When it was a race between a middling neoliberal and a neofascist buffoon, the way a certain sort of leftist with a social media presence chose to demonstrate their enviable, contrarian wisdom was to deride the former — while not endorsing the latter, mind you, but — for engaging in McCarthyist “red-baiting” against a right-wing authoritarian. It was accepted as self-evidently false, and laughably so, that the right-wing authoritarian in Moscow would seek to swing the U.S. election to an ally. Those positing that there was, in fact, something to the claim that the Russian state hacked the DNC (and selectively leaked what it found on behalf of the new Republican president) were either naively or cynically falling for a line put forward by shadowy and unelected Deep State operatives; leave it to liberals, the savvy leftist blogged, to find a way to side with the establishment against a billionaire.
Donald J. Trump defeating Hillary Clinton in the Electoral College, if not the popular vote, presented a new challenge: How to continue shitting on liberals as the most problematic threat, post November 8, at a time when an unhinged billionaire is about to get the nuclear launch codes? Glenn Greenwald of The Intercept’s approach: Keep acting like the (U.S.) Deep State that couldn’t stop Trump’s win is — I’m no supporter, but — seeking to undermine the legitimacy of a democratically elected leader, as (don’t you know) it’s done many times before, abroad. In this telling, news of Russian intervention continues to be self-evidently #FakeNews pushed by a media elite with known ties to The Agency, and the take serves a dual function: validating the absurd nonsense pushed during the election by Greenwald and his quasi-left fellow travelers, from Rania Khalek to Michael Tracey, that Trump was, relative to Killary, the candidate of peace — the man who, say what you will, didn’t want to start World War III on behalf of Jabhat al-Nusra.
Key to the argument that Trump is Salvador Allende and liberals (eyeroll) are being liberals (spit) by noting the CIA’s assessment Russia intervened in the U.S. election on the new president’s behalf is: ignoring the fact that 16 other U.S. intelligence agencies and the FBI believe it did too, disagreement coming only on the question of whether the obviously selective leaks that had an obviously partisan impact were explicitly designed to help the man that, as one Russian communist told me, the entire Russian state media was promoting as the globe’s salvation. Greenwald, for instance, along with the boys of Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, have long posited that there’s nothing to this hacking stuff; “neither the FBI nor the CIA is on board, at least publicly” blogger Ben Norton wrote last summer, lamenting coverage of the “Russia Hack Conspiracy.”
When the accusations did become public, reporting on that also became extremely bad, the mainstream media repeating the same Deep State claims that led us into Iraq, according to a popular bad history of the 2003 invasion.
Trump vs. The Military-Industrial Complex?
Citing Dwight Eisenhower’s warning against the rise of the “military-industrial complex,” Greenwald writes that this this complex, which he understands to be a “faction,” is “now engaged in open warfare against the duly elected” Trump, “using classic Cold War dirty tactics and defining ingredients of what has until recently been denounced as ‘Fake News.’” (You know what was fake news, pal? Iraq, etc.). “Their most valuable instrument is the U.S. media, much of which reflexively reveres, serves, believes, and sides with hidden intelligence officials.”
Elite U.S. media outlets do often side with shadowy state officials, holding back newsworthy reporting simply because those officials asked. Indeed, what has Greenwald up in arms, Buzzfeed’s release of a sensational dossier from a former British intelligence official on the Trump team’s alleged ties to Russia, is an example of that: it was circulating among the top echelon of the press for months, only released after the intelligence community decided to tell Trump about it, which Greenwald characterizes as “the Deep State” unleashing “its tawdriest and most aggressive assault yet on Trump.”
But, by briefing Trump on what every elite journalist already knew, was this Deep State really showing its troubling desire to undermine its next boss? Was this an openly partisan act of what Greenwald reminds us three times is an “unelected” intelligence community, which, regardless of Trump being bad (a secondary concern at this time), is deeply troubling?
Perhaps the community Trump has promised to unleash from the governance of The PC Police truly does wish to anger the world’s most powerful man, but the evidence shows that when shadowy unelected officials intervened in our politics, they did so to help the new boss — and not just the Russians.
Siding with the Deep State
As Liz Spayd, public editor of The New York Times, recounts, the paper of record last year killed multiple stories about open investigations into the Trump team’s ties to Russia — stories that “could upend the presidential race” — because members of what bloggers might term the Deep State had asked them to.
“There is an unsettling theme that runs through The Times’s publishing decisions,” Spayd writes. “In each instance [a story was killed], it was the actions of government officials that triggered newsroom decisions — not additional reporting or insight that journalists gained.” And so while the U.S. public was permitted to learn, on the eve of the election, that the FBI was investigating more emails from Hillary Clinton’s private server (Greenwald mocked liberals at the time for attacking “the integrity of the FBI Director”), it was not permitted to learn that “the FBI, the CIA, Capitol Hill and various intelligence agencies” were investigating a “covert connection” between Trump and “and Russian officials trying to influence an American election.”
While conceding, in aside, that these ties deserve scrutiny, Greenwald chastises liberals for craving “the rule of Deep State overlords,” the MSNBC-watching masses dumbly embracing what he told Fox News is an effort to “undermine and subvert and destroy the legitimacy of Donald Trump’s presidency.” What drenches Greenwald’s take in darkly comic irony is that he’s not only effectively serving the interests of the Russian state, having yet to find an investigation into its actions that lives up to his discerning tastes, but the very “Deep State” at home that he rails against from Brazil — the one that demanded a compliant press not report about open investigations into one presidential candidate (the one that’s now president), even as it leaked news about an investigation into the other (the one that lost, albeit by 2.9 million more votes).
What a damning embarrassment: Fox’s favorite adversarial expat not only spent the run-up to the election “yes, but”-ing opposition to the fascist — at least he doesn’t want war with Russia, in keeping with the “non-interventionist mindset” that turned the military-industrial complex against him — but now, with that fascist in power, the millionaire sides with the billionaire and shadowy, unelected agents of the state in demanding the press not report on ties between the world’s most powerful pieces of shit. When, in an age where “President Donald Trump” is a collection of words that accurately describes who sits at the top of hierarchical state power, and one’s priority is identifying Trump as a victim of the shadowy unelected elites who helped him kill unflattering stories? You’re about as big of a joke as the U.S. president, and it isn’t funny.
Charles Davis is a writer in Los Angeles.