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January 22, 2022

Threat Inflation


Question: When you saw the word "Threat" in the headline above, did you think "Russia"?

I chose that headline before Joe Biden's press conference which made threats posed by Russia a bigger issue than they were before, both here and abroad. I don't think that Uncle Joe was supposed to let us in on the little secret that the current foreign policy folks in the USA would not care much about a small incursion by Russia into Ukraine. This just adds some confirmation to the warnings of Jacob Siegel earlier this month that America is controlled by secrecy. It starts out with a domestic incident. The key phrase from this piece is:

Threat inflation has become a tool of political repression.
What does it mean when President Biden declares an event in which four people died, all of them Trump supporters and only one by violence, the "worst attack on our democracy since the Civil War," and The New York Times marks the anniversary by proclaiming that "Every Day Is Jan. 6 Now"? The implication is politics as permanent crisis, which sounds strikingly like a definition of war.

This obvious threat inflation, which should be familiar after September 11, is used by governments and private corporations alike to award themselves more unaccountable power. To work, it relies on the public being cowed by the expertise and authority of institutions that operate in secret. These methods have proved to be highly effective for defending the power of America's bureaucracies.

"Permanent crisis". Sometimes it helps those in power, sometimes it doesn't. Some domestic crises could have a negative impact in election season. Maybe they will have to generate a new one.

The problem with bureaucratised secrecy is what it does to the rest of society. As illusions come to seem real and formal mechanisms of truth-seeking appear blocked off, conspiracies offer themselves as a virtuous alternative. . .

Threat Inflation in Foreign Affairs

"Secrecy is an institution of the administrative state that developed during the great conflicts of the twentieth century. It is distinctive primarily in that it is all but unexamined," the scholar and American statesman Daniel Patrick Moynihan wrote toward the end of his long career in public life, when he turned his attention to the power in the shadows. . .

Though he never wavered on the righteousness of the anti-Communist cause, Moynihan argued that the effort had been weakened and warped by the growth of a bureaucratic culture of secrecy. He delivered a measured but devastating attack on the underworld of administrative institutions better known today as "the deep state".

In Secrecy: The American Experience, published in 1999, Moynihan argued that US policy had been systematically distorted by intelligence agency assessments that exaggerated the economic and military power of the Soviet Union. Because the agencies operated in secret, the exaggerations were not only shielded from scrutiny but had the perverse effect of fuelling their own growth. Over time, this process fundamentally transformed the American political system. "Secrecy is a form of regulation," Moynihan wrote in the book's opening line. . .

Despite his criticisms, Moynihan maintained that secrecy was "at times legitimate and necessary". But he observed a typology of secrets in which there were two critical distinctions. The first was between secrets applied to foreign affairs in the interest of national security, and those used domestically to regulate the activities of American citizens. The second, related division was between functional and symbolic secrets.

Angelo Codevilla worked as a staffer for Moynihan. I wonder if this influenced Moynihan's decision to turn his attention to foreign affairs in his later years?

Codevilla believed in avoiding wars if possible and winning them if they could not be avoided. He disdained the postwar twilight of "No-win war, no peace." . . .

If Codevilla had done no more than play the part of Jeremiah, we would remember him with gratitude. But he was much more than a scholar or pundit; he also was one of the canniest and most effective intelligence officials that the United States produced in the postwar period, most prominently as staff director of the Senate Intelligence Committee during 1979-1985. He was offered senior positions at the Central Intelligence Agency more than once, but preferred the role of an outside monitor of U.S. intelligence to the constraints of the intelligence community.

Secrecy, he argued, is the most-abused privilege in government, because it allows intelligence agencies to cover up their errors. Codevilla knew where most of the bodies were buried, and showed no fear or favor as a critic of the intelligence establishment. . .

Biden has just demonstrated that secrecy in government is subject to sudden disruptions, making the former secrets counter-productive.

Threat Inflation in Domestic Affairs vs. Foreign Affairs

Back to Siegel's piece at the top of the post:

For four years, while Donald Trump was President, US intelligence agencies colluded with members of Congress and the media to foment a conspiracy about collusion between Trump and Russia. The claims relied on secret smoking gun evidence that was supposedly in the possession of the proper authorities and would, any day, result in the President and his associates being tried for treason. Of course, this never happened, because what the secrecy concealed was not damning evidence, nor merely the lack of it, but the record showing how Clinton lawyers, ex spies, and current federal agents had, together, manufactured the false collusion narrative. Predictably, the official state-sanctioned conspiracy produced as its mutant offspring the counter-conspiracies of the Right, of which the most notorious was QAnon, a group that would play a leading role in the Capitol riot.

So, Russia was a big threat to the USA because of some imaginary secret communication with Donald Trump, but it is not much of a threat to the USA when it reminds other countries that they are natural Soviet (that is, Russian) satellites after a Joe Biden press conference! But we have to pretend that this is not our position. I think I get it now. Maybe.

Europe seems to be waking up. Is it good that they want to cut Joe out of negotiations with Russia?

The FBI has a record of hyping up threats and encouraging terrorists plots that it can then bust to justify its mission. . .

And yet these dubious pseudo-events, which never posed any immediate threat to America's democracy or its security establishment, are compared to the worst attacks in American history. At the January 6 commemoration last week, Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi brought out liberal godhead Lin-Manuel Miranda along with the cast of Hamilton to perform a virtual performance. This moment of supreme kitsch was only scarcely more ridiculous than Vice President Kamala Harris, in her commemorative remarks, comparing the largely symbolic riot to Pearl Harbor and 9/11.

The purpose of these gross exaggerations is to demand that Americans forfeit their rights in the name of security and convince the public, or some electorally significant fraction of it, that it is wise and just for the US government to prosecute a counterterrorism campaign against Trump supporters. The project uses the full power of the American security establishment as a get-out-the-vote arm for the Democratic party.

Secrecy, like conspiracy, dulls the impact of reality. . .

There is a connection between the inanity of Biden's disastrous ramblings about Russia in his press conference and the inanity of the campaign against the left's political foes. I recommend reading Siegel's entire piece. It's short.

Concerning the Democrats' latest threat inflation, the Republican push to return the USA to "Jim Crow" voting rules, Richard Epstein analyzes the voting rights showdown. Dispassionate, informative. Refreshing.


Rachmaninoff, played by a blind pianist. Very dramatic. My Dad saw Rachmaninoff perform once. He entered the hall wearing a cape. He stopped the orchestra when a train passed.

Hope you have something nice planned for the weekend.

This is the Thread before the Gardening Thread.

Serving your mid-day open thread needs

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posted by K.T. at 11:15 AM

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