Deep state

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Sheeple wakers

A deep state is a hypothetical secret government body that functions autonomously and competes with the government proper for power.[1] It is often found in conspiracy theories, with many cranks speculating that the Illuminati, Freemasons, or some other secret organization is acting as a deep state to undermine the real government.[2][3]

Real examples[edit]

  • In Turkey, the military and bureaucracy repeatedly launch coups whenever groups they see as opposed to the founding principles of Turkey (mainly left wingers, Kurdish separatists, and Islamic fundamentalists) gain power within the government.[4]
  • In Egypt, the military basically controls the economy.[5] The military cut fuel and electricity to create chaos during Mohamed Morsi's regime to foster enough discontent to cause the Egyptian population to turn against him.[4]
  • In Russia, the KGB tried to control the Communist Party in the Soviet Union. They ultimately won out, with former KGB agents taking control of the Russian government after the fall of the USSR.[6]
  • In Ukraine, Paul Manafort (before he became a convicted felon) had a shadow government that included a person in every ministry during the presidency of Viktor Yanukovych.[7]

Conspiracy theories[edit]

Donald Trump, under the influence of Steve Bannon[8] and Vladimir Putin,[9][10] believes that a deep state was trying to undermine his presidency. Although he was impeached twice by the House of Representatives, the idea that the deep state was on the brink of stripping him of his powers was ridiculous since he was acquitted twice. Absent any meaningful punishment for his involvement in the Ukraine scandal and the 2021 U.S. Capitol riot, his claim is that the impeachment proceedings themselves constituted interference by the deep state, which would be a poor show for a supposedly all-powerful conspiracy. Trump went so far as to hire Joe diGenova, a deep state conspiracy theorist, as one of his lawyers.[8] Deep state as used by Trump supporters is basically a code phrase for government employees who have sworn allegiance to the US Constitution as part of the terms of their employment, but peculiarly won't swear a "higher" allegiance to Trump personally.[11]

In reality, all that happened was that several government officials leaked information to the press to hold Trump publicly accountable. The truth is usually pretty boring.[6] As Michael Crowley has pointed out, there are always plenty of people in government seeking to hold on to or extend their power and take advantage of a weak or inexperienced president. Still, they are not organized into any grand conspiracy, not (generally) breaking the law, and not killing people for speaking out.[12]

The term is sometimes associated with other older concepts of secret and powerful forces in society, such as US President Dwight Eisenhower's warnings about a military-industrial complex gaining "unwarranted influence" over the government.[13] Before being used on the right in the Trump era, more left-wing and anti-authoritarian people like Edward Snowden were claiming that the U.S. civil service acts as a deep state,[14] or that George W. Bush was just a puppet for a cabal of shadowy figures led by Dick Cheney.[12] The more paranoid deep state theories are distinct from Eisenhower's vision in describing a unified deep state which does not merely seek influence over government, but already controls it all.

Sean Hannity insinuated that there was a deep state within Fox News because of an internal Fox News document that criticized him and also regarded Media Matters for America as a factual source of information.[15]

Deeply overstocked[edit]

Patrick M. Byrne's unhinged rantings about the deep state eventually led to his forced resignation as CEO of because insurers would not renew their policies with Overstock as long as he was in charge.[16]

See also[edit]


  1. Mike Lofgren, Essay: Anatomy of the Deep State., 21 April 2014.

    There is the visible government situated around the Mall in Washington, and then there is another, more shadowy, more indefinable government that is not explained in Civics 101 or observable to tourists at the White House or the Capitol. The former is traditional Washington partisan politics: the tip of the iceberg that a public watching C-SPAN sees daily and which is theoretically controllable via elections. The subsurface part of the iceberg I shall call the Deep State, which operates according to its own compass heading regardless of who is formally in power.

  2. Vote all you want. The secret government won’t change. The people we elect aren't the ones calling the shots, says Tufts University's Michael Glennon by Jordan Michael Smith (October 19, 2014) The Boston Globe.
  3. A Culture of Conspiracy: Apocalyptic Visions in Contemporary America
  4. 4.0 4.1 What an actual 'deep state' looks like by Ishaan Tharoor (March 7, 2017) The Washington Post.
  5. Egypt's military is hijacking its economy by Amanda Zeidan (Mar. 22, 2016, 3:03 AM) Business Insider.
  6. 6.0 6.1 The "Deep State" Theory, Explained by Robert Longley (Updated January 31, 2018) ThoughCo.
  7. The Plot Against America: Decades before he ran the Trump campaign, Paul Manafort’s pursuit of foreign cash and shady deals laid the groundwork for the corruption of Washington. by Franklin Foer (March 2018) The Atlantic.
  8. 8.0 8.1 Trump just hired a deep-state conspiracy theorist as his lawyer. Here's what Joe diGenova has said. by Aaron Blake (March 19, 2018, at 2:55 PM) The Washington Post.
  9. What Putin whispers in Trump’s ear by Aaron Blake (September 19, 2018, at 9:40 AM) The Washington Post.
  10. The Apprentice: Trump, Russia and the Subversion of American Democracy by Greg Miller (2018) Custom House. ISBN 0062803700.
  11. Can the Deep State and the Media Survive Trump? The FBI and the Department of Justice must not overreact to leaks. by Jeffrey H. Smith (August 30, 2017, 3:06 PM) The Washington Post.
  12. 12.0 12.1 The Deep State Is Real, Michael Crowley, Politico, 5 Sept 2017
  13. See the Wikipedia article on Deep state in the United States.
  14. "Edward Snowden: "Poisoning people who are long out of their service is contemptible"". March 18, 2018. 
  15. In its own document, Fox News rips Fox News host Sean Hannity by Erik Wemple (Feb. 7, 2020, at 12:06 p.m. PST) The Washington Post.
  16. Inside, where a firebrand CEO and ‘Deep State’ intrigue took center stage: Insurers worried the retailer could not rein in Patrick Byrne’s personality and public comments. So, he says, he had no choice but to leave. by Abha Bhattarai (September 26, 2019, at 4:14 a.m. PDT) The Washington Post.