New York Times confirms far-right's 'deep state' boogeyman is real in a boost to conspiracy theorists
- The New York Times published a senior Trump official saying that an anonymous network of officials have taken control of the executive branch.
- This seems to confirm fringe conspiracies that have long said a shadowy cabal of faceless, unelected officials secretly runs the US.
- Mainstream media outlets frequently dismissed the idea of such a group as conspiracy theory, propaganda, or fantasy.
- The article's stated purpose is to assure the US public that there are "adults in the room" guiding and vetoing Trump.
- But it's unclear whether the news of open mutiny or a soft coup has significantly reassured anyone.
The idea that a shadowy cabal of unelected bureaucrats secretly runs the US - against the demonstrated will of the people and without their knowledge - used to be the stuff of conspiracy theories. But on Wednesday night, the New York Times seemed to confirm it.
"I Am Part of the Resistance Inside the Trump Administration," says the headline of an anonymous op-ed in the Times, from a senior official in the Trump administration.
The piece explains that its author, as well as a network of other unnamed officials, have "vowed to thwart parts of [President Donald Trump's] agenda and his worst inclinations."
The author, identified by the Times only as a "he," essentially argues that Trump is a bad and dangerous president and that, without this network, the nation would be much worse off.
However, rather than moving to oust the president they describe as anti-democratic, the anonymous group has instead quietly labored to deregulate markets, issue a conservative tax cut, and increase military spending.
In the author's view, it is worth keeping Trump as president to advance these classically Republican causes.
His stated purpose in writing the article is that "Americans should know that there are adults in the room."
But just who these adults are, what they want for the country, and how much power they actually wield, remains a secret. What is clear is that these people's names appeared on no ballots, and they're Republicans.
We are all conspiracy theorists now
Ben Jackson/Getty Images for SiriusXM
Fringe media and the far-right have long argued that a "deep state" holds the real power in government, and that the US public has been fooled into thinking they live in a legitimate democracy.
In the Times on Wednesday, that "deep state" introduced itself formally, but said it would rather be called a more generous term: "The steady state."
Mainstream US media has consistently used opinion columns to call the "deep state" a conspiracy. CNN, MSNBC, The Washington Post, and the New York Times itself have all dismissed the concept as fantasy, conspiracy, or propaganda from right-wing pundits disconnected from reality.
On Thursday morning, these same newsrooms will scour the text of the op-ed looking for clues for who wrote it. A telling vocabulary choice, the use of the word "lodestar," has persuaded some that Vice President Mike Pence, who frequently uses the obscure word, wrote the article.
But maybe somebody else wrote it and used "lodestar" as a false flag? With the Times' publication of the op-ed, mainstream US media and conspiracy theorists have now converged on a hunt for the deep state mastermind.
Not treason, but perhaps a soft coup
Trump responded to the bombshell op-ed with a single word Tweet: "TREASON?"
While the op-ed likely doesn't meet the legal definition of treason, it does clearly spell out that anonymous actors believing themselves justified, yet justifying themselves to no one, have subverted the normal rule of the US government.
It's unclear whether the adults of the US have been reassured by this op-ed, which promises steady leadership and open mutiny in the White House.
US presidents derive their authority from elections, where the US public participates in democracy to choose a leader. According to this op-ed, the country's real leadership has little to do with democracy, and a lot to do with an anonymous group advancing a Republican agenda.
In doing so, it also gave a huge boost to conspiracy theorists that had long spoke of a deep state boogeyman, which on Wednesday stepped out of the shadows and said: "Hi."