Wednesday, April 5, 2017

The Mask of Sanity

"Any Rand Paul supporters out there in the audience? Please step over to the information desk after the show so the Deep State can take those masks off and mercilessly mock you on TV."
Harvey Cleckley's book The Mask of Sanity: An Attempt to Clarify Some Issues About the So-Called Psychopathic Personality described the psychopath as
outwardly a perfect mimic of a normally functioning person, able to mask or disguise the fundamental lack of internal personality structure, an internal chaos that results in repeatedly purposeful destructive behavior, often more self-destructive than destructive to others. Despite the seemingly sincere, intelligent, even charming external presentation, internally the psychopathic person does not have the ability to experience genuine emotions. Cleckley questions whether this mask of sanity is voluntarily assumed to intentionally hide the lack of internal structure, but concludes it hides a serious, but yet imprecisely unidentified, semantic neuropsychiatric defect.
"Semantic neuropsychiatric defect" sounds like a plausible characterization of the logic used by the paranoid conservative trying to assemble a workable conspiracy story.

Chuck Ross in the Daily Caller a month or so ago:
According to Mensch, who has been criticized for spreading unfounded conspiracy theories about Trump on social media, the warrant was for communications from two Russian banks, Alfa Bank and SVB. While a warrant for the banks would not directly target American citizens, including any Trump associates, some have speculated that the FBI could have used a technique called “reverse targeting” in which a warrant is obtained for a foreign entity even though the goal is to surveil Americans.
There's that idea that since Louise Mensch has spread unfounded conspiracy theories about Trump, she'd be a really great person for Daily Caller to cite. "See, if we think everything she says about our Leader is a vicious fabrication, then if she says something we like it must be true!"

Then the idea that since they couldn't target the Trump associates, American citizens, directly, according to US law, they'd just target the Russian banks instead and monitor their communications with the Trump associates instead: are you sure, Daily Caller, you want us to understand that the Trump associates chatted that much with foreigners over a communications system run by Russia's largest private commercial bank? Talking about something the intelligence community wanted to know about? They went to Alfa Bank in the way Nixon's thugs went to the Democratic National Committee, in the certainty that's where the good stuff must be? Why would the intelligence committee think that? I mean, unless it was true? (I don't believe it was, but I think it's funny the Daily Caller does—why are they so anxious to tell us Trump's guilty?)

And then Julie Anne Brufke in the Daily Caller yesterday, with an interview of Senator Rand Paul:
Paul said he has long thought there are too many people with the ability to unmask individuals.
“The law says you can’t reverse target people, but how would you know that once you get inside the brain and the people that are unmasking people,” Paul continued. “So, what if I decided to unmask and I’m there and I only unmask the conversations of my Democrat opponents — shouldn’t there be more restrictions for unmasking people in the political process?”
He said he believes there should be two individuals at the top of the agency to allow for identities to be unmasked.
Aside from the oddity there, of fixing the "problem" of too many cooks by doubling the number of executive chefs—or is he just saying the agency needs to be run by a committee of two so that it will be structurally unable to make any decisions at all?—there's a peculiar misunderstanding of the conception of "unmasking", not just in the technical NSA sense but in the ordinary language sense. You can't decide to just unmask the identities of a particular set of people you want to mess with because they're masked! You don't know which ones they are!

That explains why somebody like Susan Rice might want somebody to be unmasked, you see:
AIDE: There's a weird exchange with Male One here and the Turkish ambassador. Long story short, he says thanks for the $500,000 and if Trump gets elected he'll be running the National Security Council and he'll make sure Fethullah Gulen gets extradited.
RICE: Gosh, that sounds kind of important. I wonder who it is? 
You start the unmasking procedure not because of the identity of the person, which you don't know, but because of their behavior, which makes you want to know it. Flynn, Stone, Manafort, and Page were just Male X when whoever it was got interested in them, their identities hidden by the NSA rules; they were unmasked because somebody at some agency, NSC or elsewhere, needed to find out who it was that was doing the stuff they were doing.

I should add that what the story as it's unfolding really shows, in addition to the willed psychopathic incoherence of rightwing storytelling, is further evidence that the techies of NSA who collect the material do indeed follow the rules of minimizing and masking the identities of US persons with excruciating rigor. Whatever bad eggs at FBI and CIA may end up doing with them.

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