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Spy Culture

Spy Culture - 2017-01-09 - Original post - cached version

Spies is the 'new' game show from Channel 4. I say 'new' because it's a blow-for-blow remake of the 2004 BBC series Spy, which also took a small group of members of the public and had three former spooks put them through their paces via a series of tests and training exercises. The first...

Spy Culture - 2017-01-08 - Original post - cached version

Unreal is a gripping and brutal satire of reality TV but it is much more than that. While this might sound like a drama about a trivial subject, the content of Unreal makes it one of the most serious and important TV series of recent years. It follows two female producers as they make a...

Spy Culture - 2017-01-05 - Original post - cached version
Recently made available by Cryptome this NSA report originally appeared in an issue of their publication Cryptolog in 1992. It examines the role that signals intelligence (SIGINT) plays in the storylines of several John le Carré novels and considers whether the inaccuracies and limitations in...
Spy Culture - 2017-01-03 - Original post - cached version
The FBI's file on James Marshall Hendrix aka Jimi Hendrix is a brief but entertaining example of the Bureau having too much time on their hands and not enough to do. After Hendrix was arrested in Toronto in 1969 'after a quantity of marijuana was found in his shaving kit' the Canadian authorities...
Spy Culture - 2017-01-01 - Original post - cached version

In this month's podcast for patreon subscribers I review Rogue One: A Star Wars Cash-In. The film is a spy movie/war movie about the rebellion stealing the plans for the Death Star and has a much darker tone and grittier visuals than most Star Wars films. The problems arise mostly in the...

Spy Culture - 2016-12-24 - Original post - cached version

Pearse invited me on his radio show to discuss the 1964 TV movie A Carol for Another Christmas. This was the first in a series of TV films designed to promote the United Nations and sponsored by the Xerox corporation. A Carol for Another Christmas is a remake of A Christmas Carol, only this...

Spy Culture - 2016-12-22 - Original post - cached version
The CIA finally jumped on the cooking-themed reality TV propaganda bandwagon in 2010 when they hosted an episode of Top Chef. This week we take a look at the episode in question, how it flattered the CIA, and how Top Chef has involved numerous government agencies and departments. We round off...
Spy Culture - 2016-12-18 - Original post - cached version
I recently talked to Ricky Varandas for his podcast The Ripple Effect. We were supposed to be discussing government involvement in entertainment but got distracted and ended up talking about: whether popularity matters; Trump and Brexit and why people voted for them; the differences and...
Spy Culture - 2016-12-15 - Original post - cached version

United 93 was the first and - to date - the only major movie to depict what happened in the skies over the US on the morning of the 9/11 attacks. The film-makers intended it to be as accurate and realistic as possible, so they reached out to the Pentagon and the US Air Force in particular...

Spy Culture - 2016-12-11 - Original post - cached version
The Department of Defense is the government agency with the largest and most influential operations in Hollywood. But to how many films have they provided production assistance? How many movies have they supported? In this episode we explore the answer to this question, why it is so difficult to...
Spy Culture - 2016-12-06 - Original post - cached version

In this subscriber-only podcast I talk about the new book I am working on, the fake news hype of recent weeks and review nuclear war sitcom The Brink. This podcast is only available to supporters of my patreon campaign. Click the link below to go to my patreon page and sign up so you can get...

Spy Culture - 2016-11-30 - Original post - cached version

Despite only producing 4 films so far the Transformers series is already one of the top 10 movie series of all time. In a paradox that encapsulates much of Hollywood, it appears that the worse the Transformers films get the better they do at the box office. These production assistance...

Spy Culture - 2016-11-27 - Original post - cached version

In less than 10 years Marvel has created the biggest money-making film franchise of all time with the Marvel Cinematic Universe. However, this probably wouldn't have been possible without the help of the Pentagon. In this episode we examine the rise of the MCU, the Pentagon's involvement, and...

Spy Culture - 2016-11-26 - Original post - cached version
With the death of former Cuban leader Fidel Castro I felt this would be a good time to provide a copy of an important but seldom-read CIA memo from 1959 where they discuss and approve the 'elimination' of Castro. Shortly after the Cuban revolution Castro visited the United States, speaking with...
Spy Culture - 2016-11-23 - Original post - cached version

Sometimes the Freedom of Information Act is a strange beast and you receive something you didn't ask for, but are still happy to get. That happened to me recently when in response to a request about the Pentagon's Hollywood database I received an updated list of DOD Films - movies that were...

Spy Culture - 2016-11-20 - Original post - cached version
9/11. The 7/7 London Bombings. The Boston Marathon. The Paris Massacre. This episode we take a look at the false flag exercise theory, which has become the default alternative media interpretation of these events. We examine the theory's history in military deception techniques, its origins as a...
Spy Culture - 2016-11-17 - Original post - cached version

The first two Iron Man movies are far more important to cinematic history than their daft scripts, super-arrogant star performer and cartoonish presentation might suggest. Between them they made over $1.2 billion worldwide and established the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which has since become...

Spy Culture - 2016-11-13 - Original post - cached version

Charlie Wilson's War reduces nearly 10 years of the Soviet-Afghan War into an hour and forty minutes of Sorkin-scribed witty dialogue focusing almost entirely on how one alcoholic, womanising congressman helped to raise the billions of dollars that were given to the mujahideen to fight the...

Spy Culture - 2016-11-11 - Original post - cached version
Pearse invited Aaron and myself onto his show on the evening of the Presidential election. I, for one, welcome our new Orange Overlord but when we taped this the result was not yet known. This conversation got a bit abstract as we didn't discuss the candidates much at all, but instead had a good...
Spy Culture - 2016-11-06 - Original post - cached version

What connects JFK, Allen Dulles and the CIA's invasion at the Bay of Pigs to the movies Thunderball and Goldfinger? The answer is the relationship between the CIA and James Bond. In this episode we look at Fleming's decades-long relationship with American intelligence, from the OSS through...

Spy Culture - 2016-11-04 - Original post - cached version

In November 1959 CIA Director Allen Dulles sent a copy of the new Ian Fleming novel Goldfinger to Jackie Kennedy. In October 1964 the CIA Deputy Director Marshall Carter was invited to a special screening of the new James Bond movie Goldfinger at the MPAA headquarters in Washington. The film...

Spy Culture - 2016-11-02 - Original post - cached version

Tomorrow Never Dies is perhaps the most military-heavy Bond film of recent times, benefiting from production support from both the British and American armed forces. Despite this the Pentagon's Hollywood liaison Phil Strub denied that they provided any assistance to the film-makers. This...

Spy Culture - 2016-11-01 - Original post - cached version
In this first subscriber-only podcast I talk about what I've been up to recently, what's coming up in the next few months and offer my thoughts on the TV series Mr Robot and Westworld. This podcast is only available to supporters of my patreon campaign.

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Spy Culture - 2016-10-30 - Original post - cached version

Today we welcome back Robbie Martin of Media Roots and A Very Heavy Agenda to discuss the psychological impact of the most fierce and fearful US election in recent memory. We discuss the polarisation both in the US over the presidential election and in the UK over the EU referendum, before...

Spy Culture - 2016-10-26 - Original post - cached version

The Department of Energy has a minor but interesting role in the history of Hollywood, providing shooting locations for Tron (1982) and Star Trek Into Darkness (2013) at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. I am still awaiting documents on Star Trek but the DoE have provided me with...

Spy Culture - 2016-10-25 - Original post - cached version

2009's Brüno is probably the most shallow of Sacha Baron Cohen's movies, based almost solely around the comedy of irritation and embarrassment. However, the story of its production is quite fascinating and a great example of how to get the state to accidentally or unwittingly sponsor your...

Spy Culture - 2016-10-24 - Original post - cached version
This isn't just getting out of hand - it's out of hand. You did not read this incorrectly, the United Nations have made Wonder Woman an honorary ambassador for the Empowerment of Women and Girls. Presumably that's because the UN thinks that actually empowering women and girls is best associated...
Spy Culture - 2016-10-23 - Original post - cached version
I don't believe any of the alternative theories about the moon landings but this week I thought it would be fun to explore some of the arguments around these seminal events. We begin by looking at some of the arguments people have made in support of the conspiracy theories and the questions they...
Spy Culture - 2016-10-20 - Original post - cached version
The CIA has had an interest in James Bond almost since its inception as a series of novels in the 1950s. The books were probably the first spy fiction to refer to the CIA by name and to depict them through the character of Felix Leiter. This led to a friendship between Ian Fleming and CIA bigwig...
Spy Culture - 2016-10-16 - Original post - cached version

Roar is a truly unique piece of cinema, possibly the most dangerous and brave and crazy film ever made. This week I take a look at this fascinating production which took 11 years to make, cost over $15 million and put most of its cast and crew in the hospital. The result is a magical,...

Spy Culture - 2016-10-11 - Original post - cached version

Scorpio holds the dubious distinction of being the first film to be allowed to shoot at the CIA headquarters in Langley. Since then the likes of Patriot Games and Argo are among a very small number to have been granted that privilege. It has otherwise been overlooked in favour of more...

Spy Culture - 2016-10-09 - Original post - cached version
This has been a presidential election campaign like no other, where both sides are cynically exploiting identity politics and the loathsome nature of their opponent to try to seize political capital. In this episode I try to offer a new take on the election and outline a concept I'm calling '...
Spy Culture - 2016-10-06 - Original post - cached version

Author and publicist Richard Condon is best remembered for writing The Manchurian Candidate - a biting futuristic satire in which a Medal of Honor winning soldier is brainwashed by the Soviets to try to assassinate the US president. The FBI files on Condon and his most famous book draw...

Spy Culture - 2016-10-02 - Original post - cached version
The Soviet-Afghan War helped bring down the Soviet Union and encouraged the rise of Al Qaeda and Islamism. The films about this war have been sponsored by both Western governments - Britain, the USA and Israel - and by Russia. This week I look at these films, their state sponsorship and how they...
Spy Culture - 2016-09-25 - Original post - cached version
Mutt and Jeff were a pair of Norwegian double agents during WW2, named after the popular cartoon characters. They played a crucial role in deceiving the Nazi intelligence apparatus by taking part in false flag sabotage and deception operations. Several of these operations have very curious...
Spy Culture - 2016-09-08 - Original post - cached version

Pearse invited me back onto his new radio show to discuss my recent piece on Three Days of the Condor and some of the alternative history of Watergate. We get into the infamous picture of Robert Redford and Richard Helms and ask why the CIA were monitoring Helms' on set appearance during the...

Spy Culture - 2016-09-06 - Original post - cached version

Tron is a classic piece of transhumanist cinema and the first of a string of films where someone is sucked into a digital realm and has to battle it out with computer programs in order to save the day (the Matrix trilogy being the most popular examples). It was also a curious departure for...

Spy Culture - 2016-09-04 - Original post - cached version
The International Spy Museum is a privately owned museum that hosts exhibits and other events on the history of spies, spying, intelligence tradecraft and so on. Conceived in 1996 - coincidentally just as the CIA adopted a more overt approach to domestic propaganda - and opened in 2002 -...
Spy Culture - 2016-08-21 - Original post - cached version
In February 1975 the director of conspiracy classic Three Days of the Condor Sidney Pollack invited Richard Helms, former head of the CIA, to visit the set while they were shooting in New York. Helms went along for a day and acted as a consultant to Robert Redford, as depicted in this infamous...
Spy Culture - 2016-08-13 - Original post - cached version

I was recently a guest on Uncle the Podcast - my favourite up and coming comedy podcast - to discuss the 1980s arm wrestling movie Over the Top, starring Sylvester Stallone. The film is about a father who is estranged from his young son but due to the mother's illness they are thrown back...

Spy Culture - 2016-08-11 - Original post - cached version

Adding to the British government departments who have provided assistance to the James Bond franchise, the now defunct Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) have released documents on the filming of a scene for Skyfall at their headquarters in Whitehall. The Foreign Office, the...

Spy Culture - 2016-08-07 - Original post - cached version

Today we take a look at the documentary series A Very Heavy Agenda by Robbie Martin, which I reviewed a few weeks ago. This is a very in depth conversation where we get into numerous elements covered in Robbie's documentary including: the Kagan family, what the neocons have been up to during...

Spy Culture - 2016-08-06 - Original post - cached version

The Battle of Algiers was a groundbreaking film when it came out in 1966, not just for its depiction of the Algerian War against French occupation but for its quasi-documentary realism and its morally neutral approach, showing both sides committing atrocities. Because of this realism it is a...

Spy Culture - 2016-08-05 - Original post - cached version

Richard Klein is one of the most important people in the entertainment industry that you have never heard of - a former State Department employee who now works for McLarty Associates - an elite Washington DC law firm - as their liaison to Hollywood. Klein has worked with most of the major...

Spy Culture - 2016-08-01 - Original post - cached version

Rounding off this second season we take a look at SALT, the 2010 action thriller starring Angelina Jolie as a CIA officer accused of being a Russian sleeper agent. SALT is one of the less well known CIA-assisted productions, but along with technical advice from former CIA officer Melissa...

Spy Culture - 2016-07-24 - Original post - cached version

Robbie Martin is our final guest for this season as we dissect the 2012 docudrama Zero Dark Thirty. We discussed the difficulty in defining what kind of film this is - somewhere between a spy thriller, a documentary and a dry European art house movie. We get into the well-documented CIA...

Spy Culture - 2016-07-23 - Original post - cached version
Author and the creator of gonzo journalism Hunter S Thompson could be expected to have an FBI file, and he does. When it was released the FBI admitted that they had destroyed parts of it during the 1990s, and what remains is a smattering of amusing irrelevances. They began their investigations...
Spy Culture - 2016-07-21 - Original post - cached version

The Department of Defense maintains a database summarising its collaboration with Hollywood productions. The master list for this database was released to me two years ago as the DOD Film List and since then I have obtained a handful of entries. Getting a little more creative I asked for...

Spy Culture - 2016-07-20 - Original post - cached version
My good friend Pearse has been given the opportunity to do his show on the radio so he invited me on as his guest for the very first episode. We took on an old favourite – Chase Brandon – and discussed his relevance to the world of state-sponsored entertainment before engaging in a multi-faceted...
Spy Culture - 2016-07-17 - Original post - cached version

NASA's Multimedia Liaison Office was founded in the 1990s but they have recently become more aggressively involved in the entertainment industry. In particular they have replaced the Pentagon as the most prominent government agency working on the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the world's biggest...

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