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The Mad Hatter’s Little Red Book.

Like the cliché of some sleeper agent awakened a hundred years after the fact, Jackson Lears has held forth in the current issue of the lofty pages of the London Review of Books to both warn, and scold in equal measure.

Triggered from sleep and into Manchurian Candidate territory by the latest missive from gumshoe extraordinaire Robert Mueller, it turns out, per Lears, that the intelligence agencies of America are cryogenically frozen, having gone into the deep freeze somewhere around 1968.

On the one hand Lears and the London Review of Books can be dismissed (ironically) by saying: How many divisions do they have…

On the other hand it is to weep that so much of the sclerotic, ossified, turgid, pedantic, humorless left, reeks of a stack of Novy Mir that no one, outside of a graduate program archive, has read in a hundred years.

Employing a rhetorical style just slightly less insulting to one’s intelligence than an editorial in Pravda, circa 1950, or contained in the footnotes to some wayward edition of Mao’s hymns to wheat, Lears informs us that Robert Mueller’s indictment of 13 Russians is really just some sort of establishment ploy (Deep State?) to fool the masses into avoiding the truth. And why? Because G-Men are all crypto fascists who can’t be trusted.


Step to the light Mr. Lears.

While it is true that the Hoovers have a track record that places them in the cell next to the Stasi, and that they generally crank out goons and thugs who view 1984 as a how to manual rather than a warning, it is also true that if for no other reason than self-preservation, the intelligence lords and their minions can be trusted when they say the Russians did interfere in the election. In fact, why lie? Why go to the effort of manufacturing a crackpot story when there are so many other (crackpot) ways to assert power?* After all, it’s not like The Patriot Act is going to self-destruct like a Mission Impossible Tape. And while it’s true that there is no escaping the irony of watching the Republicans turn their reptile fund on its head and attack the Hoovers, while the Democrats ride to their defense, the truth is that historical irony is in fact not an anomaly but the rule. Today’s enemy is tomorrow’s friend. Remember that shot of Don (known unknowns) Rumsfeld shaking hands with Saddam Hussein? Or as FDR put it, speaking of some psychopathic warlord we were supporting: Yes he’s a son of a bitch but, he’s our son of a bitch.

Were that the only issue it would be reason enough to lament the zombie-esque quality of Lears Comintern style paranoia. But he doubles down on it by saying that even if the Russians meddled, then it can’t be bad because saying it’s bad means you’re against a vibrant, energetic polity where people of diverse views argue.


Well, there’s nothing quite like riding two horses with one ass, or placing your chips on both red and black so you win either way.

In other words, per Lears, the Russians didn’t meddle and if they did they are welcome to because having foreign governments and their agents pose as citizens, and violate election laws, is a healthy injection of much needed political protein into the otherwise elitist top-heavy, anti-democratic body politic.

Of course Lears fails to remember, or succeeds in not mentioning, that if he’s correct than these things work both ways. If we posit a J. Edgar Hoover-esque or Nixonian, reptilian system, replete with nefarious G-Men and psychotic Strangelovian spooks working to subvert the system here, then by definition, and if for no other reason than expediency, surely the Russians would be doing the same thing. And in fact one need not imagine it because of course even a cursory glance at the record shows just that. After all outside of a Graham Greene novel who but the spooks would think to put Mussolini on the payroll of British intelligence?*(2) Lears of course would say that proves why we should be skeptical. And he’s not wrong but he seems to forget that skepticism includes people like Lears, who claim that the intelligence agencies only operate on one frequency when in fact, precisely because they are intelligence agencies they have the situational ethics of crack whores, and will operate on a spectrum that ranges from Jesuitical outrage to running the best five dollar whore house in Juarez or Manhattan.

That, as Lears points out, the Democrats are a gang of malodorous, spineless, feckless whores, and that the old ladies of both sexes in the House and Senate dither while the system implodes, and Trump/Nero fiddles, is all true. That somehow within this x-files esque circular firing squad it is impossible that in addition to all of the above, the Russians could not possibly be engaged in espionage, subversion and the usual assortment of inane insane and just unbelievably stupid things that intelligence agencies do as a matter of routine, doesn’t pass the giggle test.

Alas, for Lears and certainly for the doctrinaire politburo that governs the London Review of Books, the world is far more Le Carre than Zimmerwald or a revival meeting at Cooper Union.

Alas for the left, the world is far more knowledgeable than people who still talk, write and think as if it’s 1917 and not 2018.

For a look at Lears time capsule see the link below:


*Of course that’s not to suggest the intelligence agencies haven’t or aren’t engaged in any number of insane things. MKUltra and Tuskgee make that abundantly clear.

*2 Mussolini was in fact on the payroll of British Intelligence.

Update: 9/16/18

Displaying a depth and sense of nuance, as well as a grasp of the vagaries of historical context that all belie his previous spasm of whoopie cushion rhetoric, Mr. Lears offers the following thoughtful consideration of then, and now:

2 comments on “The Mad Hatter’s Little Red Book.

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