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Spy Culture

Spy Culture - 2019-05-21 - Original post - cached version
1988's The Presidio wanted to film at the real Presidio in San Francisco, an Army installation.  As per usual this required a full military script review, but the DOD responded demanding a 'complete rewrite' before they would approve access to the base.  The resulting film bears little resemblance...
Spy Culture - 2019-05-20 - Original post - cached version
The US military's ever-expanding portfolio of recruitment efforts just broke new ground: the Professional Fighters League.  This mixed martial arts league is watched the world over and a recent event in Nassau was sponsored by Air Force Special Ops and the Air Force Reserve Command.  It seems no...
Spy Culture - 2019-05-19 - Original post - cached version
Monster movies are one of the most beloved and distinctive genres in cinema, featuring a winning combination of exotic spectacle, ground-breaking visual effects and reflections on humanity’s relationship with nature. This week I examine the politics and ideas behind some of the most recognisable...
Spy Culture - 2019-05-15 - Original post - cached version
In 1998 retired FBI deputy director Cartha DeLoach was asked by the producers of The X-Files to review the script for an episode of the show that was set in the 1950s.  The FBI recently released DeLoach's response to the producers, where he branded the script 'very entertaining but Sophmorish',...
Spy Culture - 2019-05-14 - Original post - cached version
In a guest article for Spy Culture my good friend and co-author of National Security Cinema Matt Alford reviews Ben Shapiro's book Primetime Propaganda. Matt examines whether Shapiro's central premise - that there is a left/liberal bias in entertainment media - is actually true, and presents some...
Spy Culture - 2019-05-13 - Original post - cached version
On this month's subscriber-only podcast I review one of my favourite films of all time - Starship Troopers. I discuss the film's dual narratives, how it is an anti-war film disguised as a piece of war propaganda, and why it was so misunderstood when it first came out. I outline my view that...
Spy Culture - 2019-05-08 - Original post - cached version
Chris and Danny invited me back onto their podcast to discuss the 1994 comedy-drama Forrest Gump.  We talked about the original book by Winston Groom as well as McNamara's 100,000 - a project to recruit troops into the US Army who would normally have fallen below the required standards.  We honed...
Spy Culture - 2019-05-08 - Original post - cached version
The 2005 biographical war film Jarhead is one of a very small number of films set in the first Gulf War.  Despite being based on the autobiography of a Marine who served in Desert Storm the DOD refused to provide it with military support.  But how can a film based on a first-hand account not meet...
Spy Culture - 2019-05-06 - Original post - cached version
Superman is one of the world’s most recognisable cultural icons. A symbol of human idealism, he has been subject to a range of political and philosophical agendas over the last 80 years. This week I analyse the ideas behind Superman, and how they have manifested and changed throughout the course...
Spy Culture - 2019-05-02 - Original post - cached version
The Superman reboot Man of Steel launched the (now abandoned) DC Extended Universe, and put a much darker tinge on the Superman franchise than any previous incarnation, especially the Christopher Reeve classics.  Man of Steel benefited from large-scale support from the military, but hidden until...
Spy Culture - 2019-05-01 - Original post - cached version
I recently saw Avengers: Endgame and it’s a pretty spectacular end to the Marvel Cinematic Universe as we know it. It is also the greatest piece of promotion for the predominant economic model of our time that I’ve ever seen.

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Spy Culture - 2019-04-30 - Original post - cached version
In 1977 the producers of Superman and Superman II approached the Pentagon to try to obtain stock footage of missiles launching, for use in depicting Lex Luthor's dastardly plot to nuke the San Andreas fault.  The Air Force and Strategic Air Command were provided with copies of the script in order...
Spy Culture - 2019-04-28 - Original post - cached version
Black Panther and Django Unchained are perhaps the two most successful movies featuring black actors in lead roles that Hollywood has ever made. But are they as radical as they seem? This week I analyse these films, how they operate as emotive fantasies for black audiences. Focusing in on the dual...
Spy Culture - 2019-04-25 - Original post - cached version
In my latest article for Shadowproof I examine the FBI's role in the Mark Felt biopic Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House.  Using documents obtained under FOIA and an interview with Ed Gray, the son of FBI acting director Pat Gray (who is depicted in Mark Felt) I reveal the film's...
Spy Culture - 2019-04-24 - Original post - cached version
The 2010 thriller Unthinkable courted controversy by depicting the torture of a suspected terrorist who claims to have planted nuclear bombs in three US cities. Despite a strong cast including Samuel L Jackson, Carrie-Ann Moss and Stephen Root it was released direct-to-video and lost money....
Spy Culture - 2019-04-24 - Original post - cached version
There are many reasons to dislike Game of Thrones - the endless hype, the gratuitous sex and violence in lieu of a meaningful plot, the experience of having to listen to fans of the show blather on long after you've told them you don't watch the show and aren't interested.  The CIA have just added...
Spy Culture - 2019-04-23 - Original post - cached version
Deep Impact is one of a pair of twin films released in 1998 that were based around a giant meteor colliding with earth. The film and its twin, the more successful Armageddon, were both supported by NASA and the Department of Defense. Inevitably, this meant script changes to fit in with the...
Spy Culture - 2019-04-21 - Original post - cached version
While it is now considered a Cold War classic Ice Station Zebra was a flop when it was first released. This week, I review Ice Station Zebra and analyse the development of the film, how it differs quite radically from the book, and why the DOD rejected an early version of the script, leading to a...
Spy Culture - 2019-04-18 - Original post - cached version
On this month's subscriber-only podcast I break down a 2016 interview with British political satirist Armando Iannucci by Chatham House, a.k.a. the Royal Institute of International Affairs. Topics include the EU referendum, the election of Donald Trump, the re-emergence of both Left and Right wing...
Spy Culture - 2019-04-17 - Original post - cached version
According to the New York Times, the official story we’ve been told about the Skripals isn’t true, and wasn’t true when the UK government told it to us.

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Spy Culture - 2019-04-16 - Original post - cached version
The post-WW2 period was the zenith for military and war movies - over 200 were made in the 1950s, and the same in the 1960s.  According to an entry in the DOD's Hollywood database they provided support to every major military movie for over a decade, putting an entire genre of film in their sphere...
Spy Culture - 2019-04-11 - Original post - cached version
One of the veterans of the ambush in Sadr City in April 2004 has revealed that National Geographic's film The Long Road Home is a shameful piece of propaganda that butchers history and ignored offers of help from the squad who were actually in the firefight in order to present a bastardised and...
Spy Culture - 2019-04-11 - Original post - cached version
Production assistance agreements released by the Defense Department show the United States military used taxpayer money to subsidize part of the production of the National Geographic series, “The Long Road Home,” and a companion documentary.

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Spy Culture - 2019-04-10 - Original post - cached version
In what appears to be little more than a promo for the third John Wick film, a recently-released video shows star Keanu Reeves being trained by former Navy SEAL and CIA contractor Shawn Ryan.  A veteran of the war on terror, the video shows Ryan teaching Keanu how to walk into a room with a gun,...
Spy Culture - 2019-04-09 - Original post - cached version
UFOs.  Probable extraterrestrials.  Investigation and revelation.  Nazi scientists.  A military cover-up.  With all these elements in place the History Channel's Project Blue Book should be an exciting, unpredictable replacement for The X-Files.  Instead it is a dull-as-dishwater procedural that...
Spy Culture - 2019-04-07 - Original post - cached version
Vice has won awards along with praise from audiences and critics alike, but how well does it inform its audience about Dick Cheney? This week I take a look at the important material that Vice overlooked, or didn’t know about. From his rewriting of a key investigation into CIA black operations, to...
Spy Culture - 2019-04-05 - Original post - cached version
Little Mizz Innocent has been languishing in development hell for several years as the 'female Jason Bourne movie' has struggled to get into production. It tells the story of a UN interpreter 'caught in a power struggle between the FBI and a criminal dynasty'. FBI emails released under FOIA...
Spy Culture - 2019-04-03 - Original post - cached version
The production of Ice Station Zebra is a great case study in just how much influence the Pentagon can have over a movie script.  The initial script - by multi-Oscar winning writer Paddy Chayefsky - was rejected by the DOD for being too politically critical and culturally subversive.  In the midst...
Spy Culture - 2019-03-31 - Original post - cached version
Osama Bin Laden’s death is the perfect postmodern event, in that most of the reports detailing how, where and when he died contradict all the other reports. This week I take an in-depth look at the Abbottabad raid of 2011 and the official story of Bin Laden’s death, analyzing some of the myriad...
Spy Culture - 2019-03-28 - Original post - cached version
In late 2009 the FBI got wind of the fact that Martin Scorcese was developing The Wolf of Wall Street, about stock fraudster turned federal cooperator Jordan Belfort.  So the Bureau's Michael Kortan wrote to Scorcese to offer their help and support in producing the film, noting that 'all...
Spy Culture - 2019-03-26 - Original post - cached version
Word about the entertainment liaison offices continues to spread - The Statist Quo podcast recently did a focus episode on the DOD's film office, Phil Strub and the rewriting of movie scripts.  Hosted by Matt, a US Army veteran and ex-convict, the episode focuses in on Black Hawk Down and also...
Spy Culture - 2019-03-25 - Original post - cached version
Top Gun was an enormous critical and commercial success and helped redefine the military-supported movie.  It is not quite a war film, because there's no war and only a handful of people are killed.  It isn't a history or biopic because all the characters are fictional.  It isn't a drama because...
Spy Culture - 2019-03-23 - Original post - cached version
The 2008 Wall Street crash has inspired little more than a staccato response from Hollywood, with very few films taking the subject seriously. In this episode I examine and review two of the more prominent movies that cover this topic – The Big Short and Margin Call. I critique the films and their...
Spy Culture - 2019-03-22 - Original post - cached version
The US military, particularly the Air Force, invested a lot of time and resources in helping make Captain Marvel, and so far they are happy with the return on that investment.  Yesterday, an article on Military.com celebrated Captain Marvel as 'the film girls need' and 'one the military community...
Spy Culture - 2019-03-22 - Original post - cached version
Captain Marvel opened this weekend to a monster box office haul of $153 million domestically and over $450 million worldwide. Its star Brie Larson heralded it as ‘the biggest feminist movie of all time’ but behind this glossy, progressive veneer lies a troubling connection. Marvel is being used...
Spy Culture - 2019-03-21 - Original post - cached version
The 1968 spy and counterspy classic Ice Station Zebra was inspired by a real life event during the CIA/Air Force Corona spy satellite program.  In April 1959 the satellite Discoverer 2 became the first to send a recovery capsule containing satellite surveillance imagery back to earth, but there...
Spy Culture - 2019-03-18 - Original post - cached version
Of all the many, many, many projects the Pentagon has supported, one of the most surprising and seemingly innocent is the mid-century TV series of Dennis the Menace.  In one episode 'Dennis at Boot Camp' the producers asked for permission for three days filming at the Naval Training Center in San...
Spy Culture - 2019-03-16 - Original post - cached version
In early 1977 the producers of Attack of the Killer Tomatoes approached the Pentagon about filming a couple of brief scenes at National Guard armories.  Even though the National Guard Public Affairs staff thought it was a fun film and were happy to help, they were overruled by the Pentagon's Don...
Spy Culture - 2019-03-15 - Original post - cached version
Public Enemies is a 2009 historical drama/thriller film that tells the story of the Bureau of Investigation’s manhunt for Public Enemy Number One John Dillinger. In this episode I examine the film, the politics of crime and the romanticising of criminals. I explore these themes in light of FBI...
Spy Culture - 2019-03-11 - Original post - cached version
Arnold Schwarzenegger is famous for many things – being Mr Universe, The Terminator, the Governator and Commando.  Now he’s trying to add one more to the list – unofficial military entertainment liaison.  The USC Schwarzenegger Institute for State and Global Policy recently hosted a workshop to...
Spy Culture - 2019-03-10 - Original post - cached version
George Crile’s book Charlie Wilson’s War is the most in-depth account of the CIA’s support to the Afghan mujahideen, based on countless interviews with inside sources. It tells the story of how a rogue congressman – Charlie Wilson – and a rogue CIA officer – Gust Avrokotos – joined forces to...
Spy Culture - 2019-03-09 - Original post - cached version
Yesterday, LA Magazine published a piece on the military and Captain Marvel and - I'm pleased to say - they used this site as a research source.  After years of researching, speaking and writing about Marvel's relationship with the military it seems the word has got out, and I for one am very glad...
Spy Culture - 2019-03-08 - Original post - cached version
I was recently made aware of a Newsweek article on Captain Marvel that used this site as a source.  The article ‘Captain Marvel’ Latest Superhero Movie to Promote Air Force in Trend Stretching Back to Comics is one of several that highlight how the new MCU movie Captain Marvel has re-established...
Spy Culture - 2019-03-05 - Original post - cached version
In this month’s subscriber-only podcast I break down the BBC’s Panorama episode on the Skripal affair.  One year on from the Salisbury poisoning, I offer comments and criticism of one of the most shameless pieces of British state propaganda ever made: Salisbury Nerve Agent Attack – The Inside...
Spy Culture - 2019-03-03 - Original post - cached version
We’re coming up on the first anniversary of the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal, and the official story has been revised once again. According to the most recent BBC reports, fundamental details that we were told about the circumstances around the poisoning must have been wrong, because the...
Spy Culture - 2019-03-03 - Original post - cached version
The Last Ship is one of the most popular cable TV shows of recent years, as well as one of the most successful pieces of militainment. In this episode I examine the politics of the show, in particular how it depicts a conflict between the US and China. I look at how the US Navy effectively co-...
Spy Culture - 2019-02-28 - Original post - cached version
The US Army provided extensive support to the National Geographic film series The Long Road Home, supposedly to ensure it depicted the real-life battle of Sadr City in a 'reasonably realistic' way. But Army emails that I obtained under FOIA show they were more concerned with the fact that a...
Spy Culture - 2019-02-27 - Original post - cached version
Just like other government agencies the FBI are deeply involved in the entertainment industry, collaborating with film andTV producers to polish the Bureau’s public imageand project their messaging into the minds of moviegoers. Documents recently released under FOIA show that the FBI routinely...
Spy Culture - 2019-02-26 - Original post - cached version
The FBI recently released a tranche of documents on the USA Network TV series Burn Notice. While most of the file is redacted - in many cases every paragraph of every page - the small amount of unredacted information shows that the FBI and NSA are keeping tabs on how spies are portrayed on...
Spy Culture - 2019-02-24 - Original post - cached version
Anwar al Awlaki rose to notoriety in the 2000s as a leading internet jihadist whose lectures and videos were very popular among the emerging Islamist movement. But his history with Al Qaeda, and in particular his contacts with the 9/11 hijackers while under investigation by the FBI, pose serious...

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