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Spy Culture

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...
Spy Culture - 2019-02-23 - Original post - cached version
Anwar Al Awlaki was the head of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula until his death in a CIA drone strike in 2011. In the mid-late 1990s he lived in San Diego, where he met future 9/11 hijackers Nawaf Al-Hazmi and Khalid Al Mihdhar and consorted with Saudi intelligence officer Omar Al-Bayoumi. But...
Spy Culture - 2019-02-20 - Original post - cached version
Compared to the DOD, the US intelligence agencies support a more politically diverse range of movies, from the hi-tech surveillance thriller Enemy of the State to torture porn like Zero Dark Thirty and Unthinkable.  One such controversial movie was Shooter, which depicts a deep state element...
Spy Culture - 2019-02-17 - Original post - cached version
The British government’s role in using the entertainment industry is smaller than in America, but nonetheless involves many of the same familiar activities. From helping provide ideas to the writers of Yes, Minister to exploiting the England football team’s success in the 1990 World Cup, the...
Spy Culture - 2019-02-16 - Original post - cached version
I recently joined Henri of Fortress on a Hill to discuss the National Geographic drama series The Long Road Home, in light of the over 400 pages of documents that I obtained detailing the US Army's support for the show. We discussed the inaccuracies, misrepresentations and in some cases downright...
Spy Culture - 2019-02-13 - Original post - cached version
1996's action thriller Executive Decision may be light on action and lacking thrills but it is notable for one thing - the script violated the Geneva Convention and led to the Pentagon temporarily withdrawing support for the film. When the producers initially approached the DOD they were told...
Spy Culture - 2019-02-10 - Original post - cached version
In this month's subscriber-only podcast I explore several DOD-supported films and the files on them from the Lawrence Suid archive. Focusing in on Air Force One, Deep Impact, The Final Countdown, Firefox and BAT-21 I outline the script changes forced on the film-makers in exchange for military...
Spy Culture - 2019-02-04 - Original post - cached version
The Department of Defense's entertainment liaison office file on the 1996 thriller Executive Decision was, for many years, secreted in a private archive in a library in Georgetown. Now liberated by Matt Alford, one page of the file details the stars who needed to be filmed on-board military...
Spy Culture - 2019-02-03 - Original post - cached version
The 1996 action thriller Executive Decision was an early example of what should be called ‘irregular war films’, pitting a team of special forces commandos against a gang of terrorists, on a hijacked plane headed for Washington DC. In this episode I analyse Executive Decision for it’s bizarre...
Spy Culture - 2019-02-02 - Original post - cached version
Missy Peregrym and Zeeko Zaki, two of the stars of the CBS drama FBI were asked about the government shutdown this week, and responded with a statement that sounds like it was written by the FBI's Investigative Publicity and Public Affairs Unit. They talked about the FBI doing everything in its...
Spy Culture - 2019-01-23 - Original post - cached version
The DOD claim that they only rewrite Hollywood scripts in order to ensure accuracy and to inform the public about the military and its mission. This is total bullshit. One of the best examples comes from the 2016 film Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, where the original script included an event that was...
Spy Culture - 2019-01-20 - Original post - cached version
I recently found out that Strub retired from his job as the DOD’s Hollywood liaison last July, though this wasn’t covered by any news outlets and the DOD didn’t bother to tell anyone. In this episode I go through some of Strub’s greatest hits – the good, the bad and the ugly, looking at script...
Spy Culture - 2019-01-19 - Original post - cached version
The US Coast Guard's film office remains open despite the government shut down. While 350,000 federal workers are currently not being paid and the national parks and national archives are temporarily shuttered, the government's entertainment propaganda apparatus continues to fire on all cylinders...
Spy Culture - 2019-01-17 - Original post - cached version
In my final review of The Wire I discuss how the core theme of season 5 – truth – plays out across several storylines.  From fake news to McNulty’s fictional serial killer to the Clay Davis trial, I talk about how the abusive institutions that make up a city’s control mechanisms encourage and...
Spy Culture - 2019-01-16 - Original post - cached version
The National Geographic drama series The Long Road Home tells a version of the story of the battle for Sadr City in 2004, a key moment in the war in Iraq. Newly-released emails and other documents from the US Army detail the extensive military support on the TV series, and how they repeatedly bent...
Spy Culture - 2019-01-09 - Original post - cached version
The Pentagon's censorship of movie scripts is fairly well established - I have documented numerous instances on this site. But their ultimate power is the ability to kill a production, to prevent a film being made. While there is little evidence that the Pentagon wields this power knowingly, a...
Spy Culture - 2019-01-06 - Original post - cached version
A story doing the rounds claims that the Trump administration is taking advantage of the government shut-down to change the rules by which the Department of the Interior processes and responds to FOIA requests. This story could not be less accurate if they were actively trying to mislead people....
Spy Culture - 2019-01-06 - Original post - cached version
Aimen Dean, born Ali Al-Duranni, was MI6’s spy inside Al Qaeda from 1998 to 2006. In this episode I do a critical view of his autobiography Nine Lives: My Time as MI6’s Top Spy Inside Al Qaeda, and how Dean’s story connects to other people and events explored in this series. I analyse whether this...
Spy Culture - 2019-01-04 - Original post - cached version
Newly-released documents on the Institute for Statecraft's Integrity Initiative suggest that they had a hand in the Salisbury poisoning fiasco that dominated the British press last summer. An alternative narrative - whereby the poisoning of Yulia and Sergei Skripal was the work of British military...
Spy Culture - 2019-01-03 - Original post - cached version
A few months ago, then DOD Hollywood liaison Phil Strub gave an interview in which he described the work of the entertainment liaison offices. A document recently released by the US Navy proves that many of Strub's statements simply aren't true, and that the Pentagon are much more aggressive and...
Spy Culture - 2018-12-31 - Original post - cached version
2018 was another year of chaos — in politics, economics, culture, the climate and in most other areas of life worth talking about. Here I explore why 2019 is likely to be more of the same, given the lack of any serious attempts to address the causes and confront reality.

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Spy Culture - 2018-12-31 - Original post - cached version
Since the publication of National Security Cinema last summer, we have seen an uptick in the media coverage of the Pentagon in Hollywood, much of it originating with the Pentagon itself. This week I take a look at the PR efforts the DOD has embarked upon, about its own PR efforts in Hollywood....
Spy Culture - 2018-12-28 - Original post - cached version
The 1990 World Cup was considered a big success for the England football team, as getting to the semi-finals was the greatest progress in a tournament since winning the trophy in 1966. Documents recently released by the National Archives show that the July 1990 visit to Number 10 Downing Street...
Spy Culture - 2018-12-28 - Original post - cached version
After actor Dominic West suggested that the next James Bond be transgender the commentariat have gone batshit arguing over whether this is a key moment in the struggle for trans rights or another sign that the entertainment industry is dominated by damn commie liberals with their Jewish gay-loving...
Spy Culture - 2018-12-27 - Original post - cached version
In this penultimate review episode I look at how the education system is a poor place to learn anything, how standardised testing is a form of child abuse, the fundamental problems of electoral politics, and expand on why an intelligence-based approach to societal problems is always better than a...
Spy Culture - 2018-12-26 - Original post - cached version
One of the Pentagon's consistent bugbears when it comes to movie scripts is swearing. Whether it is from the mouths of military or civilian characters, the DOD doesn't like those ████ing cuss words. But why not? Given their various political and PR concerns why is bad language such a problem?...
Spy Culture - 2018-12-22 - Original post - cached version
In this month's subscriber-only podcast I discuss the links between the sacking of the manager of Manchester United, why there isn't a new Star Wars film out this Christmas, and the macroeconomics of Brexit. I examine all three in the context of a failing economic system, recounting the history...
Spy Culture - 2018-12-20 - Original post - cached version
Air Force One is one of the great military commercials disguised as a feature film. Laden with Russophobic rhetoric and corny dialogue about the heroism of the US military, it ticked every box for the DOD so they granted it full production support. The Pentagon's script notes for the movie...
Spy Culture - 2018-12-18 - Original post - cached version
A few weeks ago, Hollywood star Gerard Butler found himself behind a podium at the Pentagon talking to the national press. Given how rare Pentagon press conference have become in recent months, a number of people have asked the question as to how he ended up there, and why a Scottish movie star...
Spy Culture - 2018-12-16 - Original post - cached version
China is without doubt a major player in Hollywood. Both private investment and state regulations and censorship have played a significant role in the American movie business in recent years. This week I examine the Chinese influence on Hollywood, both in terms of the shape of the industry and...
Spy Culture - 2018-12-14 - Original post - cached version
In our latest article, Matt and I reflect on two of the most common claims made about National Security Cinema, namely 1) That the government is really important in making movies more militaristic and 2) That Hollywood doesn’t produce dissenting films. While the first of these is somewhat true it...
Spy Culture - 2018-12-13 - Original post - cached version
In 1994 the Chinese government first allowed Hollywood films to be distributed within the country.  Since then the US and China have been in a near-constant state of negotiations over import quotas, profit sharing and market access.  In 2007 the US brought a case before the World Trade...
Spy Culture - 2018-12-11 - Original post - cached version
Chris and Danny from Fortress on a Hill invited me onto their podcast to discuss militarism in Hollywood, the DOD's role in altering scripts, how recruitment propaganda works in the UK, the military vs intelligence approaches to counterinsurgency and other related topics.

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Spy Culture - 2018-12-11 - Original post - cached version
In July the Pentagon's Hollywood liaison Philip Strub retired after 29 years in the job. Mysteriously, this was not reported by any media outlet, small or large, mainstream or independent. Despite having influenced literally thousands of movies, TV shows, documentaries and video games in the...

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