Why are the Pentagon and the CIA in Hollywood?

Tom Secker, Matthew Alford

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1 Citation (SciVal)


The CIA and the U.S. Department of Defense are both engaged in programs to influence the content of movies produced by Hollywood studios. Although they claim their only purpose in these ventures is to guarantee the accuracy of how military and intelligence activities are conducted, it is clear that their agenda goes beyond that goal. Their true aims include ensuring that movies project a positive image of the relevant government agencies. However, the CIA and DoD differ in their understanding of what constitutes good publicity. Films scrutinized and supported by military agencies are primarily evaluated according to whether they provide a vehicle for showing the technical and organizational competence of the Pentagon. To that end, films based on comic book characters or extraterrestrial invaders are viewed positively because they show the war-fighting capacity of the military without having to name any actual enemy. The CIA, by contrast, prefers to support films that enable citizens to develop a stronger sense of patriotism in a world of moral ambiguities. As a result, the CIA is much less fearful of revealing the dark side of its undertakings, as long as a given movie presents a story that shows the value of the CIA in protecting the security of the nation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)381-404
Number of pages24
JournalAmerican Journal of Economics and Sociology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Economics and Econometrics


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