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The Unapologetic Geek

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On the Deep State

Bradley/Chelsea Manning
At least she accepted the consequences
A year and a half ago, I remember social conservatives applauding one Kim Davis, a county clerk who refused to issue marriage certificates to same-sex couples, in defiance of the Supreme Court's Obergefell v. Hodges decision. To them, this woman was some kind of hero for using her personal beliefs as an excuse to keep her from doing her job. Last month, government scientists opened up anonymous Twitter accounts in order to circumvent President Trump's moratorium on public disclosures. With the likes of Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden being lauded as heroes by liberals and libertarians alike, it seems as though defiance from within the government is in.

This is a dangerous trend, and it was recognized as such by Presidents Bush and Obama. Schoolhouse door protests and rogue Twitter accounts are pretty minor in the scheme of things, and even whistleblowers can serve a useful purpose in exposing rampant corruption. However, leaks of classified or sensitive information are not to be taken lightly, and outright defiance of the law cannot be ignored or easily forgiven in a government that operates properly. I'm not defending governments that want to keep embarrassing secrets from getting out, but one must understand that the blithe acceptance of such behavior leads to something far more horrifying, something called the deep state.

You see, once you start to believe that your conscience is more important than the law, it's the start of a very slippery slope down a plethora of immoral paths. As a private citizen, protesting unjust laws is well and good, as long as you are ready and willing to accept the consequences of any illegal actions you might take. However, if you are in a position of power and have access to information that can be used for political advantage, your conscience might convince you that selectively leaking cherry-picked information can serve a greater good. In effect, you start to wield information as a weapon against those you disagree with, and once enough people in government start to behave that way, you find yourself in a government more concerned with preserving its own power under a veil of secrecy and blacklists than one concerned with the people in its charge.

Michael Flynn
A living Rorschach test
Defenders of the Trump administration talk about the deep state as this vast left-wing conspiracy of government officials who are doing all they can behind the scenes to ruin the president and his cabinet, including at the moment the recently resigned former national security advisor Michael Flynn. The Michael Flynn tale is a dizzying scandal with lots of twists and turns too detailed and wonky to get into here, but sufficed to say, if you are against Trump, you're supposed to believe that Flynn is just the tip of an iceberg that reveals damnable connections between the president and Russia (in other words, proof that the election was "hacked"), whereas if you are for Trump, you're supposed to believe that Flynn is a victim of the deep state, unfairly crucified by rogue government agents with the help of the liberal mainstream media.

I'm not convinced of either extreme, but that's not to say I don't have my concerns about Trump and Russia or the deep state. I'll save Russia for another day, because of the two, I find the deep state far more concerning, not because I think it's a new phenomenon, but because it's been growing for decades and only the blind refuse to see it. Before you dismiss this as conspiracy-mongering, know that there are countries that live under a deep state, also called a state within a state. It's a real thing, and it's arguably inevitable whenever a government is big enough, powerful enough, and partisan enough to foster its creation.

This is not a left/right issue, either. You should be worried about the deep state no matter where you fall on the political spectrum or what letter you have on your voter registration card (assuming you even have one). In fact, the more the public at large looks at things through such a blatantly partisan lens, the worse the deep state can get. If you live in a country where a large enough portion are convinced that the politicians in charge aren't just wrong but evil, then it's only a matter of time before people within the government start compromising the law in an effort to cleanse their own conscience.

Ackbar
He's only saying it's a trap because he doesn't want you to know there's a stange man inside his head
So what is the deep state? Loosely defined, it's a group of people behind the scenes who use blackmail, media manipulation, bribery, and vindictive character assassination to control, influence, or change the figureheads of government. Countries that develop this problem rarely develop just one deep state at a time, and it is virtually impossible to eradicate in places without proper checks and balances.

The worst part about this? The United States already has this problem, and has had it for far longer than you probably think. Again, it's not just Republicans or just Democrats who are responsible for it. Our leaders are under constant threat of embarrassing leaks, damaging internal sabotage, and accusations that rely on just enough truth to destroy not just their careers but their lives. They don't even have to be doing anything wrong.

Take Michael Flynn, for example. There's no actual proof he did any of the things he's being accused of, save at the very least having a poor memory. He was forced to resign because the administration can no longer trust him--and it was a surprisingly correct call for Trump--but it's possible he is innocent of any wrongdoing. It's also possible he is guilty of everything he's being accused of, and the only thing that can prove it one way or another--information such as a recorded phone call--is classified, meaning we'll only get it if those who have access decide to break the law.

Cloak of Secrecy
Or, more accurately, he doesn't want you to know
This kind of thing is happening all the time in Washington, and it's the reason we'll never get the transparency so famously promised and then denied by President Obama. When you're in power, the only way to protect yourself is to keep your secrets hidden. Nixon wasn't caught just because he kept so many secrets and was so paranoid about his political enemies; it was because he was foolish enough to record conversations in the White House. No president has made that mistake again, have they?

Now for the good news. There is a solution to the deep state, and it's actually quite simple: stop giving government so much power. I know a lot of my readers don't want to hear it, but the more you let your government control your life--and the more dependant you become on it--the greater the threat of the deep state becomes. The government can't stop information from leaking, and it can't stop people of conscience from defying the law, no matter how strictly they are punished. It doesn't matter, though, because whistleblowing and civil disobedience only treat symptoms, not the cause. Don't let fear, hatred, and anger towards the partisans on the other side of the aisle blind you from the truth: corruption can only flourish when there's real power to be brokered.


-e. magill 2/16/2017

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