Lights, Camera, Propaganda: Kerry Taps Hollywood For Help Countering ISIS’ Media War

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry walks with Vice Chairman of NBC Universal Ron Meyer through the Universal Studios lot in Burbank, California, on February 16, 2016, before meeting with a group of movie industry executives. (Photo: State Department)

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry walks with Vice Chairman of NBC Universal Ron Meyer through the Universal Studios lot in Burbank, California, on February 16, 2016, before meeting with a group of movie industry executives. (Photo: State Department)

LOS ANGELES — The U.S. government wants Hollywood to take a more active role in the propaganda battle against Daesh, judging by a recent meeting between Secretary of State John Kerry and film industry executives.

Kerry met with the heads of major studios on Feb. 16, according to media reports. Kerry took to Twitter to celebrate the gathering:

Daesh (an Arabic acronym for the terrorist group commonly known as ISIS or ISIL) has made extensive use of video and other multimedia elements in its recruitment campaigns posted to social media, YouTube, and elsewhere on the Internet. A recent Daesh video that borrowed clips from “Lion Of The Desert,” a historical action flick funded by the government of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi that featured notable Western actors like Rod Steiger, Anthony Quinn and Oliver Reed, may have been one inspiration for recruiting Hollywood to aid counter-extremism campaigns.

Ted Johnson, senior editor at Variety, noted that the meeting featured a prestigious collection of top studio influencers, which included:

Jeff Shell, chairman of Universal Filmed Entertainment Group; MPAA Chairman Chris Dodd; Warner Bros. Entertainment CEO Kevin Tsujihara; DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg; 20th Century Fox Chairman and CEO Jim Gianopulos; 20th Century Fox Co-Chair Stacey Snider; Sean Bailey, president of Walt Disney Motion Picture Production; Universal Pictures Chairman Donna Langley; Tom Rothman, chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment’s Motion Picture Group; Universal Pictures President Jimmy Horowitz; Amblin Partners CEO Michael Wright; and NBCUniversal Vice Chairman Ron Meyer.”

Shell, a fellow member with Kerry of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, organized the 90-minute meeting at Universal Studios, Johnson reported.

Kerry claims the meeting reflects a new approach to collaboration with the film industry, apparently trying to distance himself from past collaborations, according to a Feb. 18 report from CBS News:

Some critics felt the advice CIA officials gave to the makers of ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ led to a film that excused controversial torture techniques. Variety’s managing editor Ted Johnson said this week’s meeting took a different approach.

‘The government, from what I understand, is just trying to get ideas. They’re trying to get ideas on how they counter the message that ISIS is spreading,’ Johnson said.”

Jake Anderson, writing for The Anti-Media, suggested the meeting had more in common with past Hollywood-fueled propaganda than Kerry might like to admit.

It appears the United States government also wants to raise the stakes by more aggressively conscripting Hollywood’s media apparatus,” he wrote on Feb. 18.

“One might think the government would try to conceal such blatant efforts to influence public opinion on matters related to the military-industrial complex; instead, Kerry takes to social media to flaunt the federal government’s symbiotic working relationship with Hollywood.”

Michael Morell, a former deputy director of the CIA-turned-media pundit, also cast doubt on the effort, telling CBS News: “The reason the United States can’t be the brand behind the counter-narrative is because we have no credibility when we’re talking about Islam.”

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