The Deep Politics of Hollywood

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The Deep Politics of Hollywood

Postby American Dream » Thu Feb 26, 2009 10:54 am

The Deep Politics of Hollywood
In the Parents` Best Interests

by Matthew Alford and Robbie Graham
Global Research, February 26, 2009



Tom Cruise – “the world’s most powerful celebrity” according to Forbes Magazine – was unceremoniously sacked in 2006. His dismissal was particularly shocking for the fact that it was carried out not by his immediate employer, Paramount Studios, but rather by Paramount’s parent company, Viacom. Viacom’s notoriously irascible CEO Sumner Redstone – who owns a long list of media companies including CBS, Nickelodeon, MTV, and VH1 – said that Cruise had committed “creative suicide” following a spate of manic public activity. It was a sacking worthy of an episode of The Apprentice.

The Cruise case points to the overlooked notion that the internal mechanisms of Hollywood are not determined entirely by audience desires, as one might expect, nor are they geared to respond solely to the decisions of studio creatives, or even those of the studio heads themselves. In 2000, The Hollywood Reporter released a top 100 list of the most powerful figures in the industry over the past 70 years. Rupert Murdoch, chief of News Corporation, which owns Twentieth Century Fox, was the most powerful living figure. With the exception of director Steven Spielberg (no. 3), no artists appeared in the top 10.

Each of the dominant Hollywood studios (“the majors”) is now a subsidiary of a much larger corporation, and therefore is not so much a separate or independent business, but rather just one of a great many sources of revenue in its parent company’s wider financial empire. The majors and their parents are: Twentieth Century Fox (News Corp), Paramount Pictures (Viacom), Universal (General Electric/Vivendi), Disney (The Walt Disney Company), Columbia TriStar (Sony), and Warner Brothers (Time Warner). These parent companies are amongst the largest and most powerful in the world, typically run by lawyers and investment bankers.[ii] Their economic interests are also sometimes closely tied to politicised areas such as the armaments industry, and they are frequently inclined to cozy-up to the government of the day because it decides on financial regulation.

As Pulitzer prize-winning journalist Professor Ben Bagdikian puts it, whereas once the men and women who owned the media could fit in a “modest hotel ballroom,” the same owners (all male) could now fit into a “generous phone booth.” He could have added that, whilst a phone box may not exactly be the chosen venue for the likes of Rupert Murdoch and Sumner Redstone, these individuals do indeed meet at plush venues such as Idaho’s Sun Valley to identify and forge their collective interests.

Of course, the content of a studio’s films is not, as a rule, determined entirely by the political and economic interests of its parent company. Studio CEOs typically have considerable leeway to make the pictures they want to make without direct interference from their ultimate masters. At the very least, however, the content of Hollywood studios broadly reflects their wider corporate interests, and, at times, the parent companies behind the studios take a conscious and deliberate interest in certain movies. There is a battle between “top down” and “bottom up” forces, but mainstream media and academia have traditionally focused on the latter, rather than the former.

Consider last year’s blockbuster Australia, the epic from Baz Luhrmann. Two of the film’s most salient aspects were that, firstly, it glossed-over the history of Aboriginal people, and, secondly, it made Australia look like a fantastic place to go on holiday. This should come as no surprise – Twentieth Century Fox’s parent company (Rupert Murdoch's News Corp) – worked hand-in-hand with the Australian government throughout the film’s production for mutual interests. The government benefited from Luhrmann’s huge tourist campaign, which included not just the feature film itself but also a series of extravagant tie-in advertisements (all in apparent support of its ham-fisted Aborigine “reconciliation” programme). In turn, the government gave its favourite son tens of millions of dollars in tax rebates. The West Australian newspaper even alleged that Murdoch had his "journalistic foot soldiers" ensure that every aspect of his media empire awarded Australia glowing reviews, an assessment nicely illustrated by The Sun, which enjoyed the “rare piece of good old fashioned entertainment" so much that its reviewer was "tempted to nip down to the travel agent."

There are historical precedents for such interference. In 1969 Haskell Wexler –cinematographer on One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest – had considerable trouble releasing his classic Medium Cool, which riffed on the anti-war protests at the Democrat Convention the previous year. Wexler claims he has Freedom of Information documents revealing that on the eve of the film’s release, Chicago’s Mayor Richard J. Daley and high sources in the Democratic Party let it be known to Gulf and Western (then the parent company of Paramount) that if Medium Cool was released, certain tax benefits and other perks in Gulf and Western’s favor wouldn’t happen. “A stiff prick has no conscience,” Wexler told us angrily, referring to Hollywood’s business leaders, “and they have no conscience.”

Wexler explained how this corporate plot was enacted so as to minimize attention: “Paramount called me and said I needed releases from all the [protestors] in the park, which was impossible to provide. They said if people went to see that movie and left the theatre and did a violent act, then the offices of Paramount could be prosecuted.” Although Paramount was obliged to release the film they successfully pushed for an X rating, advertised it feebly, and forbade Wexler from taking it to film festivals. Hardly the way to make a profit on a movie, but certainly an effective way to protect the broader interests of the parent.

Then there’s the more famous case of Fahrenheit 9/11 (2004), the Michael Moore blockbuster which the Walt Disney Company tried to scupper despite it “testing through the roof” with sample audiences. Disney’s subsidiary Miramax insisted that its parent had no right to block it from releasing the film since its budget was well below the level requiring Disney’s approval. Disney representatives retorted that they could veto any Miramax film if it appeared that its distribution would be counterproductive to their interests. Moore’s agent Ari Emanuel alleged that Disney’s boss Michael Eisner had told him he wanted to back out of the deal due to concerns about political fallout from conservative politicians, especially regarding tax breaks given to Disney properties in Florida like Walt Disney World (where the governor was the then US President’s brother, Jeb Bush). Disney also had ties to the Saudi Royal family, which was unfavourably represented in the film: a powerful member of the family, Al-Walid bin Talal, owns a major stake in Eurodisney and had been instrumental in bailing out the financially troubled amusement park. Disney denied any such high political ball game, explaining they were worried about being "dragged into a highly charged partisan political battle," which it said would alienate customers.

Disney has consistently spread pro-establishment messages in its films, particularly under subsidiary banners such as Hollywood Pictures and Touchstone Pictures (although Oliver Stone’s 1995 Nixon biopic is a notable exception). Several received generous assistance from the US government: the Pentagon-backed In the Army Now (1994), Crimson Tide (1995), and Armageddon (1998), as well as the CIA-vetted Bad Company (2002) and The Recruit (2003). In 2006, Disney released the TV movie The Path to 9/11, which was heavily skewed to exonerate the Bush administration and blame the Clinton administration for the terrorist attacks, provoking outraged letters of complaint from former Secretary of State Madeline Albright and former Clinton National Security Advisor Sandy Berger.

The nature of Disney’s output makes sense when we consider the interests of the higher echelons of the corporation. Historically, Disney has had close ties with the US defense department, and Walt himself was a virulent anti-communist (though reports about him being a secret FBI informant or even a fascist are rather more speculative). In the 1950s, corporate and government sponsors helped Disney make films promoting President Eisenhower's “Atoms for Peace” policy as well as the infamous Duck and Cover documentary that suggested to schoolchildren that they could survive an atomic attack by hiding under their desks. Even now, a longtime Directors Board member of Disney is John E. Bryson who is also a director of The Boeing Company, one of the world’s largest aerospace and defence contractors. Boeing received $16.6bn in Pentagon contracts in the aftermath of the US invasion of Afghanistan[iii]. This would have been no small incentive for Disney to avoid commissioning films critical of Bush’s foreign policy, such as Fahrenheit 9/11.

It is hardly surprising that when Disney released Pearl Harbor (2001) – a simplistic mega-budget movie made with full cooperation from the Pentagon, and which celebrated the American nationalist resurgence following that “day of infamy”– it was widely received with cynicism. Yet, despite lamentable reviews, Disney unexpectedly decided in August 2001 to extend the film’s nationwide release window from the standard two-to-four months to a staggering seven months, meaning that this ‘summer’ blockbuster would now be screening until December. In addition, Disney expanded the number of theatres in which the film was showing, from 116 to 1,036. For the corporations due to profit from the aftermath of 9/11, Pearl Harbor provided grimly convenient mood music.

But whilst movies like Australia and Pearl Harbor receive preferential treatment, challenging and incendiary films are frequently cast into the cinematic memory hole. Oliver Stone’s Salvador (1986) was a graphic expose of the Salvadorian civil war; its narrative was broadly sympathetic towards the left wing peasant revolutionaries and explicitly critical of U.S. foreign policy, condemning the United States’ support of Salvador’s right wing military and infamous death squads. Stone’s film was turned down by every major Hollywood studio – with one describing it as a “hateful piece of work” – though it received excellent reviews from many critics. The film was eventually financed by British and Mexican investors and achieved limited distribution. More recently controversial documentaries such as Loose Change (2006/2007), which argued that 9/11 was an "inside job," and Zeitgeist (2007), which presents a frightening picture of global economics, have been viewed by millions through the Internet when corporate media wouldn't touch them.[iv]

Universal studios’ contemporary output has been less rigidly supportive of US power, as films like Children of Men (2006), Jarhead (2005), and The Good Shepherd (2006) indicate. Still, with movies like U-571 (2000) and Charlie Wilson’s War (2007), it makes sense that Universal’s parent company is General Electric, whose most lucrative interests relate to weapons manufacturing and producing crucial components for high-tech war planes, advanced surveillance technology, and essential hardware for the global oil and gas industries, notably in post Saddam Iraq. GE’s board of directors has strong ties to large liberal organizations such as the Rockefeller Foundation. Whilst ‘liberal’ may sound like a positive term after the unpopularity of Bush’s brand of conservatism, liberal organizations are cemented firmly in the bedrock of US elites and have frequently been architects of American interventionist foreign policy, including against Vietnam. They are prepared to ally themselves with conservatives over certain issues, particularly national security, so it should come as no shock to find that GE was close to the Bush Administration through both its former and current CEOs. Jack Welch (CEO from 1981-2001) openly declares disdain for “protocol, diplomacy and regulators” and was even accused by California Congressman Henry Waxman of pressuring his NBC network to declare Bush the winner prematurely in the 2000 “stolen election” when he turned up unannounced in the newsroom during the poll count. Welch’s successor, the current GE CEO Jeff Immelt, is a neoconservative and was a generous financial contributor to the Bush re-election campaign.

Perhaps GE/Universal’s most eyebrow-raising release was United 93 (2006), billed as the “true account” of how heroic passengers on 9/11 “foiled the terrorist plot” by forcing the plane to crash prematurely in rural Pennsylvania. Although the film made a return on its relatively low investment, it was greeted with a good deal of public apathy and hostility prior to its nation-wide release. At the time, Bush’s official 9/11 story was being seriously interrogated by America’s independent news media: according to the results of a 2004 Zogby poll, half of New Yorkers believed “US leaders had foreknowledge of impending 9/11 attacks and ‘consciously failed’ to act,” and, just one month prior to the release of United 93, 83% of CNN viewers recorded their belief “that the US government covered up the real events of the 9/11 attacks.” With the official narrative under heavy fire, the Bush Administration welcomed the release of United 93 with open arms: the film was a faithful audio-visual translation of the 9/11 Commission Report, with “special thanks” to the Pentagon’s Hollywood liaison Phil Strub tucked away discreetly in the end credits. Soon after the film’s nationwide release date, in what might be interpreted as a cynical PR move and as gesture of official approval, President Bush sat down with some of the victims’ family members for a private screening at the White House. [v]

GE/Universal’s Munich (2005) – Steven Spielberg’s exploration of Israeli vengeance following the Palestinian terrorist attack at the 1972 Olympics – raises similar suspicions. Although the Zionist Organisation of American called for a boycott of the film because they felt it equated Israel with terrorists, such a reading is less than convincing. Indeed, by the time Munich’s credits begin to roll its overriding messages have been stamped indelibly into the brain by the film’s Israeli Special Forces characters: “Every civilization finds it necessary to negotiate compromises with its own values,” “We kill for our future, we kill for peace,” and “Don't f*ck with the Jews.” Predictably, Israel is one of GE’s most loyal customers, buying Hellfire II laser missiles as well as propulsion systems for the F-16 Falcon fighter, the F-4 Phantom fighter, the AH-64 Apache attack helicopter, and the UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter. In Munich’s 167 minute running time the voice of the Palestinian cause is restricted to two and a half minutes of simplistic dialogue. Rather than being an “evenhanded cry for peace,” as the Los Angeles Times hailed it, General Electric’s Munich is more easily interpreted as a subtle corporate endorsement of the policies of a loyal customer.

On the most liberal end of the spectrum for movies in recent years has been Warner Bros. – JFK (1991), The Iron Giant (1999), South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut (1999), Good Night and Good Luck (2005), V for Vendetta (2005), A Scanner Darkly (2006), Rendition (2007), and In the Valley of Elah (2007). It is indicative that following complaints about racial stereotyping in Warner Bros.’ Pentagon-sponsored action adventure, Executive Decision (1996), the studio took the unusual step of hiring the services of Jack Shaheen, an on-set adviser on racial politics, resulting in what was critically received as one of the best films of its genre in a generation, Three Kings (1999).[vi] It may be no coincidence that Warner Brothers’ parent company, Time Warner, is less intimately tied to the arms industry or the neoconservative clique.

But to have an idea of what happens to movies when you remove multinational interests from the industry, consider the independent distributor Lions Gate Films, which is still very much a part of the capitalist system (formed in Canada by an investment banker) but not beholden to a multibillion dollar parent corporation with multifarious interests. Although Lions Gate has generated a good deal of politically vague and blood ‘n’ guts products, it has also been behind some of the most daring and original popular political cinema of the past ten years, criticizing corporatism in American Psycho (2000), US foreign policy in Hotel Rwanda (2004), the arms trade in Lord of War (2005), the U.S. healthcare system in Michael Moore’s Sicko (2007), and the U.S. establishment in general in The U.S. vs. John Lennon (2006).

It hardly needs re-stating that Hollywood is driven by the desire for dollars rather than artistic integrity. As such, cinema is open to product placement in a variety of forms, from toys, to cars, to cigarettes, and even state-of-the art weaponry (hence the “special thanks” to Boeing in the credits of Iron Man (2008)). Less obvious though – and less well investigated – is how the interests of the studios’ parent companies themselves impact on cinema – at both systemic and individual levels. We hope to see critical attention shifted onto the ultimate producers of these films to help explain their deradicalised content, and ultimately to assist audiences in making informed decisions about what they consume. As we peer up from our popcorn it is as well to remember that behind the magic of the movies are the wizards of corporate PR.

Matthew Alford is author of the forthcoming book “Projecting Power: American Foreign Policy and the Hollywood Propaganda System.” Robbie Graham is Associate Lecturer in Film at Stafford College. References available on request.


NOTES

[i] Most memorably, Cruise declared his love for Katie Holmes whilst bouncing up and down on Oprah (the chat show, not the woman).

[ii] The 2008 Fortune Global 500 list placed General Electric at no. 12 with revenue of $176bn. Sony was at 75, Time Warner at no. 150, The Walt Disney Company at no. 207, and News Corp at no. 280. By way of comparison, Coca Cola is at no. 403.

[iii] Interestingly, Disney’s CEO Michael Eisner was personally involved when it pulled Bill Maher's Politically Incorrect show after the host committed the cardinal sin of saying that the US use of cruise missiles was more cowardly than the 9/11 attacks, with Eisner “summoning Maher into his office for a hiding” according to Mark Crispin Miller in the Nation.

[iv] A less convincing but nevertheless intriguing case can be made for high political/economic influence over the distribution of John Carpenter's satirical sci-fi They Live (1988), which depicted the world as being run by an invading force of evil space aliens, allied with the US establishment. The film was well received by critics (with the notable exceptions of the NYT and Washington Post) and opened at number one in the box office. It easily made its $4m investment back over the weekend, and although by the second weekend it had dropped to fourth place, it still made $2.7m. The distributing studio, Universal Pictures, published an advertisement during its run that showed a skeletal alien standing behind a podium in suit and tie, with a mop of hair similar to that of Dan Quayle, the new US Vice-President-elect. The Presidential election had been just a few days previous, on November 8th. Co-star Keith David observed: “Not that anybody’s being paranoid but… suddenly you couldn’t see it [They Live] anywhere – it was, like, snatched”.

[v] We stated elsewhere that representatives from Universal attended the screening. This was erroneous.

[vi] Shaheen also later assisted on Warner Bros.’ Syriana (2005).




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Postby JackRiddler » Thu Feb 26, 2009 11:44 am

... In the Holy Name of Thread Consolidation ...

No, seriously, you posted the following under the same title just a couple of weeks ago. I suggest we keep'em all on one thread so we can have an ongoing discussion. For a while, anyway (something will always come along like a big new movie that starts a new big thread).

Lights, Camera… Covert Action: The Deep Politics of Hollywood

by Matthew Alford and Robbie Graham
Global Research, January 21, 2009


Here we build a prima facae case supporting the idea that Hollywood continues to be a target for infiltration and subversion by a variety of state agencies, in particular the CIA. Academic debates on cinematic propaganda are almost entirely retrospective, and whilst a number of commentators have drawn attention to Hollywood’s longstanding and open relationship with the Pentagon, little of substance has been written about the more clandestine influences working through Hollywood in the post-9/11 world. As such, our work delves into the field of what Peter Dale Scott calls "deep politics"; namely, activities which cannot currently be fully understood due to the covert influence of shadowy power players.

The Latest Picture

A variety of state agencies have liaison offices in Hollywood today, from the FBI, to NASA and the Secret Service. Few of these agencies, though, have much to offer in exchange for favourable storylines, and so their influence in Hollywood is minimal. The major exception here is the Department of Defense, which has an ‘open’ but barely publicized relationship with Tinsel Town, whereby, in exchange for advice, men and invaluable equipment, such as aircraft carriers and helicopters, the Pentagon routinely demands flattering script alterations. Examples of this policy include changing the true identity of a heroic military character in Black Hawk Down (2001) due to his real-life status as a child rapist; the removal of a joke about "losing Vietnam" from the James Bond film Tomorrow Never Dies (1997), and cutting images of Marines taking gold teeth from dead Japanese soldiers in Windtalkers (2002). Instances such as these are innumerable, and the Pentagon has granted its coveted "full cooperation" to a long list of contemporary pictures including Top Gun (1986), True Lies (1994), Executive Decision (1996), Air Force One (1997), The Sum of All Fears (2002), Transformers (2007), Iron Man (2008), as well as TV series such as JAG (1995-2005).

Such government activity, whilst morally dubious and barely advertised, has at least occurred within the public domain. This much cannot be said of the CIA’s dealings with Hollywood, which, until recently, went largely unacknowledged by the Agency. In 1996, the CIA announced with little fanfare the dry remit of its newly established Media Liaison Office, headed by veteran operative Chase Brandon. As part of its new stance, the CIA would now openly collaborate on Hollywood productions, supposedly in a strictly ‘advisory’ capacity.

The Agency’s decision to work publicly with Hollywood was preceded by the 1991 "Task Force Report on Greater CIA Openness," compiled by CIA Director Robert Gates’ newly appointed ‘Openness Task Force,’ which secretly debated –ironically– whether the Agency should be less secretive. The report acknowledges that the CIA "now has relationships with reporters from every major wire service, newspaper, news weekly, and television network in the nation," and the authors of the report note that this helped them "turn some ‘intelligence failure’ stories into ‘intelligence success’ stories, and has contributed to the accuracy of countless others." It goes on to reveal that the CIA has in the past "persuaded reporters to postpone, change, hold, or even scrap stories that could have adversely affected national security interests…"

These admissions add weight to several reports and Congressional hearings from the 1970s which indicated that the CIA once maintained a deep-rooted and covert presence in national and international media, informally dubbed "Operation Mockingbird." In its 1991 report, the CIA acknowledged that it had, in fact, "reviewed some film scripts about the Agency, documentary and fictional, at the request of filmmakers seeking guidance on accuracy and authenticity." But the report is at pains to state that, although the CIA has "facilitated the filming of a few scenes on Agency premises," it does "not seek to play a role in filmmaking ventures." But it seems highly implausible that the CIA, whilst maintaining a decades-long presence in media and academia, would have shown no interest in the hugely influential Cinema industry.

Indeed, it should come as no surprise that the CIA has been involved in a number of recent blockbusters and TV series. The 2001 CBS TV series, The Agency, executive produced by Wolfgang Petersen (Das Boot, Air Force One) was actually co-written by ex-CIA agent and Marine Bazzel Baz, with additional ex-CIA agents working as consultants. The CIA gladly opened its doors to the production, and facilitated both external and internal shots of its Langley headquarters as the camera gazed lovingly at the CIA seal. This arrangement was comparable to the Feds’ efforts on the popular TV series The FBI (1965-74) which was shaped by the Bureau in cooperation with ABC and which thanked J. Edgar Hoover in the credits of each episode. Similarly, The Agency glorified the actions of US spooks as they fought predictable villains including the Russian military, Arab and German terrorists, Columbian drug dealers, and Iraqis. One episode even shows the CIA saving the life of Fidel Castro; ironically, since the CIA in real life had made repeated attempts to assassinate the Cuban President. Promos for the show traded on 9/11, which had occurred just prior to its premiere, with tag lines like "Now, more than ever, we need the CIA."

A TV movie, In the Company of Spies (1999) starring Tom Berenger depicted a retired CIA operative returning to duty to save captured Agency officers held by North Korea. The CIA was so enthusiastic about this product that it hosted its presentation, cooperated during production, facilitated filming at Langley, and provided fifty off-duty officers as extras, according to its website.

Espionage novelist Tom Clancy has enjoyed an especially close relationship with the CIA. In 1984, Clancy was invited to Langley after writing The Hunt for Red October, which was later turned into the 1990 film. The Agency invited him again when he was working on Patriot Games (1992), and the movie adaptation was, in turn, granted access to Langley facilities. More recently, The Sum of All Fears (2002) depicted the CIA as tracking down terrorists who detonate a nuclear weapon on US soil. For this production, CIA director George Tenet gave the filmmakers a personal tour of the Langley HQ; the film’s star, Ben Affleck also consulted with Agency analysts, and Chase Brandon served as on-set advisor.

Media sources indicate that the CIA also worked on the Anthony Hopkins/Chris Rock feature Bad Company (2002) and the Jerry Bruckheimer blockbuster Enemy of the State (2001). However, no details whatsoever about these appear to be in the public domain. Similarly, Spy Game director Tony Scott’s DVD commentary for said film indicates that he visited Langley whilst in pre-production but, according to one report, endorsement appeared to have been withheld after Chase Brandon read the final draft of the script.

More details than usual emerged about CIA involvement in the Tom Hanks movie Charlie Wilsons War (2007) and Robert De Niro’s The Good Shepherd (2006) – but not many. Milt Beardon had traveled to the Moscow Film Festival with De Niro and claims the pair then "disappeared and hung out with the mob and KGB crowd for a while. I introduced him to generals and colonels, the old guys I had been locked with for so many years." De Niro later tagged along with Beardon to Pakistan. "We wandered around the North-West Frontier Province," Bearden recalls, "crossed the bridge [to Afghanistan] I built years ago, hung out with a bunch of guys firing off machine guns and drinking tea." Still, The Good Shepherd didn’t fulfill the CIA’s earnest hopes of being the CIA equivalent of Flags of Our Fathers (2006), which the Agency’s official historian says it should have been – all in the interests of what he calls a "culture of truth."

Charlie Wilson’s War depicted the United States’ covert efforts to supply arms to Afghanistan to fight the Soviet Union in the 1980s which had the real-life consequence of America’s old ally turned against it in the form of al-Qaeda (as Crile explains in the book of the film). However, Beardon, who was the CIA agent who supplied the weapons, worked as consultant on the film and said prior to its release that it "will put aside the notion that because we did that, we had 9/11." CIA involvement in the film therefore appears to have paid dividends.

The real reasons for the CIA adopting an "advisory" role on all of these productions are thrown into sharp relief by a solitary comment from former Associate General Counsel to the CIA, Paul Kelbaugh. In 2007, whilst at a College in Virginia, Kelbaugh delivered a lecture on the CIA’s relationship with Hollywood, at which a local journalist was present. The journalist (who now wishes to remain anonymous) wrote a review of the lecture which related Kelbaugh’s discussion of the 2003 thriller The Recruit, starring Al Pacino. The review noted that, according to Kelbaugh, a CIA agent was on set for the duration of the shoot under the guise of a consultant, but that his real job was to misdirect the filmmakers: "We didn’t want Hollywood getting too close to the truth," the journalist quoted Kelbaugh as saying.

Peculiarly, in a strongly-worded email to the authors, Kelbaugh emphatically denied having made the public statement and claimed that he remembered "very specific discussions with senior [CIA] management that no one was ever to misrepresent to affect [film] content – EVER." The journalist considers Kelbaugh’s denial "weird," and told us that "after the story came out, he [Kelbaugh] emailed me and loved it… I think maybe it’s just that because [the lecture] was ‘just in Lynchburg’ he was okay with it – you know, like, no one in Lynchburg is really going to pay much attention to it, I guess. Maybe that’s why he said it, and maybe that’s why he’s denying it now." The journalist stands by the original report, and Kelbaugh has pointedly refused to engage us in further discussion on the matter.

Early Screening

Clandestine agencies have a long history of interference in the cinema industry. Letters discovered in the Eisenhower Presidential Library from the secret agent Luigi G. Luraschi (identified by British academic John Eldridge), the Paramount executive who worked for the CIA’s Psychological Strategy Board (PSB), reveal just how far the CIA was able to reach into the film industry in the early days of the Cold War, despite its claims that it sought no such influence. For instance, Luraschi reported that he had secured the agreement of several casting directors to subtly plant "well dressed negroes" into films, including "a dignified negro butler" who has lines "indicating he is a free man" in Sangaree (1953) and in a golf club scene in the Dean Martin/Jerry Lewis vehicle The Caddy (1953). Elsewhere, CIA arranged the removal of key scenes from the film Arrowhead (1953), which questioned America’s treatment of Apache Indians, including a sequence where a tribe is forcibly shipped and tagged by the US Army. Such changes were not part of a ham-fisted campaign to instill what we now call "political correctness" in the populace. Rather, they were specifically enacted to hamper the Soviets’ ability to exploit its enemy’s poor record in race relations and served to create a peculiarly anodyne impression of America, which was, at that time, still mired in an era of racial segregation.

Other efforts were made. The PSB tried –unsuccessfully– to commission Frank Capra to direct Why We Fight the Cold War and to provide details to filmmakers about conditions in the USSR in the hope that they would use them in their movies. More successfully, in 1950, the CIA –along with other secretive organizations like the Office of Policy Coordination (OPC) and aided by the PSB– bought the rights to and invested in the cartoon of George Orwell’s Animal Farm (1954), which was given an anti-Soviet spin to satisfy its covert investors. Author Daniel Leab has pointed to the fact it took decades for the rumours about CIA involvement in Animal Farm to be properly documented; this, he observes, "Speaks volumes about the ability of a government agency to keep its activities covert."

Additionally, the production of the Michael Redgrave feature Nineteen-Eighty Four (1956) was in turn overseen by the American Committee for Cultural Freedom, which was supervised by the CIA. Key points in the movie were altered to demonise the Soviets.

The CIA also tampered with the 1958 film version of The Quiet American, provoking the author, Graham Greene, to denounce the film. US Air Force Colonel Edward Lansdale, the CIA operative behind Operation Mongoose (the CIA sabotage and assassination campaign against Cuba) had entered into production correspondence with director Joseph L. Mankiewicz, who accepted his ideas. These included a change to the final scene in which we learn that Redgrave’s anti-hero has been hoodwinked by the Communists into murdering the suspicious American, who turns out not to be a bomb-maker as we had been led to believe, but instead a manufacturer of children’s toys.

Behind the Scenes

It would be a mistake to regard the CIA as unique in its involvement in Hollywood. The industry is in fact fundamentally open to manipulation by a range of state agencies. In 2000, it emerged that the White House’s drug war officers had spent tens of millions of dollars paying the major US networks to inject anti-drug plots into the scripts of primetime series such as ER, The Practice, Sabrina the Teenage Witch and Chicago Hope. Despite criticism for this blatant propagandizing, the government continued to employ this method of spreading its message on drugs.

The White House went to Tinsel Town again the following year when, on November 11, 2001 a meeting was held in Hollywood between President Bush’s then Deputy Chief of Staff, Karl Rove, and representatives of each of the major Hollywood studios to discuss how the film industry might contribute to the ‘War on Terror.’ Jack Valenti, president of the Motion Picture Association of America said with a straight face that, "content was off the table", but Rove had clearly outlined a series of requests. It is hard to gauge the consequences of the meeting, but a Rambo sequel, for instance, was certainly discussed, and duly produced. Similarly, several series with national security themes emerged within a short time of the meeting including She Spies (2002-2004) and Threat Matrix (2003).

The meeting was, in fact, just one in a series between Hollywood and the White House from October to December, 2001. On October 17, in response to 9/11, the White House announced the formation of its "Arts and Entertainment Task Force," and by November, Valenti had assumed leadership of Hollywood’s new role in the ‘War on Terror’. As a direct result of meetings, Congress sought advice from Hollywood insiders on how to shape an effective wartime message to America and to the world. In November 2001, John Romano, writer-producer of the popular US TV series Third Watch, advised the House International Relations Committee that the content of Hollywood productions was a key part of shaping foreign perceptions of America.

On December 5, 2001, the powerful Academy of Television Arts & Sciences convened its own panel entitled "Hollywood Goes to War?" to discuss what the industry might do in response to 9/11. Representing the government at the meeting were Mark McKinnon, a White House advisor, and the Pentagon’s chief entertainment liaison, Phil Strub. Also in attendance, among others, were Jeff Zucker, President of NBC Entertainment, and Aaron Sorkin, creator and writer of the White House drama The West Wing (1999-2006). Immediately after, Sorkin and his team set about producing a special episode of the show dealing with a massive terrorist threat to America entitled "Isaac and Ishmael". The episode was given top priority and was successfully completed and aired within just ten days of the meeting. The product championed the superiority of American values whilst brimming with rage against the Islamist jihadists.

The interlocking of Hollywood and national security apparatuses remains as tight as ever: ex-CIA agent Bob Baer told us, "There’s a symbiosis between the CIA and Hollywood" and revealed that former CIA director George Tenet is currently, "out in Hollywood, talking to studios." Baer’s claims are given weight by the Sun Valley meetings, annual get-togethers in Idaho’s Sun Valley in which several hundred of the biggest names in American media –including every major Hollywood studio executive– convene to discuss collective media strategy for the coming year. Against the idyllic backdrop of expansive golf courses, pine forests and clear fishing lakes, deals are struck, contracts are signed, and the face of the American media is quietly altered. The press has yet to be granted permission to report on these corporate media gatherings and so the exact nature of what is discussed at the events has never been publicly disclosed. It is known, however, that Tenet was keynote speaker at Sun Valley in 2003 (whilst still CIA head) and again in 2005.

Conclusions

Many would recoil at the thought of modern Hollywood cinema being used as a propagandist tool, but the facts seem to speak for themselves. Do agencies such as the CIA have the power, like the Pentagon, to affect movie content by providing much-sought-after expertise, locations and other benefits? Or are they able to affect script changes through simple persuasion, or even coercion? Do they continue to carry out covert actions in Hollywood as they did so extensively in the 1950s, and, beyond cinema, might covert government influence play some part in the creation of national security messages in TV series such as 24 and Alias (the star of the latter, Jennifer Garner, even made an unpaid recruitment video for the CIA)? The notion that covert agencies aspire to be more open is hard to take seriously when they provide such scant information about their role within the media, even regarding activities from decades past. The spy may have come in from the cold, but he continues to shelter in the shadows of the movie theatre.



Matthew Alford (PhD: University of Bath) lectures on Film and Television at the University of Bristol and is currently writing a book about propaganda in Hollywood. Robbie Graham is Associate Lecturer in Media at Stafford College. They can be contacted at: matthewalfordphd@gmail.com and rbbgraham@aol.com respectively. References available on request.



The url address of this article is: www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=11921

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Postby JackRiddler » Thu Feb 26, 2009 11:51 am

.

And another one, from this thread:
http://rigorousintuition.ca/board/viewtopic.php?t=21484
Sat Nov 15, 2008

An offer they couldn't refuse: Hollywood and the CIA

The CIA is often credited with 'advice' on Hollywood films, but no one is truly sure about the extent of its shadowy involvement. Matthew Alford and Robbie Graham investigate

Everyone who watches films knows about Hollywood's fascination with spies. From Hitchcock's postwar espionage thrillers, through cold war tales such as Torn Curtain, into the paranoid 1970s when the CIA came to be seen as an agency out of control in films such as Three Days of the Condor, and right to the present, with the Bourne trilogy and Ridley Scott's forthcoming Body of Lies, film-makers have always wanted to get in bed with spies. What's less widely known is how much the spies have wanted to get in bed with the film-makers. In fact, the story of the CIA's involvement in Hollywood is a tale of deception and subversion that would seem improbable if it were put on screen.

The model for this is the defence department's "open" but barely publicised relationship with Hollywood. The Pentagon, for decades, has offered film-makers advice, manpower and even hardware - including aircraft carriers and state-of-the-art helicopters. All it asks for in exchange is that the US armed forces are made to look good. So in a previous Scott film, Black Hawk Down, a character based on a real-life soldier who had also been a child rapist lost that part of his backstory when he came to the screen.

No matter how seemingly craven Hollywood's behaviour towards the US armed forces has seemed, it has at least happened within the public domain. That cannot be said for the CIA's dealings with the movie business. Not until 1996 did the CIA announce, with little fanfare, that it had established an Entertainment Liaison Office, which would collaborate in a strictly advisory capacity with film-makers. Heading up the office was Chase Brandon, who had served for 25 years in the agency's elite clandestine services division, as an undercover operations officer. A PR man he isn't, though he does have Hollywood connections: he's a cousin of Tommy Lee Jones.

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."
There is documentary evidence for his claims. Luigi Luraschi was the head of foreign and domestic censorship for Paramount in the early 1950s. And, it was recently discovered, he was also working for the CIA, sending in reports about how film censorship was being employed to boost the image of the US in movies that would be seen abroad. Luraschi's reports also revealed that he had persuaded several film-makers to plant "negroes" who were "well-dressed" in their movies, to counter Soviet propaganda about poor race relations in the States. The Soviet version was rather nearer the truth.

Luraschi's activities were merely the tip of the iceberg. Graham Greene, for example, disowned the 1958 adapatation of his Vietnam-set novel The Quiet American, describing it as a "propaganda film for America". In the title role, Audie Murphy played not Greene's dangerously ambiguous figure - whose belief in the justice of American foreign policy allows him to ignore the appalling consequences of his actions - but a simple hero. The cynical British journalist, played by Michael Redgrave, is instead the man whose moral compass has gone awry. Greene's American had been based in part on the legendary CIA operative in Vietnam, Colonel Edward Lansdale. How apt, then, that it should have been Lansdale who persuaded director Joseph Mankewiecz to change the script to suit his own ends.

The CIA didn't just offer guidance to film-makers, however. It even offered money. In 1950, the agency bought the rights to George Orwell's Animal Farm, and then funded the 1954 British animated version of the film. Its involvement had long been rumoured, but only in the past decade have those rumours been substantiated, and the tale of the CIA's role told in Daniel Leab's book Orwell Subverted.

The most common way for the CIA to exert influence in Hollywood nowadays is not through anything as direct as funding, or rewriting scripts, but offering to help with matters of verisimilitude. That is done by having serving or former CIA agents acting as advisers on the film, though some might wonder whether there is ever really such a thing a "former agent". As ex-CIA agent Lindsay Moran, the author of Blowing My Cover, has noted, the CIA often calls on former officers to perform tasks for their old employer.

So it was no problem for CBS to secure official help when making its 2001 TV series The Agency (it was even written by a former agent). Langley was equally helpful to the novelist Tom Clancy, who was invited to CIA headquarters after the publication of The Hunt for Red October, an invitation that was regularly repeated. Consequently, when Clancy's The Sum of All Fears was filmed in 2002, the agency was happy to bring its makers to Langley for a personal tour of headquarters, and to offer access to agency analysts for star Ben Affleck. When filming began, Brandon was on set to advise - a role he repeated during the filming of glamorous television series Alias.

The former agent Milt Beardon took the advisory role on two less action-packed attempts at espionage stories: Robert De Niro's The Good Shepherd from 2006, which told an approximate version of the story of the famed CIA head of counter-espionage, James Jesus Angleton; and Charlie Wilson's War, the story of US covert efforts to supply the Afghan mujahideen with weaponry during the Soviet occupation of the 80s. In reality, this was a story that ended badly, as the Afghan freedom fighters helped give birth to the terrorists of al-Qaida. In the movie, however, that was not the case. As Beardon - who had been the CIA man responsible for the weapons reaching the Afghans - observed shortly before the movie came out, the film would "put aside the notion that because we did that [supply arms], we had 9/11".

Beardon's remark provides a clue to the real reason the CIA likes to offer advice to Hollywood, a clue that was expanded on by Paul Kelbaugh, the former associate general counsel to the CIA - a very senior figure in Langley. In 2007, Kelbaugh spoke at Lynchburg College of Law in Virginia - where he had become an associate professor - about the CIA's relationship with Hollywood. A journalist present at the lecture (who now wishes to be anonymous) reported that Kelbaugh spoke about the 2003 Al Pacino/Colin Farrell vehicle The Recruit. A CIA agent had been on set as a "consultant" throughout the shoot, he said; his real job, however, was to misdirect the film-makers. "We didn't want Hollywood getting too close to the truth," the journalist quoted Kelbaugh as saying.

Peculiarly, though, in a strongly worded email to us, Kelbaugh emphatically denied having said such a thing, and said he remembered "very specific discussions with senior [CIA] management that no one was ever to misrepresent to affect [film] content - EVER." The journalist stands by the original report, and Kelbaugh has refused to discuss the matter further.

So, altering scripts, financing films, suppressing the truth - it's worrying enough. But there are cases where some believe the CIA's activities in Hollywood have gone further - far enough, in fact, to be the stuff of movies. In June 1997, the screenwriter Gary DeVore was working on the screenplay for his directorial debut. It was to be an action movie set against the backdrop of the US invasion of Panama in 1989, which led to the overthrow of dictator Manuel Noriega. According to his wife, Wendy, DeVore had been talking to an old friend - the CIA's Chase Brandon - about Noriega's regime and US counternarcotic programmes in Latin America. Wendy told CNN: "He had been very disturbed over some of the things that he had been finding in his research. He was researching the United States invasion of Panama, because he was setting the actual story that he was writing against this; and the overthrow of Noriega and the enormous amounts of money laundering in the Panamanian banks, also our own government's money laundering."

At the end of that month, DeVore had been in Santa Fe, New Mexico, working on another project. He was travelling back to California when, at 1.15am on June 28, he called Wendy, a call she says has been excised from phone records. She told CNN she was "terribly alarmed" because he was speaking as though he were under duress. She was sure "someone was in the car with him". That was the last time Wendy DeVore heard from her husband.

A year passed, but the case refused to die and speculation mounted. Even the Los Angeles Times began contemplating CIA involvement. DeVore was presumed dead, but there was no body, and no end to the questions. Lo and behold, just nine days after the LA Times reported the case, DeVore's body was found, decomposing in his Ford Explorer, in 12 feet of water in the California Aqueduct below the Antelope Valley Freeway, south of Palmdale - a city located in "aerospace valley", so dubbed by locals for its reputation as a US military-industrial-complex stronghold - fuel to the fire for conspiracy theorists.

The coroner went on to declare the cause and manner of DeVore's death to be "unknown", but police eventually reached the tentative conclusion that the screenwriter's death was an accident: he had fallen asleep at the wheel, they said, before careening off the highway and into the water, where he drowned. But loose ends remain: DeVore's laptop computer containing his unfinished script was missing from his vehicle, as was the gun he customarily carried on long trips; after his disappearance, a CIA representative allegedly showed up at DeVore's house to request access to his computer; Hollywood private investigator Don Crutchfield noted that previous drafts of DeVore's script were inexplicably wiped from said computer during the same timeframe; police claimed that DeVore's vehicle careened off the highway, yet DeVore's widow was troubled by the absence of visible damage to the guardrail at the scene of the alleged accident; and how come no one noticed an SUV sitting in the water beneath a busy highway for a whole year? Perhaps the whole incident is too like a conspiracy movie to be a real conspiracy - but many remain troubled by De Vore's death.

Despite the CIA's professed desire to be more open about the role it plays in Holly-wood, it's hard to take its newfound transparency too seriously. After all, what use is a covert agency that does not act covertly, even if some of its activities are public? And if it is still not open about the truth of events decades ago, many of which have spilled into the public domain accidently, how can we be sure it is telling the truth about its activities now? The spy may have come in from the cold, but he still finds shelter in the dark of the cinema.

• Body of Lies is released next Friday
http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/2008/nov ... cott/print

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Postby American Dream » Thu Feb 26, 2009 12:40 pm

Thank you, Jack for pointing this out. Sometimes it's hard before that second cup of coffee, but it is true that promoting focused thread-consolidation is a good thing.
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Postby JackRiddler » Thu Feb 26, 2009 12:52 pm

American Dream wrote:Thank you, Jack for pointing this out. Sometimes it's hard before that second cup of coffee, but it is true that promoting focused thread-consolidation is a good thing.


Well, not as a rule you know. Only if it means great dialogue, sudden holy wars, funny flames & inspired tangents. My "holy thread consolidation" slogan is meant ironically, but it is easier to track things if people mostly keep the cut and paste to established topics. I'm very lazy about the subforums. I've wished that "General Discussion" were actually "Latest" and contained ALL posts. Meaning: you'd always post in a subforum and it would appear in "Latest" which would take the place of GD.

I've seen that the great discussions here go on for 30 and 50 pages, weaving away and back to the original subject, and creating a sort of holographic totality.

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Postby American Dream » Thu Feb 26, 2009 1:14 pm

I am also hearing from annie her desire to have more activity on the subfora.

I'm thinking that some kind of general announcement leading things in the right direction could help with the process.
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Postby nathan28 » Thu Feb 26, 2009 1:24 pm

American Dream wrote:I am also hearing from annie her desire to have more activity on the subfora.

I'm thinking that some kind of general announcement leading things in the right direction could help with the process.


There are too many subforums (i pay my taxes so i decline my nouns how i want) and/or they aren't organized into a hierachy.
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Postby anothershamus » Thu Feb 26, 2009 2:19 pm

Back to Tom Cruise:

So since he was 'fired' is that why he made fun of the producers in "Tropic Thunder"? He was surely making fun like Creedence Clearwater did, with the dancing producer with the big hands...I don't really get the big hands thing, like big feet?

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Postby MinM » Tue Mar 03, 2009 2:52 pm

FIRST LOOK: Angelina Jolie Goes Undercover In 'Salt'
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Angelina Jolie begins work today on "Salt," in which she plays a rogue CIA operative trying to clear her name after being accused of working for the Russians. Sony has released two photos of her in character, seen below.

USA Today reports:

Among the many different looks she has in the film are a soft-looking, all-business blonde and a raven-haired femme fatale who easily could be concealing a dagger or a gun.

Which is the real Salt? That's what filmmakers say is the central mystery.

"She's a character you never know," says Lorenzo di Bonaventura, who also produced Transformers and the upcoming G.I. Joe. "People who think they know the real her may or may not. Those who think they can tell whether she's in a disguise also may or may not.
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/03/0 ... 71334.html
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Postby Penguin » Tue Mar 03, 2009 8:47 pm

Why TV Lost: a merry jig on the gogglebox's grave
http://www.boingboing.net/2009/03/03/wh ... merry.html

Paul Graham's "Why TV Lost" is a sweet little schadenfreude bomb lobbed at the telly people, half neener-neener and half keen analysis and every word of it is lovable:

About twenty years ago people noticed computers and TV were on a collision course and started to speculate about what they'd produce when they converged. We now know the answer: computers. It's clear now that even by using the word "convergence" we were giving TV too much credit. This won't be convergence so much as replacement. People may still watch things they call "TV shows," but they'll watch them mostly on computers.

What decided the contest for computers? Four forces, three of which one could have predicted, and one that would have been harder to.

One predictable cause of victory is that the Internet is an open platform. Anyone can build whatever they want on it, and the market picks the winners. So innovation happens at hacker speeds instead of big company speeds.

The second is Moore's Law, which has worked its usual magic on Internet bandwidth. [1]

The third reason computers won is piracy. Users prefer it not just because it's free, but because it's more convenient. Bittorrent and YouTube have already trained a new generation of viewers that the place to watch shows is on a computer screen. [2]

The somewhat more surprising force was one specific type of innovation: social applications. The average teenage kid has a pretty much infinite capacity for talking to their friends. But they can't physically be with them all the time. When I was in high school the solution was the telephone. Now it's social networks, multiplayer games, and various messaging applications. The way you reach them all is through a computer. [3] Which means every teenage kid (a) wants a computer with an Internet connection, (b) has an incentive to figure out how to use it, and (c) spends countless hours in front of it.

This was the most powerful force of all. This was what made everyone want computers. Nerds got computers because they liked them. Then gamers got them to play games on. But it was connecting to other people that got everyone else: that's what made even grandmas and 14 year old girls want computers.

http://paulgraham.com/convergence.html
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Postby Penguin » Tue Mar 03, 2009 8:55 pm

That will change the balance of power between the networks and the people who produce shows. The networks used to be gatekeepers. They distributed your work, and sold advertising on it. Now the people who produce a show can distribute it themselves. The main value networks supply now is ad sales. Which will tend to put them in the position of service providers rather than publishers.

Shows will change even more. On the Internet there's no reason to keep their current format, or even the fact that they have a single format. Indeed, the more interesting sort of convergence that's coming is between shows and games. But on the question of what sort of entertainment gets distributed on the Internet in 20 years, I wouldn't dare to make any predictions, except that things will change a lot. We'll get whatever the most imaginative people can cook up. That's why the Internet won.





Notes

[1] Thanks to Trevor Blackwell for this point. He adds: "I remember the eyes of phone companies gleaming in the early 90s when they talked about convergence. They thought most programming would be on demand, and they would implement it and make a lot of money. It didn't work out. They assumed that their local network infrastructure would be critical to do video on-demand, because you couldn't possibly stream it from a few data centers over the internet. At the time (1992) the entire cross-country Internet bandwidth wasn't enough for one video stream. But wide-area bandwidth increased more than they expected and they were beaten by iTunes and Hulu."

[2] Copyright owners tend to focus on the aspect they see of piracy, which is the lost revenue. They therefore think what drives users to do it is the desire to get something for free. But iTunes shows that people will pay for stuff online, if you make it easy. A significant component of piracy is simply that it offers a better user experience.

[3] Or a phone that is actually computer. I'm not making any predictions about the size of the device that will replace TV, just that it will have a browser and get data via the Internet.

[4] Emmett Shear writes: "I'd argue the long tail for sports may be even larger than the long tail for other kinds of content. Anyone can broadcast a high school football game that will be interesting to 10,000 people or so, even if the quality of production is not so good."

from the same
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Postby Hugh Manatee Wins » Tue Mar 03, 2009 9:07 pm

Cop, CIA, and Pentagon movies are really obvious propaganda exploiting parasocial interaction, mere exposure effect, role modeling, and desensitization.

The tricky stuff is interference/inoculation theory counterpropaganda that can be 'Leave it to Beaver' or 'Green Acres' or 'Animaniacs.'
CIA runs mainstream media since WWII:
news rooms, movies/TV, publishing
...
Disney is CIA for kidz!
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Postby MinM » Wed Mar 11, 2009 10:06 am

"These movies just write themselves" -- jerryronhowardbruckheimer :thumbsup001:


In Lincoln's Watch, A Mystery Etched?

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By Neely Tucker
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 11, 2009; Page C01


For nearly 150 years, Abraham Lincoln's pocket watch has been rumored to carry a secret message, allegedly written by an Irish immigrant and watchmaker named Jonathan Dillon. It sounds like a plot premise for "National Treasure 3," but it was real, or at least a real legend, and it went like this:

Dillon told family members that he was working in M.W. Galt and Co.'s jewelry shop on Pennsylvania Avenue in 1861. By incredible happenstance, he said he was repairing Lincoln's watch when the shop owner burst in with news that Fort Sumter in South Carolina had been attacked. It was the opening salvo of the Civil War.

Dillon told his family (and, four decades later, a reporter for the New York Times) that he opened the watch's inner workings, etched his name, the date and a message for the ages: "The first gun is fired. Slavery is dead. Thank God we have a President who at least will try."

He then closed it up and sent it back to the White House. Lincoln was assassinated in 1865. Dillon died in 1907. Dillon's descendants told the tale to their children, but it wasn't much more than a shaggy dog story about a colorful ancestor.

The watch, meanwhile, endured.

A gold-cased beauty, it was stamped as coming from the George Chatterton jewelers in Springfield, Ill., where Lincoln was known to shop. Lincoln's son Robert mentioned having his father's watches as late as 1910, and passed at least two along to his children. One watch was given to a museum in Kentucky. The other was donated by Lincoln's great-great-grandson, along with other Lincoln belongings, to the Smithsonian Institution in 1958...
<<link>>
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http://watchismo.blogspot.com/2009/03/s ... colns.html
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Postby MinM » Tue Jun 23, 2009 10:06 pm

The Deep Politics of Hollywood:

Close Encounters with the Pentagon

By Robbie Graham and Matthew Alford

June 23, 2009 "Information Clearing House" -- For 60 years space aliens have left their mark on the Hollywood box-office in some of the most popular movies of all time, from The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951), E.T: The Extraterrestrial (1982) and Independence Day (1996), to the highly lucrative Monsters vs. Aliens (2009). The new Transformers sequel, Revenge of the Fallen (2009), is also poised for box-office glory this summer with its big-budget blend of eye-popping special effects, fan-fiction and UFO mythology. The most interesting aspects of the Transformers films, however, are evident not so much in celluloid form as they are behind the scenes – in a production process built around the close relationship between Hollywood, the United States military and a variety of government agencies. While the dryer details of this relationship have been relatively well documented, the curious tale of government involvement in Hollywood’s UFO movies represents a forgotten chapter in the history of American cinema.

Perception Management: Past and Present

Bizarrely – and for reasons not entirely clear – the U.S. government has taken a keen interest in Hollywood’s flying saucer movies since the early days of the phenomenon. Official efforts to debunk UFOs through media channels originated with the CIA-sponsored Robertson Panel which, in 1953, decided that public excitement about flying saucers should be actively discouraged. The panel recommended “That the national security agencies take immediate steps to strip the Unidentified Flying Objects of the… aura of mystery they have unfortunately acquired,” and that this should “be accomplished by mass media such as television [and] motion pictures...” with specific reference to Walt Disney.i

Unambiguous evidence for the Robertson Panel's covert impact on media representations of UFOs is found in the CBS TV broadcast of UFOs: Friend, Foe, or Fantasy? (1966), a documentary narrated by Walter Cronkite. In a personal letter addressed to former Robertson Panel Secretary Frederick C. Durant, Dr Thornton Page confides that he “helped organize the CBS TV show around the Robertson Panel conclusions,”ii even though this was thirteen years later and despite the fact that he was personally sympathetic to the existence of flying saucers.

Government concern over, or involvement in, UFO movies continues to be evidenced in more modern Hollywood productions. Take, for example, the 1996 alien invasion blockbuster Independence Day, which, despite its proud championing of American values and leadership, was denied cooperation from the Department of Defense (DoD) due in large part to a plotline concerning Area 51 (a super-secret military facility in the Nevada desert long rumoured to be the testing ground for captured extraterrestrial technologies) and the so-called ‘Roswell Incident.’ The Pentagon specifically requested that “any government connection” to Area 51 or to Roswell be eliminated from the film – a request apparently based on the ridiculous assumption that both the Roswell Incident and Area 51 were not already known to half of America.iii

The DoD may have been unable to dictate script changes on Independence Day, but its involvement with both Transformers movies (2007 and 2009) was much more deep-rooted. The original film’s script is loaded with UFOlogical references and laboured rhetoric absolving the U.S. military of complicity in what turns out to be a massive cover-up of alien visitations. The finger is pointed instead at the quasi-governmental “Sector 7” which has been concealing its “Top Secret” alien research for decades within “special access projects” – and all without the knowledge and consent of a shocked and concerned Secretary of Defense.

The United States Air Force (USAF) provided Transformers director Michael Bay with hundreds-of-millions-of-dollars worth of state-of-the-art hardware for use in the 2007 movie, including the F-117 stealth fighter and – in its first ever Silver Screen appearance – the F-22 Raptor fighter. The DoD’s support for the Transformers sequel (2009) was no less enthusiastic as Bay was granted every benefit of the Pentagon’s coveted “full co-operation.”

Managing the Martians


The government found an earlier blockbuster to be rather less welcome. Discussing his classic UFO movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), Steven Spielberg once revealed in an Australian film journal that he “found [his] faith [in alien life]” when he heard that the government opposed the film. “If NASA took the time to write me a 20-page letter, then I knew there must be something happening,” Spielberg said. “When they read the script they got very angry and felt that it was a film that would be dangerous. I felt they mainly wrote the letter because Jaws convinced so many people around the world that there were sharks in toilets and bathtubs, not just in the oceans and rivers. They were afraid the same kind of epidemic would happen with UFOs.”iv

Close Encounters raised a red flag to the powers that be, but it wasn’t the first UFO movie to do so. During the late 1940s the U.S. government regarded the subject of flying saucers with considerable gravity – 1948 saw the USAF produce its Top Secret and highly controversial ‘Estimate of the Situation,’ an official report concluding flying saucers to be of extraterrestrial origin.v Other USAF factions at the time, however, favoured the more palatable (though no less alarming) idea that the saucers were a dastardly Soviet invention. With the prospect of both Reds and Martians under the bed, it should come as little surprise to learn that when America’s very first UFO movie, The Flying Saucer (1950), went into production in 1949 it registered quickly on the USAF radar.

The film’s director, Mikel Conrad, had claimed publicly whilst still in production that he had managed to secure genuine footage of a real flying saucer for use in his movie. In September, 1949, Conrad told the Ohio Journal Herald, “I have scenes of the saucer landing, taking off, flying and doing tricks.” Conrad further claimed that his remarkable footage was “locked in a bank vault” and would not be shown to anybody prior to his movie’s release; shortly thereafter Conrad became the subject of a two month official Air Force investigation. Documents released under the Freedom of Information Act reveal that an agent of the Air Force Office of Special Investigations was dispatched not only to grill Conrad about his claims, but also to attend the first private screening of his completed movie.

Unsurprisingly, Conrad’s fantastical claims proved to be without substance – when challenged by the USAF, he admitted that his saucer story was nothing more than an elaborate marketing scam designed to generate media buzz around what was, in reality, a tedious and uneventful movie.vi Nevertheless, what the Conrad case demonstrates, according to researcher Nick Redfern, “is that the Air Force at the time was taking a keen interest in fictional films about UFOs.” Redfern, who has studied the original documentation on the Conrad Case, suggests that the USAF may have considered it “problematic that someone was making a film about UFOs that could have contained real footage.”vii Redfern speculates that, from this point on, the USAF learned to be on the lookout for any other pesky UFO movies lurking on the horizon, and to carefully monitor – and even control – their content on grounds of national security.

The above scenario seems plausible in light of the production of a major UFOlogical documentary in 1956, entitled U.F.O., which compelled the USAF to draw up contingency plans to counteract the anticipated fallout from the film upon its release. The director of the USAF’s official UFO investigations unit, Project Blue Book, Captain George T. Gregory, was tasked with monitoring not only the film’s production process, but its public and critical reception. Believing that the film would stir up a “storm of public controversy,” the USAF had set about preparing a special case file that would debunk every saucer sighting examined in the movie and even went so far as to have three of its Blue Book officers provide “technical assistance” to the filmmakers in an effort to control the content of the documentary.viii

“A Hot Potato”

The USAF also made extensive script alterations to a seemingly innocent episode of the Steve Canyon TV series (1958–1959). Backed by Chesterfield Cigarettes and produced at Universal Studios with the full cooperation of the United States Air Force, the NBC show chronicled the daring live-action exploits of Milton Caniff’s famous comic strip character. Each episode was bookended with the seal of The Department of the Air Force and with a voice-over announcing: “Steve Canyon! A Salute to the Air Force Men of America!”

The episode to which the USAF took objection was entitled “Project UFO” and saw Colonel Steve Canyon investigate a spate of flying saucer sightings reported to a local Air Force base. According to aviation historian James H. Farmer, “This was an episode that the Air Force did not really want to be aired.” In his commentary track for the newly released Steve Canyon DVD (available at: http://stevecanyondvd.blogspot.com/) Farmer notes that the USAF was uncomfortable with the episode because UFOs were, at the time of the show’s production, “causing them a lot of public relations problems... from Roswell in ’47 to the UFO over-flights over Washington DC in ’52... the Air Force wanted nothing to do with it [the UFO issue],” said Farmer, “it was a hot potato that they were very happy to get rid of when Project Blue Book was discontinued in December of ’69.”

By the time the USAF had finished with the script, it was, in Farmer’s words, “pretty tame... compared to the earlier renditions.” Indeed, in the episode as eventually aired the UFO sightings are attributed to a combination of hoax-induced hysteria and – in support of the Air Force’s original Roswell cover story – misidentifications of weather balloons.

Producer John Ellis of the Milton Caniff Estate is likewise intrigued by the number of revisions to which the script was subjected: “The thing that’s interesting is that when you look at the original scripts... every single page got re-written, and re-written, and re-written...” ix David Haft, the show’s producer, was more to the point in his recollection of the Air Force’s reaction when he submitted the first script draft for official approval: “"Oh, oh, oh, oh! No, no, no, no!" Haft also noted that the USAF had difficulty in deciding what was acceptable for broadcast.x

A number of alterations to the “Project UFO” script are particularly revealing. In one of the earliest early drafts, for example, Steve Canyon speaks to his Commanding Officer, Colonel Jamison, in defence of a civilian UFO witness: “Why call him a jerk?” asks Canyon, “Seems to me like he acted like a pretty solid, clearheaded citizen...” This dialogue was removed. Elsewhere in the draft, Canyon appears to be enthusiastic about flying saucers. At one point, when a fresh UFO report comes into the base from the local town, Canyon, “Jumps to [his] feet, rushes to [the] door,” and cries “This I gotta see!” before making “a hurried exit.” Interestingly, in the final scene as originally written, Canyon is actually seen opening a book on flying saucers, “and sits there quietly reading...” Needless to say, this scene failed to make it to the final draft, and, in the version as aired, Canyon’s excitement about UFOs is replaced with scepticism or plain indifference. It is important to remind ourselves that such changes are neatly in line with the Robertson Panel’s recommendations to “strip the Unidentified Flying Objects of the… aura of mystery they have unfortunately acquired,” through, “mass media, such as television...”

Perhaps the most significant alteration to the “Project UFO” episode involved the removal of an entire plot strand concerning the recovery and scientific analysis of what is initially suspected to be flying saucer debris (but which eventually turns out to be nothing of the sort). The draft included dialogue like: “That thing [flying saucer] dropped a small metal ball enclosing an electrical apparatus so intricate, so ingenious, nobody yet has been able to figure out its purpose,” and, “the metal wouldn’t respond to any of the standard tests.” With such obvious shades of Roswell, it is unsurprising that the Air Force was concerned.xi

Despite its content having been tamed to the point of banality, the USAF preferred that the episode not be aired at all. “It got stuck on a shelf,” says Ellis in his DVD commentary, “it was finished... but they held on to until near the end of the series to air it.” In fact, it was only through a last act of defiance on the part of the show’s producers toward the end of its run in 1959 that the episode was screened at all.

That the Pentagon should have seen fit to involve itself in UFO-related entertainment in a debunking capacity makes sense in light of its repeated attempts over the decades to publicly wash its hands of the flying saucer problem. But this approach seems to be at odds with a number of instances dating back to the 1950s in which the U.S. military (possibly in conjunction with the CIA) has actually facilitated the production of UFO-related media content promoting not only the idea of UFO reality, but of extraterrestrial visitation.

Disney and the Aliens

Intriguing testimony along these lines came from Oscar-winning Disney animator Ward Kimball. Kimball was best known for bringing to life beloved Disney characters such as Jiminy Cricket, The Cheshire Cat and The Mad Hatter, and for redesigning Mickey Mouse in 1938. He also worked as Directing Animator on the Disney classics like Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1938), Pinocchio (1940), and Fantasia (1940).

In 1979, Kimball claimed that in the mid-1950s the USAF had approached Walt Disney himself to request his cooperation on a documentary about UFOs that would help acclimatise the American public to the reality of extraterrestrials. Even more intriguing was that, in exchange for his cooperation, the USAF would apparently supply Disney with real UFO footage for exclusive use in his documentary. According to Kimball, Disney accepted the deal and began work immediately on the USAF project, which would not have been unusual considering Disney’s established relationship with the U.S. government (during WWII Disney made approximately 80 propaganda shorts for the military).

While Disney waited patiently for the USAF to provide the UFO footage, his animators produced conceptual designs of what an alien might look like. Predictably, the offer of the UFO footage was eventually withdrawn, provoking Kimball to challenge the official military liaison for the project, a USAF Colonel who told Kimball that “there was indeed plenty of UFO footage, but that neither [he], nor anyone else was going to get access to it.”xii Needless to say, the project was abandoned and forgotten by all but the few who had worked on it.

The Glittering Robes of Entertainment

In connection with research she was conducting for a UFO documentary in 1983, Emmy award winning filmmaker and journalist Linda Moulton Howe was told by government sources that the 1951 version of The Day the Earth Stood Still, which depicted an alien landing in Washington D.C., was, in her words, “inspired by the CIA,” and “one of the first government tests of public reaction to such an event.”xiii As farfetched as this may seem, the screenwriter for The Day the Earth Stood Still, Edmund H. North, was actively serving as a Major in the Army Signal Corps just months before being selected by 20th Century Fox to pen the script. During his time in the Corps, North had been in charge of “training and educational” documentaries, and later established himself as a Hollywood scribe of patriotic war films including Sink the Bismark! (1960) and Submarine X-1 (1968), as well as Patton (1970), for which he received an Oscar – all of which raises the possibility that he maintained an official or quasi-official role in the government’s cinematic propaganda campaigns throughout his career.

The man responsible for overseeing the production of The Day the Earth Stood Still – 20th Century Fox production chief Darryl Zanuck – was himself in charge of an Army Signal Corps documentary unit during the Second World Warxiv and said that, “If you have something worth while to say, dress it up in the glittering robes of entertainment and you will find a ready market… without entertainment, no propaganda film is worth a dime.”xv

Disclosure through Documentary?

In 1972, filmmaker Robert Emenegger – formerly Creative Director at Grey Advertising – and his producing partner Allan Sandler were encouraged by the USAF to make a major documentary feature about the UFO phenomenon. Emenegger told us that Sandler “had very strange connections” for a producer and thought that he “did things for the CIA, and maybe even the FBI… they all seemed to work together.” Emenegger himself had worked for the U.S. government in various media-related capacities and evidently the pair had been deemed suitable for the sensitive assignment.

Emenegger described to the authors how he was briefed on the UFO project at Norton Air Force Base in “a clean room used by the CIA… so there was no way anyone could eavesdrop on us.” In an offer similar to that made some twenty years earlier to Walt Disney, the USAF promised Emenegger real UFO footage – this time allegedly showing a UFO landing at Holloman Air Force Base in 1971 and the subsequent face-to-face meeting between alien visitors and delegates of the U.S. government. Emenegger was sceptical, but was assured by the USAF that the footage existed, and was genuine.

Whilst he waited for the footage to materialise, Emenegger and his crew continued with their wider production research for which they were given unprecedented access to DoD facilities, including the Pentagon. Emenegger was even granted time with high-ranking military officers apparently well-versed in UFO-related matters, among them Colonel William Coleman, a former spokesman for Project Blue Book, and Colonel George Weinbrenner, then head of Foreign Technology at Wright Patterson Air Force Base – the location where alien materials and bodies allegedly recovered from the 1947 Roswell crash are said to have been stored.

But who in the Air Force would sign off on such a controversial project? Emenegger put this question to Pentagon spokesman Colonel Coleman, who informed him that “the Secretary of the Air Force gave us the order to cooperate.” Thus, in an unprecedented move, the Air Force, Army, and Navy gave their full backing to a UFO-related production, so too did NASA, who provided Emenegger’s research team with previously unreleased photographs of what appeared to be UFOs in space taken by Gemini astronauts. “We had carte blanche to go anywhere, ask any questions,” Emenegger told us, “there were no restrictions put on us.” Emenegger even claims to have been shown “Top Secret” footage shot at Vandenberg Air Force Base which showed two UFOs “playfully running behind” a U.S. missile.

After months of shooting, Emenegger’s documentary was complete, save for one crucial ingredient – the much-hyped alien landing footage. At the eleventh hour the USAF withdrew its permission for use of the material; the political climate had changed, it said, and was now deemed inappropriate due to the Watergate scandal which had recently broken. “I felt like we had egg on our face,” Emenegger told us, “I felt cheated that we were not allowed to see this film. It was taken back to the Pentagon… I stupidly expected to have this footage, which would have been earth-shattering.” 36 years on and Emenegger seems as baffled by the whole affair as anyone: “Were we had? Were we being used?” he asks.xvi

Emenegger’s Golden Globe nominated documentary, entitled UFOs: Past, Present and Future, was finally released in 1974 and was ground-breaking in extensive use of information provided by the DoD. In addition to the aforementioned photographs from NASA, it featured sit-down interviews with the former heads of Project Blue Book, and footage shot inside the Pentagon of Colonel Coleman talking open-mindedly about the Extraterrestrial Hypothesis. In the absence of the landing footage, Emenegger was forced to include an animated reconstruction of the event as described to him by the USAF, complete with artistic renderings of the alleged aliens. The documentary presented the incident as “one that might happen in the future – or perhaps could have happened already.”

It should be noted, however, that the landing footage wasn’t entirely absent – at least not according to Emenegger. During the dramatic reconstruction of the alleged landing, the observant viewer can catch a few frames of what appears to be a genuine, self-luminescent Unidentified Flying Object descending slowly in the distance against the backdrop of Holloman’s surrounding landscape. These frames, Emenegger claims, were taken from the original landing footage and authorised by the USAF during the editing stage for use his completed documentary.

Interestingly, echoes of Emenegger’s deal with the Department of Defense would resound decades later in the production of the aforementioned Transformers (2007) when director Michael Bay was granted the rare privilege of shooting scenes of his alien movie at the Pentagon. The DoD even threw open the gates to Holloman Air Force Base – the highly sensitive location of the alleged alien landing described to Emenegger (and it would do so again for the Transformers sequel). To this day, the only two Hollywood filmmakers to have been granted access to Holloman are Emenegger and Bay – both of whose films dealt with the subject of alien visitation – and this in flat contradiction to the DoD’s policy as stated to other filmmakers that it will not work with UFO-related productions because “UFOs do not exist.”

Colonel Coleman Returns

The plot thickened in 1978 when Colonel William Coleman – who had acted as the USAF’s official liaison for Robert Emenegger’s documentary – produced an NBC drama series called Project UFO (1978-79) (not to be confused with the Steve Canyon episode of the same name), a sort of ‘70s equivalent of the X-Files, but which, oddly enough, simultaneously seemed to promote and debunk the idea of UFO reality in each episode. It is unusual to say the least for a commercial television series to be produced by a high ranking military officer, but that this was the very same officer who had promised UFO landing footage for use in a government-approved documentary just a few years prior, coupled with the fact that the series was entirely based upon official Project Blue Book reports, suggests that a political agenda was being pursued.

What on Earth…? By now, many a sane reader will probably be puzzled, seeking an answer to the first rational question that comes to mind: “what on earth is going on here?” Why has the government’s concern about flying saucers of all things been so far reaching that it has actually seen fit to manage public perception of UFOs by attempting to influence the content of major films, as appears to be the case?

Lieutenant Colonel Phillip J. Corso, who served on the National Security Council during the Eisenhower Administration and who was formerly chief of the Pentagon’s Foreign Technology desk, claimed that the production of flying saucer movies was actively encouraged by government-led UFO study groups during the 1950s. The goal, claimed Corso, was simultaneously to fictionalise UFOs (through their association with Hollywood entertainment) and to actualise them in the mind of the viewer, thereby acclimatising the public to UFO reality and politically manipulating their perceptions of the phenomenon in the process. Corso referred to this strategy as “camouflage through limited disclosure.” “We never hid the truth from anybody,” he said, “we just camouflaged it. It was always there [in documents, books, TV shows and movies], people just didn’t know what to look for or recognise it for what it was when they found it. And they found it over and over again.”xvii

Although the CIA Robertson Panel appears to have exerted a sustained impact on media representations of UFOs, at least in the ‘50s and ‘60s, this does not constitute concrete proof of a longer-term, conscious and coherent government conspiracy along these lines. However, unless we assume that numerous individuals highly respected in their professions are either lying or deluded, it is difficult to explain the DoD’s apparent “smoke and mirrors” media tactics with regard to the extraterrestrial hypothesis.

Perhaps – as some believe – the government has made a number of attempts to acclimatise the public to the notion of alien visitation. Or perhaps efforts like those involving Emenegger and Kimball are part of a smokescreen for more mundane, though no less secretive, government projects. UFO movies may even be a facet of a U.S. psychological warfare programme. As farfetched as this may sound, CIA records show that as early as 1952 the Agency’s then Director Walter Bedell Smith was sufficiently concerned about UFOs to seriously discuss, “the possible offensive or defensive utilisation of these phenomena for psychological warfare purposes.”xviii

Government/military involvement in UFO movies continues to this day. The 20th Century Fox remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still (2008) had Pentagon involvement in the form of official DoD Hollywood liaison Phil Strub and a number of high-ranking military officers whose names can be found at the tail end of the film’s closing credits. Also featured is a special thank you from the film’s producers to “the men and women of the United States military for their production assistance.” Similarly, Disney’s UFO-themed Race to Witch Mountain (2009) received assistance not only from the military but from the CIAxix – a curious arrangement since the latter is not even represented on screen; what’s more, the film’s portrayal of the military is decidedly negative. In accordance with the media policies of both DoD and CIA, these facts would tend to disqualify a film from receiving production assistance from either party. In this case, however, both were only too willing to lend a helping hand, as Andy Fickman, the film’s director, told Premiere Magazine: “the military advisors and intelligence advisors constantly helped to keep us honest every step of the way.”xx

Conclusions

To paraphrase The X-Files’ agent Mulder: we may “want to believe” the U.S. government when it says it no longer takes an active interest in UFOs. Certainly we all “want to believe” that Hollywood entertainment is just that – entertainment, rather than disinformation.

Judging by the examples outlined in this article, official policy regarding media representations of UFO phenomena seems to have shifted from project to project, from decade to decade, between concerted debunking efforts at one end of the spectrum and, at the other, more subversive attempts to quietly monitor and even seed the content of UFO-related media for purposes of psychological warfare and/or perception management. If nothing else, this should provide incentive for us to sit up and pay greater attention to the fleets of flying saucer movies that will undoubtedly continue to land in our multiplexes in the years to come.

Robbie Graham is a doctoral candidate at the University of Bristol and a Film lecturer at Stafford College. Matthew Alford, PhD is author of the forthcoming book: “Projected Power: How Hollywood Supports U.S. Foreign Policy” (Pluto Press, 2010). The authors have written about the politics of Hollywood for a variety of publications, including The Guardian and New Statesman.
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Postby Hugh Manatee Wins » Wed Jun 24, 2009 2:00 am

When Graham and Alford announced they had a book coming soon about the USG and Hollywood, I wondered if it would be a bullshit diversion by MI5 or MI6 keeping the masses misinformed, misdirected, and mystified.

Looks like it will be judging by this article.
Just another meme-hijacking disinfo article trying to stay ahead of us.

The authors are hijacking the historical research work of other people about to publish regarding Disney/Hollywood/military/media and turning it into woo by making it all about...UFOs.

That's what spooks have been doing since WWII.
And that's all this article is.

BTW, that 1950 UFO movie cited was made to cover-up an Air Force accident, just like a number of other movies. Funny that I found the accident but those esteemed UK academics didn't.
Oh, and I have that movie in my collection of Cold War psyops.

And some wonder why I insist on calling it W.O.O.

Gee, this sounds familiar-
The goal, claimed Corso, was simultaneously to fictionalise UFOs (through their association with Hollywood entertainment) and to actualise them in the mind of the viewer, thereby acclimatising the public to UFO reality and politically manipulating their perceptions of the phenomenon in the process. Corso referred to this strategy as “camouflage through limited disclosure.” “We never hid the truth from anybody,” he said, “we just camouflaged it. It was always there [in documents, books, TV shows and movies], people just didn’t know what to look for or recognise it for what it was when they found it. And they found it over and over again.”
CIA runs mainstream media since WWII:
news rooms, movies/TV, publishing
...
Disney is CIA for kidz!
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