A term whose time has come round again.

by Henry on January 23, 2017

CBS News:

U.S. government sources tell CBS News that there is a sense of unease in the intelligence community after President Trump’s visit to CIA headquarters on Saturday. An official said the visit “made relations with the intelligence community worse” and described the visit as “uncomfortable.” Authorities are also pushing back against the perception that the CIA workforce was cheering for the president. They say the first three rows in front of the president were largely made up of supporters of Mr. Trump’s campaign.

The Encyclopedia Britannica (1911 edition):

CLAQUE (Fr. claquer, to clap the hands), an organized body of professional applauders in the French theatres. The hiring of persons to applaud dramatic performances was common in classical times, and the emperor Nero, when he acted, had his performance greeted by an encomium chanted by five thousand of his soldiers, who were called Augustals. The recollection of this gave the 16th-century French poet, Jean Daurat, an idea which has developed into the modern claque. Buying up a number of tickets for a performance of one of his plays, he distributed them gratuitously to those who promised publicly to express their approbation. It was not, however, till 1820 that a M. Sauton seriously undertook the systematization of the claque, and opened an office in Paris for the supply of claqueurs. These people are usually under a chef de claque, whose duty it is to judge where their efforts are needed and to start the demonstration of approval. This takes several forms. Thus there are commissaires, those who learn the piece by heart, and call the attention of their neighbours to its good points between the acts. The rieurs are those who laugh loudly at the jokes. The pleureurs, generally women, feign tears, by holding their handerkerchiefs to their eyes. The chatouilleurs keep the audience in in a good humour, while the bisseurs simply clap their hands and cry bis! bis! to secure encores.

Should President Trump finally decide to outsource this, along with everything else, there’s excellent precedent for a market-based private-sector solution.

{ 35 comments }

1

Sandwichman 01.23.17 at 6:28 pm

Claque for the Trump, man.
He gonna rate your record high.

2

Sandwichman 01.23.17 at 6:28 pm

Wow. Just wow.

3

Donald A. Coffin 01.23.17 at 6:46 pm

I do believe I now have an additional source of retirement income…

4

MattF 01.23.17 at 6:48 pm

But we need to identify the modern equivalents of those 19th c. specialists. Off the top of my head, we have the CNNer, the Trump Whisperer, the Even Crazier, the Family Member. And a host of others…

5

CJColucci 01.23.17 at 8:40 pm

Appalling as Trump’s speech was, I was even more appalled by what appeared to be its enthusiastic reception by CIA people. Now I feel better.

6

bruce wilder 01.23.17 at 9:00 pm

I took a tour of a Hollywood prop house last year, one that has a particularly deep array of period cameras. Among their possessions were 1930’s newsreel cameras, which had already been emptied of their mechanisms when they bought them. They bought them from Kennedy’s White House; they had been used as props by FDR for news conferences and similar events.

Mostly our famously free press pretends that PR flacks don’t outnumber journalists three to one or better. They take stenography and never, ever report on the “real” news, which concerns not what is in the press release, or in the “leak” or comment by someone “not authorized” to comment, but why the “news” is being presented as it is, when it is, sourced to people allowed to remain anonymous, their motives cloaked.

Mr. Trump is being held up to ridicule here, and he no doubt richly deserves it. But, we are talking about the friggin’ CIA!

I don’t understand why they aren’t cheering him. It makes me nervous, this not understanding what is going on.

7

J-D 01.23.17 at 10:31 pm

I encountered an account of a claque in A Mixture Of Frailties, by Robertson Davies, which I discover was published in 1958, and in which a claque was described (with what accuracy I do not know) as an extant contemporary phenomenon at an Italian opera house.

8

CJColucci 01.23.17 at 10:44 pm

Bruce, you remind me of something I have long thought but had forgotten about. “White House Correspondent” is a high-prestige position given to those who rank among a paper’s or network’s best reporters, as these things are measured in the trade. But the job itself requires very little talent, and almost no reporting, to do reasonably well. When is the last time the White House Correspondent broke a real story of any significance? The job isn’t just stenography, but a large part of it is. If you’ve covered a few fires and a year or two of city council meetings, you can probably do the actual job pretty well. If I were the Washington Bureau Chief of a major paper, I’d put my less experienced reporters on the beat and send my well-connected, industrious reporters to muck around in the agencies and find out what’s really going on, as opposed to what some PR hack says.

9

derrida derider 01.23.17 at 11:03 pm

Whoever thought CTers would sympathise with the CIA?
Trump will do a thorough cleanout of the CIA, and they know it. He will, of course, replace those professional spooks with a highly inconsistent record with highly unprofessional spooks who will quickly acquire a consistently disastrous record, but that’s not what they’re dismayed about. They’re worried about their jobs.

10

Bill Benzon 01.23.17 at 11:31 pm

(The) clap for Trump. Has resonance, no?

11

Mark Field 01.24.17 at 1:02 am

CJColucci: You and Jay Rosen: http://pressthink.org/2017/01/send-the-interns/

12

Omega Centauri 01.24.17 at 2:33 am

Derida,
The intelligence community is far more than just spooks (field agents), there are a huge number of high level brain jobs, involving analysis and data acquisition and processing. I suspect his audience the other day had more of the later type and their managers than the field agents and their handlers which people think about. These are highly educated people, who probably still believe that the USA constitute the good guys. I do suspect they are concerned not just about their jobs, but whether they will continue to be on the side of the good guys, and whether the security of the country will be harmed. For that we can feel sympathy for their current predicament, even if we ourselves think its been long long time since we’ve been primarily on the side of the good guys.

13

Alan White 01.24.17 at 2:33 am

BB: Ironic for someone who probably has paid not to get the clap now pays to get it.

14

Ed 01.24.17 at 2:57 am

Does being on the left mean being a big CIA fan now? Its hard to keep track of these things.

15

oldster 01.24.17 at 3:46 am

Being on the left now means what it has always meant: fighting fascism.

Currently, the fascists in the Kremlin and White House are a much, much bigger problem than any fascists in Langley.

Once the Russian occupation of the White House has ended, we can go back to worrying about the ideological composition of the CIA.

16

bruce wilder 01.24.17 at 4:13 am

Once the Russian occupation of the White House has ended, we can go back to worrying about the ideological composition of the CIA.

Parody, I remember parody. So long ago and far away . . .

17

derrida derider 01.24.17 at 6:17 am

Omega @12 –
People are complicated creatures. Of course the CIA people will think to themselves that they are dismayed at the destruction of the organisation that has formed their life’s work, and in whose mission they believe. But in their minds that is simply not separable from their immediate self-interest, in the form of worrying about their job.

Adam Smith was right though that there is a great deal of ruin in a nation. This sort of thing will, in the big picture, only very modestly hasten the US empire’s slow decline.

18

Hidari 01.24.17 at 9:14 am

@16

I bet you wonder how you would have reacted in the 1950s when McCarthy was claiming that the US Government was being run by the Russians, and swathes of the intelligentsia believed him? *

Well now you know.

*Tyler Cowen still does.

19

soullite 01.24.17 at 10:11 am

I’m a bit more concerned with the fact that most of the left is bending over backwards to justify political violence against people they don’t like right now, than about Trump doing something that it’s widely been reported that most politicians and candidates do (seeding the audience).

Maybe you should spend a little time on other blogs (Lawyers, Guns and Money, for instance), and a little less in your ivory tower, and you’ll start being concerned about genuine problems and not mere political chicanery. To a non-Democrat, stuff like this reads as you guys trying to distract from the fact that your people can’t stop assaulting people who disagree with you.

20

Sam Dodsworth 01.24.17 at 11:57 am

@Ed Does being on the left mean being a big CIA fan now?

I don’t think you have to be a fan of either side to find the prospect of a fight between Trump and the CIA attractive. Quite the reverse, in fact.

21

Faustusnotes 01.24.17 at 12:03 pm

I interpreted the concern about the CIA as concern that they might agree with cheeto Jesus, not concern for their welfare; and relief that maybe they don’t, not pride in their all American values.

Nice to see trump’s apologists coming out with a pro putin line now. Nothing to see here, move on.

22

Faustusnotes 01.24.17 at 12:05 pm

Soullite is trolling of course, but two words answer these “genuine concerns”: Timothy mcveigh. Get back to us when black bloc punches have killed as many people as fascists.

23

Collin Street 01.24.17 at 12:35 pm

Soullite is trolling of course

It’s always best to assume good faith, I think.

Given a choice between “trolling” and “really that stupid”, go the latter each time.

24

hix 01.24.17 at 2:33 pm

This one just feals like a logical small step further on how US presidential campaigns work in general, with or without Trump.

25

Daragh 01.24.17 at 2:51 pm

Relitigation of the post-Church committee CIA aside, Trump has apparently been paying (or more accurately, pledging to pay and then stiffing) actors to serve as cheerleaders at his events for a while now. Similarly the pre-inauguration ‘press conference’ featured a bunch of flacks providing pre-scheduled applause.

Of course, now that’s he’s POTUS this becomes a much trickier issue – for one, who is footing the bill for Trump’s constant need for adulation? While the White House can reasonably claim a need for a budget to conduct a certain amount of PR and publicity activities, this would seem to fall well outside a defensible use of said budget. If it’s a private expenditure by Trump’s political operation, then any function chooses to conduct with his professional adulators present presumably automatically becomes a political/campaign event and not just the POTUS doing the job of the POTUS. This is is before we get to who actually is in the claque and where they’re allowed to go etc.

Don’t worry, I’m sure Congress will get on this as soon as they’ve dealt with Trump’s many other conflicts of interest and incidences of outright corruption.

26

F. Foundling 01.24.17 at 3:05 pm

Omega Centauri @12

>The intelligence community is far more than just spooks (field agents), there are a huge number of high level brain jobs, involving analysis and data acquisition and processing. … These are highly educated people, who probably still believe that the USA constitute the good guys.

Highly educated, analysing the big picture … and *still* sincerely believing they’re the good guys? And this is supposed to be *more*, not less likely for them than for the regular agents who are risking their lives on the ‘field’ in pursuit of the strategic objectives set by those ‘high-level brains’? These are some very strange assumptions, I’d say. This sounds like pro-intellectual prejudice – the more brainy and bespectacled like us, the more moral and well-intentioned.

oldster @15

>Being on the left now means what it has always meant: fighting fascism. Currently, the fascists in the Kremlin and White House are a much, much bigger problem than any fascists in Langley. Once the Russian occupation of the White House has ended, we can go back to worrying about the ideological composition of the CIA.

If you think a so-called ‘Russian occupation’ of the White House (i.e. a president who is, for a change, not really quite committed to the grand project of fighting Russia) is significantly worse than the usual corporate & imperialist ‘American’ occupation of the White House that brought you, in the past two decades, the Iraq war *and* the current second Cold War – if you see the CIA as significantly better than the FSB – then you have never been on the left to begin with. There are enough reasons why Trump is terrible, but what is equally bad is the opponents that attack him from the right, not from the left.

Faustusnotes @21
>Nice to see trump’s apologists coming out with a pro putin line now.

Nice to see ‘liberals’ coming out as the supporters of neoliberal globalist corporatism and American empire that they always have been behind their mask of ‘racy/edgy’ pseudo-radicalism on identity issues. Trying to steal the term ‘left’ for this position is a particularly impertinent, but also enitirely predictable move.

27

WLGR 01.24.17 at 3:45 pm

Omega Centauri, be precise here. The question isn’t whether or not these deep-state spooks will be the good guys, which troublingly implies that the great game for the imperial division of the world contains such a thing as “the good guys” at all; it’s whether they’ll still be able to think of themselves as the good guys, or in other words, whether the bloody work of imperial enforcement will remain respectable. In terms of their broad class identity and ideology, the people who work for the CIA and the various other public/private institutions of the military-industrial complex are exactly the kinds of respectable, moderate suburban white Republicans the Clinton campaign spent so much effort wooing in a bid to make up for lost votes among less affluent white folks, and it’s important to note that in practice these people’s identities are if anything much more dependent on the logic of discrimination and oppression than the identity of your average Trump voter (after all “white flight” is pretty much this demographic’s origin story) with the difference that they’re much more practiced at not being so vulgar about it. As far as the specific subset of affluent white suburbia whose day jobs consist of coordinating ammo shipments to death squads and filing purchase orders for stealth drones and so on, any concern for their stature as “the good guys” is that a Trump administration might make the kind of work they do look no less evil than it’s actually been all along.

For my part I doubt these kinds of people would actually lose any sleep over whether poor people in Ferguson get treated any better than poor people in Port-au-Prince or Gaza. Rather, their worry is that Trump isn’t enough of a team player in the work of governing, that he doesn’t have enough interdependent relationships with the rest of the ruling class to avoid dramatically disturbing their way of life — that he might have means and motivation to bring the same kind of “creative destruction” to the business of administering imperial hegemony that an aggressive vulture-capital private equity fund might bring to the business of churning out widgets on an assembly line. To me it doesn’t seem likely that he actually will do this once all is said and done, but from their perspective he might still need some admonishment before getting fully in line with the way things work.

28

Jerry Vinokurov 01.24.17 at 5:21 pm

Trying to adjudicate a conflict between Trump and the CIA is a useless endeavor. Trump is horrible; the CIA has a decades-long track record of also being horrible; the best case scenario is that they destroy each other. WLGR above has it right: the CIA isn’t concerned about the actually evil things that it does, it’s just concerned that they’re going to look bad. Probably there are some well-intentioned people working analysis jobs at Langley, but it’s not about them individually, it’s about what the CIA is institutionally.

29

soru 01.24.17 at 5:39 pm

> I bet you wonder how you would have reacted in the 1950s when McCarthy was claiming that the US Government was being run by the Russians, and swathes of the intelligentsia believed him? *

By that logic, if you ever wondered what someone would have done when Hitler came to power, you can find out by simply asking their opinion of Angela Merkel.

30

Omega Centauri 01.24.17 at 5:42 pm

I said I can understand how the intelligence community intellectuals might feel. I’ve long since determined we aren’t the good guys anymore.

In any case the legitimate fear is how the security appartus is going to act once the terrorist attack threat ramps up in response to giving the Likud getting everything it wants. I expect civil liberties will be the big casualty.

31

J-D 01.24.17 at 9:04 pm

Maybe you should spend a little time on other blogs (Lawyers, Guns and Money, for instance), and a little less in your ivory tower, and you’ll start being concerned about genuine problems and not mere political chicanery.

Oooh, that’s the way to find out what’s really going on in the real world, is it? read blogs? is that what you’ve been doing?

32

Faustusnotes 01.24.17 at 10:53 pm

Foundling, I thought you guys had more shame than this. We’re five days into this shitshow and you’re back already to gloat about how the neoliberal order is overthrown now that killary is out? How many Goldman Sachs boys has your tangerine prophet got in his cabinet? You’re being played by Putin with this neoliberalism bullshit, and the result is going to be exactly what Putin wants – a confrontation between America and China.

The only thing worse than the self important gloating of the wiki leaks “radical” left is going to be their patronizing and embarrassing attempts to justify away their mistake with tortured readings of century-dead Marxists, when they finally realize that Cheeto Jesus is neoliberalism on steroids. Talking your way out of being useful idiots for Putin from a far left perspective is going to be an excruciating display.

33

Pavel 01.25.17 at 4:59 am

I know this is an unpopular opinion, but of the alphabet soup of intelligence agencies, the CIA is actually further to the “left” than most of the others. The CIA is one of the few agencies on record to have open feuds with Presidents over the nature and accuracy of intelligence, with the CIA supporting the more moderate positions on foreign policy (see Team B and Plamegate for reference). It’s important to note that for the longest time, the CIA effectively maintained two separate departments, roughly separated into operations and analysis. The ops people tended to be the ones more responsible for death squads and political meddling. The analysts tended to be responsible for putting together National Intelligence Estimates and over time came to defend detente and the more rationalist interpretations of Soviet actions (i.e. The USSR isn’t just an expansionist revolutionary state, etc) over the objections of Army and Air Force intelligence. The CIA also sometimes opposed State Dept. and other agencies’ adventurism (see Ngo Dinh Diem’s assassination).

I’m pretty sure that many in the CIA supported Hillary, because like them she was a rational actor (disagreement on policies notwithstanding). The CIA can rightly be criticized ad nauseum about its actions during the Cold War (and relative spinelessness in the run up to the Iraq War), but in any confrontation between the CIA and Trump, I would throw my support behind the rational actor actually interested in the security and general functioning of the state. After all, the CIA was eventually persuaded by its own evidence to take a less aggressive stance against the USSR. In the post-truth world, that’s something quite valuable.

34

MFB 01.25.17 at 9:05 am

I suppose that if you can believe that the CIA is a rational actor, you can believe that Hillary is a rational actor.

And in a sense, it is true; the heart has its reasons. But being rational about ridiculous premises leads naturally to ridiculous conclusions.

35

Pavel 01.25.17 at 3:59 pm

@MFB

Rational actors don’t necessarily start out with perfect information, accurate premises or without biases. They typically have defined goals and track evidence towards those goals. In some rare cases, the evidence (however constructed) can lead them to abandon or redefine those goals. Rational actors are typically convincible (to an extent) and rely on some sort of external state to define distance from goals/validity of goals. Trump meets very few of these criteria, given his willingness to repeatedly contradict himself, ignore evidence and drive policy almost exclusively through the lens of his ego, without reference to any externality whatsoever. In other words, he is not convincible and can never really be negotiated with. This does not apply to either the CIA or Clinton.

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