“In your head, in your head, they are crying
In your head, in your head
Zombie, zombie, zombie
Ey, ey. What’s in your head …”
— Fela Kuti
“The forms of art reflect the history of man more truthfully than do documents themselves.”
— Theodore Dorno
Emptywheel is a blog run by Marcy Wheeler.*
A few days ago they ran a piece on the importance of the on going counterintelligence investigation into Trump et al. The article highlighted that Mueller’s investigation was kept segregated from the counterintelligence spooks.
Yesterday we dropped a link and a comment on Emptywheel, regarding the Mueller Report, about our post and the idea that the vast corpus of art (literary, cinematic, etc) provides a road map to understanding the nature of intelligence agencies, their networks, and how governments effect and are effected by them.
We used this as a prism through which one might excavate the various responses to the Mueller Report and gave special attention to the comments made about it by Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, Glenn Greenwald.
We highlighted the fact that several crucial comments by Greenwald are in fact false, and that as a result conclusions he and others claim to be true about the report and about Trump, are also false or at least dubious to the point that any reasonable person would be reluctant to make use of them.
We also examined how these sloppy attempts to create a narrative (in which the intelligence agencies are monolithic and nefarious vs nefarious and full of “contrived corridors” and that the establishment media is in bed with the spooks) are symptomatic of a systemic defective reasoning by the “left” who seem to consistently substitute ideology for reason. Needles to say we also made it clear that neither the left nor the right holds a monopoly on stupidity or systemic mendacity.
Naturally, the contributor at Emptywheel was not amused and offered the following thoughtful response:
“No need for the poorly-written POS. You and that post could have said you believe the report’s ‘holes’ where there isn’t counterintelligence means there isn’t any counterintelligence at all.
The White House could resolve that by not obstructing the House so that all requested witnesses and documents can be seen and analyzed by the public. Trump could order Barr to release the full report, unredacted. But no.
Since you appear fond of philosophical bullshit, have some Baudrillard: the White House isn’t allowing a view of the real. It creates a simulacrum by denying access to pre-copy evidence and witnesses while insisting the public reject the evidence of their eyes and ears, believing only Trump.
Welcome to emptywheel.”
You always know you’re dealing with someone who has to drum up their sense of humor, ex nihilo, by insisting when they attack style without providing a counter sense of aesthetics, and wield it as a rhetorical cudgel to suggest no examples are necessary, that there’s some deeper truth at work about which, they (unlike you) are certain. This is the dreary paint by numbers anti-style of second rate con artists and the more entertaining, if less successful faith healers, or the type who believe jokes are always funnier when you insist on taking the time to explain them. You can find these people following the orders of the people who make the trains run on time.
After all, they are quite right, we could have said:
“…the report’s ‘holes’ where there isn’t counterintelligence means there isn’t any counterintelligence at all.”
But we didn’t say it because, it’s not true, or even remotely logical precisely because as they say, the report states clearly that there is a counterintelligence investigation and that it was, in part, embedded inside the Special Council’s Office, Mueller was kept out of their loop and that, as we made clear, that fact explodes Greenwald’s claims.**
What’s truly odd though is that the Emptywheel article says the same thing – except it doesn’t mention Greenwald, or anyone else nominally on the “left” but does make it perfectly clear that because of the secrecy surrounding counterintelligence, everyone is essentially in the dark as to what if any dirt exists linking Trump and the Russians.
Of course “POS” is indicative of a raw nerve being pressed as what’s clearly really going on, is that the Emptywheel author is enraged because their work is revealed to be an accurate petard by which commentators on the “left” have hoisted themselves.
Including Glenn Greenwald.
In other words, like Kirk screaming at Khan – Yes old friend, I’m still alive but lousy shot that you are you’ve managed to kill just about everyone else.
Friendly fire is bad for morale. And Emptywheel has, accidentally, blown a rhetorical hole in Greenwald’s head and set his reputation on fire.
Which brings us to:
“The White House could resolve that by not obstructing the House so that all requested witnesses and documents can be seen and analyzed by the public. Trump could order Barr to release the full report, unredacted. But no.”
But no, indeed.
Again they are not wrong, The White House could resolve all of that except, as everyone knows, Trump is a malignant troll surrounded by morons and fascists and fascist morons who, even if (however unlikely) aren’t guilty of being Russian hand puppets, are as likely to be guilty of a thousand other things as the ocean is to be full of things that can kill you.
But of course what stands out in the Emptywheel missive is that it’s a rhetorical perverse reverse because it reverses the criticism of Trump, to suggest our article was defending him, and then still manages to stick the landing by doubling down on the mendacity or stupidity (or both) of Greenwald by suggesting, that an on going counterintelligence investigation can (and should) be publicly compromised by having the White House release an unredacted version of the report.
This in turn ignores the legal issues surrounding not revealing grand jury information, the harm that could come to people with no connection to criminal activity but who were interviewed by the FBI, as well as, of course, disrupting the counterintelligence investigation.
Which Emptyhweel and the author in question, have pointed out means that the report, as released, is (except for potential Obstruction charges) more a boat anchor or door stop than not – precisely because we don’t know what the counterintelligence spooks are doing or have concluded.
Which brings us to Emptywheel’s dismount:
“Since you appear fond of philosophical bullshit, have some Baudrillard: the White House isn’t allowing a view of the real. It creates a simulacrum by denying access to pre-copy evidence and witnesses while insisting the public reject the evidence of their eyes and ears, believing only Trump.”
Well, again, not wrong exactly as we do enjoy “philosophical bullshit” – Python’s Philosopher’s Drinking Song is one of our favorites (“Kant was a real pissant who could drink you under the table” or was it Schopenhauer?) but again notice there is no actual engagement with the evidence (thus again making the point for us that the left denial of art as evidence is as reactionary and neo-fascist as the right).
Consider that we offered as evidence not just our usual suspects among the French PoMo gang but noted leftists like Graham Greene and Dashiell Hammett with additional tunes by Le Carre, and Mark Twain; Hunter S. Thompson and Ambrose Bierce and reactionary neo-fascists like T.S. Eliot.
We also offered a curated suggestion that non PoMo works like Three Days of the Condor, The Lives of Others and The Secret in Their Eyes, and The Third Man, Gatsby and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof offer a means by which intelligence agencies and governments can be contextualized.
The Emptywheel contributor however heard the word culture and reached for her keyboard.
It is a mysterious and consistent kneejerk response in which art is violently rejected by people across the political spectrum but then as a noted if contradictory leftist said – there are many who do not know they are fascists but, will discover it when the time comes.
Ironically, as to the deployment of good old Baudrillard, the thing is, our correspondent seems blissfully unaware that their imitation of Baudrillard is a perfectly legitimate critique of the Trump method, and as such is yet another petard upon which our correspondent specifically and the left generally, have hoisted themselves.
The fact, as we’ve said repeatedly, that PoMo writers are annoying doesn’t mean they’re wrong. And, we can’t see anything wrong with the assertion that “the White House isn’t allowing a view of the real. It creates a simulacrum by denying access to pre-copy evidence and witnesses while insisting the public reject the evidence of their eyes and ears, believing only Trump.”
Plenty of people are smart and unpleasant and plenty of people are, conversely, both unpleasant and generally wrong about everything.
The “left” is in bad shape.
In a sense it hasn’t had a new idea since Trotsky told Lenin, back in 1903, ya know pal, you substitute the people for the revolution, and the leadership cadre for that, you guarantee a strong man will come from the right and, backed by the army, kill us all.
Not to worry, said Vlad, I’ve got it all figured out.
As does, Emptywheel.
*For a look at a previous excavation of the blog, see the following:
**Here’s the quote from Emptywheel taken in turn from the Mueller Report (emphasis added):
“From its inception, the Office recognized that its investigation could identify foreign intelligence and counterintelligence information relevant to the FBI’s broader national security mission. FBI personnel who assisted the Office established procedures to identify and convey such information to the FBI. The FBI’s Counterintelligence Division met with the Office regularly for that purpose for most of the Office’s tenure. For more than the past year, the FBI also embedded personnel at the Office who did not work on the Special Counsel’s investigation, but whose purpose was to review the results of the investigation and to send-in writing-summaries of foreign intelligence and counterintelligence information to FBIHQ and FBI Field Offices. Those communications and other correspondence between the Office and the FBI contain information derived from the investigation, not all of which is contained in this Volume. This Volume is a summary. It contains, in the Office’s judgment, that information necessary to account for the Special Counsel’s prosecution and declination decisions and to describe the investigation’s main factual results.”
In other words, Greenwald is wrong when he claims Mueller “had access to the entire surveillance apparatus of the US government” and wrong when he claims as a result the absence of charges or indictments by Mueller against Trump are proof the Russia-collusion story was a conjob, Emptywheel is mortified that it has exposed Greenwald as either incompetent or a liar or both, and has decided to pitch a fit designed to convince people that we’re defending Trump, that an entire philosophical movement that rests on pillars of culture from David Hume to Buddhism, is bullshit, and that Art qua Art tells us nothing about government, spies or human behavior.
In other words, textbook, lies, smoke, mirrors, half-truths, and reactionary anti-intellectualism with a whiff of neo-fascism.
One assumes they will be curating a collection of deviant art, just as soon as they gain power.