Unlike the James Bond films or companion BBC shows such as Spooks, Spy is a reality TV show, using real members of the public and having them trained by real former spies – one MI6, one CIA, and one unspecified former ‘Intelligence Officer’. The members of the public are competing against one another in ‘Spy School’, where they are taught how to lie, cheat, manipulate and invade people’s privacy.
From denial of existence to glorification on mainstream TV in less than 25 years, the Intelligence Services now occupy a major position in the propaganda. Spies have for a long time been shown to be sexy, cool and highly enviable characters, but this show goes further, as what we see is to a large extent what actually happened when they made the show. Perhaps most importantly, and beyond the superficial propaganda of ‘look how great the spooks are’ is the continually reinforced message that the spying ‘game’ is nowhere for people to have moral objections. Over and over the ‘recruits’ are told that they need to leave their feelings and their conscience at the door and just do ‘whatever it takes’ to achieve the objectives set for them each week.
This is significant because spying has, at least in Britain, been popularly considered to be an unjust, immoral and ungentlemanly way of carrying on. The notion of men in disguise sneaking into people’s houses, eavesdropping on their conversations and general acting like state-sponsored criminal conspirators has, quite rightly, been seen as at best a necessary evil, if not a deliberate intrusion by the state on the privacy of ordinary and innocent citizens. As the policy has shifted from secrecy to open conspiracy and the apparatus of the spy state has begun to be laid bare for scrutiny, shows like Spy are crucial in convincing people that there is nothing morally wrong with what they are seeing. …
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