Didn’t this guy drop heaps of praise on Breitbart to try to woo them during the eight seconds he was White House communications director?
— Charlie Spiering (@charliespiering) September 22, 2017
Right, the comms director sometimes has to butter up outlets that he doesn’t necessarily respect but you won’t see Hope Hicks doing any interviews with outlets she regards as having “white nationalist tendencies.” I think?
The best short analysis of Bannon’s “tendencies” that I’ve read was this one by Ben Shapiro last November. Shapiro had a falling out with him last year before leaving Breitbart and has criticized him harshly ever since but he’s always maintained that he never heard Bannon say anything bigoted. In fairness to Scaramucci, he doesn’t say so either. His read on Bannon is similar to Shapiro’s, that his “tendencies” are more a matter of what he’ll tolerate in the name of advancing economic nationalism than what he personally espouses.
I have no evidence that Bannon’s a racist or that he’s an anti-Semite; the Huffington Post’s blaring headline “WHITE NATIONALIST IN THE WHITE HOUSE” is overstated, at the very least. With that said, as I wrote at The Washington Post in August, Bannon has openly embraced the racist and anti-Semitic alt-right – he called his Breitbart “the platform of the alt-right.” Milo Yiannopoulos, the star writer at the site, is an alt-right popularizer, even as he continuously declares with a wink that he’s not a member. The left’s opposition to Trump, and their attempts to declare all Trump support the alt-right have obfuscated what the movement is. The movement isn’t all Trump supporters. It’s not conservatives unsatisfied with Paul Ryan, nor is it people angry at the media. Bannon knows that. He’s a smart man, not an ignorant one. The alt-right, in a nutshell, believes that Western culture is inseparable from European ethnicity. I have no evidence Bannon believes that personally. But he’s happy to pander to those people and make common cause with them in order to transform conservatism into European far-right nationalist populism. That means that the alt-right will cheer Bannon along as he marbles Trump’s speeches with talk of “globalism” – and that Bannon won’t be pushing Trump to dump the racists and anti-Semites who support Trump anytime soon. After all, they love Bannon – actual white supremacists like Peter Brimelow called his August appointment “great news,” and Richard Spencer explained, “Breitbart has elective affinities with the Alt Right, and the Alt Right has clearly influenced Breitbart. In this way, Breitbart has acted as a ‘gateway’ to Alt Right ideas and writers. I don’t think it has done this deliberately; again, it’s a matter of elective affinities.”
Bannon’s reaction to Charlottesville was a nice example of the sort of line he walks. He told the American Prospect afterward that white nationalists, a “collection of clowns,” had to be “crushed,” full stop: “Ethno-nationalism—it’s losers. It’s a fringe element. I think the media plays it up too much, and we gotta help crush it, you know, uh, help crush it more.” But he reportedly loved Trump’s press conference about it, exulting that he’d stuck it to the “globalists” and sided with “his people.” According to Axios, “Bannon has unapologetically supported Trump’s instinct to apportion blame to ‘both sides.'” So did white nationalist figures like Richard Spencer, seeing Trump’s equivocation as encouragement. What does all of that add up to? “White nationalist tendencies” goes too far. “Alignment”?
If you’re sitting there thinking it’s really weird that Scaramucci would want to work in an office whose chief strategist he regards as having “white nationalist tendencies,” yeah, it’s pretty weird. But the allure of power can make a man very forgiving. In lieu of an exit question, read this dishy Daily Mail piece about the mysterious resignation of Jedediah Bila from “The View” earlier this week. The going theory all week has been that she was attacked by producers for being too hard on Hillary Clinton during her appearance last week. If you believe the Mail, it was because Bila wasn’t hard enough on her, neglecting to quiz her about Emailgate despite complaining about it on-air all last year. Supposedly she also tested poorly with the audience, leading producers to jump at the chance to sign Meghan McCain after she left Fox News. “The network’s reasoning for wanting to ditch Bila was because even though she played the role of the conservative on the show, she isn’t an actual Republican,” said the Mail. So they hired … a Republican who isn’t an actual conservative instead? Huh.