It’s still too early to tell if Donald Trump’s victory represents the restoration of the far right in America or a final belated sunset cruise, but frankly, it doesn’t matter, since they’re here now and they move fast.
If you think you have months or weeks to combat the destructive and exclusionary agenda Trump’s newly appointed henchmen have spent their entire lives crafting, you’re kidding yourself. You have days.
Think of the appointment of Steve Bannon to the top of Trump’s transition team as an ominous trial balloon (or Zeppelin if you prefer).
If Bannon gets to keep his post in the face of steely opposition, other extremist appointments will follow in rapid succession. It’s the autocratic playbook.
But as the Trump transition campaign flounders and flails, it’s giving its critics ample time to reflect on the sheer scale and ambition of Bannon’s recent Breitbart enterprise.
In the US the website, a favored gathering place for the alt-right, was Trump’s most impassioned cheerleader.
Bannon referred to his Irish roots in a 2015 interview with Bloomberg:
“I come from a blue-collar, Irish Catholic, pro-Kennedy, pro-union family of Democrats,” says Bannon, by way of explaining his politics. “I wasn’t political until I got into the service and saw how badly Jimmy Carter f---ed things up. I became a huge Reagan admirer. Still am. But what turned me against the whole establishment was coming back from running companies in Asia in 2008 and seeing that Bush had f---ed up as badly as Carter. The whole country was a disaster.”
Breitbart UK was also a guiding force behind the build up to Brexit. (The United Kingdom Independence Party’s – UKIP's – Nigel Farage later came on board the Trump campaign to share the lessons of his stewardship).
And this week Marion Marechal-Le Pen announced that she has been hired by Bannon as part of Breitbart’s forthcoming expansion into France and Germany.
Marion is the granddaughter of Jean-Marie Le Pen, the founder of France’s neo-Nazi National Front Party, and the niece of Marine Le Pen, who could win France’s presidency next year (her odds have improved considerably after Brexit and the election of Donald Trump).
So Breitbart's reach and influence threaten to redraw the entire political map of the west, and indeed it is already doing so, forging alliances with the most far-right extremists in Europe as it goes.
“Outside of Fox News and the Drudge Report, we’re the third-largest conservative news site and, quite frankly, we have a bigger global reach than even Fox,” Bannon said at a conference held at the Vatican in the summer of 2014. “And that’s why we’re expanding so much internationally.”
“Look, we believe – strongly – that there is a global tea party movement. We’ve seen that. We were the first group to get in and start reporting on things like UKIP and Front National and other center right. With all the baggage that those groups bring – and trust me, a lot of them bring a lot of baggage, both ethnically and racially – but we think that will all be worked through with time.”
The timing is certainly fortuitous. After the US-led wars that have further destabilized the powder keg of the Middle East, a refugee crisis is flooding Europe and destabilizing its neoliberal governments.
Terrorist attacks have followed the way sun follows rain and the frightened citizens have started calling for crackdowns and strong leaders.
This is music to the ears of the autocratic. It’s the sort of chessboard moment that would look familiar to Vladimir Putin, and a moment that Ronald Reagan would have instinctively recoiled at.
For many observers, Bannon is much too closely associated with alt-right groups that white nationalists have embraced. If we are lucky, that fact will shortly stem his Trump administration ambitions.
But we have not been lucky in 2016.
There’s been a lot of talk about the alt-right, white nationalists, and “controversial” political pundits lately. All the new fangled terminology confuses many people. Ronald Reagan and your American grandfather had a much shorter word for them: Nazi’s.
What you have to do is fight them, everywhere they appear. Now.