The Deep State Surfaces



IT IS EIGHTEEN YEARS since education lecturer, David Small, surprised two Security Intelligence Service (SIS) agents attempting to break into the home of the anti-free trade activist, Aziz Choudry. The SIS was to pay dearly (quite literally as it turned out) for that spectacular cock-up. Legislative change was required to settle the feathers of liberal opinion which, as always, professed outrage at the very idea of a state that was willing to break into the homes of its citizens. The bitter truth, of course, is that the agents and agencies of the “Deep State” have never hesitated to do whatever the hell they liked in its citizens’ homes and workplaces.

Before the responsibility for defending “national security” was handed over to stand-alone agencies like the SIS it had been divided between the Police (Special Branch) and the Armed Forces (Military and Naval Intelligence).

Sometimes, as in the Waihi Miners’ Strike of 1912, the Police worked hand-in-glove with the government of the day to bring agitators and subversives under control. On other occasions – as in the  early years of the First Labour Government – the Police kept tabs on their political masters without their knowledge. (What other choice did they have when the agitators and subversives had become the Government!)

This is, of course, the defining characteristic of that nexus of defence, control and administrative institutions we call the Deep State: that it feels perfectly comfortable determining what is and isn’t in the “national interest”; and that it carries out this function without paying too much attention to the democratic niceties. The people’s elected representatives might be consulted if they are the right sort of representatives (with the emphasis on “right”). “Left” representatives, on the other hand, don’t “need to know” and should not be told too much about the Deep State’s activities.

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In Margaret Hayward’s Diary of the Kirk Years she makes it plain that Norman Kirk was not only the subject of more-or-less constant SIS surveillance from the moment he became Leader of the Opposition, but that even as Prime Minister he could not count on his spooks keeping him in the loop of their surveillance activities.

As a young, fairly radical back-bench Labour MP, Helen Clark made no secret of her belief that her phone-calls were being monitored by the SIS. Given Clark’s long association with such dangerous beasts as the Nicaraguan Sandinistas and East Timor’s FRETILIN freedom-fighters, the SIS was probably the least of Helen’s worries. The Americans cannot have been happy with her appointment to the Chair of Parliament’s Peace and Disarmament Select Committee – especially when it became clear that David Lange (his solemn promises to US Secretary of State, George Shultz, notwithstanding) was about to take his party’s anti-nuclear policies seriously.

Had the Fourth Labour Government not been equally keen on implementing a radical series of neoliberal reforms, the Deep State would almost certainly have set in motion the same kinds of “defensive” measures that led to the dismissal of Gough Whitlam’s errant Labour Government back in 1975.

In 1984, however, a major power-shift was underway within our Deep State apparatus. From being just one of a number of important government institutions, the Treasury was moving to assert a decisive role in the governance of New Zealand.

All over the capitalist world power was migrating from the military to the economic sphere. The money men were beginning to count for more than the men in uniform. With the fall of the Berlin Wall this shift became complete. The Soviet Union did not fall to generals driving tanks, it was broken up by economists wielding lap-tops.

Francis Fukuyama called it the “end of history” and in a way he was right. If history is understood to mean the steady pressure of the masses to throw open the closed institutions of the elites, then the collapse of the Soviet Union and the dismantling of the social-democratic institutions that made possible the post-war boom did, indeed, mark the terminus of the “progressive” historical experiment.

The most significant effect of this massive disempowerment of the Western working-classes is the radical reduction in the distance between the surface of the State and its foundations. For the neoliberal victors of the ideological struggle, only the institutions of the Deep State are deemed worthy of preservation. The Courts, the Police, the Prisons, the Armed Forces, the Security Services: all are needed to manage the consequences of the free-market revolution. In Fukuyama’s “liberal capitalist democracies” the only remaining legitimate role for elected politicians is to keep the agencies of repression and social control adequately funded and fit for purpose.

To justify this “night-watchman” role, the modern politician is required to manufacture a menagerie of enemies frightening enough to keep a majority of the voting public clamouring for safety and security. Democratic politics is thus reduced to a combination of cheap vaudeville routines and spectacular conjuring tricks. The electoral “audience” is first persuaded to identify and bond with their political impresarios, and then impelled to seek protection from the succession of scary monsters which their masters periodically summon to the stage.

This sort of politics cannot succeed without the active participation of the news media. Even more than the traditional agencies of social control and repression, the media has become integral to the Deep State’s protection of the neoliberal revolution. For the “Politics of the Spectacle” to work its magic of misdirection and distraction, the media must be fully engaged in the process. This not only requires the transformation of politicians into media “talent”, but also the Deep State’s active collaboration in fuelling and maintaining the media’s evolving political narratives.

Back in 1996 David Small’s surprising of two SIS agents at Aziz Choudry’s residence spelled political disaster for the Service. Eighteen years later, the Director of the SIS, Rebecca Kitteridge, fronts-up to the television cameras and openly argues for a “temporary” curtailment of civil liberties. Her predecessor in the job, Warren Tucker, is shown to have willingly inserted himself into the machinery of a media smear operation run out of the Prime Minister’s Office.

The Deep State has surfaced.


  1. WOW that was worthy waiting for – so enter Historian extraordinaire Chis Trotter with a very thought provoking march through history that was.

    But when you said;
    “Eighteen years later, the Director of the SIS, Rebecca Kitteridge, fronts-up to the television cameras and openly argues for a “temporary” curtailment of civil liberties.”

    Let us remember that “temporary” becomes “permanent” history shows.

    Then when you say;

    “The Courts, the Police, the Prisons, the Armed Forces, the Security Services: all are needed to manage the consequences of the free-market revolution. In Fukuyama’s “liberal capitalist democracies” the only remaining legitimate role for elected politicians is to keep the agencies of repression and social control adequately funded and fit for purpose.”

    Let us then remember the vital importance & role the Unions were established for?

    It was from the terrible repression these agencies exacted upon us all with unbridled power wielded upon the powerless until finally the genesis of the Unions were finally established.

    So look for the Government state to now continue to further undermine and weaken the Unions as they march toward totalitarianism.
    This is a call to rise up please our Unions, as you are our last line of defence for collective public freedom and democracy against repression.

    Let us remember the 1951 wharf strike also.

    “The price of freedom & democracy is constant vigilance.”

    • I wonder if “Historian extraordinaire Chis Trotter” has any thoughts on what may be causing the emergence of “Deep State” neoliberal governments around the world. John Perkins, author of “Confessions of and Ecomonic Hit Man”, seems to think these governments are the thralls to large corporations. This seems to be particularly true of the U.S. government which may be enticing other neoliberal governments in with security, free trade, and other financial deals. Conspiracy theories aren’t required when profits, at the expense of the planet, is the only motive that drives wealthy corporations.

      • Technology. There have always been those whose dream was to know everything and control everyone but until recently it has not been easy or even possible. Expect things to get worse.
        Great article Chris, I hope your next one will outline the solution because I can’t see it.

    • “This is a call to rise up please our Unions, as you are our last line of defence for collective public freedom and democracy against repression.”

      please explain to me your definition of “our unions”?

  2. You only have to try and find any real discourse regarding the current difficulties experienced by John Key in and around Parliament over the last few weeks in the MSM to realise that there is serious collusion between the corporates who own the media and the current government. The first casualty of war is the truth so the saying goes so it would seem the battle has already started.

    • No, Orwell did not prophesize in “1984”, nor in “Animal Farm”, and in several senses neither one is strictly fiction.

      With the single technological exception of the two-way camera in personal dwellings (for the party members, not the proles) in “1984”, Orwell applied tools and techniques which already existed. For example, the invention of Newspeak, a language of deliberately limited expression which constrained all communication and ultimately therefore thought, was the result of Orwell’s observations of the actions of, especially, the propaganda machines of Germany and Britain, then USSR and USA in both world wars. Orwell despised the twisting of language and ideas and covert manipulation he’d seen: he’d been used as an intelligence officer during WW2 and had experienced the power of the state as a policeman in Burma when a young man. The rest of the aggressive, cynical, lying and exploitative aspects of the state which he wrote about – including the idea of constant war being essential to the maintenance of the state – were real parts of his extant world. His genius was to observe and record that world.

      The title of “1984” was just a flip of the year he wrote it – 1948 – designed to create the illusion of a possibility of avoiding the existing perversions he documented: to offer some hope for the future. For him, it was the only fictional aspect of the book. He wasn’t a happy chappie when he died in 1950.

      So, no prophesy in “1984” – just one observant man’s black reality.

      And in 2014? Nothing new to see here – depressing, isn’t it?

      • Not on topic I know, but in Myanmar/Burma they sometimes refer to Orwell as “the prophet”. It seems that many in Burma felt that they had been visited by “1984” over the last forty years.

      • God that is depressing and very interesting thanks PETRUS.
        Listening to JK’s Newspeak is soooo limited “At the end of the f***ken day.” If I hear that said one more time I am going to explode! He sounds like a half witted wanker trying to pull the wool over the wooly brained kiwis. For God sakes everyone in this country needs a (wool) shearing so they can see him for what he is. A sock puppet with blank eyes, ( possibly nothing going on behind them than remembering very simple lines which he is falling all over now).

        • If you look very closely you will see small vertical lines running down both sides of his mouth to his jawline,…by which the mouth only moves vertically.

          A closer perusal will reveal small , almost transparent strings attached to all four major limbs.

          If he turns around- which in his case is not to be misconstrued as the almost daily about- faces on the truth he does,….you will notice a small, square hinged box. It is in there that a very minute and simple chip is embedded in the parietal section of his head.

          It is this prerecorded device that is the source of all the clich’e answers that so irk you. You will notice however that this device is not without its limitations. It does not have the capacity to field intelligent questions of ethics , morality or values.

          This is why it goes into default mode and attributes lies and bending the truth to any intelligent evidence to the contrary. And , as a mechanised synthetic construct , it has no capacity to think laterally or creatively , – just to do what it is programmed to do.

          They are thinking of replacing this model once it has served its purpose., as it has a limited shelf life with a built in self destruct mode as in keeping with the neo liberal capitalist ethic of overcharging for an inferior product.

          Karl Marx called this ‘ creative destruction’

          Yes, we are all tired of the John XkeySCORE stage show….like a thousanth time re run of the same cooking programme.

          • Now most people know we are being gamed by big corporations and their masters,and John key is the puppet in control of nz, now we know John Key is not to trusted and not believed because of constant lies,now we know he is totally incompetent,now we know he is spying on everyone,now we know he is cheating NZs selling our assets ,trying to put us under the thumb of big business rorting our democracy with TTP and TERSA.
            WHAT THE HELL ARE WE JUST TALKING ABOUT IT FOR, GET HIM OUT OF OFFICE NOW, where is governer general ,he cant be doing his job properly,
            if hes not in thrall to Key like so many other public servants, remove Key from office now. We are digging our own graves and he is standing by with the shovel to assist.

            • The governor general is a lightweight, appointed by Key partly because he is non threatening and partly to bury a debate on NZ’s role in Afghanistan. We won’t get any help there I’m afraid.

  3. Oh what tangled webs we weave . . . .

    An Interview of the Prime Minister of New Zealand by the (Right Honourable?) John Key

    Interviewer: (John Key)
    Tell me, Mr Key, why did you decide that from now on you will only agree to participate in interviews conducted by me?

    Prime Minister:
    Well, pretty obviously that’s because the mainstream media could no longer be trusted to ask me questions that I could answer truthfully. I mean . . . they were increasingly asking me questions that were difficult to answer . . . you know . . . . “truthfully”.

    Interviewer: (John Key)
    I understand. Does this mean that you will generally agree to answer questions put by me, and only me, while I am not presently acting in the capacity of Prime Minister of New Zealand, but am acting instead in my capacity as an “ordinary person” – in this case, acting as a mainstream media-interviewer? And if so, does the title “Right Honourable” appropriately apply to me when I am acting in this capacity?

    Prime Minister:
    Well again, pretty obviously, if you are the interviewer, asking me questions, then you must be the John Key who is not acting in the capacity of Prime Minister. And equally obviously, if I am the person being interviewed, then I must be the John Key who is acting in the capacity of Prime Minister of New Zealand.

    Interviewer: (John Key)
    I see. . . . Ummm . . . . but hang on, that doesn’t really answer both parts of the question . . . . So then . . . . does that mean that I am no longer eligible to be referred to as “The Right Honourable John Key” while I am acting in the capacity of an interviewer called John Key who is interviewing the John Key who is currently acting in the capacity of John Key, the Prime Minister of New Zealand?

    Prime Minister:
    Well actually, I thought of that first, and ran it past Jerry, but he wasn’t sure, so I ran it past the Queen. She wasn’t sure either.
    So I asked Cam. He grasped the magnitude of the problem immediately and looked it up in Wikipedia. He then reported back to me that in the case of New Zealand, since August 2010, the title “Right Honourable” has applied for life to those individuals who hold, or have held, the following offices: The Governor General, the Prime Minister, The Chief Justice and the Speaker of the House of Representatives.
    Since I am one of those, you may refer to me as “The Right Honourable John Key”.

    Interviewer: (John Key)
    OK, I understand that. But what I am still unclear about is this: Does the term “Right Honourable” apply to you when you are not acting in your capacity as Prime Minister of New Zealand?

    Prime Minister:
    As I said before, it applies to both individuals who hold, and individuals who have held the office of Prime Minister of New Zealand. So obviously it applies to me both when, and when I am not acting in the capacity of Prime Minister of New Zealand.

    Interviewer: (John Key)
    Ah, so then it must also apply to me while I am acting in the capacity of John Key, the ‘ordinary bloke’ mainstream media interviewer of John Key the Prime Minister?

    Prime Minister:
    That is highly contestable!

    Interviewer (John Key):
    So then are you telling me that we get two, but not three “Right Honourables” for the price of one? I mean, do we get one that applies when you are acting in your capacity as Prime Minister? And then we get another one that applies when you are not acting in your capacity as Prime Minister? And yet we don’t get a third “Right Honourable” when you are not acting in your capacity as Prime Minister but are in in fact acting as a mainstream media-interviewer.

    Prime Minister:
    Um . . . Hang on a minute, I’ll have to run that one past Cam.

  4. Excellent Post @chris trotter . I’m writing on my phone in Cambodia,otherwise I’d wax justifiably more lyrical.

  5. Well, deep state , shallow state , – if theres one thing neo liberalism cant abide , its unity – and if extrapolated to all sectors of society, proves effective in undermining the laws , propaganda and eventually the practitioners of neo liberalism.

    Heres a wee tongue in cheek song by the Strawbs….

    Now I’m a union man ,
    Amazed at what I am’
    I say what I think, that the company stinks,
    Yes I’m a union man.

    When we meet in the local hall,
    I’ll be voting with them all,
    With a hell of a shout, It’s ”Out brothers out !!”
    And the rise of the factorys fall.

    Oh you dont get me I’m part of the union ,
    You dont get me I’m part of the union,
    You dont get me I’m part of the union,
    Till the day I die, till the day I die.

    As a union man I’m wise,
    To the lies of the company spies,
    And I dont get fooled by the factory rules,
    ‘Cause I always read between the lines.

    And I always get my way,
    If I strike for higher pay,
    When I show my card to the Scotland Yard
    And this is what I say…

    OH , Oh, you dont get me I’m part of the union
    You dont get me I’m part of the union,
    You dont get me I’m part of the union ,
    Till the day I die,Till the day I die

    Before the union did appear,
    My life was half as clear,
    Now I’ve got the power to the working hour,
    And every day of the year

    So though I’m a working man,
    I can ruin the government’s plan
    And though I’m not hard, the sight of my card,
    Makes me some kind of superman

    Oh ,you dont get me I’m part of the union,
    You dont get me I’m part of the union,
    You dont get me I’m part of the union ,
    Til the day I die, Til the day I die!!

    No government survives the will of the people – whether through the vote or ‘other means’ ,…if enough people start to get pissed off with it , – and educated about what to do about it.

  6. Prophetic, Mr Trotter. Your article made me think of some Old Testament prophet exposing the corruption in the kingdom.

  7. “A smear operation run out of the Prime Ministers Office”, is totally and utterly, utterly unacceptable .
    Seeing as ‘the buck’ stops at ‘The Top’ , and the fact that the neo – liberals are always preaching personal accountability, impeachment is the only course of action .
    An apology ,(not that one’s forthcoming), would be getting off way to lightly for this sort of corrupt behaviour.
    Key has to go !!!
    We are now in this ludicrous situation where a sleazy , malicious , low IQ, self righteous, ignorant, journalist wannabee, arsehole of a blogger is controlling what is coming out of the Prime Minister’s office.
    And my feeling is, that what we are aware of to date, is only the tip of the iceberg.
    People only need to ask themselves that most basic of questions.
    So where to from here?
    Well I will tell you where. If Key can just fob anything off by saying it’s “contestable”, and remain unaccountable, no matter how crooked it is , the next stop is a police state, rampant corruption and the end of a democratic society!
    The media spin is ,that “most New Zealanders don’t care, so lets move on to more important things”. Really? Bullshit !
    So tell me what is more important than the ethical standards of the person who is entrusted in looking after the well being of the citizens of a country?
    For whatever reason, Key is addicted to Whale Oil , and as Neil Young once sang about drugs,
    ” I caught you knocking at my cellar door,
    C’mon baby can I have some more,
    Hmmm Hmmm the damage done”.
    Yep , the damage is done alright and now is the time to take a line out of another Neil Young song….
    “Let’s Impeach the President” !!!!!

    • It’s not Blubber Boy’s fault that he has a low IQ. Anyway, it’s probably not all that low. I be it’s higher than at least 20% of the population.

      The other qualities are his choice. He is scum. We shouldn’t mention that he makes a piece of wood look like the second coming of Einstein. That’s not his fault at all.

  8. I remember when Norman Kirk died.There was always something suspicious about that night. if the enormity of what he was up against didn’t kill him, something or someone else did. I wonder if his death was ever investigated.

  9. Deep State is a reality in which one must tread warily, for the ideology tilted at has formidable weapons already placed in the unwitting hands of your neighbours and friends. The first of these is “conspiracy theory”. Despite the inarguable fact that nothing of any consequence, good or evil, gets done in this World without several individuals conspiring to bring it about and despite the brilliant expose of the smear given here should this splendid Trotter piece gain some currency, Chris, and others who write so intelligently, will feel the sting.

    If such perceptive writers manage to survive this ad hominem and choose to pursue the investigation, they will possibly go on to explore the origins and current practice of the ideology. This will lead to the Neo-Conservative cabal in the United States (in fact it is much older but never mind, the Neo-Cons are simply the latest manifestation of this psychopathology). There, the ideology becomes almost overt. See here (reads like a page from Key’s playbook – yes?)

    From there, all roads lead to Israel, neo-conservative heaven, where the ideology is not only overt, it is a matter of policy (See ) and a principle export:
    Should the writer pursue this angle he will then be exposed to the second and more deadly weapon – the anti-Semitism smear.

    Some writers have pursued the story to the heart of the beast. Read about them here:

  10. “Given Clark’s long association with such dangerous beasts as the Nicaraguan Sandinistas and East Timor’s FRETILIN freedom-fighters”

    I don’t remember Helen Clark ever displaying any interest in Timor Leste, at least not before Clinton gave permission. Maire Leadbetter would know the details. Maybe Keith Locke could comment as well.

  11. Chris will you write about the historical Australian Labour victory in Victoria last light?

    The throwing out of the Liberals yesterday was stated as Historic to see the Liberal/National coalition after just one term they said this hasn’t happened in 60yrs in Australia.

    If you do a study how our Labour fortunes can be a learning tool from the Bloodbath yesterday in Victoria as Right wing gets the boot.

    Great to watch what a charge.

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