Saturday, February 6, 2021

Lee Smith's Thirty Tyrants Metaphor--Where We Are

Yesterday we took a look at the significance of the Time piece that purports to tell the masses of We The People what really happened in Election 2020 (Why The Time Election Narrative Is Good News). According to Time, a patriotic coalition of Big Business and Big Labor worked brilliantly and selflessly to save our electoral system and way of life from ... Trump! Now this hitherto secret coalition wants us to know exactly how they did it (LOL) so we will place our full trust in the puppet Zhou Baiden regime--and the military occupation of the Imperial City on the Potomac can be ended. Life, they hope, will resume the appearance of normalcy (but only after the "60 day stand down" purge of the military).

In that blog yesterday we cited insightful articles by Conrad Black and Glenn Reynolds that, while written before the Time article appeared, effectively deconstructed it that self serving narrative of the oligarchical powers that rule America. At the same time, numerous readers were urging me to look at a brilliant, and lengthier, analysis by Lee Smith. One thing at a time!

Lee Smith's article -

The Thirty Tyrants

The deal that the American elite chose to make with China has a precedent in the history of Athens and Sparta

- while obviously not intended to relate to the Time article serves remarkably well as a follow on to it. Smith draws on his analogy of our current crisis to an episode in ancient Greek history to further rip away the mask of disinformation that the Time article is intended to propagate.

The period in Greek history known as the rule in Athens of The Thirty Tyrants is an illustration of the principle that not all that much in human history is really new or unprecedented. As we all vaguely know, Athens was run as a democracy. In the wake of the defeat of the Persian Empire--in which the Athenian fleet played a leading role--the Athenian democracy expanded its influence and, while maintaining its form of government, established what amounted to an empire. This Athenian empire came to be widely resented in the Greek world. If you're thinking along the lines of the rise of America in the world beginning in the late 19th century and continuing to these late Imperial days, you're on the right track.

Athens' great rival was the explicitly tyrannical regime in Sparta. This rivalry led to the Peloponnesian War that ended in 404 BC with a crushing Spartan victory. Sparta, rightly fearing that, despite its victory, even a defeated Athens would be hard to control, hit upon the strategy of replacing Athens' democracy with an oligarchy of thirty leading Athenian admirers of Sparta's tyranny. This oligarchy was composed not only of wealthy Athenians but, crucially, of some of the elite Athenian intelligentsia. You can read about the results at Wikipedia--the Thirty Tyrants were swept away after a bloody and turbulent eight month rule--but here's Smith synopsis:

The pro-Sparta oligarchy used their patrons’ victory to undo the rights of citizens, and settle scores with their domestic rivals, exiling and executing them and confiscating their wealth.

The Athenian government disloyal to Athens’ laws and contemptuous of its traditions was known as the Thirty Tyrants, and understanding its role and function helps explain what is happening in America today.

As Smith begins his analysis of how America came to this pass, with an oligarchical ruling class sitting atop America's formally republican constitutional order, he harkens back to a 2009 article by the NYT's wannabe Wise Man, Tom Friedman: Our One-Party Democracy. Friedman decries what he sees as the mindlessly obstructionist role played by the GOP to the enlightened initiative to supposedly cash in on "clean energy" and Globalism. According to Friedman, the turning point in American politics was the realization by the business elites that the GOP was a party of naysayers whose out of date policy ideas were inimical to the interests of American--which is to say, inimical to the business elite's ambitions for wealth accumulation beyond the dreams of avarice. Here's the key paragraph that Smith quotes:

Globalization has neutered the Republican Party, leaving it to represent not the have-nots of the recession but the have-nots of globalized America, the people who have been left behind either in reality or in their fears,” said Edward Goldberg, a global trade consultant who teaches at Baruch College. “The need to compete in a globalized world has forced the meritocracy, the multinational corporate manager, the eastern financier and the technology entrepreneur to reconsider what the Republican Party has to offer. In principle, they have left the party, leaving behind not a pragmatic coalition but a group of ideological naysayers.


A few quick points in this regard:

1. Obviously somebody failed to clue the Chinese in to clean energy and selfless globalist ideals.

2. The shift of the business elite to the Dems began long before Obama's election, as also did the transformation of America--the hollowing out of our basic industries and the transformation of our economy into a casino attached to some ephemeral social media entities. Many of the transformative changes that got us to this point were championed by the Libertarian takeover of the GOP and the conversion of the Dems from the party of labor to the party of the new wealth elite.

3. Smith's reference to Tom Friedman puts me in mind of an incident from my former career that should ring some bells. Tom Friedman published The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century in 2005. Here's Wikipedia's account of the globalist twaddle Friedman was peddling in the book:

The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century is an international best-selling book by Thomas L. Friedman that analyzes globalization, primarily in the early 21st century. The title is a metaphor for viewing the world as a level playing field in terms of commerce, wherein all competitors, except for labor, have an equal opportunity. As the first edition cover illustration indicates, the title also alludes to the perceptual shift required for countries, companies, and individuals to remain competitive in a global market in which historical and geographic divisions are becoming increasingly irrelevant.

Friedman is a strong advocate of those changes, calling himself a "free-trader" and a "compassionate flatist", and he criticizes societies that resist the changes. He emphasizes the inevitability of a rapid pace of change and the extent to which the emerging abilities of individuals and developing countries are creating many pressures on businesses and individuals in the United States; he has special advice for Americans and for the developing world.

At some point between publication of Friedman's screed and my retirement on 1/1/2007 the Director of the FBI--yes, Robert "Bob" Mueller--invited Friedman to address the FBI in the courtyard of FBIHQ at the heart of the Imperial City. The Friedman address--a dumbing down, if that were possible, of the book--was rebroadcast (by whatever technology was current at the time) to the rest of us out in "the Field," and we were all required to watch. I recall being alternately bored and appalled at the shallowness of it all.

Mueller, however, was what you might call a Friedman "acolyte"--which tells you a lot about "Bob". You can learn more about Mueller's fan relationship to Friedman in this Washingtonian article:

Robert Mueller: Taking on the Terrorists

Robert Mueller has battled to remake the FBI and to prevent another 9/11.

Here's what I think is, in retrospect, a telling excerpt that should tell you a lot about the culture of today's FBI--I guarantee you it wasn't always this way:

Mueller has tried to instill a more corporate philosophy—after all, the FBI’s $6.4-billion budget, roughly equal to Bed Bath & Beyond’s annual revenues, would make it a Fortune 500 company. He sends top managers to a training program at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management. Deputy director John Pistole, a career agent, speaks of the bureau’s “shareholders.” Azmi talks about his “customers.”

The business approach involves figuring out how the FBI operates in what New York Times columnist and author Thomas Friedman calls the “flat world.” The globalization of crime since the collapse of the Soviet Union fascinates Mueller, who has invited Friedman to headquarters to speak.

“If there’s a wave overseas, there’s a ripple here,” says Phil Mudd, a former CIA official who now heads the FBI’s national-security branch. He notes that human trafficking now stems heavily from Asia, financial fraud from Nigeria, drugs from South America, gangs such as MS-13 from Latin America, and organized crime from the former Soviet Union.

Mueller has aggressively expanded the FBI’s overseas legal attach├ęs, or “legats.” A world map in Pistole’s office shows more than 60 locations abroad where agents are posted, and bureau leaders talk of its reach “from Indianapolis to Islamabad.” This year, Mueller traveled to Phnom Penh, Cambodia, to open the newest one.

“Globalization has presented lots of problems and opportunities,” says Pistole. “In counterterrorism we used to say that problems are opportunities to demonstrate character.”

Think about that, and you should get a renewed appreciation for what Trump was up against.

But, back to Athens and its elite's experiment in oligarchy--and how that relates to America today. Smith notes with regard to Friedman's complaint about the GOP:

In the more than 10 years since Friedman’s column was published, the disenchanted elite that the Times columnist identified has further impoverished American workers while enriching themselves. The one-word motto they came to live by was globalism—that is, the freedom to structure commercial relationships and social enterprises without reference to the well-being of the particular society in which they happened to make their livings and raise their children.

Undergirding the globalist enterprise was China’s accession to the World Trade Organization in 2001. For decades, American policymakers and the corporate class said they saw China as a rival, but the elite that Friedman described saw enlightened Chinese autocracy as a friend and even as a model—which was not surprising, given that the Chinese Communist Party became their source of power, wealth, and prestige. Why did they trade with an authoritarian regime and by sending millions of American manufacturing jobs off to China thereby impoverish working Americans? Because it made them rich.

It doesn't get much simpler than that, does it? Human motivations aren't necessarily complex, and smart peoples' motivations aren't necessarily more complicated than those of ordinary people. In some respects, they may be simpler--more focused and unidimensional, and thus less in touch with reality.

Trump's great triumph, as we now know, is that he exposed the dynamics behind the fancy words like 'globalism' that Friedman and others were pushing as inevitable: it was basically a get rich quick and beggar thy neighbor scheme:

Trump’s incessant attacks on that elite gave them collective self-awareness as well as a powerful motive for solidarity. Together, they saw that they represented a nexus of public and private sector interests that shared not only the same prejudices and hatreds, cultural tastes and consumer habits but also the same center of gravity—the U.S.-China relationship. And so, the China Class was born.

Connections that might have once seemed tenuous or nonexistent now became lucid under the light of Trump’s scorn, and the reciprocal scorn of the elite that loathed him.

What Trump came up against was the united opposition of an elite that was almost totally plugged in to the China-makes-us-rich dynamic. Smith documents this extensively, but a brief quote he offers says it all. The operative word here is "pervasive":

“It’s so pervasive, it’s better to ask who’s not tied into China,” says former Trump administration official Gen. (Ret.) Robert Spalding.

Unsurprisingly, the once-reliably Republican U.S. Chamber of Commerce was in the forefront of opposition to Trump’s China policies—against not only proposed tariffs but also his call for American companies to start moving critical supply chains elsewhere, even in the wake of a pandemic.

Smith lays out the campaign the oligarchy waged against Trump--and We The People--in two paragraphs that can only be described as chilling. Not so much in their implications--Smith leaves little to the imagination. Rather, what's chilling is the cold blooded determination that we all knew was there, but is here exposed as a naked will to power and wealth:

For nearly a year, American officials have purposefully laid waste to our economy and society for the sole purpose of arrogating more power to themselves while the Chinese economy has gained on America’s. China’s lockdowns had nothing to do with the difference in outcomes. Lockdowns are not public health measures to reduce the spread of a virus. They are political instruments, which is why Democratic Party officials who put their constituents under repeated lengthy lockdowns, like New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, are signaling publicly that it is imperative they be allowed to reopen immediately now that Trump is safely gone.

That Democratic officials intentionally destroyed lives and ended thousands of them by sending the ill to infect the elderly in nursing homes is irrelevant to America’s version of the Thirty Tyrants. The job was to boost coronavirus casualties in order to defeat Trump and they succeeded. As with Athens’ anti-democratic faction, America’s best and brightest long ago lost its way. ...

In the end, Smith concludes on a darkly optimistic note:

What seems clear is that Biden’s inauguration marks the hegemony of an American oligarchy that sees its relationship with China as a shield and sword against their own countrymen. [Comment: One might also say that America's government Deep State agencies are also a sword and shield against the American people.] Like Athens’ Thirty Tyrants, they are not simply contemptuous of a political system that recognizes the natural rights of all its citizens that are endowed by our creator; they despise in particular the notion that those they rule have the same rights they do. Witness their newfound respect for the idea that speech should only be free for the enlightened few who know how to use it properly. Like Critias and the pro-Sparta faction, the new American oligarchy believes that democracy’s failures are proof of their own exclusive right to power—and they are happy to rule in partnership with a foreign power that will help them destroy their own countrymen.

What does history teach us about this moment? The bad news is that the Thirty Tyrants exiled notable Athenian democrats and confiscated their property while murdering an estimated 5% of the Athenian population. The good news is that their rule lasted less than a year.

For those who have yet to read Smith's article--I've only scratched its surface here--do yourself a favor.


  1. well, I sat down in my favorite chair this morning with a fresh cup of covfefe to do a little "light" reading, sigh. Now, here I am over an hour later, trying to wrap my mind around all I have perused...SMDH. The erudition and eloquence of those who post here and are linked to here is splendid and I am a better citizen for it, but my head hurts from having to think too much. And, sadly, I know on a Stupor Ball weekend, 99.9% of my fellow "Americans" don't give a damn...where is Sparta when we need them?

    1. "twaddle"...what a splendid word to describe the doodlings of Friedman! Y'know my freshman college roommate was a non-wealthy kid from Boston who eventually rose to the top of the heap at Fidelity and thought Friedman to be perspicacious...the cat's meow, if you will - I never could figure out why since I thought Loopy Friedman was just another elitist fraud who married well (or perhaps "married wealthy" better describes his nuptial triumph)

  2. I read it. What an astonishing, scholarly piece of work. Smith fits so many pieces together under the arc of the Thirty Tyrants. I am almost speechless. That doesn’t happen often.

    This requires not only reading but rereading - along with a read of Mark’s analysis...

  3. "The good news is that their rule lasted less than a year", but the Tyrants had weaknesses, which I don't see applying to today's China Class.
    China likely has a far better grip on its allies, than did Sparta, which was eventually deserted by Thebes and Corinth, so that they become Athens' allies, and were eventually able to break Spartan hegemony.

    1. I'm surprised to hear you say our China class doesn't have weakness.

      They have scary good surveillance, but not the martial culture of Sparta. They're really just a bunch of bullies who won't be able to feed themselves when push comes to shove.

    2. Yeah, they have scary good surveillance, and outstanding propaganda, such that they'll likely have plenty of useful idiots to do their grunt-work, when push comes to shove.

  4. Great article Mark, thanks for all the work and insights.


  5. Reading Lee Smith some years ago is how I learned of Obama spying on his opponents during the Iran deal.
    FISA abuse is

    1. Smith's writing has both economy and power--no doubt due to a sharp mind acting on keen observations. He long ago deserved the profession's highest prizes and praise. Unfortunately, he doesn't play for the team that pulls all the strings.

      I wonder if at some point we're ever going to get the real story as to what happened behind the scenes in D.C. during Trump Time? It's hard not to feel like a rat in a maze and having no way to mark the walls to see if we've already tried the same path before.

  6. So, in the summer of 2019, in the province of Wuhan and a few others, too many of the natives were getting restless. The CCP feared a popular uprising of regional or national significance. Then, miracle of miracles, late that year a virus escaped from some bat poop and the authorities had to lock up the region's whole population, going so far as to weld some doors shut, to protect them from the bat-poop virus. And, just coincidentally, those feisty natives, being locked up and all, were no longer an immediate threat to the CCP.

    The CCP must be counting their blessings now that this fortunate (from their perspective) escape of the bat-poop virus gave them an excuse (as if they needed one; more like a sheen of legitimacy) for locking down the restless natives and, coincidentally (that word again) helped the globalists take down the bad orange man.

    I wonder what their Plan B was.

    1. I wonder who was watching closely and learning.

    2. Wuhan, the US, the World. Three birds with one stone.

  7. I've read Lee Smith's article now, too, and highly recommend it.

    Of course, if we were living in the classically 'liberal' society we all believe we grew up in, an article like this could serve as a focal point for a robust debate aimed at getting at the whole and precise truth of the nature of the CCP and our relationship with China.

    I'm guessing that nobody here expects that to happen today out there in the American marketplace of ideas.

    1. Our marketplace of ideas has become Seinfeld's Soup Kitchen.

  8. Great writing Mark! And yet, a large majority still believe we will some how out vote this mess!

  9. My sentiments exactly devilman! I think this “we’ll gettem next time” mentality is delusional. They just placed a broken down, senile and totally corrupt old man in the office of the President and he has signed 46
    EO in two weeks.. What in the world would give anyone the idea that these people will abandon their tactics or be willing to give up the levers of power?

    On another note, did anyone see any of that disgusting spectacle in the house where Sandy O. was comforting Talisha Rahshid
    as she tearfully recounted the horror of January 6? The Chinese, Soviets, Iran, along with the rest of our enemies must be rolling on the floor laughing their asses off!
    I fear we have no means of avoiding a very, very dark period in our history. I sincerely hope the nation survives.


    XIX Century
    "Capital is said by this reviewer to fly turbulence and strife, and to be timid, which is very true; but this is very incompletely stating the question. Capital eschews no profit, or very small profit, just as Nature was formerly said to abhor a vacuum. With adequate profit, capital is very bold. A certain 10 per cent. will ensure its employment anywhere; 20 per cent. certain will produce eagerness; 50 per cent., positive audacity; 100 per cent. will make it ready to trample on all human laws; 300 per cent., and there is not a crime at which it will scruple, nor a risk it will not run, even to the chance of its owner being hanged."
    Thomas Joseph Dunning (12 January 1799 – 23 December 1873)

    XX Century
    “The capitalists of the whole world and their governments, in their pursuit of the conquest of the Soviet market…” will open loans that will serve us to support the Communist Party in their countries and, by supplying us with the materials and techniques we lack, will restore our military industry necessary for our future victorious attacks against our suppliers. In other words, they will work hard to prepare for their own suicide! "
    Vladimir (Ulyanov) Lenin (22 April 1870 – 21 January 1924)

    XXI Century
    "I would suggest that there is no more important relationship that we need to establish on the part of the United States than a close relationship with China"
    Joseph Robinette Biden (20 November 1942 - )