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State-Run Media: An American Institution

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The FBI once decried the classic, beloved holiday movie ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ as communist propaganda. The movie centered around the life of a small-town community banker. Funny thing is, communism, by definition, is moneyless, classless, and stateless. In other words, no government, no rulers, and no banks. An FBI film-review agent said its treatment of American institutions like big banks and highlighting of existential crisis and depression crafted  a “malignant undercurrent in the film.” J. Edgar Hoover, of course, was responsible for creating the FBI’s insidious movie-watching programs.  

Fast forward to today, and we are living in a veritable golden age of media. From photo-realistic CGI to evolved silent movies (GIFs), and cinematic universes, to multi-show television crossovers, the media industry has never had more ways to captivate and control the American mind. From news to entertainment, the media industry has one job: control the narrative. It also has one boss: the ruling, capitalist class.  

The sheer power of technology in the media industry is amazing. Photo-realistic CGI, where a computer-generated image is virtually indistinguishable from the real thing has been used to replace or simulate dead actors and “shoot” entire movies like the modern remake of Disney’s Lion King. There is also deepfake videos, which use a trained AI video to swap out faces and/or voices. Especially popular in the adult media industry, victims of deepfake porn have described the produced videos as seeing themselves be raped. AI technology has also evolved to realistically mimic a real, live human’s voice using audio samples as little as five seconds

We have entered an age where misinformation and deception have the potential to appear as authentic as the real thing, even in images and video. The news media industry is controlled by the billionaire titans and, once they realize they do not need humans to push their narratives, even the well-paid network-television propagandists are at risk of losing their ‘jobs.’

However, that possibility is not the frightening part. The fright comes when you know of the decades-long history of state-run media, not in North Korea or Cuba, but here at home in the United States of America. The FBI has spent decades secretly consulting on Hollywood film projects, and to use or represent the FBI’s logo or ‘assets’ in a movie requires the explicit consent of the bureau itself. The Department of Defense (DOD) gets final cut and editing power over any film displaying U.S. military hardware. It also uses military-entertainment games such as Call of Duty to inform its recruiting and training methods. Military recruiters have started using Twitch as a platform to enlist America’s youth, expanding the reach of the poverty draft.  

Filmmakers are often coerced into “willingly” collaborating with the military to accurately portray military hardware like aircraft carriers. The time and resources poured into the film industry is a good investment for the Military Industrial Complex and mutually beneficial between them and the Media Industrial Complex. Media giants do not have to spend as much on props, people, and locations, and the military gets a massive say in its own portrayal.  

The much-beloved Marvel Cinematic Universe is DOD and CIA propaganda. The first solo heroine of the franchise, Captain Marvel, and her titular movie was explicitly used to drive a recruiting boon for the military. From 1911 through 2017, over 900 feature films received DOD backing and control. 1100 TV shows have been similarly influenced by the Military-Industrial Complex, at least 900 of those since 2005. For the CIA’s part, it has exerted control over at least 60 TV shows since its formation in 1947.  

The result? Tens of thousands of hours of everyday entertainment material are directly shaped into a narrative the U.S. Government approves of and has a hand in creating. No form of mainstream media is immune to being state-run in the US. When it comes to news media, especially local channels, that subversive control is indirect. Local news stations are controlled by the mega-corporations that, in turn, control our government. They all read the same script.  

90% of our media was produced, owned, and controlled by six companies as of 2011. 

And here is an infographic of everything Disney controlled as of 2019.  

Capitalism has always been monopolistic. We are seeing that in real-time, living under global neoliberalism and the highest stage of capitalism ever achieved. As the monopolizing phenomenon accelerates, how long until Mickey Mouse himself owns all our media? Five years? 10? Less?  

In 2018, the US ranked 40th in “freedom of the press” by the World Economic Forum (go to page 602). In 2020, Reporters Without Borders ranked the US 45th in the same. The good ole’ USA is literally markedly deteriorating in terms of freedom of the press. (Not to mention material conditions like wagespovertyhealthcare, etc., et al.) I have previously remarked that “the three true branches of American government are the military, corporations, and mainstream media.” Was I wrong? 

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