“When there is this welcoming, accompaniment, integration, there’s no danger with immigration. A culture is received and another offered. This is my response to fear” – Pope Francis, Rome, February 16, 2017
Though the secretive Steve Bannon is known as a powerful Trump advisor, with gradually, some reporting on what he thinks, his outlook is removed – somewhat more nuanced, much more bizarre and threatening – than anything reporters have so far gleaned. He is referred to by external phrases, but mainly eludes a clear statement of his politics. Focusing on Bannon’s words, however, we will see that Bannon imagines himself a Medieval Christian Knight crusading against Muslims in a new World War. He does so in self-aware “Christian” alliance with Putin, Victor Orban of Hungary, and a dark tradition of European fascism.
In a series of 9 interviews with Trump on Breitbart News, Bannon emerges as a Trump whisperer. In a 2014 speech to the Institute for Human Dignity at the Vatican, Bannon stressed, evangelical libertarian Dave Brat, on a shoestring, amazingly took down heavily funded Republican House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in Virginia 57%-43%. Similarly, in a pre-2016 election interview with Trump, Bannon praises the former’s electoral potential as an anti-immigrant crusader and White “Nationalist”/”National Sovereignty”/’Anti-Globalist’ Leader (with Sessions, Bannon detests “soulless globalism”).
Now Bannon says rightly how much many ordinary white people (among many others) have been hurt by the “crony” capitalism of the Republican and Democratic establishment. Bannon combines oozing flattery of Trump with a rare coaxing him to adjust on political issues to something slightly less illegal and authoritarian. For instance, Bannon urges Trump not to demand closing mosques in New York, but instead to have police surveil them. Trump snarls that the latter would be only a first step.
But when Trump complains that the Immigration Service has mistakenly deported a bright Harvard business student to India where he set up a company employing thousands and solicits Bannon’s approval, Bannon delicately says “no.” To blur their disagreement, Bannon continues: “Breitbart’s audience is to the Right on this.” But then, Bannon warns sharply that “two-thirds of the CEOS in Silicon Valley are Indian” and wants to drive them all out.
Probably Bannon acts similarly, behind the scenes, at the White House. Since Trump owes his election to Bannon’s campaign advice, he has reason to be grateful. In addition, Bannon reads widely and provides thoughts, particularly drawn from the Russian and European Right, for the non-reading Trump. In effect, Bannon words Trump’s intuitions. Many commentators underestimate the force of this Trump whisperer. As Trump’s Muslim ban, drafted by Bannon and Steven Miller, with counsel from Sessions, highlights, Bannon demands: “why not get rid of them all”?
Against this racist Order signed January 27, however, on Saturday night, January 28th, thousands of ordinary people rushed to airports in every city to demand release by ICE of immigrants. Bannon’s ban was struck down in the 4 courts that heard it. For this order illegally, immorally, and irrationally barred reentry even of people with green cards and American visas travelling abroad.
Further, Bannon and Trump have already “militarized” ICE to strike at immigrants. ICE deports mothers of families. ICE refuses Sara Beltran Hernandez, a 26 year old women diagnosed with brain cancer hospitalization and dragged her back to prison in chains. Public protest has now forced her release and treatment.
ICE harasses Mem Fox, a celebrated children’s author from Australia – a white woman, “old and innocent,” she underlines, on her 117th visit to the United States. After hours of interrogation, Fox says, she will never return to the U.S. ICE hauls American citizens like Muhammed Ali, Jr. off a plane and interrogates him because he, like his father, is a black Muslim. ICE delays passengers from leaving a domestic flight searching for a “suspect.”
To Congress in his February 28 speech, Trump called for setting up an office “called VOICE — Victims Of Immigration Crime Engagement. We are providing a voice to those who have been ignored by our media, and silenced by special interests.” Trump fails to mention that immigrants usually seek to make a life in the United States and shun crimes. By percentage of the population, there is but 1 immigrant for every 5 Americans imprisoned for a crime. The Office sadly recalls Julius Streicher’s Der Stuermer which had a box for complaints about “Jew-crime.”
In response, Colorado Congressman Jared Polis has strikingly proposed “SAINT”- the Saved by American Immigrants National Taskforce – to celebrate immigrants who have saved lives.
After a delay of more than a month on March 4, Trump and Bannon “maniacally” pursue a new ban on people from 6 mainly Muslim countries. “Maniacal” is a favored word of Bannon for Trump at last month’s Conservative Political Action – CPAC – conference; Bannon himself, as he puts it, also “runs hot…”
Bannon writes down nothing. At Breitbart, Bannon rarely spoke in his own voice except as an interviewer. There, however, Bannon favorably referred several times to Jean Raspail’s loathsome Camp of the Saints, where a million “decaying,” “disease-ridden,” “wretched” Indians sail to France, and – the author wishes you to think – should be exterminated. Bannon says repeatedly that Muslim immigration is a deliberate “invasion” to destroy “Christian” civilization.
At the White House, Bannon has forbidden taking minutes for “the principals meeting” on national security. He and Jared Kushner have created a new center of power, the Strategic Initiatives Group – including anti-Muslim crusader Sebastian Gorka – to sway Trump directly. It, too, keeps no written records. Beyond his own jittery instability, Trump is more shrouded by a cocoon of misinformation – “alternative facts” – spun by a single powerful advisor than any previous President.
There is, however, a single, revealing 45 minute speech/answers to questions over the telephone given by Bannon to the Vatican Institute for Human Dignity’s 2014 conference. The group was founded by Benjamin Harnwell, to promote a “Christian voice” – an anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim voice – in European politics. This talk was recorded haphazardly but posted on Buzzfeed.
To the Institute, Bannon leaves out American invasions of the Middle East and torture at Abu Ghraib. He omits the Israeli state’s illegal occupation/brutalization of Palestinians, and American weapons’ “aid” to Israel of at least $3 billion a year. He forgets Western colonialism. Instead, echoing Sebastian Gorka who since 2014 has been “National Security advisor” at Breitbart and now, in the White House, Bannon conjures enmity with a seemingly vastly powerful, “metastasizing” ISIL caliphate as the onset of a new World War.
Bannon warns that “Islamic acts of terror” in Europe and America will “make the streets run with blood.” He urges his Catholics listeners first to place themselves at the time of the Medieval Crusades, and then to ask, thinking 500 years ahead of today, what did I do? Where did I stand?
Bannon imagines himself and asks each man in the audience to imagine himself as a Medieval Crusader Knight. Invoking Teutonic and other Knights was a favored trope of Heinrich Himmler, leader of Hitler’s SS, as well as of today’s American Nazis and Klan, rightists in Europe, and even Russia’s “Christian” invaders in the Ukraine. Bannon twice incites his audience to World War III:
“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.”
“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.”
“If you look at what’s happening in ISIS, which is the Islamic State of Syria and the Levant, that is now currently forming the caliphate that is having a military drive on Baghdad, if you look at the sophistication of which they’ve taken the tools of capitalism. If you look at what they’ve done with Twitter and Facebook and modern ways to fundraise, and to use crowdsourcing to fund, besides all the access to weapons, over the last couple days they have had a radical program of taking kids and trying to turn them into bombers. They have driven 50,000 Christians out of a town near the Kurdish border. We have video that we’re putting up later today on Breitbart [supplied by Gorka] where they’ve took 50 hostages and thrown them off a cliff in Iraq.”
“That war is expanding and it’s metastasizing to sub-Saharan Africa. We have Boko Haram and other groups that will eventually partner with ISIS in this global war, and it is, unfortunately, something that we’re going to have to face, and we’re going to have to face very quickly.”
“Metastasizing” – Bannon reiterates this word for cancer to terrify his audience. He makes what is currently a rag-tag regime, without capacity to do major harm to Europe or America, into an unfathomable danger. Nazi propaganda films like “Jud Suess – Dirty Jew” (1940), similarly, depict Jews as loathsome “infestations” of insects.
Imagining himself a Medieval Knight, Bannon perorates:
“I believe you should take a very, very, very aggressive stance against radical Islam. And I realize there are other aspects that are not as militant and not as aggressive and that’s fine.
If you look back at the long history of the Judeo-Christian West struggle against Islam, I believe that our forefathers kept their stance, and I think they did the right thing. I think they kept it out of the world, whether it was at Vienna, or Tours, or other places… It bequeathed to us the great institution that is the church of the West.”
The Crusades against Greek Orthodox Christians or slaughters of Jews, also unmentioned in Bannon’s “flower of civilization” – not so much…
Note that the Knights who fought at these Crusades, particularly at Tours, are widely celebrated on the American Right – see, for example, “When Christianity fought back” Feb 5, 2010 NewAmerican (John Birch Society). https://www.thenewamerican.com/culture/history/item/4698-the-crusades-when-christendom-push
More importantly, Heinrich Himmler, head of the SS, imagined his officers as Arthurian Catholic knights in quest of the Holy Grail (he also, like Hitler, loved Wagner’s Parsifal). Himmler’s Wewelsburg castle was a center of SS education for every officer on prehistory, mythology and archaeology, an arcane, Christian and pre-Christian paradigm. This attracted the Italian fascist Julius Evola, and the current Russian geopolitical fascist Alexander Dugin, both mentioned by Bannon at the conclusion of his remarks.
At Trump’s inauguration, Sebastian Gorka, now a member of Bannon’s Strategic Initatives Group and public spokesman for Trump, wore Hungarian garb –a Bocskai from World War II – including a medal of the Vitezi Rend: a medieval order of “Valiant Knights.”
Gorka knows no Arabic. He has never set foot in a mainly Moslem country. Gorka has not spoken with diverse Imams even in the United States. Instead, Gorka’s knowledge of Islam was formed as a part-time instructor at American War Colleges in consultation with military officers/instructors – neither in itself a free nor a sophisticated research environment – and in consultation with his wife. Gorka’s views frighten even many of his former War College colleagues.
As a publicist for the Muslim ban on NPR (February 3rd) and hence, Bannon’s public voice, Gorka would not answer a question about whether Donald Trump thinks Islam is a religion as opposed to a “terrorist ideology.” 1.7 billion people are mistaken in their diverse ways about that. Shocked, Steve Inskeep, the interviewer, kept asking Gorka to clarify this. NPR made a second attempt on March 1, with no better luck. Gorka’s words recall the nativist bigotries against Catholics, central to the Ku Klux Klan, and Mormons which litter American history.
If Gorka and Bannon believe Islam is a religion, they could, of course, educate Trump on this. General H.R. McMaster, the new National Security Advisor, warned Trump before his February 28 address to Congress that the phrase “Radical Islamic Terrorism” would create more enemies for American soldiers. Yet to a vast audience, Trump said again, slowly, with relish: “RADICAL ISLAMIC TERRORISM.”
On March 1 on NPR, Gorka shouted that the Trump administration will not budge, now or in eternity:
“We’re not wavering on this one. [The threat] is radical Islamic terrorism, and it’s never changed, and it will not change.”
As Gorka puts his “simple plan” in his 150 page Defeating Jihad: the Winnable War, the US or “Christian West” should just go kill Muslims. Gorka allows that Jordan is a “secular” ally. But in contrast to Obama’s and even Bush’s attempt to isolate terrorists from the vast majority of Muslims, Gorka – and Bannon – want a Crusade.
This fear, too, motivates Trump’s big budgetary idea: to pump up the military by spending an additional, unspecified 10% in preparation for such a war. Trump’s proposed increase is greater than the entire military budget of the United Kingdom and 80% of Russia’s. Even without Trump’s additional $54 billion, the US spends each year nearly $1 trillion on war rather than on programs to benefit ordinary Americans.
Now, the modern Vitezi Rend, founded in 1920, was a World War I veteran’s group awarded land by Miklos Horthy, the Hungarian Regent. During World War II, Vitezi Rend played a central role in deporting 100,000 Jews from Hungary to Nazi death-camps. In return, members of the organization got Jewish property.
Paul Gorka, Sebastian’s father, came of age after World War II. With a small circle of Christian students, he joined the resistance to the Hungarian Communist regime. Paul was arrested and tortured, but freed by the Hungarian uprising of 1956. He and his future wife fled to England where Sebastian was born (see Gorka’s Prologue to Defeating Jihad). When pro-Nazi exiles revived the medal of “The Valiant,” Paul Gorka was given one. The medal celebrates Nazi collaborator “Christian” knights. Many Christians and Hungarian resisters against the Soviet Union would not touch it. At Trump’s Inauguration, Gorka wore it proudly.
Bannon and Gorka have a fantasy bond of Medieval Catholic Knighthood.
To the 2014 Vatican conference, Bannon invoked Alexander Dugin whose Foundations of Geopolitics (1997) was sponsored by General Nikolai Klokotov of the General Staff Academy. Gennadii Seleznev, chairman of the Russian State Duma, helped make Foundations required reading in every Russian school. Dugin’s aim is a self-consciously fascist, “Christian,” Russian domination in Eurasia, pursued by war or by other, “peaceful” forms of pressure. This is an idea which Putin, to a considerable extent, now sponsors:
“Unless as a continental, empire-building entity, the existence of the Russian people as an organic, historical community is inconceivable. Russians will remain as one people only in the framework of a New Empire.
This empire, according to geopolitical logic, should be a strategically and territorially superior version of the USSR. Consequently, the New Empire should be Eurasian, continental, and eventually global.
The battle for a world dominated by Russians is not over.” (Dugin, Foundations, pp. 121-22, trans. Sean Ray)
In analogy to Bannon’s Catholics, Pavel Rasta [the surname is his blog’s name, his nom de guerre] is one of a thousand Russian volunteers to fight in the Ukraine:
“Through the smoke and grime, Pavel Rasta sees a sacred city [Donetsk – not part of Putin’s goal so far] – and he’s fighting for it, Kalashnikov in hand, just like the Crusaders fought for the heart of Christendom centuries ago. He may be a financial manager – most recently working in a funeral parlour – who’s never held a gun before in his life, but he sees himself as the modern version of a medieval knight, dedicated to chivalrous ideas of Christian purity and defending the [Russian-speaking] defenceless [against American/NATO globalization in the form of the Ukrainian coup].” (Tim Whewell, “The Knights of New Russia,” BBC 4, December 18, 2016 http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-30518054)
For the United States, Bannon’s Crusading “National” resistance to “Globalism” is very close to Rasta’s vision. To the Institute for Human Dignity, Bannon says pointedly that Breitbart is far more international than Fox News:
“Look, we believe — strongly — that there is a global tea party movement. We’ve seen that. We were the first group to get in and start reporting on things like UKIP and Front National and other center right [sic – this is a euphemism]. With all the baggage that those groups bring — and trust me, a lot of them bring a lot of baggage, both ethnically and racially — but we think that will all be worked through with time.”
Bannon even praises Indian Hindu Nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi (perhaps Modi averts “Camp of the Saints” for Hindus)…As Governor of Gujerat in 2002, Modi oversaw Hindu riots killing Muslims:
“I think you’ve already seen it in India. Modi’s great victory was very much based on these Reaganesque principles, so I think this is a global revolt, and we are very fortunate and proud to be the news site that is reporting that throughout the world.”
In Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, Macedonia, Serbia, and elsewhere in Eastern Europe, leaders of illiberal democracies are also Christian, hate Muslims, bar Syrian immigrants, suppress human rights organizations, thrill at Trump’s victory, and blame “globalization” on the “Jew,” “globalist,” hedge-fund billionaire George Soros. Nikoela Gruevski of Macedonia has called for a ‘de-Sorosization of society,’ stigmatized opponents as ‘Sorosoids,’ and incited, in January, a ‘Stop Operation Soros movement.’ Poland’s Jaroslaw Kaczynski, says Soros-funded groups want ‘societies without identity’ – Steve Bannon’s words.
“You couldn’t come up with a better enemy figure today” says Jan Orlovksy of the the Slovak branch of Soros’s Open Society Institute. George Soros brings up all of the stereotypes we have lived with all our lives — about Jews, bankers and, in Slovakia, also about Hungarians.”
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Bannon, Gorka and Trump left the murder of Jews out of Holocaust Awareness Day. After the election, there were some 200 attacks on blacks, Chicanos and Arab-Americans. Two weeks later , Trump told his supporters to “stop.” There are now waves of threats – over 100 – to burn down Jewish Community Centers. Jewish grave stones are ravaged in St. Louis – Muslims raised money to restore them – Philadelphia, and Rochester.
In 2014, to the Institute, Bannon spoke of “Western Judeo-Christian capitalism” He is not simply a bigot toward Jews. He teams with Jared Kushner, an orthodox Jew, on the “Strategic Initiatives Group.” And on February 28th, Trump commendably began his speech to Congress by noting that February is Black History month, and saying that the hate crimes against Jews and the man from India murdered in Kansas City must be rejected by all Americans: “we may be a Nation divided on policies, we are a country that stands united in condemning hate and evil in all its forms.”
In July, 2016, Trump tweeted a picture of Hillary with a Star of David over piles of dollars. Trump’s last ad before the election condemned Jewish “Globalization” with pictures of Lloyd Blankfein, Goldman Sachs chair; Janet Yellin, head of the Federal Reserve and George Soros…While Bannon superficially praised early Jewish entrepeneurs to the Institute for Human Dignity, differentiating them from the classic usurers of “Globalization,” the distinction conveys pure anti-semitism.
In 2014. Bannon asserted to Catholics that the Tea Party movement at home and internationally will, over time, cure its Nazi and Klan followers of racism. But racist brutality and threats are on the rise. Bannon – the whisperer – presides over these incidents, particularly against immigrants, in Trump’s America.
And Bannon is silent.