Steve Bannon, former strategist for Donald Trump and co-founder of Alt Right publisher Breitbart News, has a new project – Europe. He’s speaking in Edinburgh today, 14th of November, at the invite of the BBC. What he’s unlikely to mention is what he said recently in an interview. That he and his group called “The Movement” have made the final decision on Brexit, not you. Last month Bannon gave an interview with John Micklethwait explaining how he intends to extend right-wing populism and win a third of votes in the 2019 EU elections.
When Bannon was first invited to Europe by like-minded right wing populists, Bannon asked them what they wanted him to talk about. He was surprised by their answer: “tell us we are not alone”. In the USA, “The movement” as he calls it, is more connected. So Bannon set about bringing right wing fringe groups and political groupings in Europe closer together.
The first order of business was to form a club with interested groups meeting for conferences and dinners. Bannon put in his own money to fund the get-togethers. They met, wined and dined and discussed how to galvanize the working- class and nudge them towards right-wing voting. These events obvious required a lot of money because Bannon also raised additional funds in Europe from “high net worth individuals who principally come from working class backgrounds”.
The plan for Europe was to be a copy of the Trump campaign. Four strategic steps explained by Bannon in the interview:
1. Deploy the most sophisticated polling methods, utilising local pollsters to gather data. The polling architecture is arranged by John McLaughlin who worked on the Trump election.
2. Identify and target voters.
3. Create what Bannon chillingly calls a “war room” with a “rapid response team”. The team will create responses, book people to talk on the radio, on TV and direct them beforehand regarding the conversation.
4. Unite grass roots organisations by using Facebook and Facebook Live.
With a high level of technological expertise and extensive data those using his strategy will seem in touch with the people when they step into the public sphere.
“We provide the tools, the building blocks for victory, and those` parties (in Europe) that want to use them can use them, and those that don’t won’t. But they are available”
He goes on to expand on his next steps: “I’m in Paris tomorrow with the National Front.” Then after Trumps midterms, he says he will “take a flight to Brussels to meet with the AfD” the German far right party. Bannon likes the AfD: “they are on the rise…and the leadership is just terrific.” he says.
When the interviewer points out that the leader of The National Front, Marine La Penn has tried to distance herself from Bannon because she doesn’t want American involvement, Bannon waves the concern away. “As an American, I’m not over here to tell anyone how to run their elections.”
Yet by his own admission that’s exactly what he is doing. He has built the tools, is meeting key people, providing funding, hosting networking events, offering his strategy to parties who share his views. Most astonishingly of all, he says what happens with Brexit has already been decided:
“Here’s the thing with The Movement, we’ve made the decision Brexit is going to happen”
Yup, his movement have made the decision. Not you who placed your vote, or the UK Government in talks with the EU Parliament. Bannon’s movement, committed to a right wing ideology, are deciding the Brexit outcome. That’s his claim and its jaw dropping.
Bannon’s vision is to have impact on individual EU countries on “sovereignty” and look at things like the Euro further down the line (Bannon believes in sovereign control over borders, currency, and military).
“This is the Continent where Nationalism sparked wars, sparked bloodshed from Ireland to the Balkans.” Says Micklethwait before quoting Hungary’s Prime Minister, Viktor Orbán, who Bannon is partnering with, whose words “recall those darker times” in Europe:
“He (Orbán) called Muslims invaders, he’s said how important it is to preserve ethnic homogeneity, and talked about George Soros, who is Jewish, as being part of a group of outsiders, who do not fight directly but by stealth, they are not honourable, but unprincipled…. My point is this is not the Midwest.” Says Micklethwait.
Bannon response reveals what lies at the heart of his project:
“These individuals are not racist, not xenophobes, not nativist”, says Bannon. “These individuals are trying to keep their country intact”, and Bannon calls them “heroic”.
The more I listen to Bannon the more his ideas sound like the fantasy of a man playing war-games on his PC. Rescuing countries, being a hero. The individuals he works with are his “co-players”. He’s enjoying showing how intelligent he’s been in supplying the war strategy and tools. He wants people to know who he’s associating with, his influence over them. He wants recognition that their success is down to him. He describes Trump and Brexit as being “intrinsically linked”.
With his loose flowing hair and plain slightly dishevelled clothing, he looks the opposite of sharp suited metropolitan elites, whose globalism he blames for having ruined the ordinary man’s life. But Bannon was once one of those same elites, an investment banker and a former Vice President of Goldman Sachs. He might claim to be against globalism but he has global ambitions. He openly talks about extending right ideology globally, Europe is just a small piece of this.
I live in a small German town and we just had a local election. It’s a conservative voting area and the CDU, Angela Merkel’s party, held their place at 34 % but it was with a massive drop from 2013 when they won with 48%. In 2013 the AfD got 3% of the vote last month it jumped to 13%.
There was AfD signage on every other lamppost in the town. Billboards “Multi culturalism doesn’t work” at intersections. Posters against Islam with photos of the Bible and rosary beads pitched beside Catholic Churches. Drive 45 mins away in the city of Frankfurt and there was less AfD signage. My town is Bannon’s “Midwest” and its inhabitants, conservative older voters, the target.
The AfD succeeded in the 2017 Federal Election entering the German Parliament for the first time as the third largest party.
In short, the strategy is working. AfD voters are adamant they are not being manipulated. In their eyes the rest of Germany is not noticing the war on German culture – they are rescuers, the intellectuals and the working class together. Except, they are very much being manipulated.
An excellent piece by Katrin Bennhold of The New York Times highlights the disproportionate amount of men who vote AfD compared to women.
84% percent of the party members are men, and AfD marketing is pitch perfect in appealing to them: “safety for our wives and daughters” was the sign at the end of our road.
Trump can only have 2 terms, but how much disruption can his political architect create in Europe meantime?
Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has marked out her stall by refusing to share a stage with Bannon at the BBC event he is invited to speak at today. I won’t speculate if politicians in Westminster are involved in “The Movement”, but Bannon says on record Nigel Farage “gave me my chops” in Europe.
Farage is now a political commentator on US Fox News and then there’s Tommy Robinson the right-wing activist, defended by Breitbart and described as a martyr. Tommy is reported to be set to make a financial killing on a US speaking tour. That’s if they can sort out his Visa because of his criminal record.
Wheeling in English support may impress some American voters. But it’s all theatre. Dangerous theatre that’s moving the political scenery around us piece by piece. And there’s money for those who set the scene and read the lines. Lots of money.
Just not for the rest of us. Every forecast says Brexit will make Britain significantly poorer.
But Bannon’s attention is not on Britain anymore, that Brexit mess can be cleared up by others.
He’s all over the working class in Europe now – “the little guy” (Bannon’s words) will deliver the next steps. “Little guys” being influenced by individuals with big bank balances. Who are the real “little guys”? The ones with little hands, little idea of the complexity of moving parts that make up Europe, and little care for the consequences.
Strengthening borders in the US, a key concern of Bannon’s movement is not as easily implemented in Europe where borders are disputed and have been fought over. Where soft borders or no borders are needed for neighbouring countries to function, like The Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. If Brexit is the appetizer we shouldn’t be hoping they fulfil their European menu of chaos.
Bannon’s claim all this is for the working class is laughable. The London Dockland workers who fought white supremacists the first time they were in fashion wouldn’t fall for it were they still here. The Movement is not the working class. The Movement are using the working class vote, then they will leave them to deal with the consequences and move onto the next steps, whatever those are.
Bannon has set the hares off and running in Europe, with a precision and co-ordination from his ‘war room’.
USA, Britain, you’ve been played. Europe you’re next.
Once again, Laura, this is very good – well written, well-reasoned, well put together.
Frightening, as it’s happened before, and yet, people don’t appear to be noticing the similarities. I needn’t say more, specifically, as you’ve said what needs to be said.
Here’s something, though………nearly ten years ago, a friend sent me a link to watch a film called ‘Zeitgeist’ ( good title!). http://www.zeitgeistmovie.com/ I watched it, a bit at a time, as it is heavy going. It has it’s plus and minus aspects. Here’s part of what I sent in response to my friend, which, I think, ties in with some aspects touched on in your article…..
“Hello, here’s some more., if you want to read it……
I’ve just watched from 50 minutes to 1 hour and 12 minutes. Here goes….
1) Myths – beware of myths – look at them very hard. Trouble is, eventually they become accepted as ‘what is so’. Always be wary of a person or organization which tells you what they want you to hear, rather than ‘what is so’ – or, as near to ‘what is so’ as possible. This applies as much to daily life, as to big world issues. There’s a lot of it about. BUT also beware of the myths, about the myths. They can be as mis-leading and dangerous as the myths themselves. Looking for the real and the true, in all areas of life, is what matters. A very difficult job, but very, very necessary. Myths – very worrying things.
Putting reasoned argument aside – isn’t Bush just such a ****! – but a stupid ****, which = dangerous. Have you seen http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/7809160.stm
Maybe he’s not stupid, maybe he’s just much misunderestimated!
2) When the FBI man, damns the CIA? – Same difference! and when the MI5 bloke apparently comes clean and is giving out information? REALLY???
3) Have you seen the film ‘Network’? It’s very good. Say it loud “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it anymore!”
But, again, what can we do? Do as you would be done by is one thing. See yourself as a person, then see other people as the same, in fact, part of one whole (‘Ocean’), then treat them as you would like to be treated. Personally, I’d say do the same with animals. It’s when this breaks down, that we get the breakdown of ‘civilized’ life on this planet. People don’t see other forms of life, including other people, as part of themselves, which we are. What produces this? What influences make people become like that? Why does anyone become involved in these plots and counter-plots? Why? Basically, again, it’s that the good-hearted people don’t want power, they just get on with their lives and maybe try to improve life around them. The messed-up ones, want power, they go for power, and get it. But what makes them be like that? It all comes down to that big divide though, those who want power, and those who don’t, and the fact that it’s the ones who are least fit for it, that want it and get it.
Who, or what, is actually behind it all? Who knows. Maybe the rest of the film will enlighten me in some way, but, at the moment, to me, it just keeps coming back to the same thing.
To be continued…….
Will be sure to look for the movie The Network, thanks for the recommendation!
Bernie, lets be straight, ‘Myths’ is a nice polite way of saying what they really are, LIES. It would do us good to always remember Goebbels Maxim, if it is a lie, make sure it’s a big one and keep repeating it until people believe it to be the truth.
I’ve asked many why can’t we just ban him from the country and proscribe his organisation. He must be made to realise that the right to free speech as he sees it comes with massive responsibilities.
It’s a while since I watched ‘Zeitgeist’, but I think I was referring to the section in the film about …myths. Wrap something in a myth, and it can seem to be more palatable, and believable, than a straight forward, obvious, whopping great………LIE would be.
And I don’t mean the ‘Here be monsters’ kind of myth.
Or maybe I do.
A prescient view of ‘disinfotainment’…………………..
All he needs is a good kick in the baws.
Well, that is one way of putting it. It is hard to know if Bannon is a fantasist or if he is pulling strings to the extent he claims. If so, that’s dangerous and poses questions regarding the integrity of our democracy.