Napoleon’s Wolves

As part of my research into an upcoming book project, I stumbled upon the Principles of Syndicalism by Tom Brown. Though written from an admittedly leftist perspective, it contains a number of interesting observations on the post-war labor economy, especially in the UK. Brown also dedicates a considerable amount of time outlining the specifics of a proposed syndicalist revolution, down to the merits of a standing police force used to detain counterrevolutionaries. It is here that matters become quite interesting, because he unleashes Napoleon’s wolves:

“Let us recall the story of Napoleon’s wolves. It is said that while Napoleon was Emperor the number of wolves increased in France, so Napoleon offered a large reward for each wolf’s head brought to the local authority. Wolf hunting became a lucrative profession until the wolves began to disappear. Fortunately for the hunters the decline in the wolf population was mysteriously checked and their numbers began to increase. Upon investigation the authorities discovered that, rather than lose their jobs, the hunters were breeding wolves and even shepherds had turned from their flocks for the more remunerative work of wolf breeding and hunting”

Brown employs the story to illustrate the problem of organized police attempting to protect their jobs after the revolution by generating culprits to pursue, but his approach is applicable to most institutions. How many times do we see government agencies (or their corporate cousins), actively generating self-justifying missions and spotlight vignettes in order to remain relevant? The most obvious federal example would be the FBI, as Glenn Greenwald notes:

 “The known facts from this latest case seem to fit well within a now-familiar FBI pattern whereby the agency does not disrupt planned domestic terror attacks but rather creates them, then publicly praises itself for stopping its own plots.
Once they finally get the target to agree, the FBI swoops in at the last minute, arrests the target, issues a press release praising themselves for disrupting a dangerous attack (which it conceived of, funded, and recruited the operatives for), and the DOJ and federal judges send their target to prison for years or even decades (where they are kept in special GITMO-like units). Subservient U.S. courts uphold the charges by applying such a broad and permissive interpretation of “entrapment” that it could almost never be successfully invoked.”

The strategy is terribly convenient. People want to feel like the government is doing something, so the feds gladly oblige, even if the cost is someone who might well be innocent. It would seem logical for such agencies to direct folks towards appropriate care or attempt to talk them down, not actively encourage terrorism for the cameras. Skepticism has gotten so bad on the matter that even radical leftists are calling the government out.

But doing so, and nipping any hostile activity in the bud, is poor content for the television cameras. They would not be able to agitate for more funding using the moralistic line of “inadequate resources,” while appealing to all the children who might be harmed otherwise. Even worse, their jobs might feel pointless, and in the loving culture of the State, that’s bad news.

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