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New evidence for the surprisingly significant propaganda role of the CIA and the DOD in the screen entertainment industry

This article reassesses the relationships of the Central Intelligence Agency and Department of Defense with the American entertainment industry. Both governmental institutions present their relationships as modest in scale, benign in nature, passive, and concerned with historical and technical accuracy rather than politics. The limited extant commentary reflects this reassuring assessment. However, we build on a patchy reassessment begun at the turn of the 21st century, using a significant new set of documents acquired through the Freedom of Information Act. We identify three key facets of the state-entertainment relationship that are under-emphasized or absent from the existing commentary and historical record: 1. The withholding of available data from the public; 2. The scale of the work; and 3. The level of politicization. As such, the article emphasizes a need to pay closer attention to the deliberate propaganda role played by state agencies in promoting the US national security state through entertainment media in western societies.

Part 3 - The Scale of the Work: The Number of Around 575 DOD-Assisted Films in Suid’s Books is Already Well Over a Decade Out-of-Date

Our figure of 697 is higher than even Suid has documented, though in the vast majority of these cases we have nothing more than a list from the DOD or an IMDB credit to say that anything occurred. The files we have received through the FOI combined with other sources indicate that the DOD supported 814 films between 1911 and 2017, which is over 200 more than Suid’s latest published list from 2005.

We are certainly not saying that Suid compiled a bad list, especially since we know first-hand how hard it is to cover every production, but he has at least missed some from his era. Moreover, he never lists the figures himself – we have to count and it’s not entirely clear from his rubric which products were subject to script revisions. Nor does he systematically display DOD cooperation with TV at all.

If we include the 1,133 documented TV titles in our total count, the number leaps to 1,947 productions. If we are to count the individual episodes for each title on long-running shows like 24, Homeland and NCIS, alongside the influence of other major national security organizations like the FBI, CIA and White House, then the figure would be in the thousands.

While the DOD is by far the most active, the CIA takes the same approach with considerable success and has affected dozens of projects. It is time to recognize the roles of both the CIA and DOD in screen entertainment as being extensive, covert, pro-active and highly politicized.

The Available Historical Archives and Histories Say Virtually Nothing about the DOD and CIA’s Involvement with Other Screen Entertainment, Namely Television and Video Gaming.

Despite Suid’s encyclopedic list of movies, comparable histories have never been produced on the work of the DOD in the television or computer games industry.

While most histories and discussion of the ELOs focus on their overt and obvious role in war films and disaster movies, the Army’s reports mention assistance granted not just to movies but to an enormous range of series including chat shows, sports coverage, military-themed reality shows, other reality TV, competitive reality series, cooking-themed reality TV, game shows, action adventure series, dramas, children’s programming, awards shows, military and non-military documentaries, and independent films including foreign productions from Belgium, Japan, Denmark, Holland, Switzerland and Sweden.

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