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VIEWS Understanding Steve Bannon: Dick Cheney. Darth Vader. Satan.
Open To Thinking, A recurring column
by Nick Patricca
2017-03-01

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Although I am well-trained in the art and science of hermeneutics ( divining the meaning of texts or the utterances of gods ) and have successfully tackled many obscure but interesting clumps of words, I am stymied by Bannon-speak: "Darkness is good. Dick Cheney. Darth Vader. Satan. That's power. It only helps us when they get it wrong. When they're blind to who we are and what we're doing." ( Interview with Michael Wolff, The Hollywood Reporter, Nov. 18, 2016. )

Wolff interprets the 'they' in this Bannon utterance to mean 'liberals.' To me, this identification suggests that Bannon is saying that 'liberals' don't seem to understand the nature of power: how to get it, how to keep it, how to use it. And, that he—Bannon—does. With hindsight, it does seem to be an open question as to whether the Democrats squandered the first two years of the Obama presidency when they had power: popular mandate for change and control of both houses of congress. And, to give 'the Dark One' his due, as Trump's chief campaign strategist, Bannon did help get Trump elected president.

As chief strategist and senior counselor to President Trump, Steve Bannon is arguably the most influential member of the White House team. So: What is the Bannon Agenda?

"I'm 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." ( Interview with Ronald Radosh, Daily Beast, Aug. 22, 2016. ) Are these the utterances of an 'enfant terrible,' an 'idiot savant,' an 'agent provocateur,' or of an adroit practitioner of rhetorical guerrilla political theater? Is it possible that Harvard-trained Steve Bannon does not know that Lenin's 'Bolshevik dictatorship of the proletariat' created the most efficient killer totalitarian state ever inflicted upon the human race?!

Before joining the Trump team, Stephen 'Steve' Bannon was an executive with Breitbart News which Bannon himself described as a platform for the 'alt-right.' I assume 'alt-right' means alternative right-wing politics at odds with the neo-cons, the establishment Republican Party, and such traditional conservatives as George Will and William Kristol of the National Review—all part of the political structures Bannon wants to destroy.

For me, Bannon's Skype address in summer of 2014 to a conference held in Vatican City by the conservative Catholic Institute for Human Dignity most clearly presents the Bannon agenda. ( You can read Bannon's entire address at BuzzFeed courtesy of J. Lester Feder updated Nov. 16, 2016. )

In this address, Bannon articulates his nationalist, populist manifesto which:

— champions 'true' capitalism against the crony capitalism of the current power/money elite of the U.S., against the kleptocracy capitalism of Russia, against the totalitarian state capitalism of China, and against the DAVOS capitalism of the global elite;

— urges war against jihadist Islamic fascism;

— argues for a class-based, populist 'insurrection' of the ruined and about-to-be ruined middle classes of the U.S. and Europe against the globalist power elite;

— calls for a recommitment to the Judaeo-Christian values that made the West great and are now being destroyed by corrupted capitalism, uncontrolled immigration and totalitarian, theocratic Islam.

Some of the economic and social concerns of this manifesto deserve appropriate discussion. Michael Novak, the conservative Catholic political thinker who recently died, has written in-depth on several of these key matters. Novak proposed practicable remedies in keeping with the core values of our civilization and Catholic tradition. Bannon seems preoccupied with the destruction of the status quo rather than with the creation of constructive alternatives.

It is also alarming that Bannon seems to be willing to tolerate racist and anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and actions among those who rally to his flag, believing that these 'aberrations' will fade away as his agenda begins to operate in the political arena.

When I asked a colleague what she thought about Bannon she quipped: "Bannon never met an issue he could not solve with a nuclear holocaust."

Bannon is smart; he's a thinker and a doer.

We need to pay attention.

© nicholas.patricca@gmail.com

Nick Patricca is professor emeritus at Loyola University Chicago, president of Chicago Network and playwright emeritus at Victory Gardens Theater.


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