Title:                      Spooked

Author:                  Nick Schou

Schou, Nicholas (2016) and David Talbot. Spooked: How The CIA Manipulates The Media And Hoodwinks Hollywood. New York, NY: Hot Books (e book)

OCLC:    952581473

JK468 .I6 S34 2016

Summary: 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#x97;a relationship that dates back to the Cold War#x97;Spooking the News will blow the lid off this unseemly arrangement. Schou will name names and shine a spotlight on flagrant examples of collusion.



Date Posted:      September 27, 2017

Reviewed by Hayden B. Peake[1]

In his foreword, journalist David Talbot (author of a dreadful biography of Allen Dulles[2] and now executive director of Hot Books) sets the tone for Spooked when he writes, “in today’s down-sized media business … ambitious journalists soon learn to play ball with the right people at CIA headquarters … if they value their professional future.” He goes on to charge that “producers, directors, writers and stars … give CIA personnel supervisory powers and screen credits in return for the dubious benefits of private tours of CIA headquarters and meeting with CIA bigwigs.” The only accuracies here are the correctly spelled words. Author Nicholas Schou, writes Talbot, “… shows us how the Langley media machine works.” (pp. x-xi)

Schou’s argument is straightforward; every journalistic and media contact with the CIA leads to CIA manipulation of the journalist and the journalist’s message. He attempts to support these and related charges with assertions, not facts, such as: “after 9/11, American screenwriters, directors, and producers have traded positive portrayal of the spy profession in film or television projects for special access and favors at CIA headquarters.” (p. 4)

Schou fills his pages with examples of past CIA operations that he twists and misinterprets to conform to his preconceived notions. His treatment of the Gary Webb case is typical. Webb claimed the CIA was involved in drug trafficking; when the mainstream press and his own publisher repudiated the story, it was withdrawn. Webb lost his job, his marriage, and tragically took his own life. Schou claims the CIA was behind the withdrawal; he includes a quote attributed to the CIA, but typically fails to provide a source. (pp. 53-54)

Some Spooked accusations about media manipulation are dodgy, if not dishonest. For example, Schou notes that “not a single US official, military officer, or CIA interrogator … has been convicted in connection with the torture or death of a detainee.” He ignores the fact that the only CIA employee charged—a contractor—was, in fact, convicted.

After grinding on with other undocumented examples, Spooked attacks the media, concluding that “the spooking of the news works because the media allows it to work. The strongest deterrent to independent reporting is not the CIA or the NSA, but the relentless will of the corporate media to conform to official government policy.” (p. 133)

Spooked has signposts that suggest gross ignorance of the topic and a severe case of confirmation bias. That, of course, can be overcome by accurate analysis.

[1] Peake, Hayden in The Intelligencer: Journal of U.S. Intelligence Studies (23, 1 Summer 2017, pp.125-126 ). Hayden Peake is the Curator of the CIA’s Historical Intelligence Collection. He has served in the Directorate of Science and Technology and the Directorate of Operations. Most of these reviews appeared in recent unclassified editions of CIA’s Studies in Intelligence, Other reviews and articles may be found online at http://www.cia.gov

[2] Talbot, David (2015). The Devil’s Chessboard: Allen Dulles, the CIA, and the Rise of Americas Secret Government. New York: Harper [LCCN: 2015487367]. The book was reviewed by JR Seeger in the December 2016 issue of Studies and is available online at https://www.cia.gov/library/center-for-the-study-of-intelligence/csi-publications/csi-studies/studies/vol-60-no-3/seeger-the-devils-chessboard.html.

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