Behold the ascension of Stephen Bannon from a “blue-collar, Irish Catholic, pro-Kennedy, pro-union family of Democrats,” as he told Bloomberg, to the role of top advisor to Republican Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.
It’s a common enough story for a Reagan Democrat, but Bannon is uncommonly wealthy, earning his riches from Seinfeld rerun rights, the Globe and Mail reports. But now the conservative website he heads, Breitbart News, is the target of accusations of being an Alt-Right haven for anti-semitism and white nationalism, peddling paranoia about political correctness on behalf of its leader’s new boss, Trump.
Bannon replaces Paul Manafort as campaign adviser. Manafort was an old hand at turning murderous dictators into freedom fighters in the eyes of Washington policy makers. That being said, Pamela Geller, a noted Islamophobe and Birther and president of the American Freedom Defense Initiative, praised Bannon’s entrance into the campaign in heroic terms.
“I know Steve Bannon. It’s an inspired choice. Andrew Breitbart is cheering from heaven. Brilliant. Steve Bannon is a warrior. He has long understood that this is a war in the information battle-space (something the right has failed to grasp, despite the left’s smear machine against those with whom they disagree). The media is out to destroy Donald Trump. Trump needs a champion, a ‘Patton,’ a Bannon. This is fantastic news. Heads are exploding on the left,” Geller wrote in reaction to the news.
Bannon describes his own site as a “platform for the Alt-Right,” Mother Jones reports, and it now forms the third arm in an axis including Trump and his Alt-Right fans online. Mondoweiss spoke to the Alt Right in Cleveland, where they came to celebrate Trump’s nomination and the humiliation of his detractors in the Republican party, turned off by his appeals to white nationalism.
Many of those cheering Trump are unapologetic white nationalists and “racial realists,” born and raised online, for whom Manafort was never able to bring Bannon’s brand of digital juice, and appeared to be trying to force Trump into a mold friendly to the Federal Communications Commission. But Trump is a product of the Internet, where FCC niceties don’t apply.
What this revamped campaign means for Trump’s take on the middle east remains to be seen; Bannon has only held Manafort’s old position for less than a week, and in the middle of slow-news doldrums of August. But looking at Breitbart’s Israel vertical, Breitbart Jerusalem, it’s possible to get an idea of where Bannon might take Trump over the next few months. The section on the sprawling conservative site demands allegiance to Islamophobic vision of the world, a uniting theme in Trump’s campaign for months now. Geller’s enthusiastic endorsement comes as no surprise. Trump has already said that opposition to Radical Islamism would be the main criterion for whether the US considered another country an ally. In serving the election-year interests of the Trump campaign, the site has begun trying to paint Clinton as an enemy of Israel.
“If you love Israel, Trump is the only possible choice,” reads the headline for a story published Sunday by Joel Pollak. Pollak explains his reasoning.
“Trump is the first American presidential nominee to tell the Israelis that they should keep building settlements in the West Bank as long as the Palestinians refuse to abandon terror and refuse to negotiate a peace agreement. While the left reacted in horror, the proposal is the first that would restore Israel’s negotiating leverage,” Pollak writes.
“Until now, the message has been that there is no amount of murder or incitement that would cause the American patrons of the Palestinian cause to cut off the cash flow. The Donald’s proposal is a total reset, a new opening offer that will, ironically, lead to more fruitful peace negotiations in the end.”
To find out how that’s going, one could turn to Breitbart Jerusalem, which has reporters on the ground covering daily news events. They have their own original article about a shootout between Palestinian Security forces and armed fighters in Nablus, even citing a Palestinian civil servant about the mayhem. And there’s a piece about a Palestinian song extolling Palestinian resistance as a “thorn in the throat of Zionism,” citing Palestinian Media Watch.
“The singer films Arabs from the Israeli cities of Jaffa, Haifa, Lod, Ramle, Acre, Nazareth, Galilee, Beersheva, Tiberias, Safed, Beit Shean, and Jerusalem but does not distinguish between those filmed in Palestinian cities such as Jenin,” the article states, published under the byline “Breitbart Jerusalem.”
While plucky, there are some signs that Breitbart Jerusalem is missing a few details. On the main photo for this article, however, Breitbart Jerusalem shows a woman holding a sign in Farsi reading “Death for Israel” (Marj bar Israel) Protip: Not many Palestinians speak Farsi. So there’s a learning curve, clearly.
There are also other articles that highlight spiraling chaos and inhumane acts across the middle east, even if they don’t have any relevance to politics, but appear to feed an audience craving more news linking Arabs to violence. Compare the headlines: “Cairo Man Accused Of Pushing Wife Off Building For Failing To Do Laundry” and “Seinfeld Star Touches Down in Israel.” That star is Wayne Knight. Newman.
“The Holy Land seems to be loved by all the stars of Seinfeld, which broadcast 9 series and came to an end in 1998,” Breitbart Jerusalem, the author, adds.
Newman . . .
What does the Alt-Right itself make of all this? Richard Spencer, head of Alt-Right think tank National Policy Institute, founded in Montana but now based in Northern Virginia, also sees Clinton as being an ally to Zionists. There’s a catch, however.
Spencer told Mondoweiss in an email that he believes that Trump, for his part, will likely maintain the “status quo” in Israel. Indeed, Spencer himself advocates for something akin to the Democratic party’s platform on Israel/Palestine, where a two state solution, retro as it sounds amid walls and drone surveillance and expanding settlements, makes the most sense. Carving out new nation states, exclusively for one identity or another, presumably in the name of peace among worlds, syncs up well with the “separate but equal” philosophy behind the Two State Solution. In Spencer’s opinion, a “line in the sand” is the only way for Israel to guarantee its security. The Two State solution was an Alt-Right idea, relying on nationalism as a solution to inter-ethnic clashes, long before there was a #AltRight.
“Trump has the personality of a realist. He recognizes the power that Israel and the organized Jewish community possess worldwide; I doubt he would challenge that in a serious way,” he said. “If I were an Israeli, I would advocate drawing a line in the sand and reaching a peaceful separation, which would probably involve two separate sovereign states. Jews and Palestinians are not better together; they are better apart. Together, they live in a situation of domination and subjection; apart, they could live peacefully.”
Democrats, and Republicans, with their fixation on the Two State Solution, have already set the stage for what Bannon and his cadre are selling. Spencer called Breitbart “Alt-Right Lite,” since many of its writers come from the conservative movement itself. But instead of a dilution, he sees it as a union of his movement’s ideas with the realities of now mainstream populist politics in 2016.
“I would make a distinction between the Alt Right (the movement with which I’m associated, and which is connected to nationalism, identitarianism, race-realism, etc.) and what could be called “Alt-Right Lite” (Breitbreit etc.). Alt Right Lite is not really a watering down of the Alt-Right so much as it represents a convergence. Bannon and Breitbart.com are not coming from the same place that I am; they’ve probably never heard of the term ‘identitarian’ nor read a word of the French New Right nor thought about the reality of race or critiques of Zionism too seriously.
“Their background in conservatism leads them to have some conventional Republican opinions on the Israel question. Their populist streak leads them to converge with the Alt-Right on issues like immigration and even race. The anti-White animus in political institutions, media, academia, and culture is so obvious that a populist could not help but notice it–and fight against it,” he added.
And what does this melding of Bannon’s site and Trump mean for the future?
“So Breitbart and the Alt-Right are coming together. A very interesting development. I expect in the near future, Alt-Right intellectuals will begin directly influencing populists on foreign-policy and other crucial questions.