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Saturday, July 15, 2017

Trump and the Deep State -- or: The problems caused by right-wingers who steal left-wing terminology

On Democratic Underground today, a poster linked to a fairly recent piece titled "Donald Trump and the Deep State," written by Peter Dale Scott. Without reading the article, a couple of DU readers seem to have presumed that Scott must be some sort of neo-fascist wolf-in-sheep's clothing.

The problem is the term "deep state," which Scott popularized some years ago. (He borrowed the phrase from Turkey, where it is commonly used.) The American far rightists have appropriated the term "deep state." Tossing aside Scott's definition, neo-fascists now use the term to as a catch-all name for whatever conclave of boogeymen haunts the right-wing imagination on any given day. "Deep state" is the new "Illuminati."

(Some of you may recall when Roger Stone claimed that the "deep state" tried to kill him with polonium poisoning. He got better.)

When a youngster on DU suggested that Professor Scott should be classified with the Alt Right, I felt obligated to mount a response:

* * *

Professor Peter Dale Scott is a former Canadian diplomat, a professor at Berkeley, and a respected poet. Over the decades, he has strongly opposed conservative administrations from Nixon to Reagan to Dubya. He wrote groundbreaking works exposing connections between the CIA and organized crime. He is well-known for his work on the CIA's disastrous coup in Indonesia, for his pieces exposing American links to Pinochet's Chile and other neofascist states, and for his opposition to the Vietnam war.

In short: For many years, his name was associated with progressivism, anti-interventionism and anti-militarism.

Scott borrowed the term "deep state" from Turkish politics. (The phrase is commonly used there.) I know that he defined the oil industry as a key component of the deep state -- thus, he would surely point to the appointment of Rex Tillerson as an example of the deep state in action.

A quick skim of Scott's latest piece will show you that he identifies Donald Trump as an exemplar (or tool) of the deep state who deceptively ran for office as an opponent of same. In this regard, Scott likens Trump to Hitler.

It is true the far rightists in this country fastened upon Scott's work and appropriated the term "deep state" for their own purposes. Scott is not responsible for that. He should have known better than to appear on Alex Jones' radio program some years back. Scott has also appeared -- far more often -- on shows run by leftwingers and socialists. (I first encountered him via the Pacifica network.) I guess that some people believe that a microphone is a microphone. Personally, I think that life is easier if one strives to avoid "guilt by association" accusations.

I chatted with Scott a few times more than twenty years ago; he probably would not recall. I definitely would NOT classify him as any sort of right-winger -- quite the opposite. That said, I've not really followed his work in recent years; it is possible that he has written cringe-inducing material during that past decade or so. If he has, I hope that someone reading these words will enlighten me.

There used to be a robust tradition of left-wing anti-CIA, anti-militarist, anti-fascist criticism. If you are old enough to recall publications like Covert Action Information Bulletin and CounterSpy, you may be familiar with that tradition. The situation is very strange now: Some of the rhetoric employed by those old-school lefty writers has been commandeered and perverted by the far right.

I'm an old dog, and I find these new tricks to be both infuriating and perplexing.

* * *

Here are a few excerpts from Scott's new piece. You tell me if Scott sounds like a Trump apologist or an Alt Rightist.
On February 3, 2017, the Wall Street Journal reported President Trump’s plans to pave the way for a broad rollback of the recent financial reforms of Wall Street.[1] Although no surprise, the news was in ironic contrast to the rhetoric of his campaign, when he spent months denouncing both Ted Cruz and Hillary Clinton for their links to Goldman Sachs, even when his campaign’s Financial Chairman was a former Goldman Sachs banker, Steve Mnuchin (now Trump’s Treasury Secretary).

Trump was hardly the first candidate to run against the banking establishment while surreptitiously taking money from big bankers. So did Hitler in 1933; so did Obama in 2008.
However, Trump’s connections to big money, both new (often self-made) and old (mostly institutional) were not only more blatant than usual; some were also possibly more sinister. Trump’s campaign was probably the first ever to be (as we shall see) scrutinized by the FBI for “financial connections with Russian financial figures,” and even with a Russian bank whose Washington influence was attacked years ago, after it was allegedly investigated in Russia for possible mafia connections.[4]

Trump’s appointment of the third former Goldman executive to lead Treasury in the last four administrations, after Robert Rubin (under Clinton) and Hank Paulson (under Bush), has reinforced recent speculation about Trump’s relationship to what is increasingly referred to as the deep state.
Throughout the campaign, the Kochs and Trump (whose chief backer was another maverick billionaire, Robert Mercer) were apparently at arm’s length from each other. Vanity Fair suggested in September that at that time the Kochs were “in direct opposition to the Mercers,” in a “civil war that threatens to tear the party apart” — even though, starting around 2011, the Mercers had been donating “at least $1 million a year to the Koch network.”[25]

Whatever the tensions, it was clear after the election that Trump in his transition team had “surrounded himself with people tied to the Kochs.”[26] Soon the Trump nominee for Education Secretary was Betsy DeVos, another major billionaire contributor to the Koch donor list. (Betsy’s brother Erik Prince, famous as the founder and owner of the notorious private army Blackwater, was quietly advising the Trump transition team on matters related to intelligence and defense.)[27]

And Trump’s CIA Director is Mike Pompeo, formerly a Koch-sponsored congressman “who was so closely entwined with the climate-change denying Koch brothers that he was known as the ‘congressman from Koch.”[28] (The new administration has reportedly instructed the Environmental Protection Agency to remove the climate change page from its website.)
I could quote more, but you get the gist.

So how do we deal with the problem of Alt Rightists and neo-fascists appropriating the terminology (and some of the argumentation) that once was the province of the left-wing radicals and antiwar protestors? Today, our political choices come down to an exasperatingly false dichotomy. In one corner, we have pro-Trumpers pretending to be rebels and revolutionaries and working-class heroes; in the other corner, we have MSNBC offering reverential treatment to Bush administration alumni and intelligence officers.

Where does that leave a guy like me?

Sure, I've taken to watching MSBC religiously. Times being what they are, I feel obligated to follow every quiver and convulsion of the ongoing battle against Trumpism. I've had to become a staunch defender of the Clintons, even though I wasn't really an enthusiastic fan of either one. I opposed Bernie because I thought he was a fraud and a tool (witting or unwitting) of the Trump campaign. I became a reluctant Obama defender in 2012, even though this blog had strongly opposed him from the left.

All of this categorizes me as a conventional Democrat. Yet on a deeper level, I feel alienated, homeless and friendless.
"Yes, Officer, I am Noah Cross, and I am rich." Forget it, Joe, it's Chinatown.
I feel the same way about "neoliberal," which to me brings thoughts of Charlie Peters, James Fallows, and The Washington Monthly rather than a bunch of bloodless Viennese academics....

"Deep State" is particularly interesting, though. Most recently there was a wave of polisci and international relations types explaining the term couldn't be applied to America as it referred to a specific business/government configuration unlikely to be found outside of Turkey -- oblivious to its long use by Scott and others. One of the most interesting of these others has been apostate GOP Congressional staffer Mike Lofgren, whose The Deep State: The Fall of the Constitution and the Rise of a Shadow Government echoed much of what Scott has been saying, repackaging it for a wider audience.

Scott himself seems to alternate between "Deep State" and "Deep Politics," with the latter being, I think, possibly a more-useful term: The former implies an organized group underpinning the visible state, while the latter suggests a looser coalition of players with common or overlapping interests. Today, there's no need for the heads of Big Oil actively to campaign for U.S. intervention to overthrow the next Mosaddegh, as their needs and desires have been internalized by the State Department.
Hello Joseph. You make it sound like you've drifted off the continent alone on a small desolate chunk of ice. Au contraire, I believe it is more like Someone has dialed down gravity and we are all floating in a disorientated state. Bad news is you are not alone, good news is Trump probably is 'peak disorientation'. I recommend the sublime series Patriot on Amazon to chase away the never ending campaign.
Peter Dale Scott has spent many decades documenting how the right wing has operated outside of legal structures to achieve their ends and consolidate power. As demonstrated in the quote from him above, he is unflinchingly honest. The only change I'm aware of is that he plans to work less on politics in order to return to poetry. Sounds like people need to know him better.

Hitler, since he's already been mentioned, was a clever demagogue. The Nazi party was called National Socialist for a reason, to fool people. Their platform promised all the good of socialism.

So the extreme right has a long history of taking terminology and distorting it for their own use.

On a separate but not completely unrelated topic, Michael Ledeen has been one of the right wing guys to watch. But his idea is to borrow from the right. His PhD was done on "Universal Fascism." Such a thing never existed. But it seemed that Ledeen was trying to extract what might be useful from the past. His militant dislike of Iran and "Islamofascism" have kept him a marketable entity.

A recent gig for Ledeen was ghostwriting Ge. Mike Flynn's book.

Good summary here:
One of the quotes you quoted...Trump’s campaign was probably the first ever to be (as we shall see) scrutinized by the FBI for “financial connections with Russian financial figures,

Except that the FBI was not investigating Trump during 2016.
The reason you may feel homeless as a democrat is because demcosrats have prioritized immigration issues over helping Elderly Americans in a fair and square manner. I am shocked at the financial shenanigans used by politicians to get the elderly excluded from government programs that are supposed to help the elderly.
Yet these same youngish, metro democrats will go out of their way to protest anything to do with putting any type of leash on immigration.
"Except that the FBI was not investigating Trump during 2016."

We all THOUGHT that was the case, but we later learned that the FBI was indeed doing so.

"What he did not say was that the F.B.I. was also investigating the campaign of Donald J. Trump. Just weeks before, Mr. Comey had declined to answer a question from Congress about whether there was such an investigation. Only in March, long after the election, did Mr. Comey confirm that there was one."
Even today's comments contain poetic fragments: "Someone has dialed down gravity and we're all floating..."

Nice, Arbusto!

Joseph, the millennial progressives are a vicious lot, armed to the teeth with ....Tolerance (tm). They will cram that Tolerance down your throat till you know how to regurgitate it precisely the way they do. Brave New Bulimitopia. I'm glad I'm a Beta. Alphas have to work too hard...

Here's a link to 5 of Peter Dale Scott's poems. "The Tao of 9/11" is a tough read, but the journey hits landmarks familiar to readers of this blog. I'm thinking a haibun might have been a better choice of form, but anyway, there are hits of pure poetry all the way through.

Like the times in a bad marriage
good times flash back with pain
so in the midst of preemptive war
I remember loving this country

Zee, thanks for the link to the poems. Nice quote, as well.

Scott has lived an amazing life as sometime diplomat, scholar-poet, historian and what might be called ad hoc journalist. This has gained him access to unusual and inaccessible people and places, that he then writes about.

It's not 1968 anymore and this isn't your grandfather's Democratic Party. The deep state (CIA/Wallstreet) has learned that corporate Democrats like Obama and Clinton can be just as useful as Republicans. With the yankee-capitalist brand having suffering so much damage over the last several decades, the deep state (CIA/Wallstreet) now finds neo-liberalism to be the more useful political philosophy to employ while plying its trade.

Tom, your words mean a lot, as this post did to me....tho I am probably the opposite of a diplomat and scholar-poet! I have more of a sprite muse. My own 9/11 poem was a combo of Surrealist "opposites" form meshed with Stevenson. However much I come off as a "get off my lawn!" type, Scott's actual life supercedes that...and I am grateful to learn of his talent. I was mostly expecting people to tell me to write my own haibun if I cared so much, haha!
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