The deep state (by 1997) is a conspiracy theory that sees a shadow government at work against the “shallow” state of presidents and senators and so on.
In the US the deep state is seen as being led by the CIA, long practised in secret plots to overthrow governments.
Some on the left, like Glenn Greenwald and Glen Ford, take it as a given.
On the right it has lately become a talking point among Trump loyalists:
“But the deep state is after larger game than General Flynn. It is out to bring down President Trump and abort any move to effect the sort of rapprochement with Russia that Ronald Reagan achieved.”
“Of course, the Deep State exists. There’s a permanent state of massive bureaucracies that do whatever they want and set up deliberate leaks to attack the president. … This is what the Deep State does: They create a lie, spread a lie, fail to check the lie and then deny that they were behind the lie.”
“It’s time for the Trump administration to begin to purge these saboteurs before it’s too late.”
Professor Timur Kuran of Duke University, who has studied an actual deep state, the one in Turkey, says:
“A deep state involves more than an array of vested interests. It involves vested interests that are coordinated by a powerful agent and that obey a hierarchy. In many autocracies, the dictator often blames failures on a deep state ostensibly commanded by an enemy of the legitimate state. Often the perceived enemy is a foreign agent, such as the CIA. In Turkey, which is now an autocracy, President Erdoğan’s team justifies his ongoing witch hunt by invoking Turkey’s deep state.”
Erdogan used the idea of a deep state to go after the media, the courts, intellectuals and business people, throwing hundreds in prison, undermining democracy and strengthening his own power.
The term in fact comes from Turkish: derin devlet.
The earliest uses of “deep state” as a political term that I could find on the Internet in English:
- 1997: Google Books
- 2005: New York Times
- 2007: The Guardian
- 2008: BBC
- 2010: The Economist, Infowars
- 2013: RT
- 2014: Black Agenda Report, Bill Moyers
- 2015: The Intercept
- 2016: Breitbart News
The Economist in 2015, talking about countries moving towards democracy:
“Forgiveness [for figures of the old regime] can thus hasten a transition. But it also carries risks. When members or sympathisers of the old regime are left in place, a “deep state” – a subterranean network of military and intelligence officers, and others – can develop to threaten its successor’s long-term health.”
As took place in Egypt, Thailand and Russia, but not Iraq or East Germany, where elements of the old regime were rooted out (some which became ISIS in the case of Iraq).
The term “deep state” is a double-edged sword. It can save a democracy but can also destroy it. In the US it seems likely the term will go the way of “fake news”, becoming little more than glorified name-calling by Trump loyalists.
– Abagond, 2017.
- conspiracy theory
- Trump Era
- military-industrial complex – which some see as part of the deep state.