In the ongoing, concerted campaign to paint Trump’s America as a society on the brink of 1930s-style barbarism, the appointment of Stephen Bannon – former Breitbart Media chairman and CEO of Trump’s campaign – has been a boon.
The career provocateur and self-described nationalist-populist has been made White House chief strategist, putting him on a par with chief of staff Reince Priebus. It wasn’t long before the hysterical articles followed. ‘Anti-Semite gets top Trump post’, ran a headline on the Huffington Post. ‘Steve Bannon runs an anti-Semitic website, is a misogynist and will be one of Donald Trump’s senior advisers’, said Salon. Bannon’s time steering Breitbart, says Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, saw him turn it into the ‘premier website of the “alt-right” – a loose-knit group of white nationalists and unabashed anti-Semites and racists’.
Even by the standards of the post-Trump hysteria that has gripped the pro-Hillary set, the response to Bannon’s appointment has been positively unhinged. Is Bannon an anti-Semite? Well, only if you ask his ex-wife. She claimed that he ‘didn’t like Jews’ in the midst of messy divorce proceedings. Meanwhile, the disproportionately Jewish Breitbart staff have rallied around him. Even Breitbart’s former editor-at-large, Jewish commentator Ben Shapiro (who openly loathes Bannon and left the site after it transformed, in his words, into ‘Trump’s Pravda’), has come to his defence. As for the idea that he’s a ‘white nationalist’, this, too, is a more than a little over-cooked. ‘I’m not a white nationalist, I’m a nationalist. I’m an economic nationalist’, he told the Hollywood Reporter last week.
No doubt, Bannon is a protectionist and a reactionary, and Breitbart, like Trump, often trades in a sense of white, blue-collar peril. But he has said nothing publicly to suggest he hates anyone beyond the Clintons, crony capitalists and the politically correct, ‘libtard’-dominated media. The former navy man turned Goldman Sachs trader turned media mogul is little more than a Tea Party type who loves a fight; a career opportunist who attached himself to figures like Sarah Palin, Ted Cruz and now Trump in an attempt to rise up the anti-establishment ranks and bring Breitbart’s Google ranking up with him. In the end, the case against him predominantly rests on a few salty, semi-serious Breitbart headlines – ‘Would you rather your child had feminism or cancer?’, being among the most quoted.