WAR MADE EASY: HOW PRESIDENTS AND PUNDITS KEEP SPINNING US TO DEATH (2007)
Actors: Norman Solomon, Sean Penn | Directors: Loretta Alper, Jeremy Earp | Format: Color, DVD, NTSC, Widescreen | Language: English | Region: All Regions | Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 | Number of discs: 1 | Rating: NR (Not Rated) | Studio: The Disinformation Company | DVD Release Date: March 25, 2008 | Run Time: 72 minutes
Like many other documentaries about the war in Iraq and the Bush administration's foreign policy, War Made Easy states its case with persuasive details. There's just so much evidence to support the assertion that several wars have been sold to us like a consumer product we need to survive, and that the American public and more important, the shockingly compliant free press has bought the sales pitch hook, line and sinker.
Produced by the Media Education Foundation; narrated by Sean Penn (which automatically invites derision from the political right); and assembled from a telling variety of news clips, sound bites and archival war footage, War Made Easy is based on the 2005 book by political and media critic Norman Solomon, and deliberately limits its focus to Solomon as its only interview subject.
Armed with decades of documentary evidence, Solomon asserts that, especially since World War II, U.S. presidents have repeatedly sold avoidable wars based on fallacious arguments and deceptive manipulation of public support.
For much of the citizenry, Solomon, Penn and the filmmakers are preaching to the choir. But even the most ardent supporters of President Bush's policies would find it difficult to refute Solomon's thesis, which touches on the historical nature of propaganda, bombing raids approved under the pretense of political "altruism" and the manipulation of news media through omitted facts and outright lies designed to encourage pro-war sentiment while anti-war voices (the film mentions CNN's Peter Arnett and MSNBC's Phil Donahue) are summarily silenced.
It doesn't end there, and Bush is presented as merely the latest practitioner of pro-war manipulation. From the squelching of Vietnam Syndrome (the notion that Vietnam left a cynical American public resistant to future declarations of war) to the glaring repetition of slogans designed to lull the public into pro-war submission, War Made Easy combines historical perspective with contemporary relevance, focusing on recent events as further evidence that deceptive strategies to justify war are nothing new, but rather an ongoing pattern of calculated misdirection that has proved tragically effective. --Jeff Shannon, The Seattle Times
Narrated by Sean Penn and based on the work of media critic and best-selling author Norman Solomon, who traveled with Penn to Baghdad just before the war to call attention to the dangers of a U.S. invasion, WAR MADE EASY reaches into the Orwellian memory hole to expose 50 years of government spin and media collusion that has dragged our country into one war after another from Vietnam to Iraq. With remarkable archival footage of official distortion and exaggeration from LBJ to George W. Bush, the documentary exposes how presidential administrations of both parties have relied on a combination of deception and media complicity to sell one war after another to the American people.
Giving special attention to parallels between Vietnam and Iraq, WAR MADE EASY sets government spin and media collusion from the present alongside virtually identical patterns from the past, guided by Solomon s meticulous research and tough-minded analysis. Rare footage of political leaders and journalists from the past includes Presidents Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon, Defense Secretary Robert McNamara and news correspondents Walter Cronkite and Morley Safer. According to Solomon, whose work has been praised by The Los Angeles Times as brutally persuasive, the positive attention the film has received may indicate a new willingness to counter years of pro-war media spin and government deception. These deep patterns of ongoing perception management must be demystified and decoded if we're going to move beyond the horrors of perpetual war, he said. The way War Made Easy is being embraced could be an important step in that direction.
An Official Selection of 2007's International Documentary Film Festival in Amsterdam and the 2007 Montreal and Vancouver International Film Festivals, WAR MADE EASY, directed by Loretta Alper and Jeremy Earp, is an invaluable introduction to war propaganda and public relations that transcends partisan politics, and raises serious questions about the role of journalism and political communication in our society.