Saturday, August 10, 2013
Do Spies Really Know What They Are Doing, or Is It All Make-Believe?
The recent revelations by the whistleblower Edward Snowden were fascinating. But they - and all the reactions to them - had one enormous assumption at their heart. That the spies know what they are doing.It's funny, and fascinating, and sad. It is also saying that we are wasting a lot of money chasing shadows and illusions dreamed up by people who have nothing else to do.
Journalists don't make out any better either.
Up to this point Pincher had been the Defence correspondent on the Daily Express. He was successful for getting "scoops" from "inside sources" - although the historian EP Thompson said that really Chapman Pincher was:
"A kind of official urinal in which ministers and intelligence and defence chiefs could stand patiently leaking."
One finds out why some people left that world.
But it was a world that was all made-up. Le Carre - who had himself been a spy - admitted this, and described what the true reality of the spy world was:
"For a while you wondered whether the fools were pretending to be fools as some kind of deception, or whether there was a real efficient service somewhere else.
Later in my fiction, I invented one.
But alas the reality was the mediocrity. Ex-colonial policemen mingling with failed academics, failed lawyers, failed missionaries and failed debutantes gave our canteen the amorphous quality of an Old School outing on the Orient express. Everyone seemed to smell of failure."