Steve Bannon gave a speech to a Vatican conference sponsored by a right-wing Catholic organization. It’s eye-opening, not because we ever needed proof that Bannon was an alt-right extremist, but because it sets these disturbing views down clearly on the page for all to read. One of the things that strikes me is how unoriginal, how derivative the ideas are. There is no original thinking, even for a far-right intellectual. Essentially, he embraces an international alliance of far-right forces to fight on behalf of capitalism and religious values.
They could have been recycled from the pages of Anders Breivik’s diaries or Pamela Geller’s Atlas Shrugged. Despite this, the ideas are no less disturbing:
I want to talk about wealth creation and what wealth creation really can achieve…because I believe the world, and particularly the Judeo-Christian west, is in a crisis…[We want to] let people understand the depths of this crisis, and it is a crisis both of capitalism but really of the underpinnings of the Judeo-Christian west in our beliefs.
…The thing that got us out of it [World War I and II], the organizing principle that met this, was not just the heroism of our people…The underlying principle is an enlightened form of capitalism, that capitalism really gave us the wherewithal. It kind of organized and built the materials needed to support, whether it’s the Soviet Union, England, the United States, and eventually to take back continental Europe and to beat back a barbaric empire in the Far East.
Did you catch that last reference to the Yellow Peril, our “Jap” enemies who stopped being our enemies oh, around 70 years ago?
The most disturbing passage is the one below which argues that the church militant must form a moral, if not physical army to destroy the threat of the “new barbarity,” Islam (which has apparently taken over from the Yellow Peril). This movement promises to eradicate western civilization and must be combatted by all-out war:
…We’re at the very beginning stages of a very brutal and bloody conflict, of which if the people in this room, the people in the church, do not bind together and really form what I feel is an aspect of the church militant, to really be able to not just stand with our beliefs, but to fight for our beliefs against this new barbarity that’s starting, that will completely eradicate everything that we’ve been bequeathed over the last 2,000, 2,500 years.
…One is state-sponsored capitalism. And that’s the capitalism you see in China and Russia…this kind of crony capitalism of people that are involved with these military powers-that-be in the government, and it forms a brutal form of capitalism that is really about creating wealth and creating value for a very small subset of people. And it doesn’t spread the tremendous value creation throughout broader distribution patterns that were seen really in the 20th century.
In the above paragraph, Bannon ironically attacks the crony state-sponsored capitalism of China and Russia. This 2014 speech was delivered before he hooked up with the King of crony capitalism, Donald J. Trump; a man who, if anyone does, represents “a brutal form of capitalism that is about creating wealth and value for a very small set of people.”
…Now that call converges with something we have to face, and it’s a very unpleasant topic, but we are in an outright war against jihadist Islamic fascism. And this war is, I think, metastasizing far quicker than governments can handle it.
…We’re at the very beginning stages of a global conflict, and if we do not bind together as partners with others in other countries that this conflict is only going to metastasize.
They have a Twitter account up today, ISIS does, about turning the United States into a “river of blood” if it comes in and tries to defend the city of Baghdad. And trust me, that is going to come to Europe. That is going to come to Central Europe, it’s going to come to Western Europe, it’s going to come to the United Kingdom. And so I think we are in a crisis of the underpinnings of capitalism, and on top of that we’re now, I believe, at the beginning stages of a global war against Islamic fascism.
Note in the above passage, Bannon doesn’t denounce Islamist fascism, but Islamic fascism. In other words, the problem isn’t Islamism, but Islam. To some, this may appear to be a minor distinction, but it really isn’t. Neither Bannon nor Trump makes any distinction between those two words. The problem is Islam. The entire religion and all those who profess it. And the war they foresee is against all of Islam.
That’s why professions by Sean Spicer that the Muslim travel ban has nothing to do with religion are specious. Of course it’s about religion. The one “evil” religion that afflicts the world.
I should add a caveat here: Bannon will have to adjust his ideology to the fact that Trump’s crony capitalism has found fertile ground in relationships with a few of the more authoritarian Muslim nations. In Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the Gulf States, among others he’s inked lucrative real estate deals. Tellingly, these nations weren’t included in the federal travel ban. Apparently, some Muslim nations are more equal than others.
Now this very man has a seat on the principals committee of the National Security Council, where he will determine our security and military strategies around the world. This is the seat of power from which he will prosecute his “global war against Islamic fascism.”
Returning to the Yellow Peril motif I mentioned above, Bannon views China as a villain co-equal to Islam. He said this during a Breitbart radio interview:
If we can predict future American wars by Steve Bannon’s fulminations, we should be fighting a two-pronged war in the Middle East and Asia in the not too distant future:
You have an expansionist Islam and you have an expansionist China. Right? They are motivated. They’re arrogant. They’re on the march. And they think the Judeo-Christian west is on the retreat.”
Not to mention that during his recent phone call with Mexico’s president, he warned him that if his army was too frightened to fight the “bad hombres” down there, he would send U.S. forces to do so. Do I hear three-front war, anyone? And who uses the term “hombres” anymore? Only Anglo-racists. If you dug deep in his psyche you’d probably still find “wetback” and “gringo” festering in his linguistic subconscious. Trump’s syntax (“big league,” “loser,” “lightweight,” “moron,” “classy,” etc.) is a throwback to an earlier era: possibly the 1940s when Dick Tracy ruled the Comics pages and America ruled the waves.
Alexandre Bissonette, the Quebec alt-right warrior, is a soulmate of Steve Bannon in this crusade against Islam. Bannon dresses better and has a higher-paying job, but they are brothers in arms. Bissonette may be the foot soldier, but Bannon is the commander.
Silverstein has published Tikun Olam since 2003, It exposes the secrets of the Israeli national security state. He lives in Seattle, but his heart is in the east. He publishes regularly at Middle East Eye, the New Arab, and Jacobin Magazine. His work has also appeared in Al Jazeera English, The Nation, Truthout and other outlets.