Dr. Matthew Alford, who is a Teaching Fellow in propaganda and theory at the University of Bath in England, joins the program.
Dr. Alford starts the program by explaining, "Every national cinema is designed to promote the cultural values of that country. All countries do that, the United States does that, Britain does that, Russia does it, the Soviet Union did it. This means that the biases of each nation are often reflected in their cultural output including in their films. The United States has weaponized films in their own way, but a lot of this is often not done by governments as such, it is often more a result of having an entire society which is geared towards warfare and geared towards conflict with another society. That was the Cold War mentality, and you had many films that were made that were anti-communist. But they were not necessarily directed by the FBI or the CIA or the Department of Defense.
"…When I started researching this field about 15 years ago, it was assumed that the government didn't do that much in terms of directing and rewriting films….It was Clint Eastwood who was responsible for American Sniper, which is a horrible film about murdering Iraqis. Silvester Stallone is responsible for the creation of Rambo, this really macho kiss arse American blunderhead. Those products were not created by the American government, they are not even influenced by it in any direct way, in fact, the American government doesn't really want to be associated with such extreme products….However, as I have researched further over the past three or four years and looked at archive documents rather than just focusing on ideology, it has become clear that the [US] government is more involved in script rewrites than anybody previously knew, and this is what the book that I wrote with Tom Secker ‘National Security Cinema' is all about….There is a great deal of influence from the political institutions, much more than people previously recognized, but this influence still, generally speaking, built up for organic and commercial reasons."
Bias in cinema seems to be created both by deep seated cultural prejudice against peoples and top-down directives Dr. Alford says. "It's both, but I always put the emphasis on the top down. If you were to look at it now, in an era which is officially post-Cold War, if you are somebody who wakes up in the morning and wonders ‘Oh, what should I be afraid of today?' you are probably a lunatic. But at the same time, if somebody says: ‘who are our country's enemies? Who are our official enemies, and I am prodding you with a stick to get you to give an answer to that — our nation would probably say — Iran maybe, or North Korea or Russia or something. Fear, I think, is something that is very much constructed. That doesn't mean that fears are constructed by one horrific Orwellian character,…but if you look at the network of security entities that make up the establishment, MI5, MI6, CIA, FBI, the government, the Department of Defense, the Ministry of Defense, both in the United States and the United Kingdom, they all have very serious vested interests in maintaining the status quo and maintaining enemies….What would you do John if your job depended on having to construct a threat, and what would I do? If you are born into that job or thrust into it at age 20, you are going to be enculturated into those beliefs. In the case of enemies of the United Kingdom, or enemies of the United States, it is quite easy to make another country's security services look evil. Because they will be evil!… If you are looking for an enemy, you are going to find one. You find what you are looking for in life, you reap what you sow. The common cold is a threat but do we need nuclear weapons to combat the common cold? Is there a way of dealing with this in a more mature way?"
The long lead times involved in film production can be seen to show that the media is a reflection of what Dr. Alford calls deeper ‘metastasized' aspects of power. "You do need to have some kind of authority in society. You need to have some kind of police force or whatever, but what has happened with some of the entities like the CIA, is that they have metastasized into things that really don't need to be there, and they are dangerous entities that really need to be challenged and wheedled out. Because they are causing a great deal of harm within our societies."
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