It’s no secret that the US military employs an incredibly sophisticated media strategy. Managing the press is a full time job for many military personnel and the favorable portrayal of military operations plays a major role in shaping popular opinion about a war. The documentary Control Room does a great job of exposing the military’s efforts to push favorable stories that inspire patriotism and bury others that might invite disapproval.
Enlisting American popular support in the eternal quest for expanded US influence abroad has long been a priority for the Department of Defense. “Patriotism: Have it Your Way," a 1978 Pentagon video narrated by a swaggering John Wayne, is a chest-pounding pride fest promoting the unflinching approval of US military operations. The video intersperses soldiers describing the meaning of “patriotism” with varying degrees of eloquence, and a run-down of US history as a sequence of wars, eventually culminating in righteous, freedom-defending, ass-kicking global dominance. (Hey, France: you’re welcome.)
These days the Pentagon has its own television channel that broadcasts content for US armed forces at home and abroad. Aside from operational news updates, the Pentagon channel creates original programming like “Fit for Duty” in which a military fitness expert takes the viewer through a 30-minute workout. “Recon” is a monthly half-hour segment that provides “an in-depth look at real-world operations, missions, military events / history and other subjects highlighting the accomplishments of U.S. military men and women.”
The Military Channel (not to be confused with the Pentagon channel) is run by Discovery Communications, also well-known for The Discovery Channel, Animal Planet and TLC. The Military Channel broadcasts mostly documentary content related to military history and emerging technologies in modern warfare. For example, a promo for season three of the show Future Weapons tempts us to “Watch Mack blow stuff up and shoot the most cutting edge guns. You know you want to.” Totally.
Meanwhile, “Backyard to Battlefield” showcases military inventions, including the puke ray and the fart bomb. (Killer.) There’s also “Top Sniper”, “Wounded Warriors” and “Triggers," if you hadn’t had your appetite for military actions satiated yet. If only John Wayne had been around to witness this tsunami of militarily packaged entertainment… He’d be so proud to see us having it our way.