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‘Contagion’ or How Disaster Movies “Educate” the Masses

Posted by Admin on March 28, 2012

http://vigilantcitizen.com/moviesandtv/contagion-or-how-disaster-movies-educate-the-masses/

By  | March 8th, 2012 | Category: Movies and TV | 256 comments

Hollywood movies are usually presented as a form of entertainment, but their plots often conceal a specific agenda. “Disaster movies”, films about the end of the world through various mass crises, are particularly interesting as they all follow the same basic formula and glorify the same entities. In this article, we’ll look at the disaster movie ‘Contagion’ and how it “teaches” its viewers who to trust and who not to trust during a crisis.

Most people watch movies to be entertained. Well, I for one can say that there was absolutely nothing entertaining about Contagion. In fact, the only difference between this movie and state-sponsored educational movies shown in schools is that with Contagion you actually have to pay to be indoctrinated … and to see Matt Damon. During the cold war, students were shown videos instructing them to “Duck and Cover” in case of a nuclear attack. Contagion conditions the masses to expect martial law and to throw themselves at the first available vaccine in case of a crisis.

Featuring Hollywood mega-stars like Matt Damon, Laurence Fishburne, Jude Law and Gwyneth PaltrowContagion is a big-ticket Hollywood movie, but also an infomercial promoting specific national and international agencies while encouraging specific behaviors from the public. The plot of the movie appears to follow the big H1N1 scare of 2009 that left many citizens uncertain about the actual risk of the virus. Indeed, after months of terrifying news crowned by a massive vaccination campaign, an important portion of the population concluded that the H1N1 scare was grossly exaggerated and and thought that a vaccine was unnecessary.

This poll taken in November 2009 shows that 53% Canadians believed that the risks associated with the H1N1 virus were exaggerated.

In the wake of this “crisis”, the UN’s World Health Organization (known as the WHO) was harshly criticized and even accused of colluding with Big Pharma to sell vaccines. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (the CDC) also had its credibility tarnished as investigations revealed that the agency misled the public regarding the number of actual cases of H1N1 (for example, see this report from CBS News). As a result, these two agencies needed a good PR stunt to restore their credibility and to scare the hell out of the public. This is where Contagioncomes in.

Directed by Steven SoderberghContagion was produced with the active cooperation of the CDC, the WHO and other governmental organizations and its function is clear: To present a hyper-realistic disaster scenario to justify the vaccination campaigns promoted by these agencies while discrediting those who criticize them.

Nothing in the movie hints that it is a work of fiction. Quite to the contrary, everything in Contagionis made to be as realistic as possible, using actual locations and governmental agencies, to make the story as plausible – and as frightening to the masses – as possible. As the slogan of the movie says: “Nothing spreads like fear” and, boy, does it try to spread fear. This movie’s message is: “Nothing was exaggerated, and next time there’s a virus outbreak, listen to us … or you’ll die”.

The Function of Disaster Movies

Disaster movies are often action-packed thrill rides that venture in the sometimes fascinating “what if that happened” side of things. While some are very over-the-top and border on fantasy, others, like Contagion, emphasize realism and actual events. These movies tend to “hit home” with the viewers because they lead them to think “this could happen to me”. Disaster movies exploit the latent fear that recent events caused on the psyche on the masses, tapping into the anxiety and trauma they cause in order to create tension and terror in the viewers. Then, the “agenda” aspect of these movies kick in as they propose to the viewers the best (and only) way these issues can be resolved. Specific groups and agencies are cast as honorable, helpful and trustworthy during the time of crisis, while others are portrayed as hindrances and even traitors. The drama that follows becomes a case of predictive programming, as the steps taken in the movie to resolve the problem will thereafter appear normal to the masses if they ever occur in real life.

In his book Propagandes Silencieuses (Silent Propaganda), the journalist and writer Ignacio Ramonet describes the always present underlying message found in disaster movies:

“In all cases, the disaster causes a kind of ‘state of emergency’ that hands all powers and modes of transportation to state authorities: the police, the army or “the crew”. Portrayed as the ultimate recourse, these institutions are the only ones capable of facing the dangers, the disorder and the decay threatening society thanks to their structure and technical knowledge. (…) As if it was impossible to present to the general public a disaster that is not resolved by state authorities and governmental powers.”
– Ignacio Ramonet, “Propagandes Silencieuses” (free translation)

Along with the all-importance of authorities, the masses are inevitably presented as a herd of idiots prone to panic that must be kept in the dark.

“Another constant found in disaster movies is the infantilization of civilians. The full amplitude of the catastrophe and the danger the masses are facing is often hidden from them. They are kept out of any decision making process, with the exception of managers and technical specialists (engineers, architects, entrepreneurs) who are sometimes called to intervene in the crises, but always through state authorities.

The general public is often distracted with pointless entertainment and encouraged to obey without question to a ‘paternal and benevolent’ elite that is doing everything (to the point of self-sacrifice) to protect them.

These aspects, along with others, prove that disaster movies, beyond their entertaining value, also present a ‘political response’ to a crisis. Behind a naive mode of fantastic storytelling, a silent message is communicated to the public: the ruler’s profound desire to see entities such as the army, the police or ‘prominent men’ take charge of the restoration and the rebuilding of a society in crisis, even if this means partially sacrificing democracy”.
– Ibid.

Contagion follows Ramonet’s blueprint of disaster movies to a tee. Right from the start, specific organizations are identified as the go-to guys and are automatically given the power to act on a massive scale, namely FEMA, the WHO, the American Red Cross and the CDC.

So what solution does Contagion propose in case of the outbreak of deadly disease? Martial law and mass vaccinations. What will happen if ever an actual disease would break out? Martial law and mass vaccinations. Would the masses questions this type of drastic response to a crisis which might or might not be necessary? No, because hundreds of hours of media content have prepared the masses for this kind of situation. Let’s look at the main components and messages found in Contagion.

Fear Spreads Faster Than Germs

The movie starts by showing how a few sick people, who go about their daily routine, can easily contaminate thousands of people. The point of the introduction is simple: A deadly virus can spread around the world in a matter of days. This realistic yet terrifying scenario is a very effective way to grip the audience and to cause a state of fear. During these scenes, the camera focuses for a few extra seconds on common objects that can transmit germs such as drinking glasses, just long enough for the viewer to realize: “Hey, I sometimes touch these things! That could be me! Aaaah!”

This sick guy could infect the entire bus. To add to the drama and scare factor, they name big cities and their population.

Beware of glasses of water being handed to you…

Not even a mother’s hug is safe.

Most of those who are infected with the virus do not live long. In a series of heartbreaking scenes, one of the main characters, Mitch Emhoff (played by Matt Damon), sees his wife and his son lose their lives to the virus. Viewers watching this tragedy play out are led to think “Hey, that’s the most terrible thing could happen to me! AAaaah!”

Watching Beth Emhoff (played by Gwyneth Paltrow) die from the virus is quite disturbing and certainly helps create a climate of fear.

This movie was released only a two years after the outbreak of H1N1 and the media hype that surrounded it, so that fear is still latent in many people. These scenes from Contagion reactivates the “fear virus” that was planted in people … and adds some. After a few minutes of panic-inducing scenes, most viewers will say “Oh my God, someone do something about this virus! This guy lost his wife and child, that’s awful! AAArgh!”. Heroes do step up to the plate and take charge of things … and it just so happens that they were involved in the making of the movie.

The Organizations That Take Charge

In Contagion, as soon as the virus becomes a threat, the entire American government escapes to an “undisclosed location” and “looks for a way of working online”. Meanwhile, specific real-life non-government organizations (NGOs) are identified by the movie as the “heroes” and the go-to people to handle the crisis. These organizations are promoted to the viewers and are given automatic legitimacy and trustworthiness. However, those who are educated about the world elite’s agenda for a New World Order know that these organizations have been know to push that agenda and everything that goes with it. In short, the movie says: “If a crisis like this happens, the government will disappear, democracy will be suspended and NGOs will take over”.

The agencies identified by the movie  are:

The CDC (Center for Disease Control), which has always heavily promoted vaccinations campaigns.

The World Health Organization (WHO) – which was accused, in the wake of the H1N1, of spreading “fear and confusion rather than immediate information”. In the movie however, the WHO is an important factor in the resolution of the problem.

FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) and the American Red Cross manage the civilians. Contagion, shows viewers how emergency situations could quickly lead to martial law, which would automatically lead to the creation of civilian camps ran by FEMA, who needed some good PR after Hurricane Katrina.

Of course, the U.S. army is all over the place since martial law is defined as the “imposition of military rule by military authorities over designated regions on an emergency basis”.

So, in the wake of a “biological crisis”, the democratically elected American government basically dissolves and specific organizations (CDC, WHO, FEMA, the U.S. Army) take charge of all aspects of society. And this “taking charge” proceeds in a very specific way: Martial law and civilian camps.

Martial Law

In Contagion, the deadly virus is called MEV-1 and the social result of the outbreak is portrayed in a specific way. First, the general population, always depicted as idiotic, cattle-like and prone to violence, spirals out of control. The masses are always shown panicking, yelling, stealing, fighting and looting. This leads to a general breakdown of social order and a state of lawlessness.

A bunch of rude people looting a pharmacy to obtain medication.

Wherever regular people are put together, all sort of crap ensues. This goes along with the concept of “infantilization” of the masses, who require to be taken charge by “fatherly” authorities. And boy do the authorities take over.

The US Army imposes Martial Law and places the State of Minnesota in quarantine, blocking all traffic out of the state. Those who seek to leave the state are told to turn around and go back home.

Citizens are then directed to FEMA camps.

This stadium has been turned into a FEMA camp.

Civilians (even healthy ones) have their rights revoked and are directed to FEMA camps where they are fed and lodged. In this scene, the lack of “individual meals” to feed all of the camp’s population causes a small riot.

The Conspiracy Theorist

If specific groups and organizations are identified by the movie as “competent” and “trustworthy”, other groups get a very different treatment, namely alternative media. Personified by a blogger named Alan Krumwiede (played by Jude Law), alternative media are presented as unreliable sources bent on sensationalism and profit. In other words, the movie implies that information that does not come from “official” sources is invalid and potentially dangerous. Not exactly a pro-free-speech message.

“Truth Serum”, a blog run by Alan Krumwiede, resembles the many “alternative news” website around the web. This type of information, which does not come from mass media or governmental sources, is definitely not portrayed in a positive light.

Right from the start, Alan Krumwiede is portrayed as a somewhat dodgy blogger with a questionable work ethic and who does not get much respect from the journalistic nor the scientific community. When he tries to get one of his stories published in a newspaper called The Chronicle, he gets rejected due to lack of evidence behind his story. When he contacts a scientist regarding the virus, the scientist replies: “Blogging is not writing, it’s graffiti with punctuation”.

Despite this lack of respect from “competent” bodies, Alan Krumwiede has a wide audience and proudly boasts “millions of unique visitors per day” on his website. On it, he claims that a cure for the MEV-1 virus exists and is named Forsythia but it is repressed by the powers that be to sell vaccines. He also urges his readers not to take the vaccine that is given out by authorities.

The government apparently does not tolerate this kind of dissent. Krumwiede gets set up by an undercover agent to get him arrested. When he discovers the ploy against him the agent tells Krumwiede: “Alan, I didn’t have a choice, they’ve seen your blog”. Government agents then appear out of nowhere and arrest Krumwiede for “security fraud, conspiracy and most likely man slaughter”.

Krumwiede is arrested due to the contents of his blog. Contagion sends out a powerful message against “alternative” information sources: Diverging from “official sources” is dangerous and against the law.

It is later learned that Forsythia was a lie and that Krumwiede made 4.5 million dollars by promoting it to his readers. The chief of Homeland Security wants to put him in jail for a “long, long time”. However, due to his popularity, Krumwiede makes bail because, as the chief of Homeland Security states: “Evidently, there are 12 million people as crazy as you are”.

The character of Alan Krumwiede and the way he is portrayed is interesting for several reasons. First, he reflects the growing influence of blogs and alternative websites on public opinion – a recent phenomena that does not sit well with the elite that seeks to have the monopoly of information. By depicting this character as dishonest, corrupt and even dangerous to the public, the movie justifies the shunning of such writers and even their arrest. Nobody in the movie seems to mind that all of this is in direct violation of the First Amendment.

Second, when the H1N1 vaccine was released in 2009 and mass vaccination campaigns were organized, many citizens and authoritative figures including public health officials, doctors and specialists spoke against it. They claimed that the vaccine was unnecessary, insufficiently tested and that it had negative side-effects. By associating the corrupt figure of Alan Krumwiede with the “anti-vaccine movement”, the movie discredits all of those who question the necessity of mass vaccination campaigns. If another virus should strike, viewers of Contagion might be more prone to ignore these movements. In other words, the movie says: “Conspiracy theorists are corrupt liars that are dangerous to public safety and they should be arrested. Do not listen to them. They make money off phony cures. HOWEVER, those who make even more money off phony vaccines are good. Listen to authorities and get the vaccine … or you’ll die.”

The Ultimate Solution

After months of horror and hundreds of millions of deaths, a final solution emerges and saves humanity: Mass vaccination.

The only solution to do virus problem? A mass vaccination campaign.

Those who receive the vaccine get the privilege of wearing a scannable wristband. This allows them to go to public places such as shopping malls.

You get vaccinated, you get a barcode and go places. You don’t get vaccinated, you stay at home … and you die.

In Conclusion

Contagion may be presented as a work of fiction, but it communicates several important messages that authorities need the public to accept. To do so, the movie defines a specific problem that has actually occurred in the past, it identifies the agencies that have the right to take charge of the situation and proposes the only solution required to fix the problem. That solution is not pretty: The dissolution of the government, the imposition of martial law, the creation of civilian camps, forced vaccination campaigns and the suppression of free speech. Democracy and civil rights are summarily suspended and we witness the establishment of a highly controlled and monitored society (using barcodes).

Are disaster movies such as Contagion solely created for entertainment or are they also used to teach the public about what is acceptable and what is not when a disaster occurs? Would the World Health Organization participate in a movie simply to entertain people? Interesting fact: The movie was released on DVD at the same time the WHO got accused of exaggerating the death rate of the new H5N1 bird flu. The WHO has also recently allowed the publication of controversial research describing the creation of a mutant and highly contagious version of the virus. Could a weaponized version of the virus be purposely released on the public to justify martial law? Wait, maybe I shouldn’t say things like that. I don’t want to get arrested for “security fraud, conspiracy and most likely man slaughter”.

 

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25 years later, how ‘Top Gun’ made America love war

Posted by Admin on September 30, 2011

http://vigilantcitizen.com/latestnews/25-years-later-how-%E2%80%98top-gun%E2%80%99-made-america-love-war/

By  | September 19th, 2011 | Category: Latest News | 102 comments

Here’s an interesting article from the Washington Post about the heavy influence of the Pentagon on the funding and production of Hollywood movies, making them a little more than propaganda disguised as entertainment.

Americansare souring on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The military budget is under siege as Congress looks for spending to cut. And the Army is reporting record suicide rates among soldiers. So who does the Pentagon enlist for help in such painful circumstances?Hollywood.

In June, the Army negotiated a first-of-its-kind sponsorship deal with the producers of “X-Men: First Class,” backing it up with ads telling potential recruits that they could live out superhero fantasies on real-life battlefields. Then, in recent days, word leaked that the White House has been working with Oscar-winning director Kathryn Bigelow on an election-year film chronicling the operation that killed Osama bin Laden.

A country questioning its overall military posture, and a military establishment engaging in a counter-campaign for hearts and minds — if this feels like deja vu, that’s because it’s taking place on the 25th anniversary of the release of “Top Gun.”

That Jerry Bruckheimer blockbuster, made in collaboration with the Pentagon, came out in the mid-1980s, when polls showed many Americans expressing doubts about the post-Vietnam military and about the constant saber rattling from the White House. But the movie’s celebration of sweat-shined martial machismo generated $344 million at the box office and proved to be a major force in resuscitating the military’s image.

Not only did enlistment spike when “Top Gun” was released, and not only did the Navy set up recruitment tables at theaters playing the movie, but polls soon showed rising confidence in the military. With Ronald Reagan wrapping military adventurism in the flag, with the armed forces scoring low-risk but high-profile victories in Libya and Grenada, America fell in love with Maverick, Iceman and other high-fivin’ silver-screen super-pilots as they traveled Mach 2 while screaming about “the need for speed.”

Today, “Top Gun” lives on in cable reruns, in the American psyche and, most important, in how it turned the Hollywood-Pentagon relationship into a full-on Mav-Goose bromance that ideologically slants films from their inception.

The 1986 movie, starring Tom Cruise and Kelly McGillis, was the template for a new Military-Entertainment Complex. During production, the Pentagon worked hand-in-hand with the filmmakers, reportedly charging Paramount Pictures just $1.8 million for the use of its warplanes and aircraft carriers. But that taxpayer-subsidized discount came at a price — the filmmakers were required to submit their script to Pentagon brass for meticulous line edits aimed at casting the military in the most positive light. (One example: Time magazine reported that Goose’s death was changed from a midair collision to an ejection scene, because “the Navy complained that too many pilots were crashing.”)

Although “Top Gun” was not the first movie to exchange creative input for Pentagon assistance and resources, its success set that bargain as a standard for other filmmakers, who began deluging the Pentagon with requests for collaboration. By the time the 1991 Persian Gulf War began, Phil Strub, the Pentagon’s liaison to the movie industry, told the Hollywood Reporter that he’d seen a 70 percent increase in the number of requests from filmmakers for assistance — effectively changing the way Hollywood works.

As Mace Neufeld, the producer of the 1990 film “The Hunt for Red October,” later recounted to Variety, studios in the post-“Top Gun” era instituted an unstated rule telling screenwriters and directors to get military cooperation “or forget about making the picture.” Economics drives that directive, Time magazine reported in 1986. “Without such billion-dollar props, producers [have to] spend an inordinate amount of time and money searching for substitutes” and therefore might not be able to make the movie at all, the magazine noted.

Emboldened by Hollywood’s obsequiousness, military officials became increasingly blunt about how they deploy the carrot of subsidized hardware and the stick of denied access to get what they want. Strub described the approval process to Variety in 1994: “The main criteria we use is . . . how could the proposed production benefit the military . . . could it help in recruiting [and] is it in sync with present policy?”

Robert Anderson, the Navy’s Hollywood point person, put it even more clearly to PBS in 2006: “If you want full cooperation from the Navy, we have a considerable amount of power, because it’s our ships, it’s our cooperation, and until the script is in a form that we can approve, then the production doesn’t go forward.”

The result is an entertainment culture rigged to produce relatively few antiwar movies and dozens of blockbusters that glorify the military. For every “Hurt Locker” — a successful and critical war film made without Pentagon assistance — American moviegoers get a flood of pro-war agitprop, from “Armageddon,” to “Pearl Harbor,” to “Battle Los Angeles” to “X-Men.” And save for filmmakers’ obligatory thank you to the Pentagon in the credits, audiences are rarely aware that they may be watching government-subsidized propaganda.

Until this year, this Top Gun Effect seemed set in stone. But a quarter-century after that hagiographic tribute to the military’s “best of the best,” an odd alignment of partisan interests has prompted some in Congress to question the arrangement.

Rep. Peter T. King (R-N.Y.), who chairs the House Homeland Security Committee, recently sent letters to the CIA and the Defense Department demanding an investigation of the upcoming Bin Laden movie. He criticized the practice of granting ideologically compliant filmmakers access to government property and information that he says should be available to all. The “alleged collaboration belies a desire of transparency in favor of a cinematographic view of history,” he argued.

Considering King’s previous silence on such issues, it’s not clear whether he’s standing on principle; more likely, he is trying to prevent a particular piece of propaganda from aiding a political opponent. Yet, even if inadvertent, King’s efforts make possible a broader look at how the U.S. government uses taxpayer resources to suffuse popular culture with militarism.

If and when King holds hearings on the matter, we could finally get to the important questions: Why does the Pentagon treat public hardware as private property? Why does the government grant and deny access to that hardware based on a filmmaker’s willingness to let the Pentagon influence the script? And doesn’t such a practice violate the First Amendment’s prohibition against government abridging freedom of speech?

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