With some reluctance, but at the urging of a certain individual named Brandon who will remain unnamed, I’m going to write about the real life “House of Cards” that exists in America.  I’m not a big fan of television but my wife recently got me to watch the first episode of House of Cards.  I actually thought it was an interesting show.  It revolved around the House majority whip (played by Kevin Spacey) who keeps the gears of government grinding away.  He is a master manipulator, loyal to no ideology, and knows where the levers of power are located.  He knows how to pull them or coerce them into being pulled.

I have a particular interest in the behind-the-scenes power politics of the world.  The mechanisms I learned about in political science classes are absolutely important and play a dominant role in American and global politics.  This is where you learn about concepts such as balancing and the prisoner’s dilemma.  Theories such as realism, liberalism, and constructivism dominate the debate about how conflicts are managed and mismanaged in politics.  I accept that these sorts of concepts are the predominant issues in politics and governance.  However, there is another genre of politics that is rarely discussed, and when it is brought up, it is simply dismissed as Neo-Marxism or conspiracy theory.

There is no need for derogatory terms, just as there is no need for the exaggeration of the importance of such groups.  We can call them elite networks.  More specifically, elite affinity networks.  These can be benign organizations such as NGOs and foreign institutions.  They can also be sophomoric groups like Skull and Bones or Bohemian Grove.  They could also take the form of religious cults or fraternal orders.

The relevance of many of these groups is questionable at best, but I think that the links between individuals, joined by secret oaths to secret or secretive groups, is in fact more influential than many are comfortable discussing.  No, I’m not saying that secret societies control the world or anything like that.  I am saying that some have undue influence upon actors on the world stage.  If nothing else, these actors will have feelings of loyalty that are stronger to the members of their affinity network than to other government officials who are not.

The next question you have to ask is whether this is a bad thing or not.  Is it a positive that these actors are so closely linked?  Isn’t it good that they can work together in full confidence?  Don’t we want them to trust and rely on each other?  We can re-visit this side bar some other time.  Back to House of Cards.  The first episode revolved around how a young journalist allows a Congressman to feed her prejudicial information in order to torpedo his political enemies.

The unobserved state is a fog of probability, a window of and for error. The watcher observes, the fog collapses, an event resolves – a theory becomes a fact. What is the truth? Tell me if you know [heh] and I will not believe you. Things are never as they seem. Clean gloves hide dirty hands and mine are dirtier than most. Without truth there can be no justice. -Trevor Goodchild, Aeon Flux

I’m here to tell ya, this sort of things happens every day.  In fact, it is much worse than what was shown on the show.  Journalists in America who specialize in national security issues are largely the unwitting pawns of intelligence agencies.  I’ve met and spoken with many of these journalists.  They think the CIA and JSOC are the same organization.  They confuse Algeria and Angola.  These are people who couldn’t find a hooker in a Mexican whore house.  They’ve got no business in journalism, much less national security.

Individuals in the intelligence community leak information to these guys all the time, and like the obedient lap dogs that they are, they report it verbatim.  Why not?  Their careers depend on this side of insider information.  For instance, intelligence officials leak information as a part of disinformation campaigns to hide sources and methods.  Courier network?  Really, guys?  You can do better.  They also leak information to sabotage rival intelligence agencies and shut down programs which threaten their rice bowls.  Sometimes they just leak information to embarrass people who they don’t like.  Watch and read the news critically.  When you see multiple pundits coming forward with breaking news, or similar narratives at the same time, you are probably witnessing an intelligence operation in action.