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Spy Culture

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...
Spy Culture - 2018-12-11 - Original post - cached version
While some senior military officials have spoken openly about the possibility of a war between the US and China, the entertainment liaison offices appear to be working to ensure that doesn't happen. Perhaps surprisingly, they have refused to support films, TV shows and video games where China is...
Spy Culture - 2018-12-09 - Original post - cached version
Nazis make the perfect Hollywood villains – instantly recognisable, obviously deplorable and easy to recreate. So why were there no anti-Nazi films until 1939, on the eve of World War 2? This week I explore the history of Nazis in Hollywood in the 1930s, how the German government influenced...
Spy Culture - 2018-12-06 - Original post - cached version
This week, I welcome Matt Alford to the show to talk about the media manipulation of the image of the British Royal Family, and how it relates to British foreign policy, including Brexit. From the killing of rare animals to closet fascism, to interfering in politics and criminal investigations, we...
Spy Culture - 2018-12-06 - Original post - cached version
Four years ago, scholar Ben Urwand revealed how the Nazis' man in Hollywood Georg Gyssling censored and rewrote film scripts to remove scenes and dialogue that criticised the Nazi regime. He also repeatedly removed references to the suffering of Jews in post-WW1 Germany. Hidden until now, the...
Spy Culture - 2018-12-04 - Original post - cached version
The latest release from the US Army's entertainment liaison office provokes many questions. Why did they refuse to support the movie Rampage? Why are the military pitching ideas to studio executives? Who is in charge of the Pentagon's operations in Hollywood? And why does the US Army have a...
Spy Culture - 2018-12-01 - Original post - cached version
The Spook Who Sat by the Door tells the story of the first African-American to be recruited by the CIA. After becoming disillusioned with the Agency he quits and sets up a black power guerilla army that wages urban war across the United States. According to its writer Sam Greenlee the film was...
Spy Culture - 2018-11-28 - Original post - cached version
In part 3 of this subcriber-only review series I look at season three of The Wire. In this season the Barksdale storyline comes to a climax, while the city hall politics are added into the ever-expanding world of the show. I examine the Hamsterdam experiment, where one police major decides to...
Spy Culture - 2018-11-28 - Original post - cached version
The FBI got back to me recently with a response to my request on The Spook Who Sat by the Door, including a few pages from Sam Greenlee's FBI file, which they'd previously claimed they could not find. Amusingly, the version of this file released to my by the National Archives contains several...
Spy Culture - 2018-11-26 - Original post - cached version
The US Army’s entertainment liaison office has worked on as wide a variety of TV entertainment as you can imagine, from Oprah to Top Chef, from The Price is Right to Man of Steel.  But they do sometimes reject requests for support, as was the case with Wife Swap which was turned down partly...
Spy Culture - 2018-11-25 - Original post - cached version
The men and women who are employed by the US military to fight its hegemonic wars often suffer from serious mental illness. Depression, PTSD/trauma, extreme anxiety and stress – these are commonplace among people both within the military and among veterans. In this episode I explore how the...
Spy Culture - 2018-11-23 - Original post - cached version
Since launching National Security Cinema last year, Matt and I have encountered a lot of questions about the field. These are our answers to some of the most Frequently Asked Questions and Comments about entertainment liaison offices and the politics of Hollywood films.

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Spy Culture - 2018-11-21 - Original post - cached version
The latest reports from the US Army's entertainment liaison office show surprisingly few examples of them providing production assistance to films and TV shows. Instead, they appear to be spending the majority of their time arranging PR events, cosying up to studio executives and monitoring how...
Spy Culture - 2018-11-18 - Original post - cached version
In this month's susbcriber-only podcast I talk about my new screenplay project - a political satire of Hollywood. I talk about my history with acting and writing, and discuss some of my creative process, how I developed two simple ideas and combined them to form the basis for my screenplay. I also...
Spy Culture - 2018-11-14 - Original post - cached version
12 Strong a.k.a. Horse Soldiers is based on a book about a US Army Special Forces group sent to Afghanistan during the early days of the post-9/11 War on Terror.  Recently released emails from the Army show that they made changes to the script in exchange for their support, including trying to...
Spy Culture - 2018-11-13 - Original post - cached version
It isn't often that I see a film that angers and educates me in equal measure. War School: The Battle for Britain's Children is a new documentary exploring the growing peace movement in the UK, and the militarisation of British schools for propaganda and recruitment purposes. It highlights the...
Spy Culture - 2018-11-11 - Original post - cached version
Hollywood doesn’t make war films any more. This isn’t entirely true, but compared to the post-WW2 period there are a lot less war films being made today. In this in-depth episode I offer a brief history of war movies and anti-war movies, and how the Pentagon’s policy on supporting films depicting...
Spy Culture - 2018-11-09 - Original post - cached version
In the second of my subscriber-only reviews of The Wire I look at season 2. Focusing on smuggling through the port of Baltimore this season explores how capitalism has evolved to a post-industrial phase dominated by service industries like sex and drugs, how investigating sex slavery is relegated...
Spy Culture - 2018-11-08 - Original post - cached version
The late Cold War classic Top Gun is one of the most well-liked military movies of all time. It's combination of romance, comedy and never-seen-before aerial action was made possible by extensive support from the DOD, particularly the US Navy. It is credited with significantly boosting military...
Spy Culture - 2018-11-06 - Original post - cached version
The Vietnam war had a huge impact.  3 million dead Vietnamese, tens of thousands of dead Americans, and millions more on both sides suffering from trauma, depression and drug and alcohol addiction.  It also had a major influence on the US public’s willingness to engage in full-scale wars (at least...
Spy Culture - 2018-11-04 - Original post - cached version
The Founder is a 2016 biopic of Ray Kroc, the man who created McDonald’s. Or did he? In this episode I examine this ambiguous film, one of the best examples of cultural capitalism to come out of Hollywood in recent years. I explore how it avoids the negative consequences of the creation of...
Spy Culture - 2018-11-02 - Original post - cached version
This is part 1 of a new subscriber-only review series where I talk about The Wire. In this episode I discuss some of the recurring themes – the war on drugs, the failed police tactics, the dirty money trail – along with the complex metaphysics of the show. I talk about some of my favourite […]...
Spy Culture - 2018-11-01 - Original post - cached version
Sam Greenlee is perhaps most famous for writing the novel The Spook Who Sat By the Door, which was adapted into a film in the 1970s.  Greenlee believed that the CIA and FBI suppressed the film because it portrayed them in such a bad light, and promoted black militancy.  A recent response from the...
Spy Culture - 2018-10-30 - Original post - cached version
I recently filed a FOIA request for documents on Top Gun 2. Going through the entertainment liaison office reports it is clear that - just as on the original film - the Navy are taking the lead on military support. The Navy responded saying they found over 20,000 pages of potentially responsive...
Spy Culture - 2018-10-28 - Original post - cached version
In September 1977 the renowned Hollywood gossip columnist Rona Barrett appeared on Good Morning America to talk about spy films. Sat alongside her was CIA director Stansfield Turner, who commented that Hollywood movies would make poor training films for CIA spies. Within days a memo was...
Spy Culture - 2018-10-27 - Original post - cached version
Just as politicians start to believe their own speeches, intelligence agencies start to believe their own propaganda. Nowhere is this clearer than in the CIA's black stite torture program initiated in the wake of 9/11. Recently declassified documents detailing current CIA director Gina Haspel's...
Spy Culture - 2018-10-26 - Original post - cached version
On this month’s subscriber-only podcast I dissect the 1994 movie Swimming with Sharks, about a young man who goes to work at a Hollywood studio, where his boss (Kevin Spacey) abuses and bullies him relentlessly. I reflect on the film’s relevance in the wake of the #MeToo phenomenon, and how the...
Spy Culture - 2018-10-25 - Original post - cached version
12 Strong, based on the book Horse Soldiers by Doug Stanton, is set in the early days of the US war in Afghanistan. Emails released by the US Army detail the support they and the Air Force provided to the production as well as their communications with the producers. During shooting, one of the...

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