The only thing worse than being threatened and infiltrated is not being threatened and infiltrated (apologies to Oscar Wilde).
One of the key concepts of the Cold War was “communist infiltration.” As both the Democrats and Republicans appear to believe that the best way to “make America great again” is to return to the culture of the 1950s — the Republicans through the affirmation of WASP culture, the Democrats through the demonization of Russia — the notion of infiltration has made a major comeback. For the Democrats, it’s simple: the Russians elected their Manchurian candidate. For the Republicans who now espouse the Trump throwback doctrine of America first, it’s everyone, including the Russians, but especially the Chinese, who are seeking to infiltrate us. CIA Director Mike Pompeo is leading the charge.
“We see it in our schools. We see it in our hospitals and medicals systems. We see it throughout corporate America,” he says. “It’s also true in other parts of the world … including Europe and the UK.”
So, what has infiltration become now that it’s no longer a communist or even a Russian monopoly?
Here is today’s 3D definition:
The presence in a public institution of a person with an opinion or political values that may not be in conformity with the reigning ideology, presumably to gather intelligence or to influence people in favor of their competing ideology
The BBC reports Pompeo’s views, revealing the sheer geographical breadth of the problem: “[H]e cited efforts to steal US commercial information and infiltration of schools and hospitals — and this extended to Europe and the UK.” He laughed about Russia, “we talk a lot about Russian influence these days” in order to highlight the Chinese threat. And he made it clear that it wasn’t about a threat to the US but to “American interests,” wherever they may be.
Referring to Qasem Soleimani, the leader of Iran’s Quds force, Pompeo warned, “He should be deeply aware that it is intolerable for the Iranians to take on American interests.” His language tells us a lot about US intentions. We recently looked at how President Trump used the word “deeply” when protesting his respect for Africans. It’s a pregnant adverb that always contains a grain of insincerity and in this case a threat. “Deeply aware” clearly means “seriously afraid.” Calling something “intolerable” without specifying a framework for tolerance sounds like simple bullying behavior. To “take on” is extraordinarily vague. Does it mean combat (war)? Challenge (compete)? Or become involved in, such as “take on a task”? And of course “American interests” is even more vague, given that American interests can be found everywhere across the globe.
Spying (intelligence gathering) is a permanent feature of every modern government. Every nation with the means to do so spies on other nations – enemies and allies alike — their institutions and their industries. Politicians and national authorities speak of infiltration only when they want to raise the level of public paranoia.
Cold War propaganda thrived on the fact that the paranoia focused on the perception of communism, not as a rival economic system but as a kind of fanatical cult in which ruthless operators took advantage of naive idealists, who became “fellow travelers” if not “useful idiots” (Lenin).
Since the Cold War and until Pompeo’s concern about schools and hospitals, there was practically only the extreme reactionary wing of the Catholic Church to insist on the threat of infiltration to nongovernmental or industrial facilities. “It is a well known and documented fact that the agents of Communism began entering our Catholic seminaries as far back as the 30s for the purpose of destroying the Church from within … Their plan was to first absorb Catholic philosophy and teaching in the seminaries so as to give them inside access to masterfully communicate and pull the Catholic hierarchy away from their traditional roots”
Schools, hospitals and Catholic seminaries. We might not have noticed. Luckily there is Pompeo and some alert defenders of the true Catholic faith to keep us informed.
*[In the age of Oscar Wilde and Mark Twain, another American wit, the journalist Ambrose Bierce, produced a series of satirical definitions of commonly used terms, throwing light on their hidden meanings in real discourse. Bierce eventually collected and published them as a book, The Devil’s Dictionary, in 1911. We have shamelessly appropriated his title in the interest of continuing his wholesome pedagogical effort to enlighten generations of readers of the news.]
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