Saturday, February 18, 2017

Trump and fictional spycraft

As I continue to think through the once unthinkable-- whether or not our President is influenced by a foreign power-- I find myself thinking in terms of my only connection to this type of thing.  Fiction.  Right now, The Americans.  Currently, The Expanse is the only show worth watching, but soon, The Americans will return.  If you don't know, it is set in the 1980s, about a pair of KGB agents operating in Washington, DC.

Right now, I find myself thinking about the character of Charles Duluth.  Charles is a conservative journalist who is an ex-communist.  Or, rather, that's his story.  He is actually still a communist, and his conversion story gives him access to a lot of powerful people, which means he can feed information back to the KGB, through Phillip and Elizabeth Jennings, deep-cover KGB agents who appear to be travel agents living in Falls Church, Virginia with no political opinions or activities whatsoever.

Charles works, both as a character and a concept, because nobody suspects the right-wing journalist of actually being a KGB agent.  The loud Marxist?  That's the guy you worry about.  The Straussian?  The Rand-ian objectivist?  Nope.  Nothing to worry about there.

In Season 3, when a fake defector named Zinaida shows up and Stan Beeman is suspicious of her, people kind of think that Stan is nuts until he catches her.

The Americans is a great show about smart people.  Smart spies and smart traitors aren't obvious about their disloyalties.

Which brings us back to Donald Trump and his relationship with Putin.  Hypothetical:  Putin has blackmail material on a president.  Should the president heap constant, fawning praise on Putin and give Putin everything he wants, or act like an adversary and then do a Nixon/China type thing on policy to allay suspicion?

Option 2 sounds smarter to me.  Trump heaps constant, fawning praise on Putin.  So, is Trump just personally infatuated with Putin, under the influence and too stupid to play it cool, or both?  They aren't mutually exclusive, and that's the problem.

If we could assume that Trump had a brain, we could take his praise of Putin as evidence against the blackmail hypothesis.  If it were a simple case of Trump being compromised, and he were smart, he would try to hide it.  The fact that Trump is not smart, though, and his general admiration for other dictators, like Saddam Hussein and Kim Jong Un, means we still don't know what is going on.  He could be compromised, and too stupid to hide it the way Charles Duluth did.  He could just have a thing for Putin.  Both could be true.  Reasoning out the motives of a stupid person is very difficult.

I keep making allusions to fiction, but as I also keep writing, reality is often more like bad fiction than good fiction.  The Americans is a great show, in part because most of the characters, even Charles (most of the time), are smart.  To paraphrase George Carlin, though, think of how stupid the median person is.  Now, remember that, by definition, 50% of the population is dumber than that person.

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