patio with a cleaned-up and relaxed Kateb, who calmly starts handing over important intelligence goodies.
“One doesn’t get the impression that Bigelow regards the torture as the degradation of a helpless person by a figure of power (a more accurate depiction of torture would probably involve the systematic and unchivalric ego destruction at the core of the Bush era Enhanced Interrogation Techniques).
“Instead, it’s a studly conjugal transaction whose noble outcome (the terrorist fought hard but the interrogator broke him; prizes for everyone!) has somehow elevated and affirmed both parties. The feeling of homoerotic subtext is reinforced when Clarke hands over a post-coital cigarette to Kateb, who puffs on it with a dignified but grateful reserve.”
Arrest All Torturers: Is this a Nation of Laws, or of Unaccountable Men – and Women? By Joe Giambrone. CounterPunch, December 18, 2012.
“Senators Feinstein and Levin debunk the central lie of Zero Dark Thirty, that the CIA allegedly tortured the information about bin Laden’s courier out of detainees:
Feinstein and Levin wrote that the CIA didn’t first learn about the courier who led the U.S. to bin Laden’s hideout from detainees who were ‘subjected to coercive techniques.’ The techniques didn’t help identify the courier by name or the location of bin Laden’s compound, the senators said.
‘Instead, the CIA learned of the existence of the courier, his true name and location through means unrelated to the CIA detention and interrogation program,’ wrote Feinstein and Levin in the statement.” […]
“The US ‘war on terrorism’ would be far more credible if the US didn’t partner with terrorists every chance it had. From Cubans in the 1960s, to Contras in the 1980s as well as the Mujahadeen Jihadis, to present-day relationships with MEK on the Iranian border, the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, whom the US/NATO just installed in power there, to the Free Syrian Army which is terrorizing and rampaging that nation daily and engaging in ethnic cleansing and mass murder, the US foreign policy record is one of supporting terrorist networks. It plays dirty, ugly games ‘in the shadows’ and most of the world outside its borders knows this full well.” […]
“…I am sickened by this torture fad that civilized people must stand up and reject vociferously. Reject along with it the Hollywood propaganda that promotes it, including Zero Dark Thirty, and Fox’s 24. Torture is presented by Hollywood as a good thing nine times out of ten, and producers and screenwriters are morally and ethically responsible for these heinous lies that they tell their viewers. Hold them accountable too. Call out their sadism and criminality. Arrest all torturers, lest we become a nation of depraved psychopaths.”
Apparently, the Pentagon Was a Little Too Helpful to ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ Filmmakers. By Adam Clark Estes, The Atlantic Wire, December 17, 2012:
“As if Zero Dark Thirty needed more controversy, ABC News is now reporting that Under Secretary of Defense Michael Vickers is under investigation for leaking sensitive information to the filmmakers. “Specifically, Vickers is said to have disclosed to the filmmakers the identity of a member of SEAL Team Six — though not a member of the team that conducted the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound,” says ABC’s Jake Tapper. This is potentially a big deal for said SEAL Team Six member, who could be targeted by terrorists, but it’s also a bit of a boondoggle for the Pentagon, where state secrets definitely aren’t supposed to be exposed for the good of the entertainment industry.”
The Heart of Darkness in Zero-Dark-Thirty: A Discursive, Supra-Nationalist Patriotism. By Fawzia Afzal-Khan. CounterPunch, December 14-16, 2012:
“As a naturalized American, an academic who has lived in the USA for more years now than in my native Pakistan where I was born and grew up, I nevertheless felt ‘othered’ by this film, excluded from the ‘we’ of the audience being ‘hailed’ by the structures of authority and sense-making represented by the film’s interpretive codes. The ‘real American viewer’ being addressed by the film, is one who by virtue of being sutured into the point of view of the young female CIA operative at the heart of the hunt for Osama, and that of her co-investigator who subjects a suspected Al-Qaeda prisoner to waterboarding and other tortures in the opening sequences of the film, is one who neither looks like me…”
“….Added to all this murky business is monkey business—in what I saw as a crucial scene, the tough-as-nails heroine’s initial co-investigator is visiting a CIA ‘black site’ somewhere, and in the compound is a cage full of monkeys. The man in question has just come from subjecting an Al Qaeda suspect to gruesome torture, but in this scene feeds a little of the ice-cream he is eating to one of the monkeys; within seconds, just as he allows his attention to wander a little bit—mirroring the audience’s collective laughter and relaxation at the comic relief of man-feeding-monkeys—snap! The monkey grabs hold of the entire icecream cone from his hand and well…there you are. The monkey makes a monkey out of the man—and of “ us” the audience, a warning , perhaps, that ‘we’ must never let our guard down against the animals we put into cages.”
And in her review, as viewed from the perspective of a Pakistani-American academic, Professor Afzal-Khan has this very instructive quote from Patricia McFadden, writing in a collection of essays on Feminism and War:
“US society has remained a fundamentally violent and intolerant social formation, whose rulers clearly understand the significance of imperial practice for the maintenance of white supremacist privilege and power. And too many American citizens have bought into the justification that war is necessary for the maintenance of their social order, even if their access to the glory of Americana is limited simply to the claim that they are ‘Americans.’ The power of national identity, especially when it is associated with perceived or real expressions of privilege, is in my opinion something that feminists in the USA (and Europe) will have to contend with in order to shift the discourse on war and imperialism.”
Zero Dark Thirty: CIA hagiography, pernicious propaganda: As it turns out, the film as a political statement is worse than even its harshest early critics warned. By Glenn Greenwald, The Guardian, December 14, 2012:
“In US political culture, there is no event in the last decade that has inspired as much collective pride and pervasive consensus as the killing of Osama bin Laden. This event has obtained sacred status in American political lore. Nobody can speak ill of it, or even question it, without immediately prompting an avalanche of anger and resentment. The news of his death triggered an outburst of patriotic street chanting and nationalistic glee that continued unabated two years later into the Democratic National Convention. As Wired’s Pentagon reporter Spencer Ackerman put it in his defense of the film, the killing of bin Laden makes him (and most others) ‘very, very proud to be American.’ Very, very proud.”
“For that reason, to depict X as valuable in enabling the killing of bin Laden is – by definition – to glorify X. That formula will lead huge numbers of American viewers to regard X as justified and important. In this film: X = torture. That’s why it glorifies torture: because it powerfully depicts it as a vital step – the first, indispensable step – in what enabled the US to hunt down and pump bullets into America’s most hated public enemy.” […]
“…the most pernicious propagandistic aspect of this film is not its pro-torture message. It is its overarching, suffocating jingoism. This film has only one perspective of the world – the CIA’s – and it uncritically presents it for its entire 2 1/2 hour duration.”
ZERO CONSCIENCE IN “ZERO DARK THIRTY.” By Jane Mayer, The New Yorker, December 14, 2012:
“At the same time that the European Court of Human Rights has issued a historic ruling condemning the C.I.A.’s treatment of a terror suspect during the Bush years as ‘torture,’ a Hollywood movie about the agency’s hunt for Osama bin Laden, ‘Zero Dark Thirty’—whose creators say that they didn’t want to ‘judge’ the interrogation program—appears headed for Oscar nominations. Can torture really be turned into morally neutral entertainment?” […]
“…Kathryn Bigelow, milks the U.S. torture program for drama while sidestepping the political and ethical debate that it provoked. In her hands, the hunt for bin Laden is essentially a police procedural, devoid of moral context. If she were making a film about slavery in antebellum America, it seems, the story would focus on whether the cotton crops were successful.” […]
“In addition to providing false advertising for waterboarding, ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ endorses torture in several other subtle ways. At one point, the film’s chief C.I.A. interrogator claims, without being challenged, that ‘everyone breaks in the end,’ adding, ‘it’s biology.’ Maybe that’s what they think in Hollywood, but experts on the history of torture disagree. Indeed, many prisoners have been tortured to death without ever revealing secrets, while many others—including some of those who were brutalized during the Bush years—have fabricated disinformation while being tortured. Some of the disinformation provided under duress during those years, in fact, helped to lead the U.S. into the war in Iraq under false premises.”
Don’t Trust ‘Zero Dark Thirty': The acclaimed thriller about the hunt for Osama bin Laden represents a troubling new frontier of government-embedded filmmaking. By Peter Maas, The Atlantic, December 13, 2012:
“But the heated debate on torture misses what’s far more important and troubling about a film that seems destined for blockbuster and Academy Award status. Zero Dark Thirty represents a new genre of embedded filmmaking that is the problematic offspring of the worrisome endeavor known as embedded journalism.” […]
“The fundamental problem is that our government has again gotten away with offering privileged access to carefully selected individuals and getting a flattering story in return.” […]
“The film fails to consider the notion that the CIA and the intelligence industry as a whole, rather than being solutions to what threatens us, might be part of the problem.” […]
“But what’s more dazzling—and frustrating—is the government’s skill, time and time again, in getting its story told so uncritically.”
Judicial Watch Obtains Stack of ‘Overlooked’ CIA Records Detailing Meetings with bin Laden Filmmakers. Judicial Watch, August 28, 2012:
“Judicial Watch announced today that it has obtained records from the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and Department of Defense (DOD) regarding meetings and communications between government agencies and Kathryn Bigelow, the Academy Award-winning director of The Hurt Locker, and screenwriter Mark Boal in preparation for their film Zero Dark Thirty, which details the capture and killing of Osama bin Laden. According to the records, the Obama administration granted Boal and Bigelow unusual access to agency information in preparation for their film, which was reportedly scheduled for an October 2012 release, just before the presidential election, but the trailers are running now until the rescheduled release in December.”
Al Jazeera: Qatar’s Militainment Network on Hollywood’s Militainment Network
The network owned and managed by the family of the Emir of Qatar, which was actively used to support the propaganda operations of NATO and the rebels in Libya just as the Emir’s jets bombed Libya and its ground forces fought on the frontlines against Libyan government troops, is not good at all in examining itself as a form of militainment, as a marriage between military and media goals. Al Jazeera does, however, do a relatively decent job of scrutinizing the Hollywood-Pentagon nexus:
Empire: Hollywood and the war machine–Empire examines the symbiotic relationship between the movie industry and the military-industrial complex. Al Jazeera English, August 6, 2012:
Empire will examine Hollywood, the Pentagon, and war.
Joining us as guests: Oliver Stone, the eight times Academy Award-winning filmmaker; Michael Moore, the Academy Award-winning filmmaker; and Christopher Hedges, an author and the former Middle East bureau chief of the New York Times.
Our interviewees are: Phil Strub, US Department of Defense Film Liaison Unit; Julian Barnes, Pentagon correspondent, LA Times; David Robb, the author of Operation Hollywood; Prof Klaus Dodds, the author of Screening Terror; Matthew Alford, the author of Reel Power; Prof Melani McAlister, the author of Culture, Media, and US Interests in the Middle East.
Listening Post : The Pentagon’s grip on Hollywood. Al Jazeera English, July 1, 2012:
The military entertainment complex is an old phenomenon that binds Hollywood with the US military. Known as militainment, it serves both parties well. Filmmakers get access to high tech weaponry – helicopters, jet planes and air craft carriers while the Pentagon gets free and positive publicity.
Sucking Up (to) Petraeus
Sucking Up to the Military Brass: Generals Who Run Amuck, Politicians Who Could Care Less, an “Embedded” Media… And Us. By William J. Astore, TomDispatch, November 29, 2012:
“Few things have characterized the post-9/11 American world more than our worshipful embrace of our generals. They’ve become our heroes, our sports stars, and our celebrities all rolled into one. We can’t stop gushing about them. Even after his recent fall from grace, General David Petraeus was still being celebrated by CNN as the best American general since Dwight D. Eisenhower (and let’s not forget that Ike commanded the largest amphibious invasion in history and held a fractious coalition together in a total war against Nazi Germany). Before his fall from grace, Afghan War Commander General Stanley McChrystal was similarly lauded as one tough customer, a sort of superman-saint.
“Petraeus and McChrystal crashed and burned for the same underlying reason: hubris. McChrystal became cocky and his staff contemptuous of civilian authority; Petraeus came to think he really could have it all, the super-secret job and the super-sexy mistress. An ideal of selfless service devolved into self-indulgent preening in a wider American culture all-too-eager to raise its star generals into the pantheon of Caesars and Napoleons, and its troops into the halls of Valhalla.” […]
“In our particular drama, generals may well be the actors who strut and fret their hour upon the stage, but their directors are the national security complex and associated politicians, their producers the military-industrial complex’s corporate handlers, and their agents a war-junky media. And we, the audience in the cheap seats, must take some responsibility as well. Even when our military adventures spiral down after a promising opening week, the enthusiastic applause the American public has offered to our celebrity military adventurers and the lack of pressure on the politicians who choose to fund them only serve to keep bullets flying and troops dying.”
Corporate Media Lose Their Favorite ‘Warrior Scholar.’ By Peter Hart, FAIR, November 13, 2012:
From CNN, to CBS, NBC, The New York Times and others, read some of the weeping sentimentalism of the media’s sense of “loss” surrounding Petraeus, in this excellent summary by FAIR.
“…so many media figures is because Petraeus was uniquely beloved by many in the corporate media, who considered him both an accessible source and a war hero.”
The Sins Of General David Petraeus: Petraeus seduced America. We should never have trusted him. By Michael Hastings, BuzzFeed, November 11, 2012:
Calling Petraeus “a world-class bullshit artist,” Hastings begins his counter-narrative as follows:
The fraud that General David Petraeus perpetrated on America started many years before the general seduced Paula Broadwell, a lower-ranking officer 20 years his junior, after meeting her on a campus visit to Harvard.
More so than any other leading military figure, Petraeus’ entire philosophy has been based on hiding the truth, on deception, on building a false image. “Perception” is key, he wrote in his 1987 Princeton dissertation: “What policymakers believe to have taken place in any particular case is what matters — more than what actually occurred.”
Yes, it’s not what actually happens that matters — it’s what you can convince the public it thinks happened.
Until this weekend, Petraeus had been incredibly successful in making the public think he was a man of great integrity and honor, among other things. Most of the stories written about him fall under what we hacks in the media like to call “a blow job.” Vanity Fair. The New Yorker. The New York Times. The Washington Post. Time. Newsweek. In total, all the profiles, stage-managed and controlled by the Pentagon’s multimillion dollar public relations apparatus, built up an unrealistic and superhuman myth around the general that, in the end, did not do Petraeus or the public any favors. Ironically, despite all the media fellating, our esteemed and sex-obsessed press somehow missed the actual blow job.
Guess Who’s Not Getting Invited to Piers Morgan’s Christmas Party. By Adam Clark Estes, The Atlantic Wire, November 12, 2012:
Hastings to Piers Morgan, when he also criticized CNN’s Barbara Starr, accurately classing her as a mere stenographer for the Pentagon:
“The larger point that I’ve been making is that essentially the media has played a role in protecting David Petraeus and promoting David Petraeus and mythologizing David Petraeus. And we saw it here tonight. Gen. Kimmit who was a spokesperson in Bagdhad who was a roommate of Petraeus who was involved in one fo the biggest debacles in recent foreign policy history is on TV defending David Petraeus without actually addressing the real problems with David Petraeus’s record. And those are: the fact that he manipulated the White House into escalating in Afghanistan. He ran a campaign Iraq that was brutally savage, included arming the worst of the worst — Shi’ite death squads, Sunni militia men — and then you go back to the training of the Iraqi Army program that also had similar problems. …”
Yet, the Petraeus scandal offered a remarkable turning point, where some of the previously deferential corporate media suddenly broke with militarist convention and decided to shine a rare spotlight on the lavish, expensive, luxurious, and degenerate lifestyle of the U.S.’s most revered generals–see for example:
Petraeus scandal puts four-star general lifestyle under scrutiny. By Rajiv Chandrasekaran and Greg Jaffe, The Washington Post, November 17, 2012:
Then-defense secretary Robert M. Gates stopped bagging his leaves when he moved into a small Washington military enclave in 2007. His next-door neighbor was Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the time, who had a chef, a personal valet and — not lost on Gates — troops to tend his property.
Gates may have been the civilian leader of the world’s largest military, but his position did not come with household staff. So, he often joked, he disposed of his leaves by blowing them onto the chairman’s lawn.
“I was often jealous because he had four enlisted people helping him all the time,” Gates said in response to a question after a speech Thursday. He wryly complained to his wife that “Mullen’s got guys over there who are fixing meals for him, and I’m shoving something into the microwave. And I’m his boss.”
Of the many facts that have come to light in the scandal involving former CIA director David H. Petraeus, among the most curious was that during his days as a four-star general, he was once escorted by 28 police motorcycles as he traveled from his Central Command headquarters in Tampa to socialite Jill Kelley’s mansion. Although most of his trips did not involve a presidential-size convoy, the scandal has prompted new scrutiny of the imperial trappings that come with a senior general’s lifestyle.
The commanders who lead the nation’s military services and those who oversee troops around the world enjoy an array of perquisites befitting a billionaire, including executive jets, palatial homes, drivers, security guards and aides to carry their bags, press their uniforms and track their schedules in 10-minute increments. Their food is prepared by gourmet chefs. If they want music with their dinner parties, their staff can summon a string quartet or a choir. […]
Collateral Damage–Not the Usual Kind. By Peter Hart, FAIR, November 14, 2012:
It’s bad enough when media refer to civilian deaths in U.S. wars as “collateral damage,” but it was jarring to see how the phrase was used in a Washington Post headline today: Obviously, they’re talking about the sex-and-emails scandal. How could dead Afghan civilians ever threaten the career of a high-ranking U.S. official?
…and finally, placing ridicule where it deserves to be:
Nation Horrified To Learn About War In Afghanistan While Reading Up On Petraeus Sex Scandal. The Onion, November 13, 2012:
As they scoured the Internet for more juicy details about former CIA director David Petraeus’ affair with biographer Paula Broadwell, Americans were reportedly horrified today upon learning that a protracted, bloody war involving U.S. forces is currently raging in the nation of Afghanistan. “Oh my God, this is terrible,” Allie Lipscomb, 29, said after accidentally stumbling on an article about the war while she tried to ascertain details about what specific sexual acts Petraeus and Broadwell might have engaged in. “According to this, 2,000 American troops have died, 18,000 have been wounded, and more than 20,000 civilians have been killed. Jesus Christ. And it’s been happening for, like, 11 years.”