Top 5 Myths About Spies

Written by Spencer Sher We hate to burst your bubble, but this particular line of work isn’t all about sex, fancy cars and three piece suits. Welcome to WatchMojo’s Top 5 Myths. In this installment, we’re counting down the Top 5 Myths About Spies. Come along as we dismantle some of the biggest myths about spies perpetuated by Hollywood over the years. Special thanks to our user Ashjbow for submitting the idea on our interactive suggestion tool: WatchMojo.comsuggest
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Top 5 Myths About Spies


We hate to burst your bubble, but this particular line of work isn’t all about sex, fancy cars and three piece suits. Welcome to WatchMojo’s Top 5 Myths. In this installment, we’re counting down the Top 5 Myths About Spies. Come along as we dismantle some of the biggest myths about spies perpetuated by Hollywood over the years.

#5: Spies Kill Each Other All the Time


There’s nothing quite like a little spy-on-spy action; two highly trained professionals locked in a battle to see who can off the other one first. Sadly, that’s a movie trope, not a reality. Modern intelligence agencies actually avoid killing the competition whenever possible. If captured, a spy may be interrogated for information, but it’s in their enemies’ best interest to keep them alive. The logic is simple: kill one of ours and we’ll respond accordingly. A spy’s death would set off a lethal domino effect, not to mention a bureaucratic and political hellstorm. However, when dealing with members of a criminal organization or terrorists, well, things admittedly get a little murky.

#4: There’s No Paperwork


Think about your favorite spy movie. At any point do you see Bond, Bourne or Hunt sitting behind a desk furiously typing up a report? How about signing a work contract or filling out a medical insurance form? Fat chance. According to Fred Rustmann, who was a member of the CIA for over two decades, roughly “90 per cent of international espionage is paperwork.” Real spies get their kicks from typing up reports that will put a bad guy behind bars. We hate to be the bearers of bad news, but the life of a spy involves a lot more documenting than leaping from buildings as things explode in the background.

#3: A Badass Solution Trumps Protocol


He wouldn’t be James Bond if he didn’t trigger the odd explosion at an embassy or surf the occasional tsunami. Unfortunately, outside of film, the world of espionage is inundated with bureaucracy and regulations. While fighting a bad guy atop a moving train or dismantling a terrorist cell without authorization sounds awesome, it would probably get the spy in question fired. Think about it like this: governments spend millions of dollars developing human assets for fieldwork. Should one decide to ignore protocol in favor of paragliding off a skyscraper, their benefactors stand to lose more than a just rebellious agent - that’s a major investment that just went out the window.

#2: They Drive Fancy Cars


Imagine for a moment that you’re a spy operating in an impoverished country. Your goal is to blend in, be one with your surroundings and most importantly, avoid raising suspicion. Now... do you really think that cruising around in a drop top Benz, a smoking hot Ferrari or an elegant Aston Martin is the best way to accomplish the aforementioned goals? Nope. A spy’s car will be appropriate to the situation. If they’re going undercover at a high society function, they may very well wind up driving a luxury vehicle or sports car, but more often than not, they’re probably cruising in a beige sedan with good gas mileage.

#1: They Have a License to Kill


Let’s put this colossal myth to rest once and for all by saying… SPIES DON’T HAVE A LICENSE TO KILL! Contrary to what the James Bond franchise would have you believe, a spy can’t just saunter up to whomever they like and end the person. The role of a spy is first and foremost to collect information. And, maybe this goes without saying, but trying to gather intelligence from someone after you’ve killed them seems counterintuitive. In fact, many agents will go their entire careers without even firing their weapons. That’s a far cry from 007, who has mowed down hundreds of people during his tenure with MI6. But hey, you gotta sell movie tickets!
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