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Spy Culture

Spy Culture - 2018-02-19 - Original post - cached version
Keelan Balderson invited me back onto the WideShut Webcast to chat about the research that went into National Security Cinema, as well as the response and reception the book has enjoyed.  We get quite deeply into the notion that the CIA are cultivating a ‘bad boy image’ through Hollywood, and how...
Spy Culture - 2018-02-18 - Original post - cached version
Spy is a 2004 BBC gameshow where ordinary members of the public are trained and tested by real life ex-spooks and ultimately some are eliminated until there’s a winner. Spies is a 2017 Channel 4 gameshow where ordinary members of the public are trained and tested by real life ex-spooks and...
Spy Culture - 2018-02-14 - Original post - cached version
Continuing our long-running commentary, Pearse invited me back onto Porkins Policy Radio to talk about the first episode of the new season of Homeland.  For the first time in several seasons Homeland maintained the storyline from the previous season rather than rebooting the show’s storyline and...
Spy Culture - 2018-02-11 - Original post - cached version
On this month’s subscriber-only podcast I talk about my political and personal motives for doing this sort of work as well some of my thoughts on strategies for tackling political problems. I discuss the history of anarchism – both intellectual and terroristic – and how I see my work fitting into...
Spy Culture - 2018-02-07 - Original post - cached version
A recently released document from the JFK files has confirmed an old rumour: that the CIA helped arrange the affair between actress Susan Cabot and King Hussein of Jordan.  The memo records how the man directly involved was the CIA’s on-the-ground fixer in Hollywood, Robert Maheu. The Affair Cabot...
Spy Culture - 2018-02-04 - Original post - cached version
Ted Kaczynski is most famous for both being the most prolific serial bomber in US history and for writing the Unabomber Manifesto – a political-philosophical tract that was published by major newspapers and by the FBI. This week I take a look at the life of Ted Kaczynski and conduct a...
Spy Culture - 2018-02-01 - Original post - cached version
Pearse invited me back onto Porkins Policy Radio to chat about my research into the little-known Science and Entertainment Exchange.  We discussed how SEEX got started, their stated mission and aims and how they contrast sharply with what SEEX actually does, their ability to influence scripts and...
Spy Culture - 2018-01-28 - Original post - cached version
Aside from Ian Fleming, there is no more influential spy author than Tom Clancy. Clancy’s books (and the films and computer games based on them) benefited from his close contact with the US government. This week we shed light on his relationships with the CIA and the NSA, and ask whether the CIA’s...
Spy Culture - 2018-01-24 - Original post - cached version
Leaked documents from JTRIG (the Joint Threat Research Intelligence Group) show that GCHQ's operations are not only bigger, more invasive and more manipulative than previously realised, but also that they name their tools and techniques after films, TV shows and even genres of music.

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Spy Culture - 2018-01-17 - Original post - cached version
Just as with James Bond and Ian Fleming, the CIA’s CREST database is littered with reference to Tom Clancy.  In preparation for this weekend’s podcast I put together a collection of over 100 pages of internal Agency memos and open source records that record Clancy’s relationship with the CIA for...
Spy Culture - 2018-01-14 - Original post - cached version
On this month's subscriber-only podcast I explain my criticisms of 21st Century Wire and Patrick Henningsen in particular. I outline their disturbing habit of denying the suffering of non-white people, often by claiming they are mere 'crisis actors', their implicit and explicit endorsement of...
Spy Culture - 2018-01-10 - Original post - cached version
In 1987, as part of a typical politician’s attempts to seem down with the kids, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher did an interview with the pop magazine Smash Hits.  There was just one problem: Thatcher knew absolutely nothing about pop music, or anything even close.  So her advisors drew...
Spy Culture - 2018-01-07 - Original post - cached version
The Science and Entertainment Exchange (or SEEX) has consulted on over 1300 films and TV shows in less than 10 years, but outside of Hollywood few people know who they are and what they do. This week we pull back the curtain to look at their activities and their agenda. Are they merely concerned...
Spy Culture - 2018-01-03 - Original post - cached version
Officially, the Science and Entertainment Exchange (or SEEX) is the outreach program of the National Academy of Sciences – a non-governmental, non-partisan, non-profit honorific body who give awards and the like.  In reality it is a government-funded entertainment liaison office who work closely...
Spy Culture - 2017-12-28 - Original post - cached version
Pearse invited me onto PPR to talk 2017: the highs, the lows, the overrated, the underrated, and Trump.  We discuss our favourite film and TV of the year, the most overblown news stories, the most important news that didn’t get the attention it deserves and reflect on why this has been a good year...
Spy Culture - 2017-12-27 - Original post - cached version
Tom Clancy was a good friend of US intelligence.  After the publication of his enormously successful Hunt for Red October in 1984, he was repeatedly invited to speak at the CIA, NSA and FBI.  The CIA even paid him a $500 honourarium for his ‘performance’ for speaking at Langley in 1986 – but...
Spy Culture - 2017-12-24 - Original post - cached version
What is fake news? Where did it come from and why is it so profitable? In this week’s episode I consider whether fake news is a new thing, or simply a newly-popular name for methods of deceit that have existed for centuries. I explore the idea that it is simply a popular recognition of an […]...
Spy Culture - 2017-12-20 - Original post - cached version
In 2015 Admiral Robert Papp, the State Department’s Arctic envoy, spoke multiple times about trying to broker a deal with Disney to use characters from Frozen to promote climate change issues to children.  Recently released State Dept. documents show that negotiations broke down because of...
Spy Culture - 2017-12-17 - Original post - cached version
This week I welcome Martin Darlington, co-host of the History by Hollywood podcast, which reviews and analyses films claiming to be based on real events. We talk about Martin’s adopted homeland of Qatar, his views on history and politics, how he and his co-host Andrew prepare and produce the...
Spy Culture - 2017-12-13 - Original post - cached version
The latest files to be released by the National Archives include one on Kinsgley Amis - the former novelist and critic who was knighted in 1990. Amis was a member of the Communist party while at Oxford university in June 1941, though he renounced Marxism in 1956-7. MI5's monitoring of Amis,...
Spy Culture - 2017-12-11 - Original post - cached version
Long answer: probably, with an ‘if’. Short answer: yes, with a ‘but’. A recently-published report into the terrorism in Britain in the run-up to this year’s general election has found that the Manchester bombing might have been prevented. The review says that MI5 had planned to discuss the...
Spy Culture - 2017-12-10 - Original post - cached version
Lone Survivor is one of very few recent DOD-supported films that is based on real events from the war on terror.  In a period where the Pentagon is more interested in Transformers and superhero movies, Lone Survivor is an exception.  Reports from the military Hollywood offices called it ‘a two...
Spy Culture - 2017-12-06 - Original post - cached version
One of the first films to be made with the help of former CIA officers was 1985's The Man With One Red Shoe. This badly-written, weakly-executed action-comedy depict the Agency running surveillance on a musician played by Tom Hanks, who they believe is a CIA agent who is going to testify in a...
Spy Culture - 2017-12-03 - Original post - cached version
Of all the US intelligence agencies, the FBI has the longest-running relationship with Hollywood. From spying on A-listers as to helping blacklist screenwriters, through to manipulating scripts for PR and propaganda purposes, the Bureau’s influence on Tinseltown is very broad. Using documents from...
Spy Culture - 2017-11-29 - Original post - cached version
Newly released documents shed light on the FBI's entertainment liaison office - officially titled the Investigative Publicity and Public Affairs Unit (IPPAU), including how they work on dozens of popular films and TV shows, and reject requests for support for PR reasons, just like the Pentagon....
Spy Culture - 2017-11-28 - Original post - cached version
I am proud to announce that Critical Sociology have today published an article I co-wrote with Matt Alford that sums up the major findings from our research for National Security Cinema.  Titled ‘New Evidence for the Surprisingly Significant Propaganda Role of the Central Intelligence Agency and...
Spy Culture - 2017-11-27 - Original post - cached version
In our review of the final season of the original House of Cards, Pearse and I discuss whether Urquhart is a psychopath, or someone so brutalised by the military and ruling class life that he is indistinguishable from one. We look at The Final Cut’s depiction of British foreign policy – a new...
Spy Culture - 2017-11-26 - Original post - cached version
Arthur Ransome was a well-known children’s author, best known for his series of adventure books beginning with Swallows and Amazons. He was also close friends with the Bolshevik leadership and married Trotsky’s secretary. Meanwhile, he was spying for British intelligence, and being spied on by...
Spy Culture - 2017-11-23 - Original post - cached version

Arthur Ransome was a very well-known author of children's books, best known for his series beginning with Swallows and Amazons. He was also a spy for British intelligence and a close enough friend to the Bolshevik leadership that he married Leon Trotsky's secretary. These security service...

Spy Culture - 2017-11-22 - Original post - cached version
November 22nd is the 27th anniversary of a European Parliament resolution condemning Operation Gladio. For decades, secret armies in over a dozen NATO countries carried out terrorist attacks to influence the political landscape and manipulate elections. In this article I look back at Gladio,...
Spy Culture - 2017-11-20 - Original post - cached version
I was recently interviewed by Michael Morisy the co-founder of MuckRock, the world's premier FOIA site. It was an interesting conversation about how to use FOIA, what works and what doesn't, how my use of the FOIA developed over time and why I've had so much success with FOIA requests. We also...
Spy Culture - 2017-11-19 - Original post - cached version
Today I am joined by old friend Pearse Redmond to review and discuss the Netflix TV series American Vandal, a mockumentary that satirises the true crime genre. Pete Maldonado is a student at a high school in California who starts making a documentary about a fellow student, Dylan Maxwell, who was...
Spy Culture - 2017-11-16 - Original post - cached version
This week I joined Pearse on his radio show to discuss the new Netflix movie about Anders Breivik and the aftermath of the massacre on Utoya in 2011. We get into director Paul Greengrass's background, especially United 93, the Norwegian government's support for the film and the legacy of Breivik'...
Spy Culture - 2017-11-15 - Original post - cached version

The long-running ABC show The F.B.I. was perhaps the greatest success of the FBI's entertainment liaison office during Hoover's time as head of the Bureau. The deal struck between the FBI and the producers granted Hoover approval and veto power over scripts, casting and even sponsors. In...

Spy Culture - 2017-11-13 - Original post - cached version
In this extra bonus podcast for subscribers Pearse and I discuss the second season of the British House of Cards – To Play the King.  Our review covers numerous parallels between what happens in the series – when a left-wing King rises to challenge Urquhart and how the PM and the security services...
Spy Culture - 2017-11-12 - Original post - cached version
In this month's subscriber podcast I look at recent spate of allegations - and in some cases more than allegations - against a string of Hollywood bigwigs and media celebrities. I examine the selective media dialogue around these events, and how it poisons everything it touches and is deeply...
Spy Culture - 2017-11-09 - Original post - cached version

In last weekend's ClandesTime I discussed how the CIA no longer allow film-makers to shoot footage of the CIA headquarters, leading the producers of Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation to re-use old footage of Langley, but it appears they may have relaxed this rule and are now allowing filming...

Spy Culture - 2017-11-05 - Original post - cached version
The first movie to film at CIA Headquarters at Langley was Scorpio in the early 1970s. The last major film was Argo in 2012. Sometime in 2014 the CIA stopped letting film-makers shoot footage on the CIA campus. This week I examine this decision by analysing the last two films that were granted...
Spy Culture - 2017-11-02 - Original post - cached version

Like most major 20th century writers the FBI has a brief file on Aldous Huxley - the 'author and social critic' behind Brave New World, Island and The Doors of Perception. Huxley was never the subject of a Bureau investigation but they kept tabs on some of his public appearances and...

Spy Culture - 2017-10-15 - Original post - cached version
Reality Winner is a former Air Force language specialist who was working for an NSA contractor when she stole a single document and sent it to The Intercept. The document described supposed Russian attempts to ‘hack the US election’ and so this one act of whistleblowing or espionage, however you...
Spy Culture - 2017-10-11 - Original post - cached version

Following their on-screen debut in the James Bond movies, and their quiet support for Thunderball, the CIA under Richards Helms adopted a more pro-active approach to Hollywood. They began spying on movie scripts depicting the CIA and considering requests from film-makers for official support...

Spy Culture - 2017-10-08 - Original post - cached version
The book of Ecclesiastes tells us, ‘The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.’ Even the idea that there is nothing new is thousands of years old. This week we’re going to look at why Hollywood...
Spy Culture - 2017-10-04 - Original post - cached version
In April 1983 MGM sent a priority cable to CIA headquarters, inviting director Bill Casey to a special screening of their new feature War Games, starring Matthew Broderick and Ally Sheedy. The private screening was hosted by the MPAA building in Washington D.C., and even more surprising than the...
Spy Culture - 2017-10-03 - Original post - cached version

Aaron and Uncle invited both Pearse and myself onto Uncle the Podcast for this one-of-a-kind review of Top Gun, possibly the best piece of military propaganda ever made. Despite being a promotion for the military, all four of us love the movie and we extol the virtues of the soundtrack, the...

Spy Culture - 2017-10-03 - Original post - cached version

Pearse hosted this podcast for his subscribers but I am also making it available for those of you who support me on Patreon as well. In the first of three episodes, Pearse and I examine season 1 of the original (and superior) House of Cards, which follows Francis Urquhart's rise from Chief...

Spy Culture - 2017-10-01 - Original post - cached version
Lionel ‘Buster’ Crabb, OBE, was a Royal Navy frogman and MI6 diver who disappeared while on an underwater spying mission in April 1956. For three quarters of a century the story around Crabb has remained a mystery – was he killed by the Soviets, whose ship he was spying on? Did he defect and...
Spy Culture - 2017-09-27 - Original post - cached version
Buster Crabb was a WW2 British Navy Frogman who in 1956 was recruited by MI6 to spy on Soviet ships docking in Portsmouth harbour during a goodwill visit. These files - some available here for the first time - detail the British government's interference in the inquest into Crabb's presumed death...
Spy Culture - 2017-09-24 - Original post - cached version
In 2004 three men were arrested in the UK for trying to buy red mercury – a trigger for a nuclear bomb – from an undercover journalist working with British intelligence. This plot inspired multiple films and TV programmes and the resulting trial cost over £1 million. The problem is that ‘red...
Spy Culture - 2017-09-22 - Original post - cached version
Chris Cook invited me back on Gorilla Radio to continue our conversation on all things spy-related. We talked about some of the differences between the British and American intelligence agencies, the role John Le Carré plays in the British spy fiction landscape, the new film American Made and how...
Spy Culture - 2017-09-19 - Original post - cached version
Just prior to the 2016 Presidential Election the US Air Force took several dozen Hollywood figures on a Civic Leader Tour of military facilities in Alaska, as part of their ongoing attempts to gain friends and influence in Tinseltown. While the Air Force entertainment liaison office would not...

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