Eric Draitser sits down with author Nicholas Schou to discuss his new book Spooked: How the CIA Manipulates the Media and Hoodwinks Hollywood*. Eric and Nick explore the history of CIA manipulation of the media going back decades, and how it has evolved into the propaganda consensus we see today. The conversation touches on everything from Nicaragua and the Reagan counter-revolution to the sycophantic relationship between Hollywood and Langley. From Robert Parry to Robert Kagan, from South Vietnam to Baghdad, the story of CIA information warfare is a long and sordid one, and Schou's new book is an important contribution in telling it.
A few interesting points:
The CIA used to have agents working inside every major Hollywood studio. They were actually taking, for example, scripts like "Animal House" which had a very anti-capitalist message fundamentally, even though it's commonly viewed a sort of warning about Stalinism, it was still a kind of pro-Socialist script, until the CIA got its hands on it and completely changed it around.
This is something that in the 1980s again happened when the CIA was able to start working directly with Hollywood producers and directors to try to get favorable coverage. And it was really during the Clinton era when that really became corporatized and you had Chase Brandon, who was a CIA officer, working directly with Hollywood.
Obviously 9/11 just completely opened the floodgates for the fear factory.
Robert Kagan was working with the office of public diplomacy in the Reagan administration. He has become probably the single most influential and most important neocon ideologue in the last 30 years of the entire neocon movement, and so, it's fascinating to see how somebody whose kind of beginnings start with this perception management public relations, media manipulation world, is actually growing to be the central neocon leader and ideologue.
Draitser and Schou also discuss the fact that the CIA narratives are penetrating the American public through Hollywood series and films in a manner that has become more sophisticated. Characters appear more "vulnerable" in various ways, which creates a more "humanized" hero, closer to the everyday audience. In the end, despite all his/her "vulnerabilities", the hero is doing his/her "patriotic duty".
That's because the American public has become more skeptical and suspicious due to the failures and disasters in various wars and especially after the Iraq war.
* The American people depend on a free press to keep a close and impartial watch on the national security operations that are carried out in our name. But in many cases, this trust is sadly misplaced, as leading journalists are seduced and manipulated by the secretive agencies they cover.
While the press remains silent about its corrupting relationship with the intelligence community—a relationship that dates back to the Cold War—Spooking the News will blow the lid off this unseemly arrangement. Schou will name names and shine a spotlight on flagrant examples of collusion, when respected reporters have crossed the line and sold out to powerful agencies. The book will also document how the CIA has embedded itself in “liberal” Hollywood to ensure that its fictional spies get the hero treatment on screen.
Among the revelations in Spooking the News:
• The CIA created a special public affairs unit to influence the production of Hollywood films and TV shows, allowing celebrities involved in pro-CIA projects—including Harrison Ford and Ben Affleck—unique access inside the agency's headquarters.
• The CIA vets articles on controversial topics like the drone assassination program and grants friendly reporters background briefings on classified material, while simultaneously prosecuting ex-officers who spill the beans on damaging information.