James Bond as role model for spooks of today? He was actually rubbish as a spy

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As we learn practically daily how US spooks are showing remarkable incompetence and stupidity in assisting and abetting the mainstream media’s campaign waged against President Donald Trump, it probably makes sense to look back at the role model for many of the people who work in intelligence services these days. I am talking about the greatest spy of them all, James Bond, who has been featured prominently in countless movies and will be entertaining us again in a new flick that is expected to hit the big screens in early 2018. The filming has not started yet but we have been informed that actor Daniel Craig is about to succumb to a huge cheque to play Agent 007 in the upcoming adventure. (Daniel looks more like a Polish plumber than Her Majesty’s secret agent but that didn’t stop him from acquiring a cult status.)

But was Bond actually effective at spying? Well, if you read the books by his creator, Ian Fleming, you will be surprised to learn that no, agent 007 was rubbish at spying and had many other issues as well. You will find out that Bond was an unpretentious man who liked simple food, drank cheap Scotch, often very early in the day, befriended total strangers with remarkable ease and got himself into trouble all the time and needed help of others to get out of it. He also liked to seduce members of staff at hotels and other facilities and made mistakes that rookies in the world of spying tend to make. And if you pardon the bluntness, Stupid was his middle name.

It’s all in the book Live And Let Die, the second novel by Fleming, in which Bond’s character is described in all the glorious detail. The movie with a similar title gives some idea of how grotesquely incompetent Bond was, but the book is an eye opener.

The problem is that Mr Fleming considered himself to be a serious writer, pretending that eh knew the spying business like the back of his hand. Which he obviously didn’t, having worked as clerk in the MI6 and getting all his knowledge from the reports of agents he saw and stories he heard from them. I got that feeling the moment I opened the book Live And Let Die and read the first paragraph: “There are moments of great luxury in the life of a secret agent. There are assignments on which he is required to act the part of a very rich man; occasions when he takes refuge in good living to efface the memory of danger and the shadow of death; and times when, as was now the case, he is a guest of an allied Secret Service.”

So, you may wonder, what’s wrong with that? Well, actually everything is wrong. There’s no way, for example, that anyone who has been a spy would ever call his hero a ‘secret agent’. It’s a title that impressionable women or teenagers would use. And then, of course, there is this ‘great luxury’ that Fleming mentions. Spies may pretend to be rich and play the part of wealthy individuals, but every cent they spend they have to account for. So it is not exactly ‘great luxury’ when you have to watch your spending carefully, is it?

And it cannot really help to ‘efface the memory of danger and the shadow of death’. It can only remind you about it. And when agents are guests of another secret service, even a friendly one, as is in Bond’s case, it’s not exactly great luxury that they are offered. It is mostly quite a modest arrangement, as the other lot are also counting their dollars and cents.


What is most disappointing, right from the first pages, is that Bond, in his book version, is not at all funny or cynical and takes life very seriously indeed. Way too seriously, I might add. He is supposedly a highly trained and skilful agent but he appears to have no idea of how to actually carry out his duties. He arrives in America, on a mission to take on the mysterious Mr Big, a master criminal of Jamaican and French origin, who dabbles in black magic and works for SMERSH, the sinister Soviet intelligence organisation that is operating throughout the whole world and causing all sorts of problems for Western governments.

Mr Big is one of the top black criminals in the US. He controls all of Harlem, has his people everywhere, is seriously into voodoo magic and is helping SMERSH to spy against the US. And the way he does it is very odd indeed: he smuggles gold coins from a pirate’s treasure, found in Jamaica, into the US, sells them on the black market and then passes the proceeds to SMERSH. Bond is ordered by his boss ‘M’ to find out where this treasure is hidden and how Mr Big manages to bring all these gold coins into the US undetected. And, of course, agent 007 is told to deal with Mr Big in his usual ruthless way.

Bond in the book is brought to his five-star hotel in New York, compliments of the CIA, and immediately it is clear that the bad guys know that he has arrived and where he is staying. He then asks his CIA contact, Felix Leiter, to take him around the joints of Harlem (for the record, Felix is white too), to get the feel for the atmosphere in which Mr Big operates. Not a great idea, mind you. Two white guys in 1960s Harlem hanging around clubs in Harlem late at night.

Naturally, after ending up in a joint run by Mr Big the two super-spies are captured by the master criminal. A mysterious beautiful woman, Solitaire, is introduced into the narrative to provide Bond with a love interest, who falls in love with him at first sight. Bond then escapes and – here I’d like you to pay special attention – returns to his five-star hotel, even though he knows well that Mr Big is after him and knows where he is staying in New York.

But that is Bond for you – once he gets into the ‘great luxury’ routine there’s no stopping him.

And so on and on this stupidity continues and we find out, among other things, that Bond has huge respect for his boss ‘M’, whose voice – I’m not kidding you – he ‘loved and obeyed’. We also learn that he is prone to sudden urges to have a stiff drink, at the most inconvenient of times. When, for example, he is getting ready to go on a dangerous mission. We also find out that he falls in love easily and considers people he has just met to be his dearest and most trusted friends in whom he can confide all his deepest secrets. (Smacks of the modern FBI and CIA boys, doesn’t it, when the share confidential information with hacks they’ve never seen before.)

Bond is also prone to get easily spotted by his enemies, being a tall handsome guy with a distinctive scar on his cheek, and he has no idea of how to lose a tail or figure out that going on long walks for no reason may result in bad things happening while he is at it, like the woman he loves getting snatched by the bad guys. And he generally talks too much about things that should have remained secret – another strong parallel with the current lot in the FBI and CIA.

And there you have it. James Bond, the role model for so many spooks these days, was actually rubbish as a spy. And that might explain why they are rubbish as well.

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