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Book Review: CITIZEN SPY BY Michael Kackman

Updated on April 29, 2013

Citizen Spy

In the book Citizen Spy, Michal Kackman assesses on how the portrayal of the media as being smart, slick and a resolute spy has been entrenched in the American culture. The author evaluates the secret agents on television (investigation journalists), inform of the relations between the television network, government bureaus, producers and viewers during the period of 1950s and 1960s. In this book, the author evaluates how the citizens in US perceived of themselves in this moment of cultural and political crisis. Famous Hollywood shows such as behind closed doors and I led 3 lives were established through the assistance of federal intelligence services, basing some of the episodes from the real case files. As Kackman observes, these “documentary dramas” were the main drivers for the emerging television sector placing its loyalty, patriotism and acted as anti community vigilance to the government of the day.

As the stringed cultural logic of the Red Scare started to collapsing, the spy shows also started to become more playful, self referential and even critiquing the standards that were apparent in their own scripts. Paradoxes such as Get Smart and the Man from U.N.C.L.E, to a more complex worldwide and political instances as I spy and mission impossible, according to this author, emancipated the spying television within a culture of civil rights and women’s movement in the Vietnam War.

Capturing these concerns in the political and cultural perspectives of the 21st century, Michael Kickman explains that the place of gender and race in the national identity has become an arguably controversial one. More and varied definitions of heroism, citizenship and dissent were identified through the popular accounts of the Iraq war in these shows. In Citizen Spy, the author has vividly analyzed the status and implications of the American nationalism being put in practice.

During 1960, television in American perspective was regarded as being more than an iconic masculine hero. This tool was vested with power to act and do investigations on behave of the government. Furthermore, it provided the possibility of a willful action that was limited. Apparently, this agency had been limited and circumscribed by the apparatus it served. During this time, television, hereby referred as spy, depicted a wide range of deep and controversial discourses regarding the national identity of U.S nation, masculinity and the subject of an ideal citizen. Kackman explains that the television spy acted as both a symbol of the wrenching anonymity of life as a postwar American “organization man”. The television spy appeared to be an indicator of a reflective transformation in the sector of American television in particular and in more broadly the popular culture, more especially during the first two decades of the cold war.

Kackman observes that the glamorous programs in the television in 1960s depicted the most famous TV spies as well as the espionage programs that came forth during the earliest periods of the cold war. This aspect was highly influenced by documentaries, semi-documentaries, crime movies and TV programs of the early 1940s and 1950s. Such programs included: Treasury Men in Action, I Led 3 Lives, Behind Closed Doors and The Man Called X. These were promoted to be virtually practical of government spy agents. According to Kackman They normally dealt with situation that was derived from the daily happenings. In deed, these TV shows were approved by the department of defense, state department, and the FBI. Moreover, they were based or led by the actual lives of the real spies and government authorities.


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