One Of Us?

bannonchaos

I don’t want to write about the Trump administration. God knows I’m tired of writing about it, but every time I turn around it is doing something which defies expectation and convention. Pandemonium unleashed on the US political scene necessitates some thought regarding its architect. I had previously glossed over the importance of Steve Bannon, the former head honcho of Breitbart who generated news when he offhandedly declared his outlet a platform of the AltRight.

Obviously the press used this as a launching pad to tie Trump to the AltRight not only in the sense that he was supported by its Twitter army, but that he was actually taking counsel from one of its idealogues. This is fiction. At the time, the news media were already lumping anyone they could in with those sending online abuse to Jewish journalists, and Bannon, along with a whole host of ‘edgy conservatives & libertarians’ from Mike Cernovich to Paul Joseph Watson, glommed on to this and pushed the AltRight label as their own form of amorphous counter-culture without being fully aware of its origins.

However, Bannon is a useful boogeyman, just as Valerie Jarrett was for conservatives during the Obama administration: the shadowy figure behind the scenes onto which all kinds of sinister motives can be grafted. I was someone who frequented fringe conservative outlets like FreeRepublic in my more naïve days, and remember all the elaborate conspiracy theories surrounding Jarret’s Iranian heritage, her secret ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, how she faked the president’s birth certificate, etc. The left mocked this, but are now struck with the same paranoia about Bannon. In chasing up these conspiratorial webs of suspicious characters, the media is looking especially desperate. The Atlantic for instance has persisted in suggesting that NeoReactionary progenitor Mencius Moldbug is in contact with Bannon. So interested are they in Moldbug that they actually published his troll response to their requests for comment. In doing so, all they did was promote outlets like Social Matter and Thermidor free of charge. The evidence for ties between Moldbug and Bannon is nothing beyond an anonymous source, who is likely a troll himself. Furthermore, because Bannon mentioned Julius Evola briefly in a lecture he gave to a Vatican conference in 2014, the New York Times saw fit to Streisand the long-dead philosopher and turn him into the left’s version of Saul Alinsky, a sinister black and white ghost from ages past. No doubt the west wing is haunted by spooky voices telling visitors to ride the tiger. The New York Times article and a wave of even more poorly researched mirror-pieces have been claiming everything from Evola being an unabashed sycophant of Nazi Germany to him being behind the 1938 changes to Italian law targeting Jewish citizens. I’m preserving the image below for posterity.

lolss

There are some on the right who, while making fun of this, will actually misinterpret it themselves and imagine that Bannon truly is a fellow traveler, that he is “our guy” on the inside. This is far too simplistic and neglects any real analysis of Bannon’s worldview.

A Harvard grad and former Goldman Sachs banker, Bannon had an unexpected trajectory from admittedly amateur filmmaker to replacing Tea Party provocateur Andrew Breitbart (who died in 2012) as manager of the subversive news outlet. It is said that Bannon’s personality is much harsher than Breitbart’s was, and that he is far more well-read, devouring books in short order from Sun Tzu’s Art of War to the Bhagavad Gita. For unknown reasons he has come to genuinely loathe the establishment class, be they economic profiteers and ‘corporatists’ he knew in his former life, or the stale pie crust of GOP consultants. Most of all he has a hatred of the contemporary American left, which is why Breitbart under his leadership began to depart from the hardline ‘conservatism’ of its roots, and instead stoke the fires of nationalism, populist resentment, and Trump enthusiasm even if it cost them former employees like Ben Shapiro. Bannon knew to defeat the left, the right would have to move into the internet age with dynamism. He turned Breitbart from a shambolic candid camera outfit into a well-oiled media machine, just in time to be harnessed by the campaign of Donald Trump.

Bannon’s taste for anti-establishment destruction is nowhere made clearer than in his startling remarks about being a Leninist.

“Lenin wanted to destroy the state, and that’s my goal too. I want to bring everything crashing down, and destroy all of today’s establishment.”

This comes from no ideological affinity for Marxism on Bannon’s part, but rather an admiration for Lenin as a vehicle for upheaval. He could (if the climate permitted it) have made the same comments about Adolf Hitler for example, who swept away Weimar, or any other number of transformative leaders. Julius Caesar anyone?

bannondCan’t Cannon The Bannon

Beyond a personal drive for an anti-establishment brush fire, what schools of thought have influenced Bannon’s eclectic views?

The first is the school of contemporary European nationalist and populist movements, from UKIP to the Front National. Notably Bannon expressed desire to expand Breitbart’s operation to Italy and France in order to bolster Lega Nord and Marine Le Pen in upcoming elections. The aforementioned talk, given to Traditionalist Catholics of which he counts himself as one, was in solidarity with Cardinal Burke (now also the subject of left-wing hysteria), long regarded as the primary opposition to Pope Francis’ attempts to dampen rising right-wing backlash in Europe with new Liberal twists on pastoral care.

“I think strong countries and strong nationalist movements in countries make strong neighbors, and I think it’s what can see us forward.”

No doubt from these nationalist influences blossomed Bannon’s more sympathetic view of Russian geopolitics and indeed internal politics. While denouncing Russia as a kleptocracy (which is not a completely unfair accusation), he stated:

“At least Putin is standing up for traditional institutions and he’s trying to do it in a form of nationalism,”

Also mixed in is the worldview of often fringe retired generals (Boykin et al.) who have seized upon the neoconservative construction of ‘Judeo-Christianity’ and taken it further into the realm of Counter-Jihadism. Frank Gaffney, a friend of Bannon’s, is one of the key American proponents of the Counter-Jihad movement. As others have noted, a ‘clash of civilizations’ narrative is quite central to Bannonist rhetoric surrounding Islam, influenced heavily by Strauss’ prophecy-laden book The Fourth Turning. Obviously European nationalist populism and Counter-Jihad thinking are already bedmates, so this isn’t surprising, and it explains Bannon’s recent maneuver to put himself onto the National Security Council.

huhha sign of status, supposedly Bannon is exempt from
Trump’s fastidious dress code requirements

How is Julius Evola involved with this? Well, if you read carefully, Bannon never stated he was influenced by Evola.

“When you really look at some of the underpinnings of some of his [Vladimir Putin’s] beliefs today, a lot of those come from what I call Eurasianism; he’s got an adviser who harkens back to Julius Evola and different writers of the early 20th century who are really the supporters of what’s called the traditionalist movement, which really eventually metastasized into Italian fascism. A lot of people that are traditionalists are attracted to that.”

He is quite obviously referencing Aleksandr Dugin here, and true to life, Dugin is influenced by Evola. In fact, he was one of the first to translate Evola into Russian. But that doesn’t mean Bannon has Evola as an influence or that he really knows what Reactionary and Traditionalist thinking is. We have nothing to suggest he has even read any of the Italian philosopher’s books. In fact, I would hazard a guess based upon some glaring errors even in this short paragraph that he has not and only maintains a very cursory knowledge of Traditionalism in terms of the role it played during the interwar period. More than likely he heard the name, and after a quick speed-read of some articles came to the conclusion that the thinking of Dugin and Evola is amenable to his own worldview in some way.

Because this is so tenuous, it is best not to dwell upon these connections. The media can, but this will only make them look crazy. They’ve clearly failed to learn from Hillary Clinton’s AltRight speech which backfired spectacularly.

What should we think about Bannon? He is most certainly a useful person to have in the White House. Short-term, his goals are very similar to our own. He wants to utterly discredit and destroy the establishment, and as a model for how alternative news can work, Breitbart is a good case study. But Bannon, much like the broad and amorphous AltRight, memetics, etc. is but a chaos vector. His constructive prescriptions are weak or vague at best, because he isn’t really interested in theory and is much more at home in the minefields of contemporary political warfare.

Steve Bannon, in his surprisingly senior position as chief strategist and attendee to the National Security Council, is an exogenous asset. He may help us achieve long-term goals for as long as we offer help with his short-term goals (largely the continuing infowar against Liberalism), but to be clear we do not control him, influence him, or have any kind of formal relation, be that untraceable late night phone calls from Moldbug or Oval Office séances with the maestro himself.

189328329382498*cue Lion King music*
He lives in you!

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20 thoughts on “One Of Us?

  1. If the news about Bannon were true, well, it would be too good to be true! Someone in these parts said something like It would be great if all the things leftists actually say about Trump were true.
    But what’s bothering me, more and more, recently is what do you do in case you do get the restoration? Either reaction would turn on itself, or it wouldn’t be restoration at all given the inherent liberalism of modern reaction.

    Why do I say that? Well let me explain.

    In recent post, Warg Franklin asked two important questions

    1. Whether reorganization of society as an explicit political and social unit with overall purpose, rather than for example a loose association of materially self-interested individuals, is a good thing. Certainly there are many in our modern semi-liberal societies who profit from greed, exploitation, and parasitism of various kinds, who would be greatly inconvenienced by a resurgent political holism.

    2. Whether we agree with the purposes the state might set for society, what those purposes might be, what they ought to be, and how we might construct a state that systematically cares about the right things.

    which, as a matter of fact, boils down to one question:

    Should liberalism be rejected?

    To a reactionary answer should be obvious, clear, and resounding Yes! But there is a problem here. In answering this question already weak and loose reactionary alliance would necessarily fracture.

    There is but one real definition of liberalism and that is Liberalism iss religious toleration. Everything else is nothing but artifacts. Liberalism was born as a solution to the wars of Deformation. Sure enough, cure has proven worse than the disease, but when one really thinks about it, it is pretty obvious — there’s no such thing as universally defined liberty, one man’s liberty is another’s slavery. Liberty isn’t an end unto itself, it is means, it is being able to attain one’s vision of good. Thus a Christian slave that is able to pursue his salvation is equally in possession of liberty as a modern degenerate that pursues his degeneracy.

    Among today’s reactionaries there are Catholics, Orthodox, Protestants, …, even neo-pagans, and atheists. Now, I would like to point out a well-known fact here, that John Locke himself thought that atheists should be put to death. On the other hand, modern reactionaries of different creeds cooperate and plan restoration despite the fact that any real restoration would entail putting heretics (ones that refuse conversion to state religion) to death. So what multi-confessional reactionary alliance would be restoring is, in fact, simply a more robust, straightened out versions of Enlightened Absolutism and Classical Liberalism. Which is fine, as far as it goes, but then it is a bit hypocritical to signal anti-Enlightenment and anti-liberalism. Reactionaries of different creeds that were actually reactionary, instead of merely being liberal minus the structural insecurities of liberalism, would be at each others throats, not cooperating (So why do they call themselves reactionaries? I know, I know, ‘reactionary’ sounds waaaay cooler than ‘liberal minus the structural insecurities’). Ask yourself, how would Thomas Aquinas react to one of those Christian hangouts? It would probably involve calls to repentance and threats of stake, and of torture chambers. How do you overcome this inherent liberalism of modern reaction without jumping at each other’s throats?

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    • I think you have a few misconceptions here.

      Liberalism cannot really be classed as ‘religious toleration’, for two obvious reasons. The first is that liberalism is an incredibly intolerant religion itself and will not abide any other religion failing to pay tribute to the gods of the polis (see Christians bakers, florists, etc.) The second is that throughout Traditional history you do have religious toleration, scattered and in a much different form than the one it takes today, but present. Empires typically have to practice religious toleration because their territorial acquisitions tend not to work as effectively otherwise. The Russian Empire would not have been smart to put great effort into forcing the conversion of conquered peoples.

      In your last paragraph I’m not sure what you are proposing. The Reactosphere (at surface level at least) is a school of political theory and not a party. Co-operation between those of different confessions, even non-Christian ones, is productive in this case. And also, is it not regional? Only Richard Spencer dreams of a white superstate. My designs rather openly are in sympathy with the Russian plight, and are thus Orthodox.

      Now, you say that Reactionaries of different religious viewpoints would be at each other’s throats in a former time. This is true in some instances before Liberalism’s emergence, but tell me, did Tsarist Russia not ally itself to Roman Catholic Austria and Prussia in the Holy Alliance to try and stop the spread of the French Revolution? The implication of what you have written is that states of different religious persuasion have always been in conflict, which is historically false. Also, we live in a very different era to that of Aquinas and are facing different problems (more grave ones in fact). Again, I’m not sure what you are proposing.

      Liked by 2 people

      • >The first is that liberalism is an incredibly intolerant religion itself and will not abide any other religion

        Well, it’s the “we don’t tolerate intolerance” paradox. Which, of course points to the important fact that people with different worldviews/religions cannot coexist peacefully inside the same polity (one man’s liberty is another’s slavery, one man’s good is another’s evil), which is the fundamental error of liberalism.

        >you do have religious toleration

        Only as an exception that confirms the rule.

        >The Russian Empire

        The Russian Empire was that exception that confirms the rule. Not even the Habsburg empire had policy of religious toleration until the Jacobin-emperor Joseph II.

        >Only Richard Spencer dreams of a white superstate.

        On the other hand this is not much better idea: http://www.socialmatter.net/2017/01/23/crash-course-reactionary-geopolitics/

        >but tell me, did Tsarist Russia not ally itself to Roman Catholic Austria and Prussia in the Holy Alliance to try and stop the spread of the French Revolution?

        But isn’t this already the post-Enlightenment period, when Enlightened Absolutists faced onslaught from post-Enlightenment Republicans?

        >The implication of what you have written is that states of different religious persuasion have always been in conflict, which is historically false.

        Well, there were Crusades against the Orthodox, and forced Unions… and that’s between the Catholics and the Orthodox, and of course, you couldn’t be Orthodox (or Protestant) in ye olde Catholic monarchy, do you think you could’ve been a Zoroastrian? Historically, they’ve been in conflict where they were in contact. Where they were not in contact there was no possibility of conflict.

        > Also, we live in a very different era to that of Aquinas and are facing different problems (more grave ones in fact).

        True, all true. But I reckon that if one wants to capture the worldview, the mindset of a Medieval person, one would have to find cooperation with heretics intolerable.

        >Again, I’m not sure what you are proposing.

        I am proposing nothing, I am merely pointing out my doubt that it is possible to actually denounce liberalism in this day and age, without being seen, even by reactionaries, as someone completely and irreversibly deranged. Can you imagine going onto “Christian hangout” and telling everyone that they’re going to hell, that, hopefully, one day tzar Putin will skin their filthy heretical hides, that is, unless they repent? For example, differences between, Orthodox, Nestorians, and Monophysites are minuscule to nonexistent (it boils down to using different words for things), and yet, historically the Orthodox, the Nestorians, and the Monophysites found it necessary to mercilessly eradicate each other.

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        • I have maintained that societies are harmed by diversity. States are not necessarily, because they may contain within them distinct homogenous societies, which is why I bring up the Russian example. Obviously if you refer to ’empires’ so-called which were largely ethnically homogenous, these will tend to be more religiously homogenous, but when an empire encompasses many different ethnicities in conquered lands, the calculation is different.

          I consider the Holy Alliance to be a Traditional expression within the Modern period, in the same way that various Interwar movements were. Not perfect, but still representative of a Traditional vitality. It was to reverse the Revolution, which is of course the overarching goal.
          If religous individuals are completely incapable of working together on a common goal, especially in a globalized world, then it’s unclear why you are in the Reactosphere. Surely this is, from the start, a failed project, no? It is pretty much hopeless in this view, and in fact most online-based activities are rendered utterly pointless.

          I’m focused on the greatest heresy, that of Liberalism. I’m willing to look past other things in order to achieve the goal of weakening and ultimately destroying it, rather than focusing on the rather implausible goal of purging all difference from the world and getting everybody to agree with me, making everyone pure. This might be a project you are interested in, but I don’t see it as having any potential at succeeding. Sick men plan recovery, not world domination.

          ‘Tsar Putin’ as you have crowned him would never skin anyone, especially not for religion. In old Imperial Russia, you could be punished for apostasy (by having your assets seized, which happened to a relative when he became Lutheran), but not simply for being born into another religion. I don’t think my views depart immensely in the department of state behavior from thinkers like Guenon, who despite becoming a Muslim, never wanted to purge all heretics like a 20th century Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi.

          Your final point is well-received because in light of Modernity, I do think these squabbles are petty. We’re slapping each other as the Titanic sinks. Such zealous quarrels might have made sense back then, but they don’t anymore.

          Liked by 2 people

          • Warg’s questions concern the state, and that is what got me thinking along this path. I mean what purpose can there be for a reactionary society but salvation? For Italian fascists it would be civic nationalism, for German nazis it would be genetic nationalism, but for a reactionary rejection of liberalism would surely be for the sake of religion. But then, necessarily the aforementioned conflict arises. So you see my dilemma – in the hypothetical Restoration scenario the actual choice is between, Classical Liberalism v2.0, and Thirty Years’ War v2.0 none of which seems desirable.

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            • There is a definite religious component, what Codreanu termed “the resurrection of the nation”. I guess I don’t see the dilema here. Consider the following: Romania and Hungary historically are of different confessions. Yet both could return to a Traditional state. Would this return necessitate war? I’m aware of the controversy surrounding some of the Carpathian regions, but aside from that, I don’t see why war is necessary. It is surely possible, but then I don’t think that is something to be feared, for this is how it has always been. What I’m saying is, war is more related to the very nature of man than it is to religion (hence why so few historical wars have been caused by religion. 12% if I remember correctly).

              It would be rather odd if a Hungarian so arrogantly proposed that Romanian Reactionaries should convert. He has no authority in Romania, no sovereignty. As I alluded to, Modernity should be dealt with first, then one can on the basis of whatever state he is in, make calculations as to what peace is possible with neighbors.

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        • It is preferable that everyone subscribe to the state religion, but when politics, war, or conquest resulted in one monarch reigning over a variety of religions, they generally found it unnecessary and unwise to convert everyone at swordpoint. Dubai today has the classic medieval arrangement. Everyone in the government subscribes to the Kings religion. Most other religions are semi tolerated, but have substantially lower status. Some belief systems – particularly those that deny the legitimacy of the King and his religion, get the fire and steel treatment, but Christians are OK.

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          • >It is preferable that everyone subscribe to the state religion, but when politics, war, or conquest resulted in one monarch reigning over a variety of religions, they generally found it unnecessary and unwise to convert everyone at swordpoint.

            Yeah, but he can still skew the gradient, the changes of religious affiliation in his realm, in official religion’s favor. If all other religions loose 1% of their faithful annually to conversion to official religion, it’ll still make sure everyone belongs to the state religion in the long run.

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  2. Not all religious tolerance amounts to Liberalism. Liberalism=religious tolerance premised on the materialist precept that legal obedience is the end for which Man was made, that all religion is equally meaningless nonsense, and therefore a “private” matter too trivial for the State to be bothered with. This is very different from making certain allowances to national minorities on a case-by-case basis as required to hold the State together, and no more.

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    • Yeah, I don’t know where Rothblatt is getting this “liberalism is and only is religious toleration”. Liberalism is and only is non-sectarian state is much closer to the truth. And that’s nearly the very opposite of religious toleration, since toleration only makes sense in the context of an Official State Religion. Toleration is not religious indifferentism, which is an informal (and thus quite boundlessly toxic) type of state “religion”.

      Liked by 2 people

      • >Liberalism is and only is non-sectarian state is much closer to the truth

        Which is the state of affairs that arises from religious toleration! Jacobins operated from a Dominican convent for crying out a loud. Under a healthy state of affairs Jacobins would’ve been dead, and convent would’ve actually been a convent, and not a club for frustrated malcontents.

        >type of state “religion”

        Of course it is, even if it doesn’t present itself so. But we all know that progressives are profoundly religious, don’t we? The thing is, modern lukewarm Christians could learn a thing, or two, from them, or say Muhammadans. Religious is the question of utmost importance, of life and death, of truth and meaning, intolerance and fanaticism are not to be expected, they are to be demanded from adherents. If Medievals thought this question warranted that kind of importance, aren’t then reactionaries supposed to too?

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    • Was there any Western country that practiced religious tolerance during the Middle Ages? If religious tolerance is not the core, heart and soul of liberalism, then we should be able to see much tolerance, but there was none (sure, they didn’t eradicate the Jews, but not eradicating one small group is not exactly the same thing as tolerance). From the emperor Saint Theodosius the Great when Christians first took power, onward, there was no tolerance until Enlightenment.

      Aquinas: “On their own side there is the sin, whereby they deserve not only to be separated from the Church by excommunication, but also to be severed from the world by death. For it is a much graver matter to corrupt the faith which quickens the soul, than to forge money, which supports temporal life. Wherefore if forgers of money and other evil-doers are forthwith condemned to death by the secular authority, much more reason is there for heretics, as soon as they are convicted of heresy, to be not only excommunicated but even put to death.”

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      • @Michael Rothblatt: On the other hand, Aquinas had the luxury of writing from a time a place where it could be taken for granted that the temporal power’s chief function was to defend the Faith. He would not have even able to imagine that one day the secular power would make a serious and sustained effort to eradicate every vestige of religion, which is what is happening right now. I don’t think seeking out strategic allies in this struggle to exist qualifies as Liberalism.

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        • >I don’t think seeking out strategic allies in this struggle to exist qualifies as Liberalism.

          As I’ve already said, one of my quibbles is about what happens in a hypothetical scenario where struggle to exist is won. What then? Second, and more important one is the psychological effects of toleration. Toleration begets “bourgeois sentimentality” which begets indifferentism:
          So what if he’s a heretic when he’s a good man. (replace ‘he’s a good man’ with ‘shares my political views’ to get the modern, right-wing, version)
          which soon leads to:
          So what if he’s a little queer, he’s a great scientist.
          and ends with:
          Don’t judge you bigot! Who are you to judge?!?

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          • Evidently this is a slipper slope argument, which is fine, but I tend to think they require more grounding. Maistre worked as a diplomat from the Kingdom of Piedmont Sardinia to Russia where he became highly influential in convincing Russia not to adopt Enlightenment reforms. He never wavered in his Roman Catholic faith whatsoever during this time, and in fact seeing what he viewed as the poor state of the Russian priesthood, it actually strengthened his own feelings about Papal supremacy… and yet he continued to remain a staunch advocate for the absolutist Tsarist government in Russia against would-be insurgencies. His illiberal attitudes were in no way diminished by his reportedly very friendly relationships with members of the Russian court including the Tsar himself.

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            • Don’t you think it rather strange that he referred to God in the fashion of Enlightenment Deists by “Supreme Being”? Considering the fact that de Maistre was a member of the Freemasons (and supporter of the conceptual stages of the revolution), there is some reason to believe that his support for religion in general, and the papacy in particular was more pragmatic and less pious in nature.

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            • This is probably unfair. Even Evola (who despised Freemasonry) stated in his short review of the St. Petersburg Dialogues that the Masons of this era were of a different sort. Guenon was also a Mason in his earlier years.

              Isiah Berlin’s take may be that Maistre was not a pious Catholic, but I don’t see a solid case for this simply based on some word choice and the fact that his arguments were not always framed in explicitly Catholic terms. In fact, I have not read anyone outside of Berlin who doubts Maistre was a sincere Catholic, even his critics.

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  3. Pingback: The Very Best of Last Week in Reaction (2017/02/12) – The Reactivity Place

  4. I’m going to sidestep the main discussion here to be irreverent.

    This post cries out for the existence of a novella titled something like “Evola’s Ghost,” which is a Conan-esque dark fantasy where the priests and mages who some small cabal in the government commune via dark magic with the weirdly-preserved intelligence of great political thaumaturges past, such as de Jouvenal, Metternich, and for the particularly insidious, Evola.

    Only, at the end, plot twist! our Conan figures out these are the good guys.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. If he’s as widely read as what is said about him, and has a distaste for the current establishment, he probably can’t be a negative for Christianity, traditionalism, identitarianism, or anything heading towards health. I was unaware of his old establishment banking and education background, thanks for the info.

    Liked by 1 person

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