On Tuesday, Secretary of State John Kerry met with a group of Hollywood’s top executives to discuss the ISIS narrative. As reported by Variety, the 90-minute meeting included a conversation about creating a counter-narrative to Islamic extremist propaganda, as well as the international marketing of such a narrative.
Kerry himself tweeted about the meeting, using the term ‘Daesh’ to refer to the Islamic State.
The meeting took place at Universal Studios and was organized by Jeff Shell, chairman of Universal Filmed Entertainment Group. Shell is chair of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, of which Kerry is a member.
According to one attendee, Kerry expressed interest in how narrative storytelling — in this case, film — can cross cultures.
It’s no secret that Hollywood and the entertainment industry at large play an important role in creating nationalistic propaganda and establishing a consensus reality. Last year, Anti-Media reported on recently declassified documents that showed how the CIA colluded with the producers of Zero Dark Thirty to shape the story of Osama Bin Laden’s capture. The efficacy of Hollywood war propaganda, with American Sniper as a shining example, is well-documented — and long-standing. During World War II, as the Army’s website explains, “…over 90 percent of Disney employees were devoted to the production of training and propaganda films. In all, the Disney Studios produced some 400,000 feet of film representing some 68 hours of continuous film.”
In Kerry’s Tuesday meeting, the former senator and onetime presidential hopeful discussed the Islamic State’s use of videos in their recruitment of new terrorists. Recently, the group’s use of clips from Oliver Reed’s Lion of the Desert provoked many to speculate the jihadist group is looking to employ more sophisticated messaging tactics.
“[Videos] are necessary in Isis’s effort to paint itself as a continual target of the west’s enmity,” says Roger Stahl, associate professor of communication studies at the University of Georgia. “The group has learned that, in order to cut through the clutter and noise of the infosphere, it must continually up the ante.”
It appears the United States government also wants to raise the stakes by more aggressively conscripting Hollywood’s media apparatus. How this will be implemented is unclear, though it certainly seems possible we could see more studios greenlighting projects that depict the war on terror.
A more tantalizing prospect is that we may finally see glimpses of DARPA’s Narrative Networks in action. This is a classified program by which the military hopes to create advanced propaganda methods that manipulate the flow of messages in the human brain.It’s unlikely this was discussed at the meeting between Kerry and the executives, but one has to be at least a little startled that such a “brainstorming” session took place at all. One might think the government would try to conceal such blatant efforts to influence public opinion on matters related to the military-industrial complex; instead, Kerry takes to social media to flaunt the federal government’s symbiotic working relationship with Hollywood.
Other attendees at the meeting included MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America) Chairman Chris Dodd; Warner Bros. Entertainment CEO Kevin Tsujihara; DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg; 20th Century Fox Chairman and CEO Jim Gianopulos; 20th Century Fox Co-Chair Stacey Snider; Sean Bailey, president of Walt Disney Motion Picture Production; Universal Pictures Chairman Donna Langley;Tom Rothman, chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment’s Motion Picture Group; Universal Pictures President Jimmy Horowitz; Amblin Partners CEO Michael Wright; and NBCUniversal Vice Chairman Ron Meyer.
— John Kerry (@JohnKerry) February 17, 2016
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