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Hollywood’s role in shaping public views on mass surveillance (slashgeek.net)
64 points by pavs 1607 days ago | hide | past | web | 30 comments | favorite

Mainstream cable dramas enforces fear and stereotypes to shape public view much more than hollywood I'd say, just because more people watch those shows and every single one of them is the same theme.

For instance take any cop drama. The kid who uses drugs for the first time ends up raped at a rave or overdoses, the couple who has a pansexual relationship with other people ends up killed because of their "shady" lifestyle, anything that is out of the bounds of religious morality is demonized and will always lead to doom.

Cops who beat up suspects in interrogation are shown in the best light because they never beat up the wrong suspect, all animal rights protesters or eco activists are portrayed as total loons, national security always trumps individual rights and turns out for the good.

Propaganda like Red Dawn, Olympus Has Fallen or Zero Dark Thirty which showed torture lite and even tried to justify it isn't watched nearly as much. The articles slamming Zero Dark Thirty weren't as numerous as the criticism that show "24" created with justifying torture and pandering to the imaginary ticking bomb interrogation scenario where the intrepid hero must use torture to save the world.

I can't remember how many cop dramas on TV I've seen where they could catch the evil criminal if only they weren't blocked by annoying restrictions like warrants. Message: cops are always good, judges are out of touch with reality, defence lawyers are evil unethical parasites and warrantless spying or searches should be the norm. Watch this scenario a hundred times and when the media finally starts promoting some new "necessary" warrantless spying the government is trying to pass you're likely to allow it after being inundated with constant pro state propaganda, and a chorus of media pundits who use fictional TV scenarios to compare to real life situations like the CNN anchor I witnessed who was constantly bringing up that stupid 24 morality play about the evil bad guy in the good guy's captivity and only torture is the solution while interviewing a lawyer who was trying to laugh off the questions as nonsense and tell the public what is really going on.

Whatever that lawyer was trying to say was drowned out by bringing in decades worth of reinforced stereotypes. The guy had a ton of stuff to say but his interview was sidetracked by this ridiculous fiction and "that's all the time we have today stay with us after the commercial break for our Paula Deen exclusive"

Next thing you know, they'll tell me that hollywood actively collaborates with the government on portrayals of the military.

"The major exception here is the Department of Defense, which has an ‘open’ but barely publicized relationship with Tinsel Town, whereby, in exchange for advice, men and invaluable equipment, such as aircraft carriers and helicopters, the Pentagon routinely demands flattering script alterations."



It can't be a conspiracy if it is not a secret, right?

> It can't be a conspiracy if it is not a secret, right?

Well, basically.

The Navy even managed to make Paramount Pictures pay for the privilege of taking footage of aircraft carriers and their fighters in action.

Paramount tried to renegotiate the payment by offering to let the Navy play a recruiting video or something silly in theaters, but the Navy quite wisely opted out of that, as the movie is already a recruiter's dream all by itself.

That's par for the course in the film industry really. Nothing's ever free.

It depends on the channel lifetime movies fit that stereotype where HBO runs shows like OZ that are far less simplistic. However, one of the positives of cop shows is jurry's now want hard evedence like DNA where they used to be far more willing to rely on circumstantial evidence which resulted in a lot of false convictions.

HBO is the new hollywood, same with other adult only cable networks. Lot's of directors are looking to make mini series and getting the money to do it because studios currently won't allow anything deviating from the standard money making model of superhero flicks.

With more and more people not showing up to theaters anymore because they have home theatre, I can see HBO and similar adult networks overtaking the profits of major studios eventually because they don't have to submit to the ratings board for censorship or studio execs.

I was referring to ABC/NBC/FOX type banal cable shows but you're right there is some criticism and dissent showing up in those programs but the overwhelming theme is warrantless surveillance saves lives, torture by good guy's is always good, and alternative behavior out of societal norms still leads to doom.

"With more and more people not showing up to theaters anymore because they have home theatre"

Have there been many studies about this? (purely wondering)

I know I read something recently that 3D fatigue is setting in, where people are purposefully seeing 2D showings of 3D-shot movies.

But also, on a personal level, I'm noticing those around me are slowing their movie-theatre visits, simply because they aren't interested in movies with poor stories (or another movie that's just about CGI).

Maybe it's rarer now to get movies that have nice budgets with A-list stars and amazing screenwriting? It's fun watching special effects and all, but with that crutch there is a lower bar in the story-telling department, it would seem.

I used purely anecdotal evidence of my own circle of friends and interviews from directors about the future of cinema. Even the poor students I know who don't have huge flatscreens mainly use TV/Movie on demand piracy or hulu and netflix like services, and they only go to the theater for a special event.

I envision HBO releasing far more popular and original movies than Hollywood, and incorporating some form of social TV, so you can interact with other viewers. I already do this but in pirate channels showing re-runs of Star Trek and purely for the lulz, because it's comedy gold whenever 1st officer Beard hits on an ensign or Cmdr Vreenek declares it's a faaaake.

Quentin Tarantino has been giving a lot of interviews lately stating he'd rather work with HBO than film purely to avoid the arbitrary censorship of the ratings board and the studio who keeps demanding cuts to make the film more commercial. He'd rather write a 6hr series, so would most other writers to fully flesh out a good script. More and more Hollywood actors are showing up in cable movies, not because they need money but because they like the script and normally they get handed damsel in distress superhero love interest parts.

I think kids movies and comic book films or wacky James Cameron billion dollar spectacles will always do well in theater, but for the most part the average viewer would rather watch it on demand from the comfort of their own place and only show up for a monumental spectacle or a horror film to take a date to. Not like theaters are using film anymore anyways, they just push a button and play a digital print might as well watch that in your own place. FX are great, but it's the story that sucks you in.

This has been on my mind a lot lately, too. I'm glad I'm not the only one who has noticed this. I don't think there's any grand conspiracy, here -- Hollywood caricatures and over-simplifies pretty much everything. But it's disturbing to see how much of people's world view is shaped by such things.

Access to personal information isn't the only Hollywood idea that seems to have penetrated everyday thinking. People also seem to have an exaggerated sense of the capabilities of the government (and other large organizations), and see technological security issues as a sort of simplified arms race, where victory goes to whoever has the biggest force.

I think its interesting to compare how law enforcement movies differ in various countries:

- French is imho the most realistic: Police is corrupt and lazy, and they solve crime because they participate in crime.

- Western Germany (Tatort): The police is your friend and helper. Police officers are always acting correct, and they solve crimes mostly because the criminal does an error.

- Eastern Germany (Polizeiruf): The police is a working class hero, but most crimes are solved by denunciation. It was fairly common in communist German Polizeiruf that mothers and wifes denunciate their own child or man.

imho, TV is a propaganda machine, invented in WW2. Watching TV, should only be done in a reflecting context, regardless if you watch a Nazi movie like Jud-Suess, or an US crime movie.

- BBC: complex characters that often do bad to do good, must fight against their peers/superiors, societal/gender prejudices, make big mistakes, uncompromising but ultimately win out (Prime Suspect, Inspector series, Luther).

Now, what I've seen of their intel shows (Spooks, MI-5) not sure how nuanced they are.

Or, have the entirety of your allotted TV time spent smoking pot and watching cartoons. Don't have to worry about propaganda then!

I don't know its backstory, but from my relatively superficial perspective, I view the TV show "24" as one of the most successful instances of propaganda ever created.

I don't care what its individual participants may have to say about its role. "Everyone" seemed to be watching it, and it seems to at least correlate with an increasing public attitude in the U.S. that "the [t-word] could be / are everywhere". And with the attitude that "anything is justified" if it "stops them".

Seriously, if non-U.S. participants here want some insight into the recent U.S. psyche -- on a general level -- one good starting point would be to watch "24".

You're not wrong. 24's influence on public opinion on the question of torture was profound and significant -- especially among young people who were most likely to be attracted to careers in the military.

It got so bad that the dean of the US Military Academy at West Point begged them to stop, because he was distressed at the opinions about torture he was seeing among his cadets (http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2007/02/19/070219fa_fact_...):

U.S. Army Brigadier General Patrick Finnegan, the dean of the United States Military Academy at West Point, flew to Southern California to meet with the creative team behind “24.”...

Finnegan and the others had come to voice their concern that the show’s central political premise—that the letter of American law must be sacrificed for the country’s security—was having a toxic effect. In their view, the show promoted unethical and illegal behavior and had adversely affected the training and performance of real American soldiers. “I’d like them to stop,” Finnegan said of the show’s producers. “They should do a show where torture backfires.” ...

Finnegan told the producers that “24,” by suggesting that the U.S. government perpetrates myriad forms of torture, hurts the country’s image internationally. Finnegan, who is a lawyer, has for a number of years taught a course on the laws of war to West Point seniors—cadets who would soon be commanders in the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan. He always tries, he said, to get his students to sort out not just what is legal but what is right. However, it had become increasingly hard to convince some cadets that America had to respect the rule of law and human rights, even when terrorists did not. One reason for the growing resistance, he suggested, was misperceptions spread by “24,” which was exceptionally popular with his students. As he told me, “The kids see it, and say, ‘If torture is wrong, what about “24”?’ ”

They didn't stop, of course, but star Kiefer Sutherland did agree to speak at West Point to remind cadets that the show was fiction (http://www.hollywood.com/news/tv/3662740/u-s-army-invites-ki...).

Do you mean the same 24 where a generic Arab nation plants a nuke in LA?

...a plot that is revealed to be a frame up by a white oil tycoon to start a war and drive up the price of his product.

Thankfully in-show, the wise black president (in 2002!) has the sense to call his bombers off. IRL we got wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

It might seem like everyone watched 24 but in reality the viewership was around 11 million at its peak. Which is a good viewership for a TV serial but also means that 300 million Americans haven't seen it.

In this scenario, Hollywood glamorizes law enforcement by not only portraying LEOs as basically paladins who are working hard to "catch bad guys", but also by portraying all criminals as despicable villains who only seek to hurt others. This glamorization makes us want to be spied upon, as the narrative tells us that this allows the "good guys" to catch those who are trying to harm us.


Except, you know, all the movies where the antagonist is actually given a backstory or character development.

Example: Safe House where eventually the audience is shown that the reason Denzel Washington's character defects and turns on the CIA is because the CIA was doing clearly immoral things.

I know this narrative is attractive because it makes 'the masses' out to be sheep with you as the one that can see through it all, but it's the height of arrogance and you happen to be wrong.

>Except, you know, all the movies where the antagonist is actually given a backstory or character development.

The problem is that it's still oversimplifying. In movies like that the government agents become the wooden bad guys who can do no right, and then the general rule is that by the end of the movie they'll either be killed or arrested and everything will be right with the world once again.

In reality the world is not so black and white. Government agents invading privacy or otherwise breaking the law can have led long and distinguished careers and have caught legitimate bad guys. They may or not be corrupt or have illegitimate motives -- no doubt there are government officials who sincerely believe that dragnet surveillance is a good thing. You can have normal people who do bad things for good reasons, and it's still wrong and has to be stopped.

The Dark Knight kind of exemplifies the problem. Even when they're trying to give a justifiable treatment to the surveillance issue, at the end of the day the hero builds and uses the unreasonably invasive tools to save the day and is never brought to account for it by anyone. Because it allows them to be mealy mouthed pandering marketing trolls: The gung ho surveillance advocates get to see their arguments justified in fiction because the surveillance is necessary for the good guys to win while the anti-surveillance crowd gets to see the machine destroyed at the end. So Hollywood gets to avoid alienating any of the viewers by taking any kind of a real stand rather than making the hero face the hard choice and then do the right thing and catch the bad guys the right way instead of breaking the rules for expediency.

> uses the unreasonably invasive tools to save the day and is never brought to account for it by anyone.

Except that no one knows about it besides he and Fox, so how can he be brought to account for it by anyone?

Except that he tells Fox to destroy it precisely because it is so powerful and invasive.

> The problem is that it's still oversimplifying.

Except that in the exact movie I gave as an example, in the end the CIA explicitly is shown to be covering up the events of the movie and it is indicated that they will continue to do immoral things.

See my original comment about the reason why you find this theory so attractive.

I have never heard of the movie Safe House. But you're right about that plot type. I stand corrected.

To be honest, I think what the author is seeing is more about pacing than it is some grand conspiracy to make law enforcement look better.

To apply the same basic logic to another topic, consider hacking (the system intrusion kind). Hackers in movies generally slam right through the security system of new-to-them supposedly ultra-secure systems using software they wrote previously and just had sitting on their hard drives. Is Hollywood conspiring to show hackers as evil geniuses who don't need to work hard to break into the securest of systems? Nah, it is just that nobody wants to see all the mundane and time consuming shit that goes into the real activity. It is easier to just flash a screenshot of some program like nmap doing some scanning followed by a successful login prompt to the CIA supercomputer. Likewise it is easier for cops to just have easy access to whatever information because that moves things along faster than seeing them fill in paperwork in triplicate and bring it before a judge or whatever else it is they have to do IRL.

I kind of like how the entire 5 seasons of "The Wire" exist as counter to the oversimplifying many commenters are examining in cable shows.

You guys will probably think this site is "a little over the top" heh, but I think its very interesting: http://vigilantcitizen.com/category/moviesandtv/

"“Of course, many serial murders are nothing more than the work of a single individual acting out a graphic horror movie he saw, or responding to powerful “psychotic” impulses for aggression and predation. But many other serial murders involve a cult protected by the U.S. government and the corporate media, with strong ties to the police. These murders are actually intricately choreographed rituals; performed first on a very intimate and secret scale, among the initiates themselves in order to program them, them on a grand scale, amplified incalculably by the electronic media. In the end what we have is a highly symbolic, ritual working broadcast to millions of people, a Satanic inversion; a Black mass, where the “pews” are filled by the entire nation and through which humanity is paganized, brutalized and debased in this, the “Nigredo” phase of the alchemical process.

The French adept Antonin Artaud, architect of the theory of the “Theater of Cruelty” with its transformative power, and the inspiration for the extreme sex-and-death media of our time, had this to say about the processing of the Group Mind: ‘Aside from trifling witchcraft of country sorcerers, there are tricks of global hoodoo in which all alerted consciousnesses participate periodically… That is how strange forces are aroused and transported to the astral vault, to that dark dome which is composed above all of… the poisonous aggressiveness of the evil minds of most people… the formidable tentacular oppression of a kind of civic magic which will soon appear undisguised.’

The issue of controlling humanity with esoteric words and symbols encoded within a play, a media spectacular or a ritual is one of the most difficult for people to comprehend. That is why most people are viewed with utter contempt as “cowans,” “the profane,” the “gentiles” and the “goyim” (cattle) by secret society initiates. “I think we are farmed,” Charles Fort said of humanity. It was Fort who also suggested that man deliberately invented the dogma of materialism in order to shield himself from the evidence of what was being done to him by means of psycho- spiritual warfare methods hyped by “coincidence,” symbolism and ritual.”

- Michael A. Hoffman, Secret Societies and Psychological Warfare


I'm sure there is no truth to any of that though. Just ramblings of paranoid psychotics.

So.. do you have any examples of this?

Because I have a counter example: A large part of the drama in shows like Law and Order on the legal side comes from the process of acquiring a warrant or prosecuting a case where it turns out that the evidence was acquired unlawfully.


Homeland sticks out. Someone else mentioned hurt locker and others above.

"enemy of the state" the will smith movie.

How was surveillance promoted with that movie? If anything it showed the downsides of such surveillance (rogue operatives hijacking it for personal gain).

All of the Bourne movies

The same Bourne movies where the government is portrayed as being nefarious and overreaching and the people they 'look up' in their databases are foreign or domestic spies?

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