In National Security Cinema: The Shocking New Evidence of Government Control in Hollywood (2017), Dr. Matthew Alford and Tom Secker offer convincing proof that the US Department of Defense, CIA and FBI have for decades used various means to manipulate content and even deny production of certain Hollywood projects, often using “national security” as a pretext to censor film and television. The real aim of these operations, according to the authors, is to advance “violent, American-centric solutions to international problems based on twisted readings of history.”
Alford is a Teaching Fellow at the University of Bath in England. He is also the author of Reel Power: Hollywood Cinema and American Supremacy (2010). Secker is a private researcher who runs spyculture.com—an online archive about government involvement in the entertainment industry.
Their book argues that the US military has had an influential relationship with Hollywood products since its earliest days. Alford and Secker point out that the Home Guard (reserve forces outside the National Guard) provided tanks for “the infamous feature film [D.W. Griffith’s] Birth of a Nation (1915), in which black slaves revolt against their masters, before the Ku Klux Klan ride in on horseback to save the day.”
Using the Freedom of Information Act, the authors gained access to files that exposed the extent of government censorship in films between 1911 and 2017. The DOD (Department of Defense, or Pentagon) provided military equipment and “advice,” and even allowed members of the military to make appearances, in exchange for some degree of control over the content of 814 films.
The authors continue, “If we include the 1,133 TV titles in our count, the number of screen entertainment products supported by the DOD leaps to 1,947. If we are to include the individual episodes for each title on long-running shows like 24, Homeland, and NCIS, as well as the influence of other major organisations like the FBI, CIA and White House then it becomes clear that the national security state has supported thousands of products.”
Alford and Secker offer the Transformer movie franchise (2007-2018 so far, most of it directed by Michael Bay) as an example of how the DOD reinforces its “national security” interests by using different “under the table” methods of influencing the making of what was (and still is) considered to be pure entertainment.