HBO and Snapchat are Actively Working with the U.S. Government to Create Propaganda

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In 1953, Joseph Alsop, then one of America’s leading syndicated columnists, went to the Philippines to cover an election. He did not go because he was asked to do so by his syndicate. He did not go because he was asked to do so by the newspapers that printed his column. He went at the request of the CIA.

Alsop is one of more than 400 American journalists who in the past twenty‑five years have secretly carried out assignments for the Central Intelligence Agency, according to documents on file at CIA headquarters.

The history of the CIA’s involvement with the American press continues to be shrouded by an official policy of obfuscation and deception.

– From Carl Bernstein’s 1977 article: The CIA and the Media

What is art, when the artist is working with the host government to promote a particular message?

It is propaganda, and just because it’s your government doing it with the help of your friends and neighbors, doesn’t make it any less so. Even if you agree with the message, it is still propaganda. No wonder so many movies suck.

Today, we learn that both HBO and Snapchat are actively working with the U.S. State Department to push an anti-ISIS message. Again, even if the message is a good one, make no mistake about it, it is still propaganda. This is a very slippery slope, and something that Americans shouldn’t tolerate.

The National Journal reports:

The State De­part­ment is seek­ing a counter-nar­rat­ive to the pro­pa­ganda be­ing spread by IS­IS, and it is re­portedly turn­ing to some of Amer­ica’s pree­m­in­ent storytellers for help. Ac­cord­ing to The Daily Beast, ex­ec­ut­ives from both HBO and Snapchat are part of a team of film­makers and so­cial me­dia spe­cial­ists that’s brain­storm­ing how to hamper the ef­fect­ive­ness of ISIL’s mes­saging.

Notice that when ISIS does it, it’s propaganda, but when the U.S. government does it, it’s a “counter-narrative.”

Cit­ing un­named in­dustry and gov­ern­ment sources, The Daily Beast re­ports that HBO and Snapchat rep­res­ent­at­ives were in­vited to Sunny­lands, a Cali­for­nia re­treat known for host­ing im­port­ant gov­ern­ment fig­ures, in June to meet with State of­fi­cials on how best to counter the IS­IS nar­rat­ive, which has lured young men from the Middle East, Europe, and even the United States, to join its vi­ol­ent ranks. Mark Boal, the Oscar-nom­in­ated screen­writer of Zero Dark Thirty, is re­portedly part of the team as­sist­ing the State De­part­ment.

Ah, Zero Dark Thirty. Where have we hear about that before? Oh yeah…

Remember Zero Dark Thirty? Turns Out it was a CIA Propaganda Film After All

Now back to the National Journal:

Neither HBO nor Snapchat have re­spon­ded to re­quests for com­ment. The State De­part­ment, in a state­ment to Quartz, neither con­firmed nor denied the Daily Beastre­port but noted that film “is an es­pe­cially power­ful me­di­um for build­ing cross­cul­tur­al un­der­stand­ing” of world is­sues. It also said:

Through film, music, and the visual and performing arts, cultural diplomacy helps us make global connections with audiences that are traditionally harder to reach. By supporting creative expression, we help the development of civil society, promote positive role models, and amplify alternative voices. ”

Reread that paragraph from the State Department. Now read it again. I don’t think I could come up with a better definition of government propaganda if I tried.


Ac­cord­ing to The Daily Beast, the U.S. now wants to con­nect “in­flu­en­tial Hol­ly­wood fig­ures” with Middle East­ern film­makers, to pro­mote power­ful stor­ies of young people in the Middle East who have re­jec­ted IS­IS’s reign of ter­ror and are act­ively work­ing to make the re­gion a bet­ter place to live. 

Here’s a better suggestion for the U.S. State Department: Stop creating terrorist groups in the first place. And yes, the U.S. government is largely responsible for creating ISIS, as we learned in the following post:

Additional Details Emerge on How U.S. Government Policy Created, Armed, Supported and Funded ISIS

Thanks for playing.

In Liberty,
Michael Krieger