Steve Bannon: Bigot, Cynic or Brave Contrarian?

The fight over Trump's chief of strategy highlights the deep fissures on the Right.

By John Zmirak Published on November 16, 2016

There’s a proxy war being fought right now over the future of a Trump administration. Some pundits on the left and the globalist right are targeting Stephen K. Bannon, Trump’s winning campaign chairman, as a racist and anti-semite. Trump named Bannon his chief strategist last week, which launched a full-on sharknado of criticism — much of it coming from Democrats and NeverTrump Republicans. Here is Ian Tuttle’s take at National Review, John Podhoretz’s at Commentary, and (former Bannon employee) Ben Shapiro’s at The Daily Wire

They have many complaints, but on the racism charge, the critics prove nothing more than the fact that Bannon was a wily media entrepreneur, willing to poke at the edges of taboo subjects in order to drive up traffic on a generally conservative if sensationalist site (Breitbart). I know, because I’ve written for it — for instance, a piece debunking the charge (exhumed by a reporter at Paul Ryan’s November 15 press conference) that Breitbart’s criticisms of Rep. Ryan are “anti-Catholic.” Breitbart serves a valuable purpose by offering a venue where such arguments won’t get censored by nervous nelly editors worried what their friends at Slate will think of them.

The Guilt-By-Association Method

These attempts to destroy Bannon follow a time-tested formula used against skeptics of globalism:

  1. Call Mr. X a racist or anti-Semite.
  2. When pressed for evidence, if there isn’t any, cite some old friend or one-time associate of Mr. X, who can be plausibly framed as prejudiced — in little munchable sound bites, shorn of context. Demand to know why Mr. X hasn’t already denounced his former associate. Muse publicly about how very suspicious that is.
  3. If some pundit defends Mr. X, publicly charge that he is enabling racism and anti-Semitism.
  4. Denounce that pundit, and demand that his friends and associates denounce him, too. Try to get him fired.
  5. When anyone else sticks his neck out for Mr. X, rinse and repeat.

I remember when ex-Bush-speechwriter, now reinvented centrist NeverTrumper David Frum, employed this tactic against conservatives who were skeptical of the Iraq War, charging them with crimethink and calling them “unpatriotic.” More than political dialogue, it was a frontal assault on a number of writers’ livelihoods.

Steve Bannon, Breitbart, and the Alt-Right

Now Bannon is being targeted because the website which he inherited and helped to build into a behemoth, Breitbart, has been called a venue for white supremacists and anti-Semites. And so, because he ran the place, Bannon is also at best a cynical opportunist, and at worse a hater himself. The evidence for these charges is …  somewhere between thin and none.

Of course, there are some people out there who really are racists, anti-Semites, or some other variety of anti-Christian extremist. Such twisted, hate-goaded people ought to be shunned.

No one has cited an article that appeared at Breitbart whose contents can be plausibly construed as racist or anti-Semitic. No one has found a writer who published at Breitbart whose other writings, elsewhere, are racist or anti-Semitic. No one has produced any evidence of personal or political racism or anti-Semitism that Bannon himself engaged in. A number of conservatives who happen to be Jewish, such as David Horowitz, have come forward to deny that Bannon has ever shown any sign of prejudice. No one has offered any tangible evidence of racism, either.

So what does the charge come down to? Two things:

1) That Bannon once said that Breitbart was a platform for the “Alt-Right.” and

2) That some of the attention-grabbing headlines which Bannon approved could be considered “dog-whistles” intended to get racists and anti-Semites to read them and forward them around, increasing traffic on the site.

Let’s Look at the Evidence

The best analysis of these headlines was done by London-based writer Melanie Phillips, a brave and embattled defender of Israel and the rights of Jews in an increasingly hostile, sharia-friendly country. As she wrote on Facebook: “False allegations are made against Donald Trump and his new head of strategy Stephen Bannon, smearing them as antisemites, fascists and racists. Whether through laziness or ideological malice, these smears are recycled uncritically throughout both mainstream and social media.” Phillips addresses the controversial headlines as follows:

Exhibit A: an article entitled “Bill Kristol: Republican Spoiler, Renegade Jew.”

That headline is said to be antisemitic. The author of the article, David Horowitz, has written however:

“In fact, neither Breitbart nor Bannon is responsible for that statement. A Jew is. I wrote the article, which was neither requested nor commissioned by Breitbart. And I wrote the headline: “Bill Kristol, Republican Spoiler, Renegade Jew.

“I wrote the article when Kristol set out to lead the Never Trump movement, after Trump had secured the Republican nomination. I would write it again in a heartbeat. I would write it the same way and with the same headline. Bill Kristol and his friends betrayed the Republican Party, betrayed the American people, and betrayed the Jews when he set out to undermine Trump and elect the criminal Hillary Clinton. Obama and Hillary are supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood, the organization that launched the Arab drive to destroy Israel and push its Jews into the sea (that was their slogan).”

Exhibit B: an article which said of journalist Anne Applebaum [a Yale classmate of mine, and a fine Cold War scholar—J.Z.] that “hell hath no fury like a Polish, Jewish, American elitist scorned.” That phrase is said to be antisemitic.

The article attacked Applebaum for what it claimed was her “disinformation offensive against the anti-globalist right.” Central to its argument was a description of Applebaum’s circumstances and political world-view as the wife of the former Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski. It said: “Sikorski desperately wanted to replace Baroness Catherine Ashton as EU foreign affairs spokesman. This bid died with the exposure of the Civic Platform corruption. This turn of events ended Applebaum’s dream of being Poland’s first Jewish-American first lady. And hell hath no fury like a Polish, Jewish, American elitist scorned”.

There was nothing gratuitous or innately offensive about this Jewish reference any more than the references to her being Polish or American. It was simply another biographical detail in a highly personal piece. The claim that this was “antisemitic” is absurd.

• The charge of racism.

After the murder in 2015 of nine black worshippers in a Charleston church by a man who posed with a Confederate flag, an article attacking the left for cynically exploiting this tragedy to attack conservatism, tradition and the south.

The author said the left had rewritten history. “The epitome of everything they detest and fear is the Confederate Flag, so that is now the target of a hate campaign so fanatical and irrational as to seem barely sane.”

The insanity has gone one stage further; the left has extended this hate campaign to the website’s chief executive, smearing him as a racist for running this article merely criticising the left for its hatred and lies.

• The charge of Islamophobia

Breitbart has run numerous pieces exposing Islamist aggression and sexual violence. For this it has been falsely accused of anti-Muslim prejudice by those who wish to censor facts which it is overwhelmingly in the public interest to report.

• The charge that it has promoted the “alt-right.”

This term is being used as a smear in itself. It makes no distinction between the legitimate populist movement for western cultural identity to which millions who voted for both Trump and Brexit subscribe, and neo-Nazis and white supremacists who have leeched onto that populist movement — whether to legitimise themselves or to make trouble for the populists through “guilt by association” isn’t clear.

An article about the “alt-right” on Breitbart itself noted that those who use these Nazi types to tarnish the alt-right movement should, to be consistent, use Islamist killers to tarnish all Muslims or Black Lives Matter to tarnish all black people. Of course they would think that preposterous, but they use this tactic against their political enemies. The authors went on:

“The politics of identity, when it comes from women, LGBT people, blacks and other non-white, non-straight, non-male demographics is seen as acceptable — even when it descends into outright hatred. Any discussion of white identity, or white interests, is seen as a heretical offense. … Even for us — a gay man of Jewish descent and a mixed-ethnic half-Pakistani — the dangers of writing on this topic loom large. Though we do not identify with the alt-right, even writing an article about them is akin to prancing through a minefield.”

Racism and Globalism: Equal and Opposite Heresies

Of course, there are some people out there who really are racists, anti-Semites, or some other variety of anti-Christian extremist. Some white nationalists today have gone as far as calling to keep abortion legal to lower the non-white birth rate — you know, as eugenicist Margaret Sanger tried to do when she founded Planned Parenthood. Such twisted, hate-goaded people ought to be shunned. One of the pieces which I published denouncing white nationalism got me trolled for a year by online neo-Nazis, who [warning: profanity] wished for me that “the kike boot grind the faces of your progeny into the dirt.” Well, okay then. Hard to argue with that.

Whenever they could get a foothold, such nasty cranks infested the venues that GOP globalists hadn’t gotten around to purging, back in the heady days when David Frum was excommunicating people and Karl Rove was using RNC money to sink any GOP primary contender who didn’t favor virtually open borders. But once you’ve allowed genuine haters to become a significant minority in a movement, they tend to suck up all the oxygen, and smear all the innocent people around them with their own moral plutonium. The “Alt-Right” movement was once a capacious grab-bag of monarchists, medievalists, anti-globalist Christians and … an unsavory band of white nationalists and Jew-baiting cranks. Guess which faction stole the headlines and now owns the “Alt-Right” title? Hint: It wasn’t the monarchists.

So by all means, shun the racialists, with the same vigor and for the same reasons that you shun the globalists: Because neither of them is really engaged in seeking the common good. The racialists discard the Golden Egg of liberty and equality that makes Western culture Christian, and the globalists lazily starve the Goose that laid it: the concrete, fragile, social order and civic institutions without which such principles are stillborn, or curl up and die. You know, all the things that mark off a prosperous society such as Switzerland from a death trap like Afghanistan.

Those were the things that Donald Trump spoke up for, when few else would. Steve Bannon provided a space where such questions can freely be talked about. I hope that he goes on to a happy White House career — and that he remembers the other half of Donald Trump’s base, faithful Christians who demand our religious liberty and protection for unborn Americans. It is our witness to every person’s absolute equality in Christ that will pull America back from the brink.

Read excerpts from Steve Bannon’s 2014 speech at the Vatican here.

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  • GinaRD

    Boiled down, this sounds like “Bannon and his cohorts are not racists and anti-Semites because they say they’re not racists and anti-Semites.”

    I’m sorry, that’s not very convincing.

    • Al

      Gina

      You don’t get it. Keep calling people bigots, etc what we have here now is an opposite effect going on. Vast, huge amounts of people are tired of the constant talk of racism & bigotry and being labeled as such. They are not, even Man-of-the-People Michael Moore has been warning your side they are not. The more you poke the bear with a stick the angrier he gets.

      If this is all you have in the Age of Trump, this ridiculous feral emotionalism presented as reason. I feel very sorry for you.

      The people who voted for Trump are not “Gracious Queensbury Rule Playing Neo-Cons” they are the sleeping majority who are awake & extremely pissed off & don’t intend to go back to sleep until Trump does their bidding. Your side fails to understand this.

      he identity politics genie you idiots let out of the bottle is coming home to roost & everybody knows this. If it continues you will be accident create the thing you claim to abhor…because everyone will vote their tribal interests.

      • GinaRD

        I believe in calling things by their rightful names. If someone is not a bigot, I believe in not calling him or her a bigot. Conversely, if someone is a bigot . . . well, then I call a spade a spade.

        Also, I find it interesting that you accuse me of feral emotionalism when you’re basing your argument on the pissed-off-ness of a particular group. Physician, heal thyself.

        And finally, where do you get this “you did this” and “you did that” when you don’t know me from Adam’s off ox?

        • Al

          1. How brave of you to loosely through weaponized rhetoric. Course its not brave because its just an Alinsky tactic and you wrongly believe you can still use it, to brow beat people. This election just proved you can’t & you will find that we are not done.
          2. What I accused you of is using “Bigot” as a be all end all to policy & political discourse. Your side made that bed now sleep in it…because it is “Feral”. The response to quash, destroy & rout it proceeds and will so from now on. You can call that emotionalism if you like, I would call it a defense that is turning into an offense with intent to destroy & win the game.
          3. If you find my comments presumptious…it pales in comparison to your amoeboid like responses to anything by hissing “Racissssss”

          Cry more

          • Whats Yours

            Bravo Al~
            For a perfect example of what you’ve just outlined, que up a YouTube video of Erin Burnett’s interview with Pamela Geller, the one where Burnett suggests that Geller’s characterization of radical Muslims who beheaded Daniel Pearl as ‘savages’ is xenophobic.

    • John Wade

      Don’t boil it…READ it. Again, because you missed most of it.

      • GinaRD

        I did read it, thanks. That “if you don’t agree with it, you didn’t read it” line is getting to be such a cliche. Try a new line next time. Have a nice day! 🙂

    • Noel Jensen

      Gina, that seems to summarize everything I’ve read on the other side as well, i.e., Bannon is racist and anti-Semitic because we say so. I am most persuaded, at this point, by Alan Dershowitz’s thoughts on the matter.

  • Dave R Eflects

    Breitbart is one of the best websites ever. The liberals’ monopoly on the media ended long ago, but they’re still not reconciled to it. As the last week has proven, they are very sore losers.

  • Horowitz is Jewish by blood only. He’s not some Jewish standard bearer, which isn’t relevant any way. Saying that the article was okay because a Jewish author wrote it is the same as saying it’s okay for black people to use racist slurs.

    Milo, a writer for Breitbart, came out and defended the moral monstrosity of the alt-right saying they were just being ironic and doing these things for shock value. The fact is that Breitbart’s comment section has become a wing of the Stormfront, 4chan, reddit anti-semitic cesspools. They wouldn’t have gathered without a reason.

    The winks and nods coming out of Breitbart is a slippery slope that was greased on Bannon’s watch. But then you did admit at the beginning of your column that you contribute to Breitbart and if some of the stories about Bannon are to be believed, you probably couldn’t help defending him.

    Keep worshipping at the altar of Trump, Zmirak.

    • Al

      Noneya

      Shrieking “Racissss” isn’t working anymore. You should be worried about it..deeply worried because there is real hatred out there though not at the level you think it is.

      But because idiots like you who cannot get their emotions under control and found a good tool that has served you well…everytime you didn’t like someone’s position in anything….you pulled out the bigot tool and you have now rendered the terms useless. ..in fact the new media meme analogy is
      The boy who cried wolf…that story dies not end well

      Contemplate, tremble if it makes you feel better, then work to reform your bretheren. The people I know don’t intend to go back to sleep and call8ng them names is lIke high performance gasoline. More please

      • I’m not claiming he’s racist. I voted Trump, so you should probably ask before you have a knee-jerk reaction. My criticism was based off looking into Bannon without a predetermined bias.

        Stop being so determined to find boogiemen behind every comment you disagree with, it serves no purpose except to make your argument look… uninformed.

        • Al

          Your projecting……

          Let me know if your finally able to get the goods on Bannon

          • Are you a mind reader!? How the hell do you get that I’m projecting lol? I did research and weighed the evidence.

            Allegedly, Trump doesn’t even like the guy. Allegedly, mind you.

            If you disagree then good on you. Maybe I am wrong and if so then my apologies to Mr. Bannon. I don’t understand your blind loyalty to a man you don’t even know.

  • SophieA

    I know nothing about Steve Bannon save his appearance. But I do know is that this man has quietly and strategically helped dismantle the most corrupt Democratic machine we’ve ever seen. I do not have a window into his soul to judge him. I judge Mr Bannon by his actions. Today I say to him, “Thank you. Continue the good work. God speed.”

    • Concerned citizen

      I also judge Mr. Bannon by his actions. Today I say to him, “You are the epitome of evil”.

      • SophieA

        I see you DO have special windows into other’s souls. Is this your Marvel universe special power or are you just a disgruntle troll?

        • Concerned citizen

          Marvel universe special power?? Wow, I’m in.
          Sorry, no special powers here.
          Just the ability to discern other’s b.s.

      • Al

        Muh feral emotionalism

      • Deplorable Rican ☨ʳᵉᵈᵉᵉᵐᵉᵈ

        Nothing to see here just another newly created troll account

        • Concerned citizen

          Funny! I guess that stating my opinion makes me a troll now.

  • WakeUp

    ALL IRRELEVANT dis-information babble! (PLEASE, if a Jewish person is a Holocaust denier the denial is STILL anti-Semitic! … SHEESH! Please!) . And the theology-babble? … are you serious? Why shouldn’t we then, pass laws, based on casting of the Urim and Thummim?! SHEESH!

    What is relevant is that

    national security agencies will be investigating every jot and tittle he wrote and spoke (which is a lot obviously), every violence he spoke, threatened, intimated, or committed (e.g. assaulting his wife), every ‘foreign entanglement’ (which are many apparently), etc.

    and no one – not even the President-Elect should intervene in this fact finding!

  • Lorenz

    Yes I recall the days when Takimag was “a capacious grab-bag of monarchists, medievalists, anti-globalist Christians” with contributors such as John Zmirak, Scott Richert, Charles Coulombe, and F.J. Sarto. Around 5 or 6 years ago they suddenly disappeared with the appearance of Richard Spencer as editor. The tone changed with barely cloaked racism and articles with the theme of North West European being the cream of evolution and Christianity only can be tolerated as the religion of the white man. I quit reading it as it became NSFW.
    Breitbart is not such a site and Bannon is not alt-right as Spencer coined the word. It is regrettable that Bannon used the term. The left lost the election and they are in full attack mode. The purpose of their manufactured hysteria is to alienate the Trump team from minorities, and to make them think twice in the future before even considering a conservative for a key post. With this election and wikileaks we saw their corruption and collusion with the Democrats as the velvet curtain was opened for us to see their machinations. The people saw through them and their lies and propaganda and their influence has largely diminished. However, the legacy media can still do harm and they must be stood up to and corrected at every opportunity.

  • Patmos

    “Bigot, Cynic, Brave Contrarian…”

    Or Robert Redford stunt double?

    • Concerned citizen

      I’m so sorry that your vision is so impaired.

  • Dean Bruckner

    Right on, John! They’ve gone full Alinsky, and unless they repent, they will reap his eternal reward of raging fire.

  • Bruce John Miller

    From the LA Times:
    “This is what they will do to anybody who defeats the left, “ said Joel Pollak, a Breitbart journalist in California who is an Orthodox Jew.

    “There are no Nazis here, no white nationalists here,” Pollak said, of the Breitbart newsroom. “If our articles appeal to people beyond our core audience, there is nothing I can do about that.”

    “We are what we have always been,” he said, “a voice for the conservative movement.”

  • David Marshall

    I think we need to look for middle ground. Perhaps Bannon is not a racist. But is he a good man? Is his character such that he will contribute to America’s well-being? That is my question, and I have doubts. Let the vetting be thorough, with such questions in mind.

    • Lorenz

      Perhaps David Marshall is not a pedophile but does he have much to offer the conversation? I do not know if he has any affiliation with NAMBLA but that is not the issue. Is he a good man? I have doubts. Only time will tell.

      • WakeUp

        Bannon admired Satan, in the Hollywood Reporter interview … SATAN, the one who tortured the Lord Jesus Christ, and who whispered hated into the ears of every Roman Emperor, King and Prince, Potentate, General, Czar and Dictator and Caliph who have tortured and mutliated and murdered countless Christians. Evangelicals vote have brought and admirer of Satan to the White House, with ultimate civil authority over the people of God! God will judge you … good thing, isn’t it, that God is righteous … since you claim to love the righteous God …. will you praise God when God chastises you?

  • WakeUp

    SO WE SEE from the Hollywood Reporter interview that Bannon is some sort of Satan admirer. There you go Evangelicals: a majority of you just brought a friend of Satan to the White House.

  • galatians328

    SATAN, of course, is a ‘brave contrarian’ …

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