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The military-entertainment complex is the cooperation between the military and entertainment industries to their mutual benefit, especially in such fields as cinema, multimedia and virtual reality.
In Hollywood, many movie productions are directly supervised by the Department of Defense's (DoD's) Film Liaison Unit. Directors looking to borrow Army material for their movies need to apply to the DoD, and submit their movies' scripts for vetting. Ultimately, the DoD has a say in virtually every US-made movie that use military resources in their production.
The movie Top Gun, produced by Jerry Bruckheimer and in collaboration with the Pentagon, aimed at rebranding the US Navy's image post-Vietnam war, and attract new Navy recruits. By the end of the 1980s and early 1990s, Hollywood producers were stressing script writers to create military-related plots to gain production power from the US Military.
Some US movies co-scripted with the DoD include:
- Air Force One (1997)
- Apollo 13 (1995)
- Armageddon (1998)
- Batman & Robin (1997)
- Behind Enemy Lines (2001)
- Black Hawk Down (2001)
- Deep Impact (1998)
- Godzilla (1998)
- Goldfinger (1964)
- I Am Legend (2007)
- Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)
- Iron Man (2008)
- Iron Man 2 (2010)
- The Jackal (1997)
- Jurassic Park III (2001)
- The Karate Kid Part II (1986)
- The Next Karate Kid (1994)
- King Kong (2005)
- The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
- Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986)
- Last Action Hero (1993)
- Top Gun (1986)
- Transformers (2007)
- True Lies (1994)
- Wonder Woman 1984 (2020)
- Wings (1927)
The website Spy Culture compiled a list of 410 DoD-sponsored movies.
In 2011, Washington Post journalist David Sirota questioned if that strategy was not unconstitutional, since the DoD directly influences the outcome of movie scripts (abridging freedom of speech) and uses public material (the Army's gear paid by the tax-payers) to grow its influence in the movie industry. Cybersecurity book-author Daniel Miessler asserted that the Army is not legally authorized to recruit young people on education premises, such as schools and college campuses, because of the students' tender age and psychological vulnerability, thus underlining the Army's unethical stand when it promotes itself all over the movie industry.
On YouTube, a new music video genre appeared, the military music videos. Typically, these are video clips portraying singers in military gears and surrounded by military vehicles and weapons. This video genre is used by the Army across the globe (list of examples below)
- Azerbaijan's State Border Service: QƏLƏBƏNİN YOLLARI
- National Army of Colombia: Espada de Honor
- People's Liberation Army: Battle Declaration
- Russian Airborne Forces:
- Iraqi Army: شمس المصلاوي - انا عراقية 
The United States Air Force has an official rock band, Max Impact, and released a punk version of its official anthem. In early 2019, the US Army released a promotional military hip hop video, "Giving All I got", with the explicit intent to get the attention of the younger crowd.
In February 2019, the armies of The People's Republic Of China and Republic Of China (more commonly Taiwan) made dueling propaganda videos, creating a music video battle. The PRC video (My War Eagles Are Flying Around The Treasured Island) showed PLA jets flying over the Republic Of China (Taiwan), and the ROCAF responded by showing muscles with the video clip Freedom Isn't Free glorifying the strength of the country's army.
In his book From Sun Tzu to Xbox, Ed Halter wrote "The technologies that shape our culture have always been pushed forward by war". Video games "were not created directly for military purposes, [they] arose out of an intellectual environment whose existence was entirely predicated on defense research". The first known virtual military training equipment, a flight simulator made of wood, was created in the 1920s by Edward Link. Since the Second World War, the US Army and its sub-agencies played a major role in the development of digital computers. The DARPA, an agency of the DoD, contributed to the development of Advanced computing systems, computer graphics, the Internet, multiplayer networked systems, and the 3-D navigation of virtual environments.
Arguably the first video game (faux-military simulation), the PDP-1-powered Spacewar!, was developed in 1962. The US Army's first video game created for training purposes, the board game Mech War, was implemented in the staff officer training curriculum in the 1970s at the Army War College. During the 1980s, Academic and military researchers led the development of distributed interactive simulations (DIS) that enable the creation of real-time, virtual theaters of war. The release by Atari of the game Battlezone was a revolution for the graphics perspective, introducing first-person shooter games for the first time. Donn A. Starry, head of the United States Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC), said in a conference in 1981: "[Today's soldiers have] learned to learn in a different world, ... a world of television, electronic toys and games, computers, and a host of other electronic devices. They belong to a TV and technology generation... [so] how is it that our soldiers are still sitting in classrooms, still listening to lectures, still depending on books and other paper reading materials, when possibly new and better methods have been available for many years?" The Air Force captain Jack A. Thorpe developed SIMNET with DARPA, a real-time distributed networking to modernize virtual simulation capacities and enable soldiers to experience war situation in times of peace. The magazine Wired argued this was the real embryo of the Internet.
After the first-person-shooter hit Doom came out in 1993, the Marine Corps Modeling and Simulation Office (MCMSO) released the online Personal Computer Based Wargames Catalog where Army personnel published detailed reviews of the video games they investigated. Doom became the MCMSO's absolute preference, and in 1995, the game Marine Doom was released, and the alien-themed graphics of the game's first version was replaced by military-themed graphics.
The U.S. Military has provided $53 million dollars in funding to professional sports organizations in exchange for pro-military messaging, such as a "salute" to active duty soldiers and war veterans.
Film Liaison Unit Heads
Philip Meredith Strub was the head of the DoD's Film Liaison Unit from 1989 to 2018. Strub oversaw the creation of "Dara", a DoD database of all entertainment productions that had approached the department for assistance. Strub received his bachelor's degree in political science from Saint Louis University in Missouri in 1968; was commissioned as a US Navy officer; and received a master's in cinema production in 1974 from the University of Southern California.
David Evans become head of the DoD's Film Liaison Unit after Strub's retirement in 2018. Evans spent 13 years as a public affairs specialist at the DoD and then spent four years working as Strub's deputy. Less is known about Evans than even Strub. Shortly after his appointment, his LinkedIn profile was deleted.
- The Military-Entertainment Complex: A New Facet of Information Warfare, The Fibreculture Journal, Issue 1 – 2003. Retrieved Apr 2013.
- Theaters of War: The Military-Entertainment Complex, Tim Lenoir and Henry Lowood, Stanford University, 2002. Retrieved Apr 2013.
- Tales Of The Military-Entertainment Complex: Why The U.S. Navy Produced 'Battleship', Movieline, 6 Feb 2013. Retrieved Apr 2013.
- Keegan, Rebecca (21 August 2011). "The U.S. military's Hollywood connection". Los Angeles Times.
- David Sirota (26 August 2011). "25 years later, how 'Top Gun' made America love war". Washingtonpost.com.
- Underhill, Stephen. "Complete List of Commercial Films Produced with Assistance from the Pentagon". Cite journal requires
- "Updated 'Complete' List of DOD Films". Spyculture.com. 23 November 2016.
- Daniel Miessler (27 December 2017). "How the U.S. Military Manufactures Consent Using Movies". Danielmiessler.com.
- Leopold, Jason; Henderson, Ky (9 September 2015). "Tequila, Painted Pearls, and Prada — How the CIA Helped Produce 'Zero Dark Thirty'". Vice News. Retrieved 4 May 2021.
- Amos Barshad (19 March 2018). "Enlisting audience: How Hollywood peddles propaganda". Theoutline.com.
- Matthew Gault (16 April 2018). "YouTube's Scariest Genre Is Military Music Videos". Vice.com.
- Helle Malmvig 'Soundscapes of War' The audio-Visual Performance of War International Affairs, 2020
- Matthew Cox (31 January 2019). "Army to Release Music Video Aimed at Recruiting Gen-Z". Military.com.
- Haley Britzky (1 February 2019). "The Army's Latest Recruiting Spot Is A Hip-Hop Ode To Service". Taskandpurpose.com.
- Ryan Pickrell (4 February 2019). "China and Taiwan are waging war online with these dueling military propaganda videos". Businessinsider.com.
- Corey Mead (19 September 2013). "Shall we play a game?: The rise of the military-entertainment complex". Salon.com.
- Simon Parkin (22 October 2014). "Call of Duty: gaming's role in the military-entertainment complex". Theguardian.com.
- David Sirota (16 March 2011). "How Your Taxpayer Dollars Subsidize Pro-War Movies and Block Anti-War Movies". Huffpost.com.
- "What is the Military-entertainment Complex? - Stuff They Don't Want You To Know". iHeartRadio. Retrieved 31 July 2021.
- Mach, Andrew (10 May 2015). "Report: Defense Dept. paid NFL millions of taxpayer dollars to salute troops". NPR. Retrieved 6 April 2021.
- Boren, Cindy (4 November 2015). "Report: At least 50 teams were paid by Department of Defense for patriotic displays". The Washington Post. Retrieved 6 April 2021.
- "DoD paid $53 million of taxpayers' money to pro sports for military tributes, report says". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved 31 July 2021.
- Weisman, Aly. "One Man In The Department Of Defense Controls All Of Hollywood's Access To The Military".
- Chadbourne, Lawrence. "Philip M. Strub, Biography".
- "Phil Strub Retired 6 Months Ago and No One Reported It".
- "To Tap Into the Military's Arsenal, Hollywood Needs the Pentagon's Blessing".
- Lenoir, Tim; Caldwell, Luke (19 February 2018). The Military-Entertainment Complex. Harvard University Press. ISBN 978-0674724983.
- Halter, Ed (31 May 2006). From Sun Tzu to Xbox. PublicAffairs. ISBN 978-1560256816.
- Alford, Matthew; Secker, Tom (27 June 2017). National Security Cinema: The Shocking New Evidence of Government Control in Hollywood. CreateSpace. ISBN 978-1548084981.
- Sirota, David (15 March 2011). Back to Our Future: How the 1980s Explain the World We Live in Now--Our Culture, Our Politics, Our Everything. Ballantine Book. ISBN 978-0345518781.
- Tim Lenoir, Henry Lowood, Theaters of war: the military-entertainment complex, Stanford University