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More Media Discussion of Emerging Fascism in America

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[6]COMMENT: A recent review of Mike Lof­gren’s recent book The Deep State [7] on Con­sor­tium News adds to the grow­ing body of media com­men­tary high­light­ing the onset of fas­cism in Amer­i­ca. As review­er Chuck Spin­ney notes, there are dif­fer­ences between what he terms “clas­si­cal fas­cism” and its cur­rent, ongo­ing man­i­fes­ta­tion in the Unit­ed States.

We note in pass­ing that what he terms “cor­po­ratism” is pre­cise­ly how Mus­soli­ni defined fas­cism. We note, also, that the chief sources [8] of fund­ing for “clas­si­cal fas­cism” were the same cor­po­rate inter­ests [9] that are dri­ving polit­i­cal reac­tion in this coun­try and much of the rest of the world.

“Decon­struct­ing America’s ‘Deep State’” by Chuck Spin­ney; Con­sor­tium News; 2/12/2016. [10]

Just about every­one knows some­thing is dan­ger­ous­ly wrong with our nation’s polit­i­cal sys­tem. There is a grow­ing aware­ness that the Unit­ed States is drift­ing blind­ly into a state of greater inequal­i­ty, stag­na­tion, oli­garchy and per­pet­u­al war, with a rul­ing estab­lish­ment that nei­ther responds to the will of the peo­ple nor to the prob­lems our nation faces.

For evi­dence of this per­va­sive sense of unease, look no fur­ther than the 2016 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, where a bom­bas­tic celebri­ty bil­lion­aire and a crusty grand­fa­ther­ly demo­c­ra­t­ic social­ist are claim­ing the polit­i­cal sys­tem is rigged and are dri­ving the scions of the sta­tus quo into the rub­ber room — at least for now.

In his most recent book, The Deep State [7], Mike Lof­gren has writ­ten a time­ly exe­ge­sis of that sta­tus quo and its stay­ing pow­er. He makes it eas­i­er for any con­cerned cit­i­zen to under­stand the real­i­ties of the polit­i­cal and con­sti­tu­tion­al crises now fac­ing the Unit­ed States — and per­haps even improve the reader’s sense for the mad­ness and anger that now char­ac­ter­izes 2016 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion.

Before read­ing fur­ther, be advised, I am biased: the author, Mike Lof­gren, is a long-time col­league and close friend. Lof­gren worked on Capi­tol Hill while I worked in the Pen­ta­gon. Over the years, begin­ning in the late 1980s, we dis­cussed and tried to under­stand the many hid­den con­nec­tions that had evolved insen­si­bly over time to dis­con­nect the mon­ey-siphon­ing oper­a­tions of the Mil­i­tary-Indus­tri­al-Con­gres­sion­al Com­plex from the sys­tem of checks and bal­ances designed by the Framers of the Con­sti­tu­tion.

Lofgren’s book goes much fur­ther. It grew out of a stun­ning essay – “Anato­my of the Deep State [11]” (Feb­ru­ary 2014) — that Lof­gren pro­duced at the request of jour­nal­ist Bill Moy­ers. Lof­gren has writ­ten a tour de force that takes the read­er on a wild ride through a swamp of con­fu­sion and dis­or­der that reeks of cor­rup­tion. His writ­ing is at once wit­ty and par­tic­u­lar, but also gen­er­al and pre­scrip­tive.

Mak­ing sense out of that mix is no mean feat. To be sure, the sto­ry Lof­gren weaves is com­plex, and at times over­whelm­ing and dis­gust­ing, but any­one can under­stand it, if one takes the time to read and think about what Lof­gren is say­ing.

Lofgren’s analy­sis cen­ters on how the loot­ing oper­a­tions of three mutu­al­ly rein­forc­ing “pil­lars” (my word) of the con­tem­po­rary Amer­i­can Deep State evolved over time. These “pil­lars” are them­selves self-orga­niz­ing group­ings of coin­ci­dent inter­ests that work to insen­si­bly co-opt and exploit the fis­sures in the mech­a­nis­tic dis­tri­b­u­tion of pow­er designed into the Con­sti­tu­tion by James Madi­son.

These emer­gent group­ings form what some essay­ists have called an “iron tri­an­gle” of cap­i­tal­ists in the pri­vate sec­tor and pro­fes­sion­al bureau­crats as well as elect­ed offi­cials in the leg­isla­tive and exec­u­tive branch­es of gov­ern­ment, as well as in the menageries inhab­it­ed by hang­ers on, wannabees, jour­nal­ists, and par­a­sites feed­ing off the tri­an­gu­lar host.

These tri­an­gles are ener­gized by mon­ey flows and influ­ence ped­dling, and their oper­a­tions are lubri­cat­ed by a maze of revolv­ing doors that enable the indi­vid­ual play­ers to climb the greasy pole to pow­er and rich­es by mov­ing freely back and forth from one cor­ner to anoth­er — all the while pump­ing the mon­ey and pro­pa­gan­da need­ed by the tri­an­gle to sur­vive and grow — on its own terms!

Lofgren’s dis­cus­sion of the career tra­jec­to­ry and pol­i­cy actions of Robert Rubin, Pres­i­dent Clinton’s Sec­re­tary of the Trea­sury, is a par­tic­u­lar­ly illu­mi­nat­ing, if extreme, exam­ple of how an adept play­er games the tri­an­gle to accrete fab­u­lous rich­es and oli­garchi­cal pow­er. . . .

. . . Lofgren’s analy­sis takes us around three tri­an­gles by exam­in­ing the maze of liv­ing rela­tion­ships mak­ing up (1) the tri­an­gu­lar mon­ey pump­ing oper­a­tions of the Mil­i­tary-Indus­tri­al-Con­gres­sion­al Com­plex, as well as the more sub­tle loot­ing and pow­er grab­bing oper­a­tions of (2) the de-reg­u­lat­ing scams of Big Finance and (3) the big-broth­er spy­ing oper­a­tions of the pseu­do-lib­er­tar­i­an hyper-cap­i­tal­ists of Sil­i­con Val­ley.

To be sure, there are many oth­er iron tri­an­gles that Lof­gren does not dis­cuss in great detail (e.g., Big Phar­ma, Big AG and the food sup­ply, etc.), but his sto­ry is clear enough and suf­fi­cient­ly broad enough to make the larg­er argu­ment.

But there is more. Lof­gren explains how the more obvi­ous idea of an iron tri­an­gle is only the inner core of a far-reach­ing web of inter­ests. This web includes, inter alia, the machi­na­tions of lob­by­ists, think tanks, polit­i­cal action com­mit­tees (PACs), uni­ver­si­ties, pseu­do intel­lec­tu­als and ide­o­logues, estab­lish­ment pro­mot­ing pun­dits in the fourth estate, tax deductible foun­da­tions, and behind them, the deep pock­ets of the secre­tive bil­lion­aire oli­garchs, who have had their influ­ence unleashed by the recent deci­sions of the Supreme Court.

The blood giv­ing life to the inner and out­er aspects of this pul­sat­ing web of non-demo­c­ra­t­ic pow­er and influ­ence is MONEY, which the Supreme Court in its Cit­i­zens Unit­ed Deci­sion legit­i­mat­ed as a form of free speech pro­tect­ed by the First Amend­ment.

To Lofgren’s argu­ment, I would add the accu­mu­lat­ing result of America’s insen­si­ble descent into the Deep State is a work in progress. I also argue that this work is being been accom­pa­nied by a grad­ual emer­gence of a pecu­liar­ly Amer­i­can amal­gam of fas­cist, cor­po­ratist and neolib­er­al orga­ni­za­tion­al ide­olo­gies. This amal­gam is evolv­ing into “win­ner take all” polit­i­cal econ­o­my that sub­or­di­nates cit­i­zens and work­ers and the state to grow­ing oli­garchi­cal pow­ers in the pri­vate sec­tor.

Fig­ure 2 is a kind of thought exper­i­ment I designed to explore the ram­i­fi­ca­tions of this pos­si­bil­i­ty. [See linked arti­cle to view the figures–D.E.] It lists some of the polit­i­cal and eco­nom­ic fea­tures of the fas­cist, cor­po­ratist and lais­sez-faire (aka neolib­er­al) ide­olo­gies. To be sure, these are murky fea­tures, espe­cial­ly in the case of those relat­ing to fas­cism, but I think most objec­tive read­ers would agree that the fea­tures out­lined in Fig­ure 2 are very promi­nent in each of these forms of polit­i­cal-eco­nom­ic orga­ni­za­tion. The exper­i­ment is to ask your­self if the emer­gent Amer­i­can polit­i­cal econ­o­my exhibits hints of these fea­tures. The box­es checked in red are my affir­ma­tive answers to these ques­tions.

While Lof­gren does not say so, I would argue there are grow­ing signs that the emerg­ing Amer­i­can polit­i­cal econ­o­my com­bines many ele­ments of clas­si­cal fas­cism and cor­po­ratism with neolib­er­al lais­sez-faire eco­nom­ics into some­thing that is new and pecu­liar­ly Amer­i­can — a polit­i­cal econ­o­my that exhibits fas­cist ten­den­cies, but unlike clas­si­cal fas­cism, sub­or­di­nates the state to neolib­er­al cor­po­ratist inter­ests, while it exploits many of fascism’s author­i­tar­i­an orga­niz­ing prin­ci­ples to sta­bi­lize the emerg­ing sta­tus quo.

Don’t take my word for it. Read Lofgren’s book, then think about how you would check or rede­fine the box­es in Fig­ure 2 and draw your own con­clu­sions.

One of the most impor­tant aspects of Lofgren’s analy­sis, at least to my think­ing, lies in his fre­quent reminders that the struc­tur­al aspects of this cur­rent state of affairs are not the results of a cen­tral­ly guid­ed con­spir­a­cy hashed out in a smoke-filled room. The “struc­ture” of the con­tem­po­rary Amer­i­can Deep State is more an emer­gent prop­er­ty trig­gered by the incre­men­tal give-and-take by thou­sands of play­ers, whose suc­cess­es and fail­ures are con­di­tioned by an inter­play of chance and neces­si­ty, in what is real­ly a cul­tur­al evo­lu­tion.

To be sure, there are lots of smoke-filled rooms con­spir­ing invis­i­bly to play this game of chance and neces­si­ty, but they are com­pet­ing with each oth­er as well as coop­er­at­ing — and it is the evo­lu­tion­ary char­ac­ter of the Deep State that enables it to sur­vive, adapt and grow on its own terms, and that emer­gent char­ac­ter is what makes the Deep State so dan­ger­ous­ly resis­tant to change.