Source: G. Murphy Donovan
We hear much these days about paradigm shifts and resets. Much of the chat comes from crucibles like the World Economic Forum. The WEF is a kind of “masters of the universe” boys club that meets to greet, eat, and ski at fabulously expensive hotels and restaurants in Davos, Switzerland. The globalist press covers these champagne and caviar festivals because the Fourth Estate loves to hobnob with power and money. The holy grail these days seems to be the pursuit of a “great reset,” or stakeholder capitalism — in practice, a Beijing model, more like capital communism. A Chicom theologian would argue that their “capitalism” is just a phase on the way to totalitarian social stability. For monopolist mandarins in America and Europe, the COVID-19 crisis is indeed a golden opportunity to remake the world — “capitalism with a Chinese face,” if you will.
For Western oligarchs, the Sino model means better control, hegemony, and wealth concentration. For the global lumpenproletariat, unfortunately, the great reset means conformity, subordination, weakness, utopian rhetoric, and new-age social leveling.
The “stake” in stakeholder capitalism goes through the heart of individual liberties.
Some of the necessary paradigm shifts have already been successful above and below the radar. Above the horizon, hiding in plain sight, the guy who blew the whistle on Big Brother in America is now an international fugitive. The Snowden leak is unique to the extent that he seems to have been motivated by morals at the expense of professional ethics. Conscience, alas, is a character defect in the intelligence business.
After Edward Snowden’s sierra hit the fan, DNI Jim Clapper actually went up to Congress and denied the advent of universal surveillance in Snowden’s Top Secret National Security Agency reveal. General Clapper claimed that “metadata” collection (née wiretapping) did not represent warrantless surveillance of individual citizens.
The theater of federal arrogance is now compounded by parallel commercial digital fascism. Mark Zuckerberg, for example, has rebranded his global Facebook data hustle as META Inc. You can’t make this stuff up. Data-mining is a polite euphemism for wiretapping, spying, or surveillance. Big Government and Big Tech are now joined at the hip by visions of meta control.
Congress then kissed that fish on the mouth and sent another big check to Big Brother in Bluffdale, Utah.
So much for congressional oversight; the real truth about intelligence abuse and domestic spying is that the American Intelligence Community, including the FBI, are above the law — free agents, politicized Deep State civil “servants.” And thus do elections and maybe democracy itself become less relevant over time. Without accountability, republican democracy is a mirage.
Big reset there.
The urban Deep State, the real deciders, as Bush Junior might say, is a toxic majority in large cities, blue states, and nearly all bloated federal bureaucracies, like the NSA, across America these days. The American election of 2016 was an inflection point, when the apparatchik left came out of the closet with their azimuths on fire. An outsider, God forbid, threatened to drain the Beltway swamp. Alas, elections in America matter now only if the unelected nomenklatura, today well left of center, agree with the electorate.
Big reset there, too.
Below the radar since 9/11, a digital hardware paradigm shift is underway also, out in the desert sands. Bluffdale, Utah is now ground zero for a mega-shift in the metadata trade. Heretofore, the national intelligence meme was a “needle in a haystack” model — to wit: industrious agents and analysts labored in the bowels of a dozen or more intelligence agencies, like George Smiley, looking for the pins of enemy capabilities and the needles of enemy intentions.
At some point on the Clapper-Obama watch, some genius said, “Needles be damned,” let’s collect and store all the haystacks instead. When your safety pin pops up on Big Brother’s radar, the NSA can access your present and her past. At any time, any citizen’s future is also a virtual federal hostage, indefinitely.
Abuse here is not just likely; it’s inevitable, Clapper’s faux reassurances notwithstanding. Ironically, the Bluffdale paradigm and curtailment surveillance was born out of the ashes of Islamist 9/11 infamy. The literal response to Islamic religious fanaticism is now virtual digital fascism.
Who wins that fight?
To be sure, Orwellian spying is possible only with industrial-scale collaboration. The Davos crowd was in on the meta-mega-collection paradigm caper from the start. Here, the tradeoffs are obvious: big data in exchange for a laissez-faire internet. Uncle Sam now has access to communications and internet “back doors” across the world, and that includes all commercial and domestic digital scat at your house, coast to coast.
The price of vague promises about national security is now an absolute loss of privacy, another Chinese model. The motto for the 21st-century Animal Farm should now be “Trust Me,” courtesy of the Intelligence Community.
The siting of mega-collection and storage in Bluffdale is no happenstance, either. That desert oasis has three distinctions: isolation, sister wives, and a state prison. The NSA, a DOD agency, has a sweetheart deal with Utah State Police, where local cops are paid $50 per hour for perimeter security. In exchange, the NSA is unlikely to see any citizen dissent or unsightly protests anywhere near Bluffdale’s harems or the NSA data facility.
Indeed, for social buffering, Bluffdale is also host to the headquarters of one of the creepiest of many polygamist sects in Utah, the Apostolic United Brethren. Here, local AUB bulls corral herds of Salt Lake Valley underage heifers. No one in Bluffdale is likely to ask too many questions about another sugar daddy, even if it’s Uncle Sam. Rural religious cults are happy to be left to their own kinky devices. Indeed, the Utah state Legislature has reduced polygamy to a misdemeanor, like littering.
Now, there’s a grand cultural reset with “Me Too” appeal. Social recidivism in Utah, Nevada, and Arizona never makes it above the fold in any major media outlet.
No Congress and no citizen ever voted for the Bluffdale Data Center (AKA Bumblehive) or metadata collection. So much for democracy. That reset, that paradigm shift flew under the radar and out of the smoke and the opportunism generated by 9/11, then COVID. Ironically, there’s precious little evidence, after 22 years, to suggest that Big Brother or Uncle Sam is winning the wars against terror, Islamism, or the spread of theocracy. Indeed, on the theological front, reset in Utah, like Islamism, is just another victory for social declension.
Never mind. If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear.
There is zero correlation between investments in electronic super-snoops and national security dividends so far in the 21st century. Arguably, with the spread of theocracy in the Ummah, Islamic religious fascism (AKA Islamofascism) is a growth model. Extremism is winning. See Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Turkey, Libya, and now maybe Detroit and east London.
So let’s give credit where credit is due. The caviar crowd at Davos is correct about resets and wrong about the rule of law, progress, or the blessings of global communal memes. Progressive doesn’t mean progress any more at Davos than it does in Detroit or San Francisco. The great reset is what authoritarian elites do because they can: fix governance and economic apparats by any means, to accommodate what Marxists used to call the “vanguard of the proletariat.” In practice, Davos is a consortium of Deep State oligarchs, allied with Louis Vuitton liberals and dot-com deep pockets.
Big Government and Big Tech are in the same business: virtual voyeurism — the former driven by control, the latter driven by coin. Glen Greenwald put it best, defining the domestic threat as “the unholy trinity of the intelligence community, the corporate press, and Big Tech.”
When Uncle Sam next takes a knee facing East, American supplications should not stop in Mecca, but continue to Beijing, where the future of an ominous global reset is being written by totalitarians and painted with bold red letters.
Davos voyeurs may poach your mail and pick your pocket today, but tomorrow they will still be unable to read the handwriting on the Great Wall.
G. Murphy Donovan is the former chief of the USAF Intelligence Research Division (Friendship Annex), National Security Agency, Fort Meade, Maryland.