Why Libertarians Should Shrug Off Memo Mania
First came the Republican memo, courtesy of the Republican House Intelligence Committee chairman Devin Nunes. Their memo detailed the surveillance abuses against one Carter Page, enabled by a kangaroo court which was strengthened immeasurably by the old Republican-Party boss, George Bush.
Bush II had fortified the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC), and the Stupid Party greased the skids for the expansion of FISA infractions. Following Barack Obama's lead, Republicans have reauthorized the controversial Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which has resulted in the "incidental" collection of the communications of American citizens, and likely served as an impetus for prosecutions.
Enter Rep. Adam Schiff, Democrat from California. He and the other Democrats on the House intelligence committee have now presented their distillation of the counter case, namely that the "FISA warrant and repeated renewals to conduct temporary surveillance of Carter Page" were all justified. Well of course.
Media eminences—Republican Mark Steyn, for instance—have accused the Democrats of assaulting the rule of law. The libertarian, however, might wish to avoid wading into an intra-party fracas. Why intra-party? Because the Democrats and the Republicans of DC share most of their political DNA.
Am I saying libertarians have no dog in the fight over whether "Hillary Clinton and the DNC funded the [dodgy] dossier that was a basis for the Department of Justice's FISA application"?
Do we not care that the "venerated" FBI "had abused its surveillance authority and relied improperly on politically motivated sources—namely former British spy Christopher Steele who had been paid by Fusion GPS, a private intelligence firm hired first by conservative underwriters and then retained by Democrats during the 2016 campaign"?
Put it this way: What libertarians should care about is that the "America's political police"—the Federal Bureau of Investigation and its malignant offshoots—is being thoroughly discredited by its most enthusiastic advocates. This is of a piece with the creative destruction generated, inadvertently, by Donald Trump.
Moreover, the meta-perspective argued for here relies on a recognition that America is regularly convulsed by episodes of mass, hysterical contagion.
What is "hysterical contagion"?
Sociologists explain it as the spread of symptoms of an illness among a group, absent any physiological disease. It provides a way of coping with a situation that cannot be handled with the usual coping mechanism.
Arguably, the Trump-Russia "collusion," "obstruction of justice" probe, and the attendant frenzied behavior and belief-system it has engendered meets the definition of mass hysteria. With an exception: This particular form of mass madness involves a meme, a story-line that catches on and sticks. In particular, it is the emotional pitch with which the Trump-Russia collusion group-think is delivered, day in and day out, that has gripped and inflamed irrational, febrile minds.
Infected as it is by statism and group think, the country's collective consciousness is ready for the taking.
The topics for two years have been rumors for which no evidence can possibly be adduced, recounted as facts and, eventually, accepted as such.
The penalty: criminalization by the federal government—it has enough laws on the books to destroy each one of us, if it so desired—of naturally licit behavior: diplomacy with Russia and voluntary contact between Russians and Americans.
This collective and collectivist fetish has further been fueled and sustained by organizational and communication networks. Here, friendship and workplace networks, dominated as they are by like-minded individuals—government agencies and departments, newsrooms, think thanks, classrooms; the teacher's lounge—serve as conduits in a system that transmits faulty signals across the synapses of the country's collective, damaged brain.
At root, the storyline du jour is manufactured by America's gilded elites of both political parties.
During the era of Bush, aforementioned, DC operative Karl Rove put it plainly: "We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality."
Indeed, when you're the most powerful entity in the world, as the US government certainly is—the only government to have dropped nuclear bombs on civilian populations ("good" bombs, because dropped by the US)—you get to manufacture your own parallel universe with its unique rules of evidence and standards of proof. What's more, as the mightiest rule-maker, you can coerce other earthlings into "sharing" your alternate reality. Or else.
Beltway averse libertarians need to understand that the manufacturing of Fake News by the Deep State and its institutional connective tissue, circa 2018, is of a piece with the anatomy of the ramp-up to war in Iraq, in 2003. (Chronicled in achingly painful detail in "Broad Sides: One Woman's Clash With A Corrupt Culture.") Except that back then, Republicans, joined by diabolical Democrats like Hillary Clinton, were the ones dreaming up Homer Simpson's Third Dimension.
Conscripted into America's reality, Iraqis paid the price for this ghastly American concoction. Hundreds of thousands of them were displaced and killed due to "Operation Iraqi Freedom," an idea that originated in Republican minds. Because of Fake News generated so effectively by the likes of Judith Miller, the Gray Lady's prized reporter at the time, American soldiers paid dearly, too.
Then as now, elements in the intelligence community worked with neoconservative counterparts in Bush 43's administration, in particularity with "the Office of Special Plans," to further manufacture consent around the war. With some laudable exceptions, Big Media went along with it all.
Salient in 2003, as in 2018, was the monolithic quality of the cheer-leading emanating from the networks; an unquestioning uniformity among the media establishment. For journalistic jingoism—war porn, really—it was, still is, impossible to best the coverage of the high-tech media extravaganza known as "Operation Iraqi Freedom."
Embedded with the military turned out to be a euphemism for in bed with the military. Practically all network embeds focused exclusively on the Pentagon's version of events, to the exclusion of reality on the Iraqi ground. Yet reporters who slept with their sources were treated as paragons of truth.
Reporting hearsay as truth and failing to verify stories were all in a day's work on cable and news networks. A Geiger counter that went off in the inexpert hands of a Marine stationed in Iraq became "Breaking News," possible evidence of weapons-grade plutonium. Every bottle of Cipro tablets located in Iraq was deemed a likely precursor to an anthrax-manufacturing factory. Anchormen and women somberly seconded these "finds," seldom bothering to issue retractions.
To comprehend the anatomy of hysterical mass contagion that is behind the memo narratives, it's vital to trace the contours of that other war, "Operation Iraqi Freedom," and understand the way an engineered reality is sold to the public.
If past is prologue; the frenzy of inflamed imaginations could spill over into all-out war—against Russia, Iran or North Korea. This existential evil is the litmus libertarian concern.