It’s no secret that Russians tried and continue to try to change the hearts and minds of Americans with an attack of false information posted on social media sites such as Facebook.
I’m not saying this as a political statement, but more a statement of fact. Let’s skip the discussion about their specific intent and look at the involvement of other countries in our media.
The elephant in the room is of course Facebook and an ability for any country or agents of their country to buy ads or placements designed to look like factual information but in reality are lies. This, in turn, convinced many people to look at all news as fake news.
Russia is not the first country to use misinformation to help win a war or confuse people. The United States successfully used misinformation to confuse Germany in World War II, including fake stories placed in newspapers, inflatable equipment to reflect staging areas that would be reviewed by an enemy reconnaissance, and other methods. There was no Internet in those days, so flyers with written appeals were dropped from airplanes to influence the hearts and minds of those people.
One major difference in the recent actions is that there was no declared war and we must now look at things as a continuing undeclared war.
Taking a look at influence on media, one has to go no further than the local movie theater. The influence of China on Hollywood has been well documented in recent years. I don’t think that they are influencing elections, but they have a tremendous impact on what goes into movies because the Chinese are now the largest audience for any movie.
The Dalian Wanda Group, a real estate and entertainment conglomerate owned by China’s richest man, Dalian Wanda, first purchased AMC entertainment, the parent of AMC theaters, and then Carmike Cinemas to become the largest theatrical exhibitor in America.
Wanda also purchased the Legendary Entertainment Group that has financed many major movies like “Jurassic World,” “Godzilla” and “Pacific Rim.” This is how Wanda describes Legendary on its webpage: “Legendary Entertainment is a leading media company with film (Legendary Pictures), television and digital (Legendary Television and Digital Media) and comics (Legendary Comics) divisions dedicated to owning, producing and delivering content to worldwide audiences.”
Not quite a declaration of war, but they are probably reaching just as many people as Russia did on Facebook.
Not only does that give them a tremendous influence of what goes into movies, it also gives them control over scheduling what movies are displayed at its theaters. One can only hope Wanda can do something about the filthy seats in the Clarion theater.
According to published reports, China’s box office grew from $863 million in 2002 to almost $8 billion in 2017.
It may also be about money instead of just influence, but the combination of money and influence may be even more dangerous.
At first, China’s interest in Hollywood movies may have been more directed at just buying up as many American companies as possible, but in recent years China has been interested in luring top-name actors as leads in some of its financed movies to mixed results.
The direction of China may have changed or increased by hiring directors and the talent behind the scenes to help produce the movies showing in China. One example is bringing the Russo Brothers, directors of “Captain America” and “Avengers: Infinity War” to come to China and bring their expertise for one of China’s films.
Even Disney was reportedly influenced with what would or wouldn’t be allowed in China (they still do sensor films there) by changing a character in “Dr. Strange.” The Ancient One was located in Tibet in the original Steve Dikto comic book. A screenwriter for the movie said Disney didn’t want Tibet mentioned because it might upset China and the movie might not be approved for release. Disney, or course, denied it.
Here was Screen Rant’s take on the controversy: “... common sense dictates that this is exactly the reason why Stephen Strange travels to Nepal, rather than Tibet, and why the Ancient One is Celtic instead of Tibetan. What’s particularly interesting about the screenwriter’s comments, however, is the implication that merely acknowledging the existence of Tibet would be ‘getting political’ on Marvel’s part, whereas dodging the China-Tibet issue entirely is somehow not political.”