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The Deep State

Steve Sailer [1] links to this unsettling essay by former career Congressional staffer Mike Lofgren [2], who says the “deep state” — the Washington-Wall-Street-Silicon-Valley Establishment — is a far greater threat to liberty than you think. The partisan rancor and gridlock in Washington conceals a more fundamental and pervasive agreement. Excerpts:

These are not isolated instances of a contradiction; they have been so pervasive that they tend to be disregarded as background noise. During the time in 2011 when political warfare over the debt ceiling was beginning to paralyze the business of governance in Washington, the United States government somehow summoned the resources to overthrow Muammar Ghaddafi’s regime in Libya, and, when the instability created by that coup spilled over into Mali, provide overt and covert assistance to French intervention there. At a time when there was heated debate about continuing meat inspections and civilian air traffic control because of the budget crisis, our government was somehow able to commit $115 million to keeping a civil war going in Syria and to pay at least£100m to the United Kingdom’s Government Communications Headquarters [3] to buy influence over and access to that country’s intelligence. Since 2007, two bridges carrying interstate highways have collapsed due to inadequate maintenance of infrastructure, one killing 13 people. During that same period of time, the government spent $1.7 billion constructing a building in Utah [4] that is the size of 17 football fields. This mammoth structure is intended to allow the National Security Agency to store a yottabyte [5] of information, the largest numerical designator computer scientists have coined. A yottabyte is equal to 500 quintillion pages of text. They need that much storage to archive every single trace of your electronic life.

Yes, there is another government concealed behind the one that is visible at either end of Pennsylvania Avenue, a hybrid entity of public and private institutions ruling the country according to consistent patterns in season and out, connected to, but only intermittently controlled by, the visible state whose leaders we choose. My analysis of this phenomenon is not an exposé of a secret, conspiratorial cabal; the state within a state is hiding mostly in plain sight, and its operators mainly act in the light of day. Nor can this other government be accurately termed an “establishment.” All complex societies have an establishment, a social network committed to its own enrichment and perpetuation. In terms of its scope, financial resources and sheer global reach, the American hybrid state, the Deep State, is in a class by itself. That said, it is neither omniscient nor invincible. The institution is not so much sinister (although it has highly sinister aspects) as it is relentlessly well entrenched. Far from being invincible, its failures, such as those in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, are routine enough that it is only the Deep State’s protectiveness towards its higher-ranking personnel that allows them to escape the consequences of their frequent ineptitude. 

More:

Washington is the most important node of the Deep State that has taken over America, but it is not the only one. Invisible threads of money and ambition connect the town to other nodes. One is Wall Street, which supplies the cash that keeps the political machine quiescent and operating as a diversionary marionette theater. Should the politicians forget their lines and threaten the status quo, Wall Street floods the town with cash and lawyers to help the hired hands remember their own best interests. The executives of the financial giants even have de facto criminal immunity. On March 6, 2013, testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Attorney General Eric Holder stated the following [6]: “I am concerned that the size of some of these institutions becomes so large that it does become difficult for us to prosecute them when we are hit with indications that if you do prosecute, if you do bring a criminal charge, it will have a negative impact on the national economy, perhaps even the world economy.” This, from the chief law enforcement officer of a justice system that has practically abolished the constitutional right to trial [7] for poorer defendants charged with certain crimes. It is not too much to say that Wall Street may be the ultimate owner of the Deep State and its strategies, if for no other reason than that it has the money to reward government operatives with a second career that is lucrative beyond the dreams of avarice — certainly beyond the dreams of a salaried government employee. [3] [8]

The corridor between Manhattan and Washington is a well trodden highway for the personalities we have all gotten to know in the period since the massive deregulation of Wall Street: Robert Rubin, Lawrence Summers, Henry Paulson, Timothy Geithner and many others. Not all the traffic involves persons connected with the purely financial operations of the government: In 2013, General David Petraeus joined KKR [9] (formerly Kohlberg Kravis Roberts) of 9 West 57th Street, New York, a private equity firm with $62.3 billion in assets. KKR specializes in management buyouts and leveraged finance. General Petraeus’ expertise in these areas is unclear. His ability to peddle influence, however, is a known and valued commodity. Unlike Cincinnatus, the military commanders of the Deep State do not take up the plow once they lay down the sword. Petraeus also obtained a sinecure as a non-resident senior fellow at theBelfer Center for Science and International Affairs [10] at Harvard. The Ivy League is, of course, the preferred bleaching tub and charm school of the American oligarchy.

Lofgren goes on to say that Silicon Valley is a node of the Deep State too, and that despite the protestations of its chieftains against NSA spying, it’s a vital part of the Deep State’s apparatus. More:

The Deep State is the big story of our time. It is the red thread that runs through the war on terrorism, the financialization and deindustrialization of the American economy, the rise of a plutocratic social structure and political dysfunction. Washington is the headquarters of the Deep State, and its time in the sun as a rival to Rome, Constantinople or London may be term-limited by its overweening sense of self-importance and its habit, as Winwood Reade said of Rome, to “live upon its principal till ruin stared it in the face.”

Read the whole thing.  [2] Steve Sailer says that the Shallow State [11] is a complement to the Deep State. The Shallow State is, I think, another name for what the Neoreactionaries call “The Cathedral,” [12] defined thus:

The Cathedral — The self-organizing consensus of Progressives and Progressive ideology represented by the universities, the media, and the civil service. A term coined  [13]by blogger Mencius Moldbug. The Cathedral has no central administrator, but represents a consensus acting as a coherent group that condemns other ideologies as evil. Community writers have enumerated the platform of Progressivism [14] as women’s suffrage, prohibition, abolition, federal income tax, democratic election of senators, labor laws, desegregation, popularization of drugs, destruction of traditional sexual norms, ethnic studies courses in colleges, decolonization, and gay marriage. A defining feature of Progressivism is that “you believe that morality has been essentially solved, and all that’s left is to work out the details.” Reactionaries see Republicans as Progressives, just lagging 10-20 years behind Democrats in their adoption of Progressive norms.

You don’t have to agree with the Neoreactionaries on what they condemn — women’s suffrage? desegregation? labor laws? really?? — to acknowledge that they’re onto something about the sacred consensus that all Right-Thinking People share. I would love to see a study comparing the press coverage from 9/11 leading up to the Iraq War with press coverage of the gay marriage issue from about 2006 till today. Specifically, I’d be curious to know about how thoroughly the media covered the cases against the policies that the Deep State and the Shallow State decided should prevail. I’m not suggesting a conspiracy here, not at all. I’m only thinking back to how it seemed so obvious to me in 2002 that we should go to war with Iraq, so perfectly clear that the only people who opposed it were fools or villains. The same consensus has emerged around same-sex marriage. I know how overwhelmingly the news media have believed this for some time, such that many American journalists simply cannot conceive that anyone against same-sex marriage is anything other than a fool or a villain. Again, this isn’t a conspiracy; it’s in the nature of the thing. Lofgren:

Cultural assimilation is partly a matter of what psychologist Irving L. Janis [15] called “groupthink,” the chameleon-like ability of people to adopt the views of their superiors and peers. This syndrome is endemic to Washington: The town is characterized by sudden fads, be it negotiating biennial budgeting, making grand bargains or invading countries. Then, after a while, all the town’s cool kids drop those ideas as if they were radioactive. As in the military, everybody has to get on board with the mission, and questioning it is not a career-enhancing move. The universe of people who will critically examine the goings-on at the institutions they work for is always going to be a small one. As Upton Sinclair said, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.”

A more elusive aspect of cultural assimilation is the sheer dead weight of the ordinariness of it all once you have planted yourself in your office chair for the 10,000th time. Government life is typically not some vignette from an Allen Drury novel about intrigue under the Capitol dome. Sitting and staring at the clock on the off-white office wall when it’s 11:00 in the evening and you are vowing never, ever to eat another piece of takeout pizza in your life is not an experience that summons the higher literary instincts of a would-be memoirist. After a while, a functionary of the state begins to hear things that, in another context, would be quite remarkable, or at least noteworthy, and yet that simply bounce off one’s consciousness like pebbles off steel plate: “You mean the number of terrorist groups we are fighting is  [16]classified [16]?” No wonder so few people are whistle-blowers, quite apart from the vicious retaliation whistle-blowing often provokes: Unless one is blessed with imagination and a fine sense of irony, growing immune to the curiousness of one’s surroundings is easy. To paraphrase the inimitable Donald Rumsfeld, I didn’t know all that I knew, at least until I had had a couple of years away from the government to reflect upon it.

When all you know is the people who surround you in your professional class bubble and your social circles, you can think the whole world agrees with you, or should. It’s probably not a coincidence that the American media elite live, work, and socialize in New York and Washington, the two cities that were attacked on 9/11, and whose elites — political, military, financial — were so genuinely traumatized by the events.

Anyway, that’s just a small part of it, about how the elite media manufacture consent. Here’s a final quote, one from the Moyers interview with Lofgren [17]:

BILL MOYERS: If, as you write, the ideology of the Deep State is not democrat or republican, not left or right, what is it?

MIKE LOFGREN: It’s an ideology. I just don’t think we’ve named it. It’s a kind of corporatism. Now, the actors in this drama tend to steer clear of social issues. They pretend to be merrily neutral servants of the state, giving the best advice possible on national security or financial matters. But they hold a very deep ideology of the Washington consensus at home, which is deregulation, outsourcing, de-industrialization and financialization. And they believe in American exceptionalism abroad, which is boots on the ground everywhere, it’s our right to meddle everywhere in the world. And the result of that is perpetual war.

This can’t last. We’d better hope it can’t last. And we’d better hope it unwinds peacefully.

I, for one, remain glad that so many of us Americans are armed. When the Deep State collapses — and it will one day — it’s not going to be a happy time.

Questions to the room: Is a Gorbachev for the Deep State conceivable? That is, could you foresee a political leader emerging who could unwind the ideology and apparatus of the Deep State, and not only survive, but succeed? Or is it impossible for the Deep State to allow such a figure to thrive? Or is the Deep State, like the Soviet system Gorbachev failed to reform, too entrenched and too far gone to reform itself? If so, what then?

73 Comments (Open | Close)

73 Comments To "The Deep State"

#1 Comment By Turmarion On February 28, 2014 @ 12:43 pm

Rod, as I said on the other thread, pro- and anti-SSM activists have a common foe in the shadow government or Deep State that’s in charge of everything. That the media may be “cheerleading for SSM”, either because of their own elites or at the behest of the Deep State is not even a tenth of a percent as troubling as the existence of the shadow government/deep state. To worry about gay marriage or HHS mandates while our whole freaking society may be sliding irrevocably into absolute tyranny seems to me to be rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.

Keeping the gays and straights, the religious and the secular, the traditionalists and the modernists, etc., at each others’ throats so that they don’t ally against their common foe is part of the game. Yes, that sounds like a conspiracy theory, but yes, I believe that’s what’s happening.

#2 Comment By Connie On February 28, 2014 @ 1:02 pm

I would love to see a study comparing the press coverage from 9/11 leading up to the Iraq War with press coverage of the gay marriage issue from about 2006 till today. Specifically, I’d be curious to know about how thoroughly the media covered the cases against the policies that the Deep State and the Shallow State decided should prevail.

This would be a fantastic research project for Rod/TAC to undertake.

#3 Comment By EliteCommInc. On February 28, 2014 @ 1:48 pm

“Everybody knows that the dice are loaded
Everybody rolls with their fingers crossed
Everybody knows that the war is over
Everybody knows the good guys lost
Everybody knows the fight was fixed”

“Does that mean that AT&T killed Kennedy”

Film: True Believer

#4 Comment By cecelia On February 28, 2014 @ 2:11 pm

Turmarion – I agree. Rod – wasn’t there say a last summer a book written by a former Republican staff person where he made essentially the same claims? I recall he said the culture war issues were a deliberate strategy to keep the middle/working class distracted and disunited. You wrote about it and I cannot remember his name I am hoping you do.

It seems to me that both the left and the right have bought into the Reagan/Thatcher economic agenda – which is that we cannot have prosperity unless we have deregulation etc – corporatism – hence not much difference between the two parties. So all of them in Washington are enslaved to these corporate interests.

I do think the best we can hope for is that finally people protest as has happened in our past – that the middle and working class unite around the real threat.

#5 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On February 28, 2014 @ 2:12 pm

Is a Gorbachev for the Deep State conceivable? That is, could you foresee a political leader emerging who could unwind the ideology and apparatus of the Deep State, and not only survive, but succeed?

If Obama didn’t do it, and he didn’t, then there doesn’t seem to be many viable candidates on the horizon. Gobachev, of course, didn’t succeed. We got the drunken sot Yeltsin followed by Putin.

Of course I’m not a Right Thinking Person, and so far I’ve succeed fairly well at thumbing my nose at those who are. I am, I must admit, considering getting a “Real ID” qualified driver’s license. There doesn’t seem to be much alternative if I might need to fly once in a blue moon.

#6 Comment By Tyro On February 28, 2014 @ 2:23 pm

I would love to see a study comparing the press coverage from 9/11 leading up to the Iraq War with press coverage of the gay marriage issue from about 2006 till today.

Liberals were making precisely the point that it was irrational fads out of touch with mainstream concerns that resulted in an obsession with Monica Lewinsky leading up to impeachment, a loathing of Al Gore, perhaps the most qualified person to run for president in generations, and the unquestioned assumption that we should invade Iraq.

At the same time, keep in mind that gay marriage was considered political poison that it was the consensus that everyone should run away from in 2004, and only a concern of fringe players like the mayor of SF– that line was yet another media fad.

#7 Comment By ThinkingKap On February 28, 2014 @ 2:29 pm

Hmm, what about this thought experiment?

I would love to see a study comparing the press coverage from 9/11 leading up to the Iraq War with press coverage of the gay marriage climate change issue from about 2006 till today. Specifically, I’d be curious to know about how thoroughly the media covered the cases against the policies that the Deep State and the Shallow State decided should prevail.

#8 Comment By BenSix On February 28, 2014 @ 3:25 pm

It’s good to see the importance of cash being acknowledged. For all that progressivist trends are more radical and powerful than even some of their advocates acknowledge, I suspect that at least some of the darkly enlightened are so keen on ideas that they can overlook the extent to which political forces operate according to cold and cynical motivations.

Iraq is a good example. There were a lot of commentators and authorities who advocated invasion as a means of spreading democratic values but there were also significant forces who were inspired by national interests (Israel’s as well as America’s) and hard cash (Halliburton is not staffed by socialists). Or take immigration. There are significant movements on the left and the libertarian right who support open borders on idealised grounds, but the Zuckerbergesque billionaires are more keen on cheap labour.

It is, I think, when different material interests and ideological trends converge that modernity is at its most powerful. An understanding of it may force one to be more attuned to contemporary politics than some of the more bookish theorists imagine.

Richard ParkerI have always been flabbergasted that no one lost their job after 09/11.

It gets worse! Many of them were [18].

FloridanHow silly (for a number of reasons).

Even if one believes this, it’s not a thought to offer without a clearer explanation. Especially as it’s the kind of sentence that some minds are liable to interpret according to their own eccentric preconceptions.

#9 Comment By brennan On February 28, 2014 @ 3:32 pm

“This can’t last. We’d better hope it can’t last. And we’d better hope it unwinds peacefully. I, for one, remain glad that so many of us Americans are armed. When the Deep State collapses — and it will one day — it’s not going to be a happy time.”

Wow. Strong stuff. Pretty dark, too. And it seems a lot of commenters here are on board with this kind of apocalyptic rhetoric. So, for Rod and others whoagree with him on this theme, do you think that there is a reasonable chance that you’re wrong to believe that America is nearing a serious collapse of some sort?

I ask because when I look around, I see a lot of real problems, as well as a lot of problem-solving dynamism. But I don’t see any fundamental reason why we can’t muddle along from minor crisis to kerfuffle to scandal to limited disaster to patchwork reform etc. etc. for quite a few more decades. What do you see that I don’t?

#10 Comment By Fran Macadam On February 28, 2014 @ 3:32 pm

This is not a pretty sight – the failure of the American experiment of self-governance by the people after two centuries in favor of that of elites whose interests no longer coincide with those of the majority.

The only hope for genuine reform, is a complete reliance on non-violent resistance and protest. Even then, arrest and imprisonment, even violence, may be used against the peaceful.

As Senator Church warned, a homegrown STASI on an unimaginable scale, could be easily pivoted in a moment and turned on the American people.

In the past, the obsessed libertinism of Weimar proved to be an incubator, rather than an obstacle, for Germany’s legal transformation into a totalitarian society.

To me it seemed like madness at the time, but the summer of 2001 in Washington was marked by obsession with homosexual marriage, while enemies in plain sight were ignored by authorities and drew their plans against us.

“Thou art weighed in the balance, and found wanting.”

Those who will suffer the most in our society, will not be the ones who engineer the coups at home or abroad. A democratic people is the enemy of oligarchic special interests, whether at home or abroad.

#11 Comment By sk On February 28, 2014 @ 4:29 pm

“I ask because when I look around, I see a lot of real problems, as well as a lot of problem-solving dynamism. But I don’t see any fundamental reason why we can’t muddle along from minor crisis to kerfuffle to scandal to limited disaster to patchwork reform etc. etc. for quite a few more decades. What do you see that I don’t?”

I think we see the same things. We’re going to muddle along for a few more decades, and then….

This is your view of the future, and you consider it to be positive?

I’ll give you another counterexample: what do you forsee for Switzerland (just as one almost random example)? Do you see muddling along through crises for a few decades and then…(unknown)? What would you see for a country with a healthy future?

sk

#12 Comment By brennan On February 28, 2014 @ 5:05 pm

“This is your view of the future, and you consider it to be positive?”

Sure. It’s not my first choice, of course, but it’s not bad when compared to apocalypses many here predict. Basically, it’s what we’ve had for the last 150 years. Is that so bad?

“I’ll give you another counterexample: what do you forsee for Switzerland (just as one almost random example)? Do you see muddling along through crises for a few decades and then…(unknown)? What would you see for a country with a healthy future?”

I don’t know much about Swiss society/politics/economy, but given that the Swiss state has been unusually stable over the long haul, I’d guess that situation would continue for them as well, although they will be more affected by general European and worldwide conditions than they were in the past. But it’s really hard to make really long-term predictions. I mean, would you have predicted in 1980 that Iceland was in danger of going broke within 30 years due to its banking industry?

#13 Comment By Albert On February 28, 2014 @ 5:53 pm

The Deep State is the unholy alliance of the military-industrial complex and the scientific-technological elite.

Read Eisenhower’s Farewell address

“In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.”

“Yet, in holding scientific research and discovery in respect, as we should, we must also be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific-technological elite.”

#14 Comment By Lord Karth On February 28, 2014 @ 8:10 pm

Mr. Dreher writes: “Questions to the room: Is a Gorbachev for the Deep State conceivable?”

Conceivable, maybe. Likely, no. Anyone who rises to a position of power in the Deep State (perhaps “the Arcology” would be a better term) has already had to demonstrate that he/she/it shares not just the ideology but the basic worldview of the Deep State; teleological, materialistic, anti-religious, believing in the State as a technology–a tool for manipulating Humans and Human societies. And in the rightness thereof.

That is, could you foresee a political leader emerging who could unwind the ideology and apparatus of the Deep State, and not only survive, but succeed? Or is it impossible for the Deep State to allow such a figure to thrive? Or is the Deep State, like the Soviet system Gorbachev failed to reform, too entrenched and too far gone to reform itself?

Yes. Examine the economic figures for the last 40 years. The central and provincial governments’ debts and unfunded liabilities are so high that they will never be paid down. Either they will be monetized, or there will be a direct and immediate default. This will collapse the bureaucratic structure of the State.

If so, what then?

The Meltdown. If we’re lucky, we’ll get economic collapse and civil war, followed by dictatorship and a fast reshuffle/decentralization of political authorities.

The War of All Against All, if we’re not and the high-tech food- and water-production and distribution systems collapse. That could produce a mass die-off and cannibalism as food supplies disappear. Add some bioweapons and/or chemical weapons—and a rockin’ good time WILL be had by all !

It only takes six missed meals, on average, to turn the average man into a potential killer.

Your servant,

Lord Karth

#15 Comment By Fred On February 28, 2014 @ 10:25 pm

“I, for one, remain glad that so many of us Americans are armed.”

#16 Comment By Richard Parker On March 1, 2014 @ 1:33 am

“Toss in the surplus armored vehicles they distributed to police departments”

Woke up to one of those parked on my residential street two weeks ago.

I have always thought that if Cleveland and Reno had been attacked with equal casualties on 09/11 within 18 months New York and Washington would have been advocating business as usual.

#17 Comment By Chris 1 On March 1, 2014 @ 2:37 am

Shades of the Trilateral Commission, Batman!

#18 Comment By JonF On March 1, 2014 @ 11:16 am

Re: It only takes six missed meals, on average, to turn the average man into a potential killer.

Actually, starving people do not make revolutions. Look at any famine in the world: the starving lay down and die. The do not rise up and kill.
Revolutions come from frustrated (but quite well fed) middle class people whose expectations are dashed by the shenanigans of idiots on high. And that is precisely where our risk lies.

#19 Comment By Art Deco On March 1, 2014 @ 11:48 am

I have always been flabbergasted that no one lost their job after 09/11.

Maybe because none of Mr. Bush’s subordinates were in charge of the Massachusetts Port Authority.

#20 Comment By Art Deco On March 1, 2014 @ 11:51 am

This locus is usually good for a circle-jerk in favor of silly ideas.

#21 Comment By Ben H On March 1, 2014 @ 2:01 pm

“Is a Gorbachev for the Deep State conceivable? That is, could you foresee a political leader emerging who could unwind the ideology and apparatus of the Deep State, and not only survive, but succeed?”

The problem with the deep state isn’t the fact that it exists – something like the deep state has existed since the founding and I am sure must exist in any complex society. I think the problem with our current deep state is the character of the people in it. For example Steve Sailer has written before about the death of self-disinterest that exists in this group. Its not that deep staters are just self serving, its that they are unable to recognize that being self serving is wrong on any level.

#22 Comment By Chris 1 On March 1, 2014 @ 2:24 pm

Revolutions come from frustrated (but quite well fed) middle class people whose expectations are dashed by the shenanigans of idiots on high. And that is precisely where our risk lies.

Absolutely correct.

The “Deep State” analysis fundamentally misinterprets what’s actually going on. In truth we’ve been marketed goods and services that require a transcendence of national sovereignty, and the fact that the “(quite well fed) middle class” has come to see those goods and services as an entitlement is what drives revolutions.

An example: our daughter served in the Peace Corps in the Islamic Republic of Mauritania in 2001-2002. The “middle class” there did not want potable water or even pit toilets…they wanted access to the internet. They were already able to purchase low-cost clothing from China, India and Bangladesh.

The “Arab Spring” was not the pluralistic democratic movement that neo-conservatives believed it was, but rather the middle-class finding itself shut out from what they can see via media are the benefits that the middle class enjoys elsewhere in the world.

Which is a long way of saying that any “revolution” will ensure the survival of what is being called the “Deep State” even as it paradoxically attacks those “shallow state” others in their midst, as if it is the fault of Christians or Muslims or Jews or immigrants or the “other” tribe that the benefits of globalization are not being more widely shared.

#23 Comment By JonF On March 2, 2014 @ 6:29 pm

Re: I think the problem with our current deep state is the character of the people in it.

Yes, this, and in spades.
We expect self-interest from the ruling class: they are human too after all. But what we want is enlightened self-interest, and ability to take the long view and to realize that simply enriching themselves by plundering the general economy (and the natural environment) is not going to work out well over the long haul.