Q & A with Angelo Codevilla
October 26, 2019 9:46 AM   Subscribe

The Codevilla Tapes: The historian of American statecraft and spycraft and conservative political philosopher Angelo Codevilla talks about the ruling elite, Jonathan Pollard, and the rise of the techno-surveillance state—and the consequent demise of the American Empire
Angelo Codevilla is interviewed by David Samuels for Tablet Magazine. Sections include: The Ruling Elite, The Rise of the Surveillance State, Are Assange and Snowden heroes or villains?, When Jeff Bezos Has Dinner With the CIA, Henry Kissinger Meets the Demon Emperor, The Progressive High Church Mass, The Cruxification of Jonathan Pollard, and Secrecy and the Rule of Law.
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth (7 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
ok I just read the first section The Ruling Elite. this guy is...a piece of work? I had not heard of him before and I find a lot of his ideas sort of baffling. I am looking forward to hearing what others have to say about this, as I continue to read...
posted by supermedusa at 10:48 AM on October 26, 2019 [1 favorite]

I am looking forward to hearing what others have to say about this

Well, he immediately aroused the deep suspicion I have of people whose identity seems to be bound up with thinking they are more intelligent than everyone else. Also, I learned that Associate Professors of Gender Studies are part of the wealthy ruling elite.
posted by thelonius at 11:01 AM on October 26, 2019 [8 favorites]

And a Jonathan Pollard apologist. Okay. (And yes, I actually read that section of the interview before commenting.)
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 11:41 AM on October 26, 2019

I must note that Scalia is a southern Italian. And I am a northerner.

Hell. This guy is a kind of scum, yeah? Why the hell
posted by eustatic at 5:18 PM on October 26, 2019 [1 favorite]

There might have been some good anti-imperialist discussion in there, but it's overwhelmed by the combined smarminess of the interviewer and interviewee over their little sprinklings of racist and anti-Semitic (which, somewhat worryingly, the interviewer seems to believe is philo-Semitic) bon mots , and the usual attacks on "identity politics" of the left as an opiate of the masses.

Not that any of this is surprising, it's just more evidence that the slow but inevitable degeneration of Tablet from an important Jewish publication into a right-wing fascist boosterism rag continues apace. This is the same magazine that published a piece less than a year ago on "cultural Marxism"--a term popularized by Nazis--written by a contributor to Quillette and The Federalist who also guest-star on podcasts by actual Nazis. All of which fits quite well with their screeds on how George Soros conspiracy theories aren't anti-Semitic and are actually cool, how Bernie Sanders is kinda-sorta Jewish but really isn't when you really think about it, and their senior opinion writer going onto radio shows to literally sympathize with Nazis.
posted by zombieflanders at 3:25 AM on October 27, 2019 [4 favorites]

I am looking forward to hearing what others have to say about this,

If you are already pre-disposed to the idea that the government is not telling the citizens truthful statements then you are going to be more willing to believe what is claimed. So when Edward Snowden makes his claims you are willing to roll with those statements as an example. Or the author of "Confiessions of an economic hitman". Or many others.

If you believe the government is truthful then you are in the camp where Black people are treated equally to Whites by cops and what The President says is true because he said it. I believe some gent named Sinclair said “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.” The closer you are to power the more you are going to find the article full of untruths.

And woe be to youi if you are "independent minded":
"I am supposed to rise in my life, how can I do that? And I in good conscience explain to them that the paths are there and the ladders are being provided. And they will take you to these places. You will, however, have to adapt yourself to the mindset of these folks.

Now, if you insist on being independent minded, don’t bother. But if you do insist on being independent minded, also realize that these ladders will not be available to you."
Also, I learned that Associate Professors of Gender Studies are part of the wealthy ruling elite.

I believe the answer would be:

"Oh no, no, no. You misunderstand me. The ruling class transcends Washington. Part of it is in Silicon Valley, it’s in every major university town in America. " By virute of being a professor of any kind you are part of the elite system. Now why that professor class was chosen? *shrug*
posted by rough ashlar at 1:32 PM on October 28, 2019

Thanks for posting this. I'm not sure how much traction it's likely to get here, and that's kind of a shame, because it's full of assertions demanding critique that move against a lot of the regular axes here that people's political identities line up on.

"Well, he immediately aroused the deep suspicion I have of people whose identity seems to be bound up with thinking they are more intelligent than everyone else. Also, I learned that Associate Professors of Gender Studies are part of the wealthy ruling elite."

Well, yeah, the central rebuttal absolutely is a charge of hypocrisy, where Codevilla somehow exempts himself from the "city class" and aligns with the "country class" despite being a fucking Georgetown professor. Generally left/liberals are more comfortable with this sort of critique coming from the left—it's really not that different from Gramsci and Chomsky. His argument is that there is a hegemonic ideology that people in US state apparatus ascribe to by virtue of social connection with power, and that what liberals conceive as independent action in service of individual ideals is actually a machine for transforming ideology into power. With the gender studies professor, they're a part of the ruling elite as they promulgate the theoretical justifications for powerful interests to take the same actions to which they were previously inclined in the service of a technological ideology of progress. They're part of the ruling elite the same way that Chomsky argues a third-shift stringer for the AP is part of the ruling elite: they serve an inherent function in justifying the actions of those who have power and seek to amass more. They both manufacture consent, through actions that, to them subjectively, are independent of the deterministic forces of capitalism (Chomsky)/technocratic bureaucracy (Codevilla).

It's interesting to me in part because it's a relentlessly post-modern view of truth, and both an anti-institutional and anti-state/anarchist perspective, that both the interviewer and Codevilla justify through theological appeals, which goddamn, Georgetown is a home for some weird-ass Jesuit thinking.

That he situates the rise of the "American Empire" with the massive growth of the federal state under Democrats makes sense: Wilson's internationalism and FDR's belief in the power of the state to counterbalance private interests and to shape the globe to favor American interests were huge ideological foundations for the 20th century.

And it's an interesting distinction between his implicit Roman analogy that FDR worked from an ideology of implicit republican apotheosis: rather than the shift from Republic to Empire being marked by personification and deification of the state in Caesar, FDR believed that the Habermas republic could be achieved through the apparatus of the state. As Codevilla distinguishes the state from the people through some sort of neo-Horace agrarian fetishism, he's of course opposed to the idea that the state could serve the interests of the people while also serving the interests of the state.

Which, like, there's a legitimate point there, and it's not exactly new to note the hypocrisy of white liberals in championing NIMBY social justice.

One of the other interesting things is how he formulates his hegemony: he believes that true power in America flows through the state, with the wealthy overlapping but being, essentially, Nouveau Riche compared to the entrenched power of state bureaucracy — an inversion of the Gilded Age power structure of American life (and he's right in a weird way about Republicans being junior, in that they were the new third party that upset the previous order in the 1860s by representing business interests).

A lot of this honestly seems like a modern Tocqueville, where the absence of an aristocracy and papal state left American power structures deeply suspicious to both Tocqueville and Codevilla, especially with Codevilla asserting moral authority through Christian identity (and his interlocutor responding by asserting Jewish identity).

Fundamentally, I think that he misses the commonality between how he talks about power and how many on the left do, and he misses his own position (or is at the very least extremely disinclined to critically examine his part in the system), while also missing the civic faith that allows citizens to believe that people in power can act in both their interests and in the interests of the public. In that context, his arguments against secrecy and an opaque bureaucracy are even more consistent — even as his invocations of realpolitik tilt nihilist.
posted by klangklangston at 8:24 PM on November 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

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