I’m beginning this commentary on the recent assaults on Steve Bannon by quoting my response to questions that a CNN-Digital reporter asked me concerning President-elect Trump’s friend and adviser:
“There’s no indication that Steve Bannon, the Breitbart executive and Donald Trump adviser, who has been characterized as a white nationalist, is a racist or anti-Semite. Bannon is not a white identitarian or race realist. He comes from the world of Washington politics and journalism, not white identity politics. Although I don’t know the man, I doubt Bannon hangs out with people who burn crosses on other people’s lawns.”
I expressed this view, more or less, not only to CNN-Digital. I also expressed it in a phone-call marathon to representatives of a Danish daily and the Jewish Forward and, in an hour and a half German conversation, with an editor of the German conservative weekly Junge Freiheit. In all these exchanges I had to answer the question of whether Steve Bannon was in fact an anti-Semite and racist, a judgment that was coming from, among others, such exemplary American “conservatives” as Glenn Beck, Jonah Goldberg, and writers for the Wall Street Journal. I was also asked whether as the co-inventor of the term “Alternative Right,” which has now been shortened to “Altright,” I could tell if Bannon, who likes the term in question, enjoys the company of “white nationalists.”
I tried to explain that the exceedingly elastic term “Altright” has been claimed by a number of groups that belong to the non-establishment Right. All those on the Right who are at war with the GOP establishment and neoconservative politics and who are combatting PC with particular ferocity have embraced the designation “Altright.” This is especially true of Millennials who scorn establishmentarian positions. But it’s not at all clear to me that those who write for Bannon’s website publication, some of whom are Orthodox Jews, have much to do with white identitarians who also use the term “Altright.” I would doubt that these writers go out to drink with the Philonazi blogger Matt Heimbach, who also claims the Altright moniker.
Like David Horowitz, David Goldman, Rudolf Giuliani, and dozens of other commentators, I find the charges leveled against Bannon to be outrageous slander. I am also horrified by the double standard in play when Bannon, who may or may not have complained to a now divorced wife about Jewish students in a private school, is depicted as the reincarnation of Hitler. At the same time, attacks on Jews or other ethnic groups coming from the Left are given short shrift by the media.
Disparaging descriptions of blacks, Latinos, and Catholics that have emanated from Hillary’s staff (and which have been revealed by Wikileak) occasioned a yawn from the mass media here and in Europe. And so has Hillary’s hateful obscenity about her husband’s Jewish campaign manager, which has never received the same critical scrutiny as Steve Bannon’s totally fictitious anti-Semitism and racism. What would happen to Bannon’s or any Republican’s career if, like Hillary, he referred to someone as a “f-cking Jew bastard”? Presumably that person would not be the darling of the media establishment and the presidential candidate of George H.W. Bush, Robert Kagan, Max Boot and Alan Dershowitz.
I intend to raise these questions the next time someone calls on me as an expert on the Altright who can document Steve Bannon’s possible connection to neo-Nazi websites. Perhaps the interviewers would be interested in knowing what Hillary and John Podesta said about certain groups. Even more relevant, they might want me to explain how it came to pass that the Democratic National Committee is about to nominate as its new director Congressman Keith Ellison, a Muslim convert and close friend of Louis Farrakhan. Ellison is entirely explicit in his anti-white and anti-Jewish views and unlike Bannon, does not require reinvention to be turned into what he’s not. The fact that Ellison is heartily endorsed by such presumed idealists as Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren is not likely to hurt the reputations of either social justice warrior.