Writers, ghosts and spooks


Back in the 1980s, hungry for fresh reading material, I wandered up and down the fiction aisles at our local library looking for books that had multiple copies on hand. These I knew would be popular, and so worth a look. In this manner I came across Robert Ludlum. I enjoyed his work, and read every one of his books. I was impressed that his heroes and villains could be of any nationality. Americans were not singled out as good guys, which was a nice relief from the constant barrage of patriotism and jingoism we get in the espionage/thriller mode.

Ludlum died in 2001, and other writers have since used his nom de plume. They are unreadable.

I often wondered if Ludlum had a spook background, as he seemed to understand that world well. He served in the marines, but not much is said about that in his public biography.  His most famous invention was a man named “Jason Bourne”, the subject of three of his novels, and the current long-running movie franchise that uses Matt Damon as lead actor.

A word about Damon … he and his pal Ben Affleck arrived loud on the scene in 1997, having co-authored and starred in the movie Good Will Hunting. There was suspicion at the time that the script was ghosted. That is most likely the case, as the movie is too deep and complex in its backstory for these pretty young boys to have authored it. Both have gone on to amazing careers, landing one role after another. Damon has been prominent in spy thrillers, but has done a wide array of other impressive work.

Affleck is famous for a some bombs, and was selected as “director” of the disgusting and heavily promoted CIA movie, Argo. I don’t buy him as either an actor or director. (His brother Casey is an excellent actor, in my view.)

It is the prominence of Damon and Affleck in spy fiction, plus their arrival on the scene with a gift script, that leads me to believe they are intelligence assets, serving at the behest of unseen masters. Such people (are you listening Hanks?) are granted unending favors and high profiles for so long as they do their jobs. If you’ve just come in from the cold, that will sound odd to you. But Hollywood and the movie industry are far too important in public opinion management to be left to random actors, directors and writers. Everything is vetted, very little truth seeps into movies unless, Kubrick-The Shining-style, it is smuggled past the censors.

I have seen all three of the Bourne movies starring Damon,  and the last one using Jeremy Renner. They are exciting and well-crafted movies with unending action and incredible chase sequences. But there are parts of the plots the cost me my willing suspension of disbelief – that feeling I get when “555” shows up as a phone number – transporting me out of a movie and back to reality.

Here are just a few of the show-stopping plot defects in the Bourne series:

  • The news media is portrayed as an adversary to the spook world. In Bourne’s world, journalists are independent and burrowing creatures whom the spooks tolerate and fear at once. In The Bourne Legacy, Renner’s Aaron Cross tells his co-star Rachel Weisz that “going loud” and talking to the Washington Post is a viable survival option. Quite the opposite is real life, where journalistic truth-seeking is verboten and every major news outlet is penetrated with moles, WaPo among the worst.
  • CIA is portrayed as a force for good, only sometimes stained by bad actors. Again in The Bourne Legacy, Edward Norton’s character tells Renner’s that the men doing the grisly murders the agency sponsors world wide are the “sin-eaters,” or people who do the dirty work so that light and goodness can more forward. (That’s really good writing. I wonder if Damon and Affleck ghosted that script.)
  • There is congressional oversight, and spooks fear it. Actors who portray public officials have gravitas and carry real authority, including the ability to interfere with spooks and their activities. In the real world, the United States Congress was made irrelevant back in the 1970’s, if not before.
  • People who kill for a living do so only reluctantly (and also fall in love). Damon’s Jason Bourne fell in love with his first co-star, Franka Potente, who took a bullet for him. They are currently casting Julia Stiles as his partner, and he will fall in love with her and she too will bite it and he will impart a lingering final kiss on the corpse. In the real world professional killers are psychopaths, and love and emotion are as strange to them as American pizza to an Italian.

The Jason Bourne character was a man who has multiple personalities, or who suffers from dissociative identity disorder, in shrink-talk. This has some bearing on real-life spies, MKULTRA and Manchurian candidates and all of that. The spooks look for troubled people, victims of child abuse suffice. They tend more than most to be susceptible to hypnotic suggestion and programming, and make good spooks and patsies.

That part is real.

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