bureaucracybusters

PRESIDENTS RULE BY CONSENT, DICTATORS RULE BY FEAR: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on December 27, 2022 at 12:10 am

In January, 2018, the White House banned the use of personal cell phones in the West Wing. The official reason: National security.

The real reason: To prevent staffers from leaking to reporters.

More ominously, well-suited men roamed the halls of the West Wing, carrying devices that pick up signals from phones that aren’t government-issued.

“Did someone forget to put their phone away?” one of the men would ask if such a device was detected. If no one said they had a phone, the detection team started searching the room.

Image result for images of cell phone detectors on Youtube

Phone detector

The devices can tell which type of phone is in the room.

This is the sort of behavior Americans have traditionally—and correctly—associated with dictatorships

In his memo outlining the policy, then-Chief of Staff John Kelly warned that anyone who violated the phone ban could be punished, including “being indefinitely prohibited from entering the White House complex.”

Yet even these draconian methods did not end White House leaks.

White House officials still spoke with reporters throughout the day and often aired their grievances, whether about annoying colleagues or competing policy priorities.

Aides with private offices sometimes called reporters on their desk phones. Others got their cell phones and called or texted reporters during lunch breaks.

According to an anonymous White House source: “The cellphone ban is for when people are inside the West Wing, so it really doesn’t do all that much to prevent leaks. If they banned all personal cellphones from the entire [White House] grounds, all that would do is make reporters stay up later because they couldn’t talk to their sources until after 6:30 pm.”

Image result for images of no cell phones

Other sources believed that leaks wouldn’t end unless Trump started firing staffers. But there was always the risk of firing the wrong people. Thus, to protect themselves, those who leaked might well accuse tight-lipped co-workers.

Within the Soviet Union (especially during the reign of Joseph Stalin) fear of secret police surveillance was widespread—and absolutely justified.

Among the methods used to keep conversations secret:

  • Turning on the TV or radio to full volume.
  • Turning on a water faucet at full blast.
  • Turning the dial of a rotary phone to the end—and sticking a pencil in one of the small holes for numbers.
  • Standing six to nine feet away from the hung-up receiver.
  • Going for “a walk in the woods.” 
  • Saying nothing sensitive on the phone.

The secret police (known as the Cheka, the NKVD, the MGB, the KGB, and now the FSB) operated on seven working principles:

  1. Your enemy is hiding.
  2. Start from the usual suspects.
  3. Study the young.
  4. Stop the laughing.
  5. Rebellion spreads like wildfire.
  6. Stamp out every spark.
  7. Order is created by appearance.

Trump has always ruled through bribery and fear. He’s bought off (or tried to) those who might cause him trouble—like porn actress Stormy Daniels. And he’s threatened or filed lawsuits against those he couldn’t or didn’t want to bribe—such as contractors who have worked on various Trump properties. 

But Trump couldn’t buy the loyalty of employees working in an atmosphere of hostility—which breeds resentment and fear. And some of them took revenge by sharing with reporters the latest crimes and follies of the Trump administration.

The more Trump waged war on the “cowards and traitors” who worked most closely with him, the more some of them found opportunities to strike back. This inflamed Trump even more—and led him to seek even more repressive methods against his own staffers. 

This proved a no-win situation for Trump.

The results were twofold:

  1. Constant turnovers of staffers—with their replacements having to undergo lengthy background checks before coming on; and
  2. Continued leaking of embarrassing secrets by resentful employees who stayed.

**********

As host of NBC’s “The Apprentice,” Trump became infamous for booting off contestants with the phrase: “You’re fired.” In fact, he so delighted in using this that, in 2004, he tried to gain trademark ownership of it.

But  the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office rejected his application. American copyright law explicitly prohibits copyright protections for short phrases or sayings.

Upon taking office as President, Trump bullied and insulted even White House officials and his own handpicked Cabinet officers. This resulted in an avalanche of firings and resignations. 

The first two years of Trump’s White House saw more firings, resignations, and reassignments of top staffers than any other first-term administration in modern history. His Cabinet turnover exceeded that of any other administration in the last 100 years.

In 1934, Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin, seeing imaginary enemies everywhere, ordered a series of purges that lasted right up to the German invasion in 1941.

No one was safe from execution—not even the men who slaughtered as many as 20 to 60 million. 

Fittingly, for all the fear he inspired, Stalin was plagued by paranoia. He lived in constant fear of assassination. Although surrounded by bodyguards, he distrusted even them.

Thus Stalin, who had turned the Soviet Union into a vast prison, became its leading prisoner.  

Similarly, Donald Trump daily proved the accuracy of the age-old warning: “You can build a throne of bayonets, but you can’t sit on it.”

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