Sunday, 3 June 2018

Babchenko plot - a case of events imitating Bond film?

In dramatic style, the assassination of Russian journalist Arkady Babchenko was revealed to have been staged by the Ukrainian authorities (apparently with the involvement of the security services) when Mr Babchenko emerged live and well at a press conference the day after his death had been announced in the media. We heard that the plan was designed to foil a real attempt on his life by Russian agents.  

Reading about the events, I couldn’t help thinking about James Bond and wondering if life was imitating art. In the film of You Only Live Twice, the Secret Service pretends to kill Bond, whose ‘death’ is subsequently announced in the press, in order to trick his enemies into thinking that he’s dead. 

Then, in The Living Daylights, James Bond stages the fake death of KGB spy chief General Pushkin, shooting him with blanks in an auditorium. The plan is to make Brad Whitaker and General Koskov think Pushkin dead and allow Bond to get to the bottom of their plot. And, in apparently shooting him, Bond also saves Pushkin’s life, as Pushkin was about to be killed by henchman Necros.

As soon as I heard the news about Mr Babchenko, I tweeted a couple of images from The Living Daylights to make the connection between the events and Bond, and judging by the newspaper headlines the next day, the UK press also made the link. 

The story was front-page news in The Sun, which featured the headline, ‘You Only Live Twice’. The Daily Star used the same headline on its front-page, and in a short column beside the headline, described the events as ‘Bond-style’. There was a second Bond-inspired headline was inside the paper: ‘I think I’ll die another day’. The words ‘You only live twice’ appeared inside the Daily Mail. These Bond-related headlines and descriptions appealed to the BBC News website, which highlighted them in its daily newspaper roundup.

The Bond films are of course fantastic in more ways than one, but events like the fake assassination in Ukraine suggest that the plots aren’t necessarily so far-fetched (or else the films have inspired real-life intelligence agencies). The headlines demonstrate that Bond-film titles – memes that can used without reference to Bond – continue to inspire newspaper editors.

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