How do you begin to write an essay about a subject that you can barely understand? I did it for years in college, but it seems harder now. Maybe it’s my age. And anyway, the stakes seem different now. This time, I’m not pretending to have knowledge. I am readily admitting that I don’t have it. What I’m trying to describe here is what I don’t know. And what I don’t know is scaring the hell out of me.
Have you read “Anatomy of the Deep State”? You should. It’s an essay by Mike Lofgren, a D.C. national security insider, and can be found all over the web. I’ll avoid the details but touch on the guts of it. Forget Republicans, Democrats, the Tea-Party, the neo-cons, the neo-libs and the dysfunction in Washington; they’re not the problem. They are merely the inept players in the public state, the government we can all see. It’s “the Deep State” we ought to be paying more attention to. Lofgren describes the Deep State as “a hybrid entity of public and private institutions (corporations, Wall St., Silicon Valley) 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.”
For Ian Fleming fans, this stuff seems old hat, a product of post-WWII paranoia. But between Lofgren’s essay, a shelf full of faded paperback political thrillers, and two seasons each of Homeland and House of Cards, I’m convinced. We’re in trouble.
We all know (but continually ignore) President Eisenhower’s farewell warning about the “growing military-industrial” complex. The Deep State appears to be the M-I complex on steroids. Take the condition of the state when Ike bid adieu and add: the unregulated behemoth of Wall Street whose wealth dictates public policy throughout the visible state (and whose crimes go unpunished by the same); the unfathomable willingness of American citizens, young men and women, to offer their limbs, minds, and lives in perpetual wars fought two continents away for what they’ve been told and presumably believe is the preservation of American freedom; add the board room decisions to deindustrialize America (and strip us of millions of middle-class jobs) in order to financialize the economy and send nearly all the wealth flowing into the open arms of a handful of elites; and, oh yes I almost forgot, add the phenomenon of Silicon Valley technology whose central purpose appears to be the business of tracking everyone’s activities for commercial purposes as well as helping the Deep State’s need to know all about us. (Note enterprises such as the construction of a $1.7 B building in Utah, the size of 17 football fields, to store data on us equal to 500 quintillion pages of text. A year ago I thought Edward Snowden was a traitor. If his actions turn out to be the beginning of the overthrow of the Deep State, he may well be the greatest patriot America has ever seen.
In the old days, I might have held out hope that a messiah would come along to save us from the corrupt insiders. Jimmy Stewart fought the good fight in “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” (“The lost causes are the only causes worth fighting for.”). He forced the evil Senator Paine to admit his corruption on the floor of the Senate. (In a speech no filmgoer could watch today with a straight face, Paine was actually remorseful – this rather than the standard “mistakes were made” press release prior to signing on with a lobbying group.) It was a great triumph.
Like millions, I thought we had a messiah but we were wrong. The hundreds of terrorist suspects rounded up 13 years ago still have not been charged with a crime and are still in jail in Cuba while the scumbags who brought America to its knees in 2008 are still walking free; and we’ve forfeited our right to privacy in the name of commerce and national security. I won’t be looking for any more saviors, not in this climate. If Rand Paul and Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush and Joe Biden don’t know what’s really going on in Washington, New York, and San Jose then shame on them. If they do know what’s going on and don’t have the courage or patriotism to tell us the truth then even more shame on them. And if we the people continue to play along in this charade, then shame on all of us.
If Lofgren is right, it’s too late to work within the system. Whatever has passed for democracy in our lifetimes is on a deathwatch. There are many small voices out there. We’re hearing from Lofgren today; in the past we’ve heard from Richard Clark telling us what really happened in the White House after 9/11 and several others, but no one whistleblower has gained the needed traction, not even Snowden. We need Americans who are courageous enough, credible enough, and committed enough to tell the truth about the power brokers who control the Beltway bureaucracy, enough of them to form a critical mass. And we need more attentive, engaged citizens to get mad as hell and not take it anymore. I’m not holding my breath.