Governments around the world spend a ridiculous amount of money on propaganda campaigns to convince either foreigners or their own people that everything is going fine and that their president/monarch/dictator is still, like, the greatest. But propagandists kind of have to work like pickpockets; if they do their job right, the mark will never know they even exist.
That's why it's always hilarious to see how clumsy and tone-deaf most propaganda is. Either these people are terrible at their jobs, or that's just what they want us to think.
6America Plants Secret Anti-Immigration Messages In Foreign Pop Songs
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In 2014, a hit new song began to climb the charts on Central American radio. "La Bestia" is an upbeat, jaunty as hell tune that sounds like it could be the theme to Zorro, unless you speak Spanish, in which case you realize this earworm is laying eggs in your brain that will hatch into nightmares.
With lyrics like "The route to hell within a cloud of pains" and "A mortar that crushes, a machete that slices," "La Bestia" tells the story of migrants who travel to America on one of Mexico's freight trains -- or as the song describes it, "this wretched train of death with the Devil in the boiler." The message is clear: If you're thinking about migrating to America, you're probably going to suffer a violent death so miserable that your family won't even remember you to mourn your passing.
The geniuses behind this Hispanic approximation of a Creedence song? None other than the US Customs and Border Protection Agency. It's one of several songs that the US government commissioned to be produced and snuck onto Hispanic radio playlists in an attempt to convince people that attempting to reach the Land of the Free means crossing the apparently Mordor-like hellscape of Central America, and it's better to deal with the cartels.
"One does not simply walk to the border."
Of course, Border Protection doesn't disclose the fact that they commissioned the project, so even radio station employees often don't know that the songs are part of a government propaganda campaign, let alone their listeners.
And the USA isn't the only government sneaking anti-immigration messages into foreign entertainment. In 2015, the Australian government handed over $4 million to a production agency to make a movie for Afghan, Syrian, and Iraqi television about the dangers of trying to take a boat to Australia, featuring plotlines about refugees drowning at sea or winding up in one of Australia's deeply unpleasant detention centers. "Trust us, you're better off waiting for the pesky wars to blow over, mate!"
5China Has An Addiction To Insane Anti-Japanese War Movies
It's notoriously difficult to make film and TV in China, due to the ruling Communist Party's incredibly tough censorship laws. The Chinese government will veto anything they find morally questionable or scientifically unsound, from violence to sexuality to time travel to ghosts, and even propagating a "negative or passive outlook on life" can get a production canned. If they're politically offensive enough, a director can even get banned from shooting anything besides iPhone videos of their cat.
"That cat has appeared in multiple pro-west GIFs. Banned."
Luckily, there's a cheat code to almost guarantee that your artistic vision gets the green light: Simply set the show during Japan's brutal World War II occupation of the country. Oh yeah, and make the communists look like the most heroic badasses who ever waged a guerrilla war. Anti-Japan war dramas have become a favorite genre of the Party, and consequently of filmmakers who just want to blow some shit up without being hassled by the Man.
Over 2011 and 2012, nearly one in every five TV dramas that scored government approval were about the war against Japan. In 2013, Hengdian World Studios was filming 48 of them at the same time. And the best of them make Inglourious Basterds look like a documentary. Highlights include Fabulous Resisting-Japan Hero, wherein a Chinese warrior goes full Mortal Kombat on Japanese soldiers with his bare hands.
This move is known as "splitting the chopsticks."
Then there's The Girl With The Arrows, about a woman who gets raped by Japanese soldiers and immediately develops Hawkeye-scale archery skills.
But perhaps the genre's finest hour is 2015's Let Us Fight The Devils Together, which features a woman blowing up a POW camp after smuggling a bomb inside a dildo.
Of course, the Chinese youth aren't quite as susceptible to large-scale brainwashing as their government seems to believe, so it has been popular in recent years to ruthlessly mock what they nickname "Resisting Japanese Bizarre Dramas," laughing their asses off at the SyFy-level awfulness of the productions and generally taking them about as seriously as Sharknado is taken as a genuine PSA about shark-related weather phenomena.
In response to rising cynicism, Chinese censors attempted to crack down on "overly entertaining" war dramas in 2013. But they're not ready to give up on the genre altogether. In 2015, leading up to the 70th anniversary of the end of the war, they forced TV stations to run 120 hours of programming about it.