IT IS a characteristic of human society that each one of us feels excluded from something at some time or other. Projected on to the political big screen, this paranoia assumes the form described in Seriously: The Deep State (Radio 4 podcast, last Friday): a mysterious cabal, unelected, unaccountable, and ruthless in the pursuit of its own interests.
Deep States have been identified in most societies through the ages, though it is in 20th-century Turkey that the modern concept was articulated; and the composition of any Deep State will depend upon the prejudices of the society — Jews, Freemasons, Cardinals, etc.
For all we know, David Aaronovitch, who presents the programme, might be a member of the Deep State: he is deeply embedded within the Fifth Estate, which is, of course, a defining characteristic, and he would deny it if ever confronted, which is a give-away. It is less likely that he is invited to join huddles at the Athanaeum; but, then again, the English Deep State is, according to one commentator interviewed here, nothing more than “a set of attitudes” shared by a group of “nice people”.
How different this is from the fantasies of novelists and film-makers who would love to have a Deep State of the kind they have in Zimbabwe or Egypt. The recent usurpation of Robert Mugabe and the Arab Spring in Egypt showed all the signs of an efficient Deep State at work — otherwise known as The Army. President Trump, too, evokes a conspiracy of Establishment politicians, media, and security moguls as a means of positioning himself as the heroic outsider; but it requires no particular conspiratorial consensus to dislike President Trump, and, just because you’re paranoid, it doesn’t mean people aren’t out to get you.
Amy Chua knows something about the marketing of dissent. Her 2011 memoir Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother stirred up a perfect storm of indignation, parental defensiveness, and barely concealed racism. In Eye of the Storm (Radio 5 Live podcast, released last Thursday), she told Emma Barnett how her account of parenting Chinese-style was mis-sold as a handbook rather than as a cautionary tale. The Wall Street Journal published extracts under the headline “Why Chinese Mothers are Superior”, when the book described an arc that ended with the younger Chua daughter rebelling and with mother recanting her hard-line strategy.
Chua is, and was, well aware that stories such as her rejecting her children’s homemade birthday presents for being swiftly and casually constructed were going to sell more books than a story of a mother and daughter falling out and making up.
Never mind, because in this interview she is thoroughly engaging, entertaining, and convincing. She still retains something of that “crazy, confident voice”, but nobody deserves the kind of trolling abuse that she has endured. And you would always want her as an ally in a playground row.