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  • Peter McGuire

What Does Trump Mean By "Deep State"?—Conspiracies Part 2

Updated: Aug 27, 2023

Over the 20th Century, superconspiracy theories have infiltrated the American political discourse, particularly on the right. This process reached its climax in the election of our first openly conspiracist president, Donald Trump. This episode explores the history of conspiracy theories in America from Henry Ford to Pat Robertson to Donald Trump.

Photo: Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump holds a rally with supporters in Council Bluffs, Iowa, U.S. September 28, 2016. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Further Reading:

Trump surrogate discussing the deep state:

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Henry Ford published a newspaper that was distributed at all Ford dealerships called The Dearborn Independent. In 1920, a series of articles began to be published alerting the reader of the Jewish menace, several of which discuss and reprint sections of the Protocols. Interestingly, as the Protocols began to circulate in the English language, references to Jews were as often as not replaced with references to Bolsheviks. Several Dearborn Independent articles discuss a conspiracy between the two. At the same time, in 1921, the Times of London published the conclusive debunk of the Protocols. It showed that the 24 protocols were largely plagiarized from the 25 steps that Machiavelli, the stand-in for Napoleon III, describes in A Dialogue in Hell. This was followed by a book laying bare the non-Jewish sources for the text. Over the next few years, Ford’s Dearborn Independent articles were compiled into a series of books, the first of which was titled The International Jew: The World's Foremost Problem. These books contained articles such as: “Does Jewish Power Control the World Press?”, “Are the Jews Victims or Persecutors?”, “Jewish Idea Molded Federal Reserve Plan”, and “Will Jewish Zionism Bring Armageddon?” If some of these theories sound familiar, congrats, you’ve been paying attention. In 1927, at least partially for business reasons, Ford closed the newspaper and issued an apology to the Jewish community. The apology was written by others and never signed by Ford. As late as 1940, he expressed his intention to publish The International Jew again, once the anti-Nazi sentiment died down. Caving to pressure in the 1930’s, Ford managed to stop the third-party reprinting of The International Jew through lawsuits, but this was one of those pandora’s box ideas. This idea wasn’t going back in the box. Hitler wrote "Every year makes [the American Jews] more and more the controlling masters of the producers in a nation of one hundred and twenty million [referring to the U.S.]; only a single great man, Ford, to their fury still maintains full independence.” Its seed was planted in fertile ground. America has been home to xenophobic movements virtually since its founding. Alexander Hamilton, himself an immigrant from the Caribbean, was an early nativist. He campaigned for Adams’ Alien and Sedition acts, which discouraged immigration by raising citizenship requirements. When few people were deported under the Acts, he railed, “Renegade Aliens conduct more than one of the most incendiary presses in the U. States—and yet in open contempt and defiance of the laws they are permitted to continue their destructive labours. Why are they not sent away?” In the 1820s and 30s, the first major third party appeared: the anti-masonic party. In 1854, the Know Nothing party captured the speakership of the house. Their main goals were to uncover the Catholic conspiracy that was destroying the nation and to reduce immigration. The term “nativist” was first used as an insult to Know Nothings; they were decried as “bigoted nativists” in the press. Nativist, here, does not refer to Native Americans, by the way, it refers to the children of the original colonies. As Hamilton shows us, even immigrants want to close the door after they’ve come in. America was also fertile ground for apocalyptic prophecies. William Miller was a Baptist minister who devised a system of biblical numerology to determine when the millennium of the end times would come. He determined that the second coming of Christ would occur on October 22, 1844. This event has come to be known as The Great Disappointment. Many left the church, or Christianity entirely, but others reformulated the Millerite milieu into the Seventh Day Adventists and the Jehovah’s Witnesses, among other churches. Elements in the Jehovah’s Witnesses have formulated several other dates for the second coming, most recently in 1975, but, as of the time of this writing, no end times have yet been observed. You had better believe I’ll be talking about the Millerites in a future episode. In the 1920s, this seed, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, germinated in America. Two writers began to synthesize all of these ideas I’ve been discussing into the first recognizably modern conspiracy theories. Their names were Nesta Webster and Lady Queensborough. Webster was the wealthy daughter of an English banker. She began her writing career after she read the letters of a countess involved in the French revolution and realized that she was the reincarnation of someone who was alive at that time. Her first book explains how a Masonic plot caused the French revolution and continues to disrupt the world up to her own time. In the ‘20s, she published a series of articles on The Protocols, which she claimed revealed not only the Jewish plot, but also the deeper, more secret Masonic plot to take over the world. She managed to merge several strains of Anglo-Protestant xenophobia into one idea. She claimed that the Jesuits (a Catholic missionary society), the Masons, the Jews, and the Bolsheviks were all part of the same secret organization: the Illuminati. The Illuminati was a short-lived Bavarian secular society that set its goal to freeing the world from political and religious domination, it was founded in 1776. Within 11 or 12 years, it was dissolved by various powers in Germany that were threatened by its aims. Or was it? Yes, it was. However, its enemies almost immediately claimed that the organization lived on in secret. Double secret. Its supposed connection with the French Revolution, which had similar aims and happened shortly after the dissolution of the Illuminati, allowed Webster to hitch her pet conspiracy theories to the incoming wave of anti-Semitism. Her work was highly celebrated by British Fascist organizations. Lady Queensborough, Edith Starr Miller, held similar views. She was a New York socialite, the daughter of an industrialist and real estate tycoon. Her view was even more stark. She also saw history as controlled by secret societies, but she had a clear idea of how that control was maintained: through money. She wrote, “This power is wholly in the hands of international Jewish financiers.” For her, the Illuminati were merely one of the many arms of the Jewish conspiracy. Quote “Illuminism represented the efforts of the heads of the powerful Jewish Kahal which has ever striven for the attainment of political, financial, economic. and moral world domination.” At this point, the main ideas that form today’s conspiracy theories had all arrived on the American intellectual landscape. The secret rule of the world by conspiracies, check. The connection between banks, Jews, Catholics, masons, communists, and the illuminati, check. The impending apocalypse, rise of the antichrist, and creation of the new world order, check. The streams had begun to flow together, and their combined explanatory power became a raging river. Barkun points out the apparent elegance of the conspiracy theory milieu. In science, an idea is considered parsimonious if it is simple and has great explanatory power. The test is called Occam’s Razor: what’s the simplest explanation that explains all the evidence. These conspiracy theories are nothing if not parsimonious. One adversary is to blame for all the evil in the world and all things that happen are due to its influence. How could anyone explain more with less? So far, I’ve used a couple of analogies to explain intellectual history. I’ve talked about it as a seed in fertile ground. I’ve talked about streams becoming a river. For this next section, I want you to imagine a drawing with a Sharpie on a balloon that’s being blown up. As it stretches, the figure becomes bigger but also more diffuse, less distinct. So, if you think Webster and Queensborough created an exaggerated image of how the world works, just listen to the writers who followed them. If you think that the Illuminati with its creation date of 1776 feels too late in history to explain everything, fear not. These thinkers had the anti-Semitic tradition to draw from, 2,000 years of work. As Illuminati theories merged more and more with Christian millennialism, the scope of the control of the world by secret societies expanded. By connecting the organization with evil in general, it becomes a codeword rather than a historical organization. And by freeing itself from a founding date, the term Illuminati becomes a shorthand for any organization led by evil goals. So, by the time we get to Jim Keith and David Icke, Illuminati has become a generic term for satanic or primordial evil that has existed and controlled the world since time immemorial. But how was this accomplished? In the post-World War II world, anti-Semitism had lost most of its currency in the West. Anti-Jewish theories had lost their status as a legitimate wing of the then-thriving pseudo-science of race and had become a grisly specter of war, a reminder of the horrors that become possible when a group of people is robbed of its humanity. Even worse for conspiracy theorists, the debunking of The Protocols in 1921 had become largely accepted not only by academics and journalists but by the general public. It’s worth noting The Protocols is still used as a genuine text by mainstream figures in the Arab world to this day. English-speaking conspiracy theorists needed to transcend the anti-Semitism on which their ideas were based. Des Griffin accomplished this in 1975 by inverting The Protocols by claiming that while the Jews are important participants in the plot to subvert and conquer the world, The Protocols blames the Jews to protect the Illuminati. Griffin reprinted most of The Protocols verbatim, launching what was to become a staple of conspiracism in the 1990s, the idea of the “Illuminati Protocols.” In fact, this was the same trick that Henry Ford used. Whereas in the ‘20s, references to Jews were replaced with references to Bolsheviks, in the ‘70s, they were replaced by the Illuminati. This state change, from a solid, building-block idea to liquid hate that can fill any conspiracy structure it meets, allowed American conspiracy theory to retain anti-Semitic ideas while shedding their anti-Semitic forms. In the ‘70s, John Todd, an evangelical preacher and sometime witch, incorporated nearly every authority in America into one grand conspiracy. Quoting Barkun again here, Todd believed “The Illuminati allegedly worked its will largely by wielding financial power, led by the Rothschilds but aided by, among others, the Rockefeller, Kennedy, and Dupont families; the central banks of England, France, and the United States; the world copper market; and many major corporations. The Council of 13, of which Todd claimed to have been a member, executed decisions of the Rothschild tribunal through its control of churches, political institutions, and voluntary associations. Thus, among its lackeys were the World Council of Churches, the Anti-Defamation League, the Council o[n] Foreign Affairs, the United Nations, the FBI, the CIA, the Communist Party, the John Birch Society, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Masons, and the Knights of Columbus. In Todd’s mind, the Illuminati were Satan’s coordinating mechanism, through which diabolical forces insinuated themselves into virtually every aspect of American life.” End quote. What ties all these groups together? Say it with me, people. Internationalists. Bankers. Intellectuals. Elites. The inclusion of the John Birch Society in this list, again, speaks to the incredible heterodoxy of thinkers like Todd. The John Birch Society was founded in 1958 by Robert Welch specifically to spread conspiracy theories. Quoting Barkun, the John Birch society “dismisses the supposed suppression of the [Illuminati] as meaningless, contending that it was soon transplanted to both the United States and other parts of Europe, where it gave rise to the Communist Manifesto and the revolts of 1848. The Birchite retelling attributes to the Illuminati the creation of movements as varied as the Marxian and ‘utopian’ socialist movements; anarchism; syndicalism; Pan Slavism; Irish, Italian and German ‘Nationalism’; German Imperialism; the Paris Commune; British ‘New Imperialism’; Fabian Socialism; and Leninist Bolshevism.” End quote. Up to this point, superconspiracy theory had stayed on the fringe of society, generally shunned by mainstream media and thinkers. In 1990 and 91, that changed for three main reasons. First, the USSR was dissolved, and Russia abandoned communism. Up to this point, most American conspiracy theories that pitted good against evil did so along the lines that we’ve been discussing. That is, America is a God-fearing nation based on individual rights and freedoms and private property. Russia is a godless nation based on authority and internationalism and public property. In the wake of the USSR’s defeat, this evil lost its center. Without a location and an organization to center on, the evil becomes more diffuse and subtle. Second, President George Bush gave a speech about the post-cold-war future in which he calls for a new world order. The concept to which George Bush was referring was not the conspiracy theory. Bush was referring to an idea coined by Woodrow Wilson as World War I was winding down. Wilson hoped to create a new world order that was safe for democracy by creating an international alliance of countries that could prevent wars and intercede on behalf of democratic movements. A key component of this was to be the League of Nations, which found itself toothless when Congress declined to commit America to the organization. The idea was revived by FDR and Kennedy in the wake of World War II, and the creation of the United Nations, the Marshall Plan, the IMF, and NATO were all intended to knit the democratic world together. I think they’ve been fairly effective in that pursuit. These bodies, not coincidentally, are often pointed to by conspiracy theorists as tools of the new world order conspiracy. Finally, in 1990, both President Bush and President Gorbachev gave speeches calling for a new world order of peace and stability in the post-Soviet world. Essentially, Bush was using the term to refer to a new era of American hegemony. In a world without Soviet opposition, the U.S. accepted the sole responsibility of protecting sovereignty, resolving disputes, and guiding global development. He soon made good on this promise by intervening in the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. However, to conspiracy theorists, this term was already well developed, and far-right circles caught fire with fears that the American president had publicly announced his commitment to the cabal. Third, Pat Robertson published his book entitled The New World Order. In this, we find what I would call the mature conspiracy milieu. As a popular evangelical preacher, Robertson fully brought the dispensationalist concept of the antichrist and the apocalypse into harmony with conceptions of the illuminati cabal. American Christian millennialists had been preaching about a coming apocalypse caused by open war between the U.S. and USSR centering on Israel, but suddenly both the threat of impending confrontation and the pressure on Israel decreased. Without an imminent catastrophe on the horizon, Christian millennialists had to turn to their brothers in conspiracy to fill the void. The anti-Semitism inherent in the concept of the antichrist and that inherent in the idea of the illuminati made the two fit hand-in-glove. The power of Pat Robertson’s The New World Order lies not in its originality—after all, it introduced very few new ideas—but in its reach. Pat Robertson was a pioneer of televangelism. He built a small, regional television station into the Christian Broadcasting Network, which is broadcast in 180 countries and is now owned by Disney. He ran for president in 1988 in a primary against George Bush and Bob Dole and he managed to come second in Iowa before losing steam. Even so, he managed to win a plurality of the primary vote in four states. He ran on a platform of fairly standard evangelical beliefs for the time: banning pornography, eliminating the department of education, and balancing the budget. The point is, he was a respected and fairly mainstream figure in both religion and politics when his 1991 book came out. It was carried by major booksellers and was a New York Times bestseller. And it alleged that a conspiracy had perverted the world starting with the masons and Illuminati, through the French revolution, into communist Russia, and now had an eye toward taking down the U.S. It came out on the heels of his successful rival, George Bush, announcing a new world order to the world. This is how we get the crystalized idea around which the alt-right is formed. All the powers that be are conspiring together, have been through history, and the American government is in on it. Now, before I reach the apotheosis of this podcast, I think I should zoom out for a moment. I’ve been focused on how anti-Semitic and Christian conspiracy theory entered right-wing politics, but conspiracy theory, and in particular, stigmatized knowledge claims, are popular on the left too. When we look closely, the line between conspiracy theory and pseudoscience begins to disappear. All manner of theories fall under the heading of “things they force on us to hide the truth”, including GMOs, vaccines, cancer treatments, processed food, news media, global warming, and probably most famously, the moon landing. Consider Alex Jones again, a man who believes that the powers that be are stealing nature from us while, at the same time, he opposes the EPA. This is the heterodoxy I was talking about earlier. These ideas are more anti-authoritarian than they are leftist or rightist. What is particularly frustrating is that the agencies that work hardest for the people get the lion’s share of the blame. FEMA, the American emergency response agency, has been accused of building concentration camps to house abducted anti-authoritarians. The World Health Organization, which is currently working tirelessly to stem the spread of coronavirus, is blamed for falsifying basically all of western medicine. NASA, which has pushed back the frontiers of human ignorance countless times, is blamed for lying about THE SHAPE OF THE EARTH. Which lets me point out my favorite factoid of the episode. John Quincy Adams, sixth president and son of John Adams—a famously intellectual president who wanted to build a national observatory to be a “lighthouse of the skies”—believed in the hollow earth at least enough to support a hollow-earth lecturer. This movement in the 1820s and ‘30s believed that portals at the north and south pole led into a warm and populated subterranean realm. We can, perhaps, be more kind to this movement, which existed when earth science was very young, than we are to the flat earthers of today. We’ve seen an explosion of flat-earth claims in recent years, which is particularly startling since virtually every people in every time in the history of civilization knew that the earth was round. The idea that Europeans thought the Earth was flat is a myth, by the way. I particularly like the Norse proof. They said that if the earth was flat, there could be no sunrise or sunset because shadows of things at the edges would cover the whole world. Flat Earth is so easy to disprove that all you need is a ruler and a shorefront. And yet, there are people today claiming earnestly that NASA and science at large are falsifying the true shape of the earth. Similarly, the idea that vaccines cause autism has been completely debunked. In 1998, Andrew Wakefield published a paper in The Lancet, one of the most esteemed peer-reviewed medical journals out there, linking the MMR vaccine to autism. In 2004, his financial conflicts of interest were unearthed, and, in 2010, The Lancet issued a full retraction of the paper on the grounds that the manuscript was falsified. Despite all this, the anti-vax movement has flourished in America and measles and mumps deaths have rebounded. Let me quickly address UFOs. It might sound like I’m moving into more fringe territory here, but, actually, the opposite is true. As of a 2019 survey, 33% of Americans believe we’ve been contacted by aliens and 68% believe the government is hiding information about aliens. UFO believers are not fringe people. UFO believers are predominantly white, middle-class, male college graduates with incomes just below the median. Belief in UFO theories does not make someone a conspiracy theorist automatically, but there is significant overlap with theories about government cover-ups. As I mentioned at the beginning, it was my own entry point into conspiracy theory literature. This suspicion of public institutions feeds the popularity of conspiracy theories. Since the ‘90s, Pew surveys have found declining favorable public feelings toward congress, federal agencies, the two major political parties, financial institutions, large corporations, the national news media, and the entertainment industry. Again, this does not make us a conspiracist nation, but it has accompanied a mainstreaming of conspiracy theories and the rise in their popularity. Presumably, distrust increases the pool of people who are open to conspiracy theories. And by the way, the Roswell incident was a classified nuclear-test-detection balloon that was obsoleted by advancements in seismographs. The documents were declassified in the ‘90s. You can read them. Hey, by the way, does anyone remember 2012? I felt like I was taking crazy pills. Many seemingly rational people were talking about a global apocalypse. As a history lover, I found that phenomenon particularly frustrating. Rising from left-wing, New Age circles, a current of thought hit the mainstream that suggested that the Mayans had predicted the end of the world in 2012. This was inspired by, like the anti-vax movement, a single academic paper that claimed that an apocalypse would occur on December 24, 2011. This is because the longest unit of the Mayan calendar, the baktun, lasts for approximately 5,200 years. This is almost certainly inspired by the millennium, which is our longest traditional unit of time and has apocalyptic associations. This paper was published in 1966 and, in the intervening years, two schools of thought developed. One saw the Mayan apocalypse as a spiritual rebirth, and the other, as a literal cataclysm. Over the course of many retellings in the intervening years, the date switched to December 21, 2012. The theory then gained significant mainstream attention with Roland Emmerich’s 2009 film, 2012. In fact, researchers had already found that Mayans had no apocalyptic associations with the baktun and it wasn’t even their longest unit of time. Adherents discovered what the Millerites discovered in 1844: it’s not a very good idea to put a specific date on your apocalypse. The frustrating thing that 2012 shows us is that this intense interest on the Mayan calendar did little to spur popular research into the Mayans. People did not use it as an entry point to learn about the culture. They just appropriated the supposedly mystical aspects. This goes back to the issue of context. If you want to use another culture’s idea, whether they be foreign cultures or your own culture’s past, at least take a little time to learn about it, people. A great popularizer of this Mayan myth was a person I’ve mentioned a few times now: David Icke. David Icke is a product of the left. He was a sportscaster for BBC, but when they parted on unfriendly terms, he became a spokesman for the Green Party. This relationship ended after Icke’s spiritual awakening in 1990 and ‘91, when he saw a spiritual healer and later visited Peru, where he realized that he needed to help the world through an imminent apocalypse. This translated into a career as a conspiracist author. He has taken the Illuminati idea of world control all the way back to the beginning of humanity and further. Seemingly an interpolation of the ancient aliens idea, he posits that some human bloodlines merged with those of trans-dimensional aliens, and those reptilian-human hybrids continue to secretly rule the world today. Along with this synthesis of alien and Illuminati theories, he also interpolates ideas of vibrational energies, ley lines, the aforementioned Mayan calendar, and anticonsumerist messages: ideas that are traditionally left-wing. Somewhat predictably, he also vouches for The Protocols of the Elders of Zion as a true document about the Illuminati. He identifies its authorship as “Rothschilds” and “reptilian-Aryans”, somehow fusing Nazis and Jews into the same conspiracy. This is how David Icke is able to pass in both the crystals crowd and the doomsday preppers crowd, the superconspiracy theory is omnivorous. And now we’ve reached a point of total synthesis. From evangelicals to neopagans, preppers to ufologists, a large community in America believes something is up. What that “something” is can vary widely, but a few elements remain stable. The enemy is unknowable, the conspiracy unprovable, the evil ubiquitous. Whether they be the usual suspects: internationalists, bankers, intellectuals, elites, or a deeper primordial evil, they rule with an iron, but invisible, hand. In keeping with the antichrist narrative, deliverance can only come from a great upheaval in the world system. A great leader who can expose the evil machinery for what it is. Believers require a messiah. A second coming. They need an American Jesus. [TRUMP CLIPS] I find Trump’s status as a savior difficult to explain. He is a millionaire (he claims billionaire) New York realtor and businessman. Millionaire New York realtors have not historically been seen as incorruptible public figures. The only explanation I can find for this reputation is in his intimate relationship with conspiracy theory. Donald J. Trump arrived on the political scene in 2012, with a series of tweets and videos informed by right-wing conspiracy theory. In particular, he repeatedly, repeatedly demanded to see Barack Obama’s birth certificate. This was part of a conspiracy theory that posited that Barack Obama was born outside of the U.S. and, therefore, wasn’t eligible to be president, called the Birther conspiracy. The great irony of this theory is that it began during the 2008 election, and while Obama was conclusively shown to be born in Hawaii, McCain was born off-base in Panama and might not qualify as a natural-born citizen. I defy you, listener, to try to figure out what a “natural-born citizen” is. It seems like the only thing everyone agrees on is that Arnold Schwarzenegger is not a natural-born citizen. Trump has paradoxically claimed Obama’s eventual release of his birth certificate as a victory for birthers and has never apologized for his participation in this racist attack on Obama’s legitimacy. I think by now I’ve presented enough evidence to say conspiracy theories are a way for people in the center of society to distance people on the fringes of that society. It allows the center to complain it’s under attack while attacking outsiders. Michael Barkun, writing in 2013, notes Trump’s conspiracy theory heritage. Quote: “While the resilience of birther notions owes something to zealots, they have also been the beneficiary of higher-profile figures.... Donald Trump has been among the best known of such individuals, and while he is not a political figure per se, his occasional presidential aspirations together with his zest for public notice and his private means have given him access to media attention. He campaigned against Mitt Romney at a time when Trump was questioning President Obama’s birthplace and Romney was already the putative Republican nominee.” Trump was featured on Alex Jones’ show in 2015, a show that Jones now regrets, as mentioned earlier. The following year, Trump claimed that Ted Cruz’s father was implicated in the JFK assassination. Why in the world would he do that? Because he knows who he’s talking to. He’s appealing to the Steve Bannons and the Alex Joneses who can depict him as an anti-establishment figure despite a long career as a realtor and celebrity. So now we finally get to the question I posed at the beginning. Why does Trump claim that he is being undermined by a deep state? What is a deep state? It’s when national decisions are made by people who are not considered legitimate politicians and are not held accountable for the decisions. To unpack this idea, we need to think about how power is exercised in a state. Even in the most democratic countries in the world, significant power is wielded by private citizens and corporations. In the U.S., infinite private funding for political campaigns has been legitimized by the Supreme Court ruling on Citizens United, which found that money is free speech and therefore can’t be limited during elections. More than 90% of U.S. House representatives who won their elections raised more money than their election opponents. This doesn’t mean that elections are bought; there are complicating factors, but money does influence elections. It also influences policy in the form of lobbying, which is an institutionally acceptable form of bribery where private actors influence policy by applying their financial and electoral support in ways that benefit politicians. This also creates the so-called “revolving door,” where many retired politicians work in the private sector as lobbyists. Furthermore, much of the institutional oversight of industry regulations is performed by those industries themselves. The American Bar Association and the Securities Exchange Commission are two of the best-known self-regulatory organizations. On one hand, who else would be able to oversee the complexities of banking and law other than bankers and lawyers. On the other, when you task industries with upholding regulations that potentially threaten them, conflicts of interest are bound to arise. Then you have the influence of non-politician personalities like celebrities, moguls, and media company owners like Rupert Murdoch. They participate in steering the public will through the media. None of these would be considered "deep state" actors because these are all legitimate, legal parts of the American political system. So, what is a deep state? A deep state is also different from the Illuminati idea we’ve been discussing and can really exist. The term was coined by Turks to refer to behind-the-scenes, unelected state officials who have a strong influence on the government. Discussion of the deep state began in 1974 when the then prime minister looked into a scandal involving the special warfare department. The general running the department apparently told him it was best for members of the republic to not look too deeply into military affairs. Since then, other scandals, assassinations, and coups have revealed connections between the military, paramilitary, and organized crime networks of Turkey. Specifically, whistleblowers and investigators into military matters tend to die. It appears that this deep state is a descendent of Ottoman-era secret societies and cold-war era anti-communist clandestine forces funded in part by the U.S. As I said earlier, many conspiracies are real and they do affect politics. In the case of Turkey, entrenched, unelected officials with military and paramilitary backing do appear to control the government to some extent. A somewhat more subtle example existed during the Weimar Republic in Germany between the wars, which fits so well with the themes of this podcast. As the German state was collapsing at the end of WWI and mutinies had begun in the navy, the monarchy and military leadership knew that the German people would demand a new government after the war. So they planted the seeds for a counter revolution. They handed over power to a republican government that then had to attempt to negotiate a peace while their country rapidly deteriorated. Army leaders made sure the country knew that it had been the republic that signed the disastrous Treaty of Versailles. The army, in a much reduced state, held onto key political positions and occasionally demanded the appointment of conservative ministers while generally advocating for a totalitarian takeover of the economy to fix the spiraling depression. In a way, this plan both backfired and succeeded. Political interference led to increased radicalization of the electorate, which allowed the national socialists to gain a plurality in the Reichstag. The Nazis then created their totalitarian military-socialist state, but the traditional army, the Reichwehr, found itself replaced by the Nazi Brownshirts and later the SS. So, while the Reichwehr succeeded, they were simultaneously excluded from power. All the while, both the military and Nazi leaders popularized a myth that liberal republicans and communists had stabbed the military in the back, giving up an unnecessary and humiliating defeat. Once these forces were purged, the Jewish conspiracy theory took center stage. This is a case where people with secret power used conspiracy theory make themselves appear threatened by people who had very little control. This is exactly how conspiracy theory is used in the U.S. today. The deep state that Trump is talking about is not a deep state in the Turkish or German sense. Whenever Trump spokespeople are questioned about the term, they immediately clarify that Trump is talking about the hostile bureaucracy in Washington, not something like the Illuminati, and not a military conspiracy. The deep state that Trump imagines is a conspiracy between left-leaning career bureaucrats, the media and entertainment industries, and shadowy, nameless string-pullers. Since his administration began, he has railed against leakers as disloyal members of his administration that he needs to ferret out. They are deep-state actors. And how does he popularize this campaign? Through a media outlet that uses virtually identical language as the president. Fox punditry creates a closed information loop between the administration and the media. And why does he do this? So that, even as he passes legislation like a budget providing huge tax cuts to large corporations and the very rich, he can claim to be a hounded underdog, slugging it out in Washington for the little guy. It’s textbook conspiracy theory: the center playing victim to grab power. To quote Nancy McEldowney, a former U.S. diplomat, “To refer to career civil servants in the U.S. government as some form of deep state is a clear attempt to delegitimize voices of disagreement.” But I ask you this. Can we really believe that Trump is talking about the American civil service when he says “deep state,” as his spokespeople claim? Or is this like when he “joked” about Ted Cruz being associated with the Kennedy assassination? Or when he “jokes” about foreign interference in this year’s election? Trump has found great power in casting himself as the victim of a liberal conspiracy. Remember, he made his appearance in politics as a conspiracy theorist. And whom does he seek to defeat? The disloyal diplomats, the mean celebrities, overeducated liberals, and even the Federal Reserve. Internationalist, banking, intellectual, elites. It’s the same trick right-wing populists have been pulling for a century. It’s naked scapegoating. It’s Trump appealing to his conspiracy theorist backers to defend him from opposition. It’s a way of feeding the administration’s news service. It’s a conspiracy, and I think it should be exposed. [End music] I would be a very poor Coloradan indeed if I didn’t spend a little time talking about DIA. Construction on Denver International Airport began in 1989 to replace the increasingly outdated Stapleton airport. Its troubled construction faced many delays due to poor planning, strikes, and several design changes necessitated by the expansion of the Nazi weather machine program. The four runways were laid out in a swastika because that is the Nazi’s favorite shape. Significant resources were spent developing an H.H. Holmes-style labyrinth of underground tunnels that primarily house alien spacecraft and biological weapons today. This expense was partially explained to the public as a complex and modern baggage handling system that never worked properly and was eventually scrapped. Chicano artist Leo Tanguma created several murals depicting the rise and eventual hegemony of the new world order, which he thinly veiled as depicting ecological and social rebirth consistent with his earlier work. It is unclear why the new world order created art announcing its intentions in the highly trafficked public space above its secret lair. The baggage carousel is decorated with bizarre, grotesque statues, which are used in the Colorado style of design to indicate entry points to the subterranean realm of the mole people. The airport reached its final form on February 11, 2008, when an enormous, fearsome statue of a blue mustang was installed between the only roads in and out of the airport such that no traveler can come or go without passing under its soulless gaze. Like a Philip. K. Dick android, the statue killed its creator, Luis Jiménez, in 2006, when its head fell on him and severed an artery in his leg. Its glowing red eyes serve as a reminder of the primordial evil locked within.

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