The Deep State and QANON
Part 1: The Deep State
Let’s be clear, The Deep State, even before it was called The Deep State, has always existed in the minds of citizens all over the world. That’s because people are generally distrustful of authority and their government. The idea that there are secrets that civilians don’t know about the government, the military, and the way those in power operate is not uncommon. I mean, we all know there are governmental secrets. It makes sense that rumors about those secrets would be popular fodder.
This means that The Deep State is fluid, hasn’t always had a name, and the way we’ve come to know and understand this theory has changed over time.
According to Rebecca Gordon over at Business Insider (2020), The Deep State is actually coined from a Turkish phrase, “derin devlet.” It’s a way of describing a government within a government. This phrase was coined in the 1990’s and has been used to describe a shadow government in nations other than Turkey, like Mexico and Egypt (think the Arab Spring, circa 2011).
However, it seems like this theory of a shadow government isn’t entirely the case. In these other countries, The Deep State refers more to those who are members of crime organizations or rogue military agents working within the government and not an entire shadow government pulling the strings like puppet masters. In fact, many of these agents in other countries were well known. They weren’t/aren’t anonymous, and it wasn’t/isn’t necessarily a conspiracy theory. Moreover, this term has been used, more often than not, to refer to developing countries that would not necessarily be considered as “democratic” as the United States, with constantly shifting figureheads, civil wars, governmental coups fighting for control, and oft overtly corrupt powerplays more noisy than the will of the people.
It’s really more about corruption, and at its core, The Deep State we’ve come to know and love here in the United States is also about corruption. It’s increasingly become a way for President Donald Trump to blame any failing on his part on this anonymous deep state, and as I said in my earlier post—credit where credit is due—it’s actually pretty brilliant.
It’s batshit, but it’s brilliant.
I’d wager a guess that although the term Deep State didn’t become a household phrase in America until around 2017, nearly all political conspiracy theories in the United States (like JFK and the moon landing) have some root in the idea of The Deep State.
After the terrorist attacks on the United States in September of 2001, and the subsequent (and seemingly never ending) war on terrorism, we were presented with the fruits of Michael Moore’s labor, otherwise known as the quite famous documentary Fahrenheit 9/11. I remember going to see it in the theater as a college student. It was explosive. Later, Edward Snowden was talking about TDS and using this specific term in 2014, during the Obama Administration (Crowley, 2017).
But the 2017 deep state and the early 2000’s deep state, and even Edward Snowden’s deep state are not the same. The idea of TDS doesn’t have to be rooted in lunacy. Sometimes, it’s rooted in fact. That’s the thing with TDS. It means something different to every single person and group of people who pass around these ideas, and once in a while, a deep state theory will be right. There are plenty of articles out there that talk about the factual side of TDS and why so many so often get it wrong (there are a couple of those articles listed in the reference section).
So, all of that aside, what is The Deep State theory here in America right now? What are the origins? Who’s responsible for it? And why, in God’s name, is our president talking about it in news conferences from the White House?
Well, let me tell ya—it’s kind of hard to know. There’s just so much information floating around and so many different ideas about TDS and how it operates, that it can be a bit overwhelming to get to the bottom of it. In fact, there probably is no bottom.
Author Gregg Jarrett suggests in his book Witch Hunt (2019) that TDS is a cabal (a word you’ll hear a lot) of government officials at the very top who are making a concerted effort to get rid of Donald Trump. First, he says that this cabal wanted to prevent Trump from being elected and then after he was elected, the mission changed to overturning the vote and illegitimating his presidency. He calls these people “malicious” and “insidious” liars.
Essentially, this group of people at the top of the government are afraid of Trump because he’s promised to drain the swamp, and they aren’t ready to be dismissed. Trump himself has said, “Unelected deep state operatives defy the voters to push their own secret agendas are truly a threat to democracy itself.” This belief is held by nearly everyone surrounding Trump, and they talk about it on a regular basis to any conservative news show that will allow them to do it. Pretty much any time Donald Trump uses the terms “rigged” or “corrupt”—he’s talking about TDS, and he continues to assert that any member of the government, no matter the side, who doesn’t agree with him is involved with TDS.
The TDS isn’t expressly anti-liberal or anti-democrat. It’s really anti-government, and the deeper you go into theories of TDS, the more extreme these theories become.
This is where you’ll start to see much of the xenophobia, anti-Semitism, and racism ooze through—in those deep, deep state theories that are actually all conspiracy and no theory, touted by the likes of Alex Jones with the help of people like Roger Stone (who, if I have to pick a master of the dark arts, is really my favorite). It’s important to note that this kind of behavior is not new for Alex Jones. He’s been raging against the machine since his days in Austin, Texas, and Roger Stone has been a key player in politics since the Nixon-era. I also want to point out that people like Jones and Stone are at the heart of Trump’s “birther” lies about Barack Obama.
What we’ve seen in the last few election cycles are concerted steps away from conspiracy theories rooted in simple paranoia or anything even remotely rational. The new deep state theories that we’ve seen in the last decade or so, and especially within the last 5 years, are rooted in flat-out lies. Take for example “Pizzagate”—the far-fetched notion that the Clintons and other Democratic and upper echelon politicians were running a pedophile ring out of the basement of a D.C. pizza shop called Comet Ping Pong. The basement didn’t exist, and neither did the pedophile ring. But that didn’t stop people on the internet from believing it, and it didn’t stop Alex Jones from screaming about it to his millions of followers. One dedicated believer even drove all the way from NC to DC to fire two rounds into the pizza place on a Sunday afternoon.
He’d been listening to a lot of Alex Jones.
Amanda Robb at Rolling Stone (2017) says it took the magazine nearly a year to figure out what could have started Pizzagate, which was eventually traced back to an October of 2016 Facebook post written by a user named Carmen Katz, the alter ego of a Joplin, Missouri, attorney named Cynthia Campbell. She deleted the alt account after being contacted by Rolling Stone, and upon further investigation, journalists at Rolling Stone traced what they describe as the “seeds” of Pizzagate to…you guessed it—anonymous message boards and no doubt some neck beard living in his mother’s house and calling himself FBIAnon. You know what got those seeds planted? Leaked emails between Clinton and her campaign manager, where they talk about pizza just an awful lot. Even as recently as 4 months ago, users on YouTube were commenting on Stephen Colbert’s Late Show segment (that was originally posted 4 years ago) about Pizzagate, calling him a pedophile and a liar for simply suggesting the whole thing was ridiculous.
Because we all know that not believing in a non-existent pedophilic sex ring means you’re clearly in on the non-existent pedophilic sex ring.
Pizzagate isn’t the only child abuse trope being sold by conspiracy theorists online. The idea of a sex-trafficking cabal where Hillary Clinton cuts the heads off of children and drinks their blood has been circulating the Internet for years.
A vast majority of new deep state theories center around Hillary Clinton and anyone in her orbit. This is partly because she’s a member of the political elite, partly because she’s a Democrat, and partly because she’s a woman. The prospect of Clinton becoming the first female President of the United States was just too much for people to take, and her years in the public eye left her vulnerable to the most vile lies about everything from the way she looked to the way she handled her duties as Secretary of State during the Obama administration.
Clearly, for a woman to be as accomplished as she is, she must be secretly eating babies. I’m not suggesting that Clinton is perfect—I’m suggesting just the opposite—she was an easy target. But any time you have a 9/11 truther and Sandy Hook denier like Alex Jones at the helm, you know that the story is just going to get louder and more ridiculous as long as he’s given a platform to eviscerate her character, even if this assassination is in the form of a lie-filled bullet. Like her or not, I think most rational people (are there any left?!) can agree that she is most definitely not spending her date nights with Bill in the non-existent basement of a pizzeria.
Of course, being rational isn’t really that important to people who believe that making more room at the table for others means they’ll lose their own place. Being rational isn’t important to people who see their way of life circling the drain, because they’ve been sold the lie that “liberal” and “communist” and “socialist” mean the same thing and the LibComSoc Army is coming to steal their bibles, their guns, and their tattered Trump flags attached to their 4-wheel drive trucks.
Being rational isn’t important to guys like Steve Bannon, who just a few weeks ago suggested that Trump ought to behead Dr. Anthony Fauci and FBI Director Christopher Wray and put their heads on pikes in front of the White House lawn (yeah, he really said that).
Bannon, by the way, was arrested over the summer for defrauding investors in a fake “We Build the Wall” campaign. He has pleaded not guilty and is awaiting trial.
Yet, people still believe him. People still believe Trump. They still believe Giuliani and everyone else in Trump’s inner circle (which is growing smaller and smaller by the day). They still believe anyone who steps up to the podium willing to sell them relief from our ever-changing world, and in some ways, I get it. I get it, because I’ve seen the shift from Yellow Dog Democrats in my home county who voted for Bill Clinton in 1992 and 1996, to birther fanatics who champion a man who was born with a silver spoon in his mouth, stinking of money, and says, “Hey, I’m just like you. You were right all along. The elitists hate you. They laugh at you behind your back. They think you’re stupid.”
And these people who’ve been working two and three jobs to support their families and still can’t pay their bills, who remember what it was like to make a living wage working on the line in a factory that has long since left the area and taken the economy with it, sigh deeply and say, “Finally. Someone who understands the injustice.”
It’s not about the lie. It’s about the way it feels to believe the lie.
At the end of the day, no matter how you rationalize it, The Deep State is messy. It’s not organized. There isn’t a “leader” the way QANON seems to have a leader (which we’ll discuss in Part 2). And that’s probably because the idea of TDS has been around for so long. With advances in technology, the TDS has been given a platform that it never had before, made worse because the President of the United States refuses to admit that the most recent (and disgusting) theories to come out of TDS and QANON are fake. Just like with the fake news stories, TDS and QANON are legitimized by the trickle down (thanks Reagan) alternate reality that exists from the people making the laws to the people drinking Mtn. Dew Code Red and typing furiously on their keyboards at 3 a.m.
Roger Stone, the man who was voted most likely by Sam and Dean Winchester to have sold his soul to a crossroads demon, cut right to the point when he said: Hate is a more powerful motivator than love.
Stay tuned for Part 2: QANON, where I dive into the origins of this conspiracy movement and discuss the irony of their #savethechildren crusade when they, themselves, got their start on a message board that was literally full of child porn.
Tiny Blue Dot
Crowley, M. (2017, September). The Deep State Is Real But it might not be what you think. Retrieved November 22, 2020, from https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2017/09/05/deep-state-real-cia-fbi-intelligence-215537
Gordon, R. (2020, January 27). What the American ‘deep state’ actually is, and why Trump gets it wrong. Retrieved November 23, 2020, from https://www.businessinsider.com/what-deep-state-is-and-why-trump-gets-it-wrong-2020-1?amp
Jarrett, G. (2019). Witch Hunt. Broadside Books.
Myre, G., & Treisman, R. (2019, November 6). The Man Who Popularized The ‘Deep State’ Doesn’t Like The Way It’s Used. Retrieved November 23, 2020, from https://www.kpcw.org/post/man-who-popularized-deep-state-doesnt-way-its-used#stream/0
Robb, A. (2017, November 17). Anatomy of a Fake News Scandal. Retrieved November 23, 2020, from https://www.rollingstone.com/feature/anatomy-of-a-fake-news-scandal-125877/