Can Hollywood help fight the war on terror?

On “America Speaks Out” this question was posed…

Can Hollywood help fight the war on terror? Well with the movie ‘Wag the Dog’ aside. I think that if this war is going to have to be partly a propaganda war than Hollywood could have a huge effect on the global mind. Think for a minute how many people globally know the name Arnold Schwartzenneggar. ALOT!! Having worked for a Global Wish Granting Organization for a few years, one of the main wishes sought out by many children all over the world was to meet Celebrites.

I believe Hollywood is in a unique position to help out with this plight. Think about how many times you have watched a movie and that move has made you cry, scared the crap out you, made you have a moment of clarity etc…etc…
This in itself is a huge tool. If a propaganda war needs to ensue, Hollywood could be a tsunami of weapon for this battle against terror.

I am all for it. I have thought about this for years imagine if a movie could be set towards a targeted audience and made to have a prescribed response? OH WAIT A MINUTE! this is already the case…They are already doing that!!! That is the precise reason this would be a good idea.

Raise your hands if after that first jet crashed into the WTC and then the second, and then the pentagon, if you felt a surreal kind of ‘OH SHIT, WHATS NEXT’ helpless feeling when all this happened. I know I did. Why? Because we saw it real-time on TV. The nation was scared at the exact same time. What an effect. Think what we could do with a film, that had the same effect, or whtever effect we wanted. I do not really know what emotion we would want to instill, but I do know that fear, was instilled on a nation, and the catylist was the tv. I think this is a topic that could hold some weight, I know I would like to explore more pro’s and con’s…

What are the teeming Billions thinking??

Hollywood creates propaganda all the time. It normalizes certain gender roles, frames capitalism as a solution to most all problems and constucts a world view that certainly pushes a certain agenda. Often that agenda is to show an ideal life where all problems can be solved by capitalism. This is more evident on television than in cinema, but it is often pretty apparant on the silver screen.

Film as propaganda is hardly a new concept. The Soviets were masters of the medium. Cuba had a huge film-education program designed to turn the masses into savvy film goers that would understand more abstract revolutionary films. Prague Spring was a political movement largely spurred by filmmakers. A large part of the dimilitarization of Japanese society was acheived through film. The list goes on and on.

Should Hollywood start churning out the propaganda? I don’t think that H’wood are the best people to do it. The most effective propaganda films have an edge to them that Hollywood can’t make. Often the avant-garde and the underground creates films that affect the young people of a given area, and those young people carry that films messege in to the greater sphere. There is a sincerity to these films that a Hollywood cannot replicate.

All I can picture coming from Hollywood as Rocky-esque schlok that fools nobody except for middle America. If we want to create real change in the world we are going to have to work with some dangerous ideas. Apple pie and Ford isn’t enough to change the political and religious views of an entire portion of the world. I don’t think that Hollywood has it in them to create something daring enough to be anything but transparent.

And as a non-Hollywood film maker and scholar myself, I’d like to say that I’ll have no part in propaganda. My messege is for the good of humanity, not simply one nation. I’d like to create films that foster true insight, not pre-programed responses. I’d like to create work that instills a new understanding of humanity, not one that forwards a single group.


I don’t know what movies you’ve been watching but most of them don’t seem to have all that much to do with capitalism to me. Uh, I’m of course talking about the subject of the movie not the actual business of making it and selling it.


Duh, I’m so glad you folks on the west and east coast have the intelligence to lead the rest of us.

That right there was a wonderful piece of propaganda. All you need is some kick ass music and some sort of logo and we’ll all be behind you. Well, not middle America at first because we’re just not up to speed on that kind of stuff. But I’m sure once you were popular on either coast we’d catch up to you guys in about a year or two.



Can you give an example of this?
Your talking about Avant-garde underground AMERICAN St.Marks Street independant films reaching the youth and yuppy culture and then spreading into ‘WHAT’ sphere?

I’m talking about the propaganda war that we are already neck deep in. Unfortunately, most people in the culture you are refering to don’t want to hear about propaganda and would rather not talk about a war going on . But it is very much going on.

And I agree with MGibson, how can you say ‘middle America’ will be fooled by anything. You sorly underestimate the numbers and values of our middle America.

Ignoring even svens posturing (Prague Spring driven by film-makers?), I don’t think Hollywood is the best place to go for effective propaganda directed to the MENA region.

Packaging it after it has been developed, perhaps yes. Developing it, no. Generic appeals and fun, all well and fine, however winning over people tending towards ObL is another matter.


First, it seems to me that Hollywood has done plenty to demonize terrorists already - the “Die Hard” films; Steven Seagal’s movies; Wesley Snipes films like “Passenger 57”; “Broken Arrow” with John Travolta and Christian Slater (the bomb Travolta’s character stole was to be sold to a terrorist group); as well as recent TV shows like “The Agency”. And this is just what comes straight to mind - i’m sure there are dozens of others that i’ve forgotten. I don’t think that Hollywood is going to need any pushing to take advantage of the current climate of fear by bringing out more movies where heroic Americans save the world from the bad guys.

Also, i’m curious as to who you intend to influence with this propaganda that you call for.

The United States? Well, it seems like way too many people in this country have already dispensed with all critical faculties in the rush to support bombing. I think any more propaganda would risk overflowing the pot.

Other Western countries (Britain, Western European nations, Canada, Australia, NZ)? They all seem to be pretty much in the US camp right now, with much brown-nosing coming from various national leaders like Tony Blair. And those who are more critical are still doing very little to oppose the US.

Eastern Asia? Africa? South America? Many of the wealthy in these areas have expressed support for US actions, while the millions in desperate poverty on these continents are unlikely to have the wherewithal to attend the cinema and see your propaganda masterpiece.

The Middle East? It seems to me that any propaganda film shown in that area (that is, if it was allowed to be shown at all in some countries) would do little more than confirm the opinions of those opposed to the US.

Not only that, but it seems to me that (proportionally) very few people in the world actually support terrorism, even among those who have opposed US foreign policy in the past and who oppose America’s current actions in Afghanistan. Criticism of American policy does not equal support for terrorism.

And of the people in the world who believe that it is OK to fly airliners into buildings, do you think an Arnold Schwarzenegger film is going to make them sit up and say “Oh yes, i see the evil of my ways now”? In fact, many of the so-called anti-terrorist films made by Hollywood still tend to perpetuate the notion that violence is the only way to solve disagreements. Maybe terrorists and their supporters have been watching too much Hollywood stuff.

And finally, i’m wondering why you feel the need to convince other people at all? Being the biggest kid on the block, the United States has demonstrated repeatedly its willingness to act unilaterally or with minimal foreign support in a variety of circumstances. Why bother trying to convince the rest of the world, when you can just ignore them?


I said:

You ask me:

Well I am not feeling any need to convince anyone here of anything. I simply brought up a debatable topic. I was not trying to hold a side here. I think the topic has some weight and I think the propaganda war is going on hardcore right now and Hollywood does in fact induce emotion, to whom? to whoever watches the film…

That said. mhendo, I think everything you say is true, and everything you say I must agree with. You lay the path for a good argument…

For starters, maybe Hollywood can stop perpetuating every possible stereotype about foreign cultures.

I categorically do not think Hollywood should mount a propaganda war. Hollywood is focused on marketing “hits” with the widest possible appeal, with the most commercial viability, with everything dumbed down to the lowest common denominator. If a movie makes you think it’s because the directors and writers fought for that vision against a host of marketing types who are terrified of originality and provoking thought or contraversy.

Second, American culture is already so pervasive around the world that churning out “message” films would not add to anyone’s awareness about us and only increase resentment of those who dislike us. For example, much of Islamic revivalism is about rejecting the cultural dominance of the West, and I do not think it would be effective. I am a big fan of international film festivals, where films from all over the world are viewed and discussed and distributed. I think we as Americans need to let more foreign films in and experience the greater world, not push more big money dreck out there.

Second, propaganda is inherently a manipulative tool. People resent manipulation, and they always see through it in the end. Instead of presenting people with information, with options, with different points of view and letting them make up their own minds, propagandists want their audience to walk away believing in their cause. People embrace media that makes them think, that does not insult their intelligence (let’s just block out 90% of Hollywood film and %99 of television and live in my ideal world for a moment) :), media that shows universal truths of the human condition, stories that touch them where they live.

Propagandists seek to control all sources of information and by necessity present only their point of view. However, if they leave out things that their audience knows to be true in favor of their message, to manipulate and persuade the public with smoke and mirrors, they will end up being rejected and resented. People always see through it eventually, and the backlash of disillusionment can be enormous.

Propaganda is different from public relations activities - using vehicles like Radio Free Europe, buying television time on the same networks that broadcast bin Laden’s statements, reminding the international community of our mission and the rightness of our cause. But please, don’t push more dreck out there. I think we’ve been allowing movies with testosterone, guns, and explosions tell enough of our story to the world.
As an aside, artistic expression did have an enormous role in the heady days of the Prague Spring, but I doubt that it was “spurred mostly by filmmakers.” Try writers, playwrights, musicians, visual artists, filmmakers, ordinary people, and Alexander Dubcek.
Here’s a link:

There was an article in the Los Angeles Times a week or two ago that talked about Hollywood movies and the Middle East. Apparently, despite the local disdain for American foreign policy and such, the folks in the middle east love their American movies. They explain the difference by noting that movies and politics are two separate things.

I’d provide a link, but I believe the Times requires a paid regestration to access the article at this point.

Yup. Action films especially. The stupider the better.

At the same time, the same films haven’t had any effect on the politics (except perhaps to form an opinion Americans love violence…)

But further in re even sven’s silly statement on Hollywood films teaching that violence solves all: if he stopped watched artsy films and watched the real popular stuff from Syria, Egypt, hell even Bollywood films, he’d find that the violence as means of resolution ain’t a Hollywood monopoly nor has it ever.

Cartoonish violence on the other hand… I dunno, I can’t quite decide if Bollywood films violence is cartoonish or just wierd. I have to say, I think only Bollywood could turn out a film wherein the human hero and his love interest are horribly murdered halfway through the film and the rest of the film is about their dog avenging them. That was really bizarre (only matched by the whack Arabic translations).


I didn’t mention a single thing about violence!

Alright, I admit I was being a little pretentious in my earlier post. Too many film theory classes can do that to a girl.

However, I stand by my original stance that Hollywood would not be the best people to do the propaganda job. They would only be seen as successful by the very people that wanted them made (hence the middle America reference, I certainly don’t mean to slight the non-costal among us).

Any drastic Americanization of the Middle East would certainly demand social and political revolution. The kind of films that have helped or sustained revolutionary purposes in the past (think Czech New Wave, Freedom Fighter cinema and Cuban Cinema) have been rather indiginous movements. I think that indiginous filmmakers are less likely to set off the BS meter of a potentially revolutionary public. Hollywood is a little better at pleaseing the public than changeing it.

Hey, here’s a potential of Hollywood to mine: the Serbia-Bosnia conflict. Depict the Muslims there as the good guys who drove the ambitious Serbians out. This was a brutal war that the US and NATO joined in on behald of the Muslim Bosnians. This is something the Muslims most likely won’t get pissed about.

Today, on one of the channels they had two guys out in Hollywood that are working on this already. Sorry.

I don’t think Hollywood has demonized terrorists that much. Often they come across as pretty cool for bad guys - I know in my teenage years I used to joke that I wanted to be a professional terrorist, probably in part due to the media portrayals of them.

No, but I think they have demonized Middle Eastern folks quite a bit.

Off the top of your head, think of all the movies or TV shows that featured a Middle Eastern person who wasn’t (a) a terrorist, (b) a religious fundamentalist zealot, © an oil-rich sheik with a harem of wives, or (d) a covered-from-head-to-toe-and-not-allowed-to-speak-out-of-turn woman.

Yes, there’s a list, but it’s a fairly small one.