Whom the gods would destroy, they first make ridiculous. Consider the Federal Bureau of Investigation. That once-respected institution has been busy wiping (or, more to the point, not wiping) egg off its face at least since the moist tenure of James ‘higher loyalty’ Comey. For those wondering why it is that Comey is cashing fat royalty checks instead of stamping out license plates at Club Fed, the answer is part of my story. There is the Elect, of whom James Comey numbers himself, and there are the Serfs, among whose number, Dear Reader, you probably belong.
But I am getting ahead of myself. James Comey was plenty ridiculous, as were his jesters and factota, the love birds Lisa Page and Peter ‘Dracula’ Strzok, Andrew McCabe and the rest of that unlovely Brady Bunch. But now we’re in a new era. And just last month the Bureau (as its aficionados affectionately denominate that pustulant if well-armed enemy of liberty) went full Stasi.
Pro tip: never go full Stasi, not in the United States, not if you want people to take you seriously and (the bottom line) not if you want Congress to keep funding you. (To those who say: ‘When it comes to being ridiculous, what about Congress?’ I contemplate Adam Schiff and Jerry ‘the Waddler’ Nadler and grant the point.)
Who gave the FBI access to Twitter? On July 11, the agency emitted a Tweet that they must have picked up from East Germany circa 1960 or maybe from the pages of George Orwell: ‘Family members and peers are often best positioned to witness signs of mobilization to violence. Help prevent homegrown violent extremism. Visit blah, blah, blah to learn how to spot suspicious behaviors and report them to the #FBI. #NatSec.’
Love the hashtags. Underneath this little invitation to family harmony and collegiality was a three-panel drawing showing a featureless red, male figure (red, get it?) at an airport, in front of a computer, and out on a street gesturing and surrounded by three or four other male figures. The drawing communicates menace, unnamed but palpable, and the text communicates a ham-handed and possibly unconstitutional — certainly, un-American — intrusiveness into people’s private affairs.
That tweet went viral and was the occasion of much outrage but also much mirth. Here they were asking family members and coworkers to snitch on one another by sending tips to #FBI and #NatSec. It’s the mirth that the G-Men have to worry about as they strap on the shoulder holsters and prepare to mount a dawn raid on someone who voted for Donald Trump.
But what do you suppose that chap was gesturing towards in the third panel, the one that shows him out on the street with his pals? I like to think he was gesturing towards a giant Lego set. Back in June, it transpires, the FBI raided the Pennsylvania home of one Robert Morss, an army vet and sometime social studies teacher. Among the incriminating evidence recovered was a ‘Don’t Tread on Me’ flag and — I quote from the charging document — a ‘fully constructed Capitol Lego set’.
Morss was arrested, and still languishes in jail, because he showed up at the Capitol on January 6. (Whether, as Assistant US Attorney Melissa Jackson claimed in her detention memo, it is ‘difficult to fathom a more serious danger to the community’ than Robert Morss is perhaps open to cavil. I have quite a few candidates.)
But what about that ‘fully constructed Capitol Lego set’? At some point, the FBI released an addendum to its initial bulletin about Morss. ‘Please note that after a review of the photographs from the search, there appears to have been a miscommunication [!] and that the statement appears to be inaccurate.’ It turns out the model wasn’t ‘fully constructed’ after all. It was still in its box.
The internet had a merry day or two with the Lego Set Threat. The Babylon Bee, that national treasure, even had a story about the FBI mounting an assault on Legoland, which probably does have a ‘fully constructed’ model of the Capitol or other important landmarks.
Two points in conclusion. The FBI has rendered itself ridiculous. It has jumped the shark and it turns out the shark is only a mechanical, maybe a Lego, model. We have granted them unprecedented power, we have lavished money and other resources upon them, in order that they might find and neutralize the bad guys. They miss a lot of them — remember 9/11? — but they itch to perform the tricks they’ve been trained to do. I believe it was the Austrian ethologist Konrad Lorenz who first described the ‘vacuum effect’ among animals taken out of their natural habitat. A terrier confined to a city apartment, for example, will be found ‘digging’ in imaginary dirt on the carpet in order to ‘bury’ an imaginary bone. A dirt-less, boneless life is not to be borne, so the bow-wow practices its instinctual behavior in make-believe.
The FBI is similarly domesticated. Its number is increasingly part of the shapeless swamp that controls our lives. Its actions are, seen from afar, often ridiculous. But that does not mean they are not also malevolent. That’s an important point: that the ridiculous often easily cohabits with the vile. Hence the dawn raids, the summary incarcerations, the identification of people they disagree with as ‘domestic extremists’, ‘terrorists’, etc.
Which brings me back to that distinction between the Elites and the Serfs. The Elites have a virtual monopoly on the levers of power — in Joe Biden’s memorable phrase, they have the F-15s and the nuclear weapons. The Elites have yet to absorb the old protest slogan, ‘We are many, they are few’. Maybe they never will. But the Serfs will. What then?
This article was originally published in The Spectator’s August 2021 World edition.