What has the Deep State ever done for us, eh?

I liked this little coincidence today.

First, while I was working out on the elliptical right after getting up, I watched the above video for about the hundredth time, and once again thoroughly enjoyed it.

Then, going through my email just now, I found one from The New York Times, with the subject line “Opinion Today: How the deep state works for you.”

That linked to this item, which began:

It Turns Out the ‘Deep State’
Is Actually Kind of Awesome

As America closes in on a major election, mistrust is brewing around the mysterious government entity that’s now denounced in scary-sounding terms — “the deep state” and “the swamp.” What do those words even mean? Who exactly do they describe?

We went on a road trip to find out. As we met the Americans who are being dismissed as public enemies, we discovered that they are … us. They like Taylor Swift. They dance bachata. They go to bed at night watching “Star Trek” reruns. They go to work and do their jobs: saving us from Armageddon.

Sure, our tax dollars pay them, but as you’ll see in the video above, what a return on our investment we get!…

I haven’t watched the accompanying video, because I don’t need to. I already know what this piece is trying to communicate to me. These are things I’ve known all my life, which is why I’ve watched in horror as the absurdly childish hostility to government has spread like a plague through our society, and is now threatening to end our republic.

Some people seem to need to have these things explained. And this writer is trying hard to explain it as simply as possible, with such pop-culture silliness as “They like Taylor Swift.” Personally, I think this next paragraph says it a bit better:

When we hear “deep state,” instead of recoiling, we should rally. We should think about the workers otherwise known as our public servants, the everyday superheroes who wake up ready to dedicate their careers and their lives to serving us. These are the Americans we employ. Even though their work is often invisible, it makes our lives better….

This reminds me of a regular feature that I inherited when I arrived at The State in 1987. As governmental affairs editor, aside from daily political and government coverage, I had the duty of filling a full page every week in the Sunday viewpoint section. One of the features we ran there each Sunday was something we internally called “Bureaucrat of the Week.” Nobody liked writing this feature — it took them away from keeping up with their own beats — and we spread the pain across the newsroom, beyond that team that actually worked directly for me. The reporter on the schedule for that week would have to go out and find a state employee — preferably one with a job different from others recently featured — who was willing to be profiled in this way.

I liked the idea behind it — let people know what these unsung folks are doing for you. But I thought it was unnecessary. Sure, we’d had several years of Ronald Reagan fanning the embers of anti-government sentiment, but the flames weren’t all that high yet, and I still assumed most grownups understood that their taxes paid for people to do things that were pretty essential to living in a tolerable civilization.

I later realized I was wrong in giving the average voter out there that much credit. That was a good feature. We should have done a lot more of that sort of thing. A few years later, a lot of us realized that, which is where things like “public journalism” came from. That generated a lot of seminar discussions, but not a lot of effective work — probably because even the advocates of the movement didn’t really understand the problem.

The problem was that it was the nature of news people to report what’s wrong. You had to tell people about the airliner that crashed. You didn’t have to tell people about the thousands that did not crash. Apply that principle to covering government, and every day, newspapers were giving people the very strong impression that everybody in government was embezzling, or lying about his resume, or doing something else nasty. Journalists knew better, because every day they dealt with the thousands of honest people in government who were dedicated to public service. Trouble is, they weren’ making news.

And we would never have the resources to cover them the way we covered the scoundrels. (No news organization that ever existed had the people and time to cover all the planes that land safely.) And we also knew people wouldn’t read it if we did. And somehow the less-thoughtful readers — never got the obvious point that we were telling them about the crooks because their behavior was a shocking departure from the norm. So we have the mess we have today.

But I digress. I just thought I’d share the fun video from Monty Python pointing to the absurdity of the kinds of people who go about ranting about things like, well, the “Deep State”…

One thought on “What has the Deep State ever done for us, eh?

  1. Bob Amundson

    Yes if it bleeds it leads. When I studied Public Administration we talked about how to attract and hire “the best and the brightest” That challenge began soon after Watergate. Too many Americans do not understand the, at times, blurry line between politics and public administration. I began consulting/teaching in 2008; I just couldn’t take the BS. Of course I am still troubled by this complex situation. Remember VUCA.

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