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 5 - The DOD and CIA Do Not Always Admit to Supporting Screen Entertainment Products and They Do Not Always Provide Support Through Their Formal ELOs
Both Strub and Brandon have denied working on productions to which they demonstrably did provide assistance. The world’s most financially successful film franchise the Marvel Cinematic Universe has enjoyed overt, admitted Pentagon assistance in several of its productions. Despite this, Strub claimed that the DOD withdrew cooperation from The Avengers because ‘We couldn’t reconcile the unreality of this international organization [S.H.I.E.L.D.] and our place in it’ (Ackerman, 2012).
This didn’t stop National Guard soldiers and vehicles appearing in the film and Strub and the heads of the Army’s and Air Force’s ELOs John Clearwater and Francisco G. Hamm were all thanked in the credits.
Strub, Hamm and Clearwater’s IMDB pages do not mention their involvement in The Avengers, and the DOD and the National Guard’s own lists released under the FOIA do not include The Avengers. Suid blithely mentions 13 films under ‘unacknowledged cooperation’, including the James Bond film Tomorrow Never Dies – which Strub outright denied to us had received DOD support.
The updates to Chase Brandon’s personal website enable us to show that he was engaged in similar activity. Brandon denied granting technical assistance to The Bourne Identity, saying in one interview (Patterson, 2001) that it was ‘so awful that I tossed it in the burn bag after page 25’.
However, he starred in a short ‘making of’ featurette on the Special Edition of the DVD for The Bourne Identity, where he expresses how much he enjoyed the film and praises its realism (DVD, 2002).
In a later interview, Brandon said ‘we did a trailer on the DVD’ (Williams, 2009) but he also listed the film among his technical advisor credits when updating his site in 2014 – an indication that his involvement was greater than just assisting with a trailer. Brandon has given similarly ambiguous statements about his involvement in the TV show 24.
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