The Big End-of-Days Ideas of the Breitbart Intellectuals Thinking for Trump
Trump’s chief policy adviser is staffing the administration with other key players who share his end-of-days, clash-of-civilizations perspective.
Not long ago, Steve Bannon’s Capitol Hill townhouse had a plaque next to the front door proclaiming it “The Breitbart Embassy.” A similar sign may as well be placed at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, renaming the White House “The Breitbart House,” one dedicated to bringing down the old power structure, including the Republican and Democratic establishments, and destroying the power of the international so-called Davos elites.
The Breitbart House is apocalyptic. It aims to bring down the powers that be, and to replace them with a new world order. That’s a big task. Privately, reporters are saying that those Republicans they talk to on the Hill are worried about President Trump, but fear going after him because it might lose their constituents’ support.
In audio recordings of his Sirius/XM radio program from 2015 and 2016, USA Today reported, Bannon “told his listeners that the United States and the Western world are engaged in a ‘global existential war,’ and he entertained claims that a ‘fifth column’ of Islamist sympathizers had infiltrated the U.S. government and news media.” Among other predictions, he said America and China would go to war in five to 10 years in the South China Sea. Both an “expansionist Islam” and an “expansionist China,” he argued, were “on the march… And they think the Judeo-Christian West is on the retreat.” Islam itself, he said is “darker” than either Nazi Germany or Stalinist Russia ever was.
Anyone who has taken the time to watch Bannon’s 2010 Generation Zero documentary will understand how he sees the world. The film’s predominant theme is that the Judeo-Christian West is under attack by the Islamic world. The latter will win unless the West wakes up and counters it. In America, this can be done by drawing on more traditional eras, like the 1950s, when there was an agreement on basic morality deriving from the strength of organized religion in a church-going nation. In a script for a film he never made, on Islam’s takeover of the United States, Bannon asserts that our present situation is the result of the “appeasement” of Islam practiced by “enablers” from the universities, “the Jewish community,” and the media that is “facilitating” their victory.
As for immigration, Bannon believes that all Muslim immigrants to the United States are “not Jeffersonian democrats,” and that at least half of them “believe in being Sharia-compliant.” Since he seems to believe that anyone who practices Islam necessarily believes in Sharia, he thinks Muslims cannot be allowed to come to the United States or gain citizenship. Moreover, according to Bannon, 5 to 10 percent of Muslims believe in radical jihad, which means that hundreds of thousands of jihadists will be coming into the United States. Should that happen, the country will be doomed, he thinks.
Crucially, this is not just the view of one powerful Trump adviser. Bannon has appointed people who generally share the type of analysis one finds on Breitbart.com to major White House positions. They include:
Sebastian Gorka, deputy assistant to the president: Previously the defense and security columnist for Breitbart, Gorka worked in Hungary’s Defense Ministry for five years, where he was involved in issues pertaining to international security. A scholar with a Ph.D. in politics from a university in Budapest, Gorka is most known as a hardline opponent of the Iranian government, as well as a strong critic of radical Islam. His views were expressed in his recent book, Defeating Jihad: The Winnable War. (A synthesis of the book can be found here.) He sees the likelihood of a Paris-style attack coming soon to the United States, carried out by sleeper cells of jihadists already in the United States. Bannon called Gorka “one of the world’s leading experts in asymmetric warfare.” Going on the major news programs, Gorka argued (and I personally agree with him on this) that both the Bush 43 and Obama administrations did not deal with the religious roots of Islamist ideology, saying only that Islam is a “religion of peace.” As for Iran, he told Sean Hannity that the administration would make it clear that Iran “is not just another country” but is a “state sponsor of terrorism that is destabilizing the region.”
Recently, Gorka has been accused by the editors of Hungarian Spectrum and by writer Eli Clifton of having sympathies with a neo-fascist World War II Hungarian group that was popular during the Nazi-collaborating Horthy regime. Gorka was photographed at the Trump Inaugural Ball wearing a “Bocskai” jacket and on it displaying the “Order of Heroes,” a Vitezi Rend medal awarded to his father by a group that collaborated with the Nazis and is blatantly anti-Semitic. It was Gorka who was chosen by Trump to answer the allegation that leaving out any mention of Jews on Holocaust Remembrance Day was anti-Semitic. Gorka has responded that his father got the award only a few decades ago, and he wore it to honor his anti-Nazi and anti-communist father. Yet Spectrum concludes that since the Order was anti-Semitic, radically right, and ultra-nationalist, “a person who is committed to democratic values cannot possibly be proud of his family’s association with such a group.”
Stephen Miller, senior policy adviser to the president: Although Miller’s family were staunch Democrats, he took another path in high school by becoming a conservative and going on conservative talk radio to explain his positions. After graduating from Duke, he served as press secretary to Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann. He then became Senator (now Attorney General) Jeff Sessions’s chief of communications. In 2014, Miller provided Sessions with anti-immigrant talking points and distributed literature that helped to kill a bipartisan deal on comprehensive immigration reform that had passed the Senate.
Miller joined candidate Trump’s campaign, warming up the crowds by giving rousing speeches promoting Trump’s anti-immigrant agenda, including building the wall, telling the crowd, “We’re going to build that wall high and we’re going to build it tall.” Miller wrote the speech Trump gave at the 2016 Republican National Convention. As a member of the administration, Miller along with Bannon worked on its policies to restrict immigration, including Trump’s executive order.
In defense of the order, Miller appeared on CBS’s Face the Nation and became notorious—as I wrote here—for saying in his defense of Trump’s temporary immigration ban that “the powers of the president to protect our country are very substantial and will not be questioned.” His comments produced genuine concern by many Americans about the growing authoritarian direction taken by the administration, and indicated a lack of respect for our basic separation of powers. Chosen to defend the president’s immigration order, Miller is clearly becoming more important.
Michael Anton, deputy assistant to the president on strategic communications on the National Security Council: Perhaps the most intellectual member of the Bannon group is the person who during the campaign, anonymously wrote the now famous essay in The Claremont Review of Books, “The Flight 93 Election.” In it, Anton wrote that American conservatives are like the passengers in Flight 93, the plane hijacked on 9/11 by al Qaeda terrorists that was headed for destruction. “2016,” he wrote, “is the Flight 93 Election: charge the cockpit or you die.” If one does not, “death is certain.” To let Hillary Clinton win the presidency is the equivalent of “Russian Roulette with a semi-auto,” and would mean that the nation was “headed off a cliff.”
Later, after others criticized his argument for Trump, Anton defended himself with this answer. Those articles were written under the pseudonym Publius Decius Mus, which Anton later explained he had to use because in the financial industry in which he worked, he was worried that a strong defense of Trump might result in losing his job.
Anton might have the most far-ranging interests of all of Trump’s followers Bannon has brought into the White House. A well-known fashionista, writing under the name Nicholas Antongivanni, he is author of the book The Suit: A Machiavellian Approach to Men’s Styles, in which he argues that dressing the correct way is the pathway to power.
Originally, Anton was a traditional conservative, writing for mainstream conservative publications like The Weekly Standard. He told Peter Maas of The Intercept that “my journey toward Trumpism was in many ways a journey (on my part) leftward, toward the center,” and that he had “jettisoned a lot of conservative orthodoxy… because I think it was not working for the bottom half, or even the bottom two thirds.”
His explanation for the path toward Trumpism reflects the view of many that Trump and Bannon are not exemplars of the traditional conservative right or liberal left. They take their themes from part of both world-views, and in that sense, by leaving mainstream conservatism, Anton sees himself moving leftward.
One thing is clear. By giving these men such power, the administration is entering into a major confrontation with some of Trump’s mainstream appointees. Eventually, one side will have to give in.