Whenever the media loses control over a powerful term, be it “fake news” or “deep state,” they react with infantile rage, and immediately demand cessation of the term in its “unapproved” use.
As part of that process, they attempt to restrict its historical application to some definition that delimits its use against their ideological interest. Their attempt to rescript the meaning of words gives new meaning to Orwellian for the media’s would-be Ministry of Information.
Maybe CNN will set up a lexicon where we can go and see which words we are allowed to use to ascribe their own activities, much as Chris Cuomo insinuated it was illegal for anyone to look at Wikileaks information, except exclusively at CNN. What this all really covers up in this context is that the media has long been an enabler of the deep state against the democratic demands of the public. No, CNN, the idea of the deep state didn’t start in Turkey, and no, New York Times, pretending the deep state doesn’t exist doesn’t clothe the naked emperor.
The legal and historic idea of the deep state originated in America in a trilogy of studies by a trio of political scholars. The originalist behind the idea was German emigre Ernst Fraenkel who identified Nazi Germany’s path to dictatorship as rooted in the “dual state” where an anti-democratic “prerogative state” often controls much of a government’s policy without regard to, or respect of, legal and democratic constraints.
The idea gained currency in the scholastic community with a famous 1955 study of our State Department by Hans Morgenthau which concluded the American government increasingly and precariously employed a “dual state,” defined as a democratic state and a “security” state whose “hidden security hierarchy monitors and controls” the democratic part of the state for the institutional and ideological interests of “this parallel security” state. Both Eisenhower and Kennedy followed up on the concept in Eisenhower’s respective farewell address famously warning about the “military industrial complex” of our own government and Kennedy’s parallel speech to the American Newspaper Publishers Association ten days after the failed Bay of Pigs in ascribing the method of communist governments.
The idea expanded into the “deep state” in the broader journalistic community when Professor Peter Dale Scott in 1993 coined the term “deep politics” to explain aspects of American politics since the 1950’s. An American journalist then applied it to explain certain issues that arose in Turkey in 1996, but its ideological bonafides has been long applied to American politics and politics more generally around the globe.
A long-time D.C. staffer applied it to our government again in a popular political text, The Deep State, for how the machinery of the bureaucracy is increasingly immune from the votes of the public in ascribing and prescribing the government’s actual policy toward its own citizenry and those abroad. The latter took root in certain conservative populist communities, with some overlap from Nader-ite leftists, though the en-bubbled media missed it all, apparently.
Instead, CNN, The New York Times, and The Economist would have us believe the “deep state” only refers to some odd, foreign country, like Turkey, and can never be honestly applied here. This is especially ironic for The Economist because it was one of their original editors in chief, Walter Bagehot, from the 1860’s who first circulated the idea of a “double government.”
As leftist reporter Glenn Greenwald has reported, and liberal newscaster Ed Schultz continues to emphasize, the establishment media’s over-use of anonymous sourcing allows deep state members to smear a disfavored political persona, like Trump or Michael Flynn (under constant assault in media reports long after he left the White House), and others. As both journalists warn, when the media “reflexively reveres, serves, believes, and sides with hidden intelligence officials,” it dis-serves its First Amendment role as a check on power and, instead, becomes an enabler of that anti-democratic power.
The rise of Wikileaks, and its increasing popularity across the left and right ends of the populist political spectrum, reflects an increasingly common view that the media is the corrupted power brokers, not a check on those corrupted power brokers. As Greenwald aptly summarizes: “cheering for the CIA and its shadowy allies to unilaterally subvert the U.S. election and impose its own policy dictates on the elected president is both warped and self-destructive.” Trump’s tweets last week directed attention to precisely that issue: illegal intercepts and illicit leaks of those intercepts should be the scandal, not incredulous reports of collusion unsupported by the legally innocent conversations found on those intercepts.
Obama went into bed with the deep state. After promising to protect the public from unlawful spying, one of his first acts was to immunize those members of the deep state who did so illicitly. After promising transparency, one of Obama’s first acts was for his NSA Director Clapper to perjure himself to Congress about NSA spying on Americans, after which Obama promoted Clapper to head of the Office of National Intelligence, a two-step act that gave us Edward Snowden. After promising public disclosure, Obama prosecuted more whistleblowers than all 44 of his Presidential predecessors combined. After promising public access, Obama delayed and obstructed more FOIA requests than anyone, and his Secretary of States infamously hid emails in a private email server that could have masked her Clinton Cash activities from public view.
Is it any surprise then that Obama could possibly use the deep state to undermine the election, spy on his political adversaries (as he did to CBS reporter Sharyl Attkison, where she found government IP-based hackers turning her computer on and off during the night, along with the Obama administration spying on Fox reporter James Rosen and AP reporters), and likely eavesdrop on Trump (based on the many New York Times reports referencing “intercepted” calls of “Trump campaign members”). What is unique is Obama trying to use the deep state, in collusion with the media, to create a de facto shadow government.
Aside from its anti-democratic instincts, the other great threat from the deep state is its incestuous insularity. The deep state advised coups, overthrows, and assassinations against democratic governments, like Guatemala in 1954 and Congo in 1961, that birthed civil wars and gangs that hollowed out democratic hopes in those countries for decades and haunt us to this day. The deep state’s poor advice misread the popularity of the Shah in Iran (giving us the 1979 revolution, which led into the nuclear would-be threat they are today) [cite?], the misguided idea of arming the Taliban in Afghanistan (birthing much of modern-day radical Islamic terror as a political movement), and the mirrored debacles in failed nation-states and now terror-riddled Iraq and Libya.
The failure of the media to expose the deep state’s miscalculations and their misdeeds, remains one of the great media failures of the last decade. Why did the media say there were WMDs in Iraq? Because the deep state told them so. Why does the media say there cannot be tapped calls on Trump two days before Wikileaks discloses massive CIA spying capabilities through smart phones, and even TVs? Because they refuse to expose the deep state. Instead, they pen pieces saying the deep state doesn’t exist, or only exists even as an historic idea in Turkey. What a bunch of turkey that is.
In this respect, a trip down memory lane is productive. Contrary to conventional wisdom, America’s most famed “whistleblower,” “Deep Throat,” was anything but innocent in his intentions. The operative who went by the alias of “Deep Throat” was integral to the corrupted parts of the FBI under Hoover, and reacted with rage when Nixon tried to de-Hooverize the FBI. Nixon made enough mistakes to last a lifetime, and his resignation was well-warranted, but that cannot mask the criminality and anti-democratic purposes of his primary antagonist.
Mark Felt, aka “Deep Throat,” was actually one of the principal culprits behind COINTELPRO, a deep state operation within the FBI that misused and abused government power to spy on, and sabotage, domestic political movements in the United States. Felt had agents break into people’s homes, conduct black bag jobs against innocent American citizens, and engaged in campaigns to discredit and disrupt various anti-war, civil rights, and other deep-state-disfavored political groups. Felt was later indicted and convicted, which enraged Felt, who felt he was beyond the reach of the law, stating all that mattered is that he felt what he did was “in the best interests of the country” and could not be indicted on “technical” reasons, those “technical” reasons being a conspiracy to violate American’s most protected Constitutional rights. Felt personified the deep state. And the man that made him a hero is our most celebrated journalist alive: Bob Woodward.
What does the deep state campaign against Trump look like? Just like COINTELPRO, from the illegal surveillance to the unlawful disinformation campaigns. That’s not a coincidence, any more than Trump hinting at the scope of this problem in his tweets and his historical analogizing it to the fascists coup of power in Europe in the 1930s. His real meaning of tying in Obama was to clue in observers that Obama had got into bed with the deep state, and wiretapping your opponents is one of the great harms such ugly marriages bring.
It’s a marriage — between the media and the deep state — that has long called for a needed divorce.
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Robert Barnes is a trial lawyer, with high profile wins in constitutional, criminal, and civil law. You can follow him @Barnes_Law.