The idea of a “Deep State”, a cabal of state employees or other persons to manipulate or control the government outside of the accepted channels of leadership, is nothing new – nor is it conspiracy theory. In modern times, deep states have operated from the Soviet Union to Italy.

But it was in Ancient Italy – the Roman empire – that a brazen deep state openly pulled the strings of power.

The mad emperor Caligula was dispatched by none other than the Praetorian Guard, the elite soldiers tasked with guarding the emperor. The Praetorians chose Claudius, assumed by everyone to be a feeble-minded buffoon, as a supposed figurehead. While Claudius proved far more able than had been assumed, his successor, Nero, was notably less so.

Nero committed suicide before he could be deposed. What followed was the “Year of the Four Emperors”.

The relevance to this age is that what followed was a long period in which the real power in the Roman Empire had no official role. The Praetorian Guard could make or break an emperor, so they had real power, but they existed outside the rest of the political structure. The American Empire appears to have entered a similar period, in which it is not entirely clear who is in charge of the state.

If Donald Trump was the mad Caligula, Joe Biden is exactly what everyone thought Claudius to be: a doddering, addle-brained buffoon. Which is exactly what the modern Praetorians want. Biden is filling perfectly the role that the Praetorians intended for Claudius: a convenient figurehead.

This was made clear last week when Joe Biden held his first official press conference of his administration. Biden was disoriented and slow in his responses, even though the questions were submitted in advance and he had prepared answers. At one point he stopped pretending and just read a statement about North Korea off his sheet. His struggle to do that underscored the fact that he is president in name only.

Now, this is not a revelation. During the campaign it was clear that Biden was a shambling husk of a man […] it was clear that while Biden was the candidate, he had no role in his campaign, other than to shuffle out on stage when told to by his handlers. He was just a figurehead.

While it is true that much of modern politics is performative, the fact remains that leaders normally stamp their imprimatur on their governments.

With Joe Biden, we have something different. An existing organization, most likely the remnants of the Obama administration augmented by units from the semipermanent ruling class, has installed Biden as the titular head of the cabal. Most likely, they auctioned off the VP slot. Kamala Harris proved to be as popular as rectal cancer in the primaries, but she somehow ended up as VP.

The result is we have the first purely theatrical presidency. Biden-Harris are just actors playing a role. Neither of them has any say in policy. Biden is unable to form enough sentences to articulate anything more than a lunch order. Harris is just a marionette that no one would bother asking for an opinion. Biden’s struggles with dementia underscore the absurdity of her placement on the ticket.

This goes to the very heart of democracy.

The whole point of popular government is the people have some say in who is in charge and hold them accountable. If who is in charge is a secret, then the whole reason for popular government goes out the window. Why have elections if the whole thing is nothing but a show?

More importantly, who really is pulling the strings of government? At least the Praetorians were visible; today’s deep state lurks in the shadows.

Our shadow government operates outside public view. Wall Street and Silicon Valley provide the money, for sure, but who is the hub of this wheel of intrigue? Who is running this conspiracy of shadows? Biden’s sad performance is putting that question in everyone’s mind now.


Secrecy, of course, is the whole point. If no one knows who is really running the shit-show, the puppet-masters can never be held accountable.

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A Feeble, Doddering Emperor in Name Only

Lushington D. Brady

Punk rock philosopher. Liberalist contrarian. Grumpy old bastard. I grew up in a generational-Labor-voting family. I kept the faith long after the political left had abandoned it. In last decade or...