Empire Files: Abby Martin Exposes Steve Bannon
Steve Bannon has been propelled over the last year from fringe media outlier to top propagandist of the U.S. Empire as Trump's Chief Strategist. Watch more on teleSUR
Steve Bannon has been propelled over the last year from fringe media outlier to top propagandist of the U.S. Empire as Trump's Chief Strategist. Watch more on teleSUR
ABBY MARTIN: If there’s one person other than Trump who has gained a surprisingly huge amount of political power over the past year, it’s Steve Bannon.
The right-wing ideologue is most notorious for his role as former Executive Chairman at Breitbart News, a website that he dubbed, “The Platform of the Alt-Right,” and hosts stories like these.
Bannon’s candid about his lust for power — quoted as saying, “Darth Vader, Dick Cheney, Satan, that’s power.” As Trump’s ineptitude, and lack of political ideology becomes increasingly obvious, many have noticed that there are other forces steering the ship.
While the Christian right is one sector of the right-wing establishment guiding his policies, the alt-right has their own influence in the White House, namely through Steve Bannon. He’s been called the intellectual force behind Trump’s agenda.
And in just mere months, he’s propelled himself from right-wing media outlier, to top propagandist of the U.S. Empire, as Trump’s chief strategist. That means Bannon is the number one person who Trump relies on, to guide his every move. Just like Karl Rove served as the brain for George W. Bush.
David Duke, the former Ku Klux Klan Imperial Wizard, said of Bannon, “You have an individual who’s basically creating the ideological aspects of where we’re going. And ideology ultimately is the most important aspect of any government.”
Bannon’s power grab hasn’t gone unnoticed. As Trump spends the majority of his time tweeting, watching news about himself, and golfing at the lavish Mar-a-Lago Resort, there’s a big void for Bannon to fill.
So, who is this mysterious man behind the curtain? Well, Bannon’s story really starts with a youthful lust for war.
Bannon credits his formative political development to his time in the U.S. Navy. He served from 1976 to 1983, mostly on a ship as a pampered officer. It was on this ship that Bannon’s thirst for military supremacy, and war was fully formed. While he never served in war himself, he lamented his missed opportunity as a political turning point.
While Bannon was at sea, the empire was hard at work trying to strangle the Iranian revolution. Which had deposed U.S.-backed dictator, the Shah, famous for chilling torture, and executions of political opponents.
The Pentagon was planning a military assault on Tehran, which ended in embarrassment, and ultimately was pulled back by Carter. Bannon bitterly sailed on in the lonely seas. Becoming more reactionary over the incident, he developed a fawning loyalty to Reagan, and even attended his victory party in uniform. He ended up working in the Pentagon under Reagan.
Although he left the military, his love for war never ceased. Bannon’s long-time writing partner and former close friend, Julia Jones said, “Steve is a strong militarist. He’s in love with war. It’s almost poetry to him.”
But apparently Navy life was below Bannon. Even with his preferred Commander-in-Chief. In 1984 he moved on to more lucrative adventures as an investment banker, at financial behemoth Goldman Sachs. He got the job like most who exist in this world of privilege, meeting the son of a Goldman Sachs executive. He stayed at Goldman for six years, before he recruited his banker pals to found his own investment firm — Bannon and Company, which bankrolled media corporations.
The industry cashed in big with Clinton’s 1996 Telecommunications Act, which allowed media companies to be gobbled up in massive monopolies. Two years later, Bannon sold his firm to a bigger media giant.
This gave him the lavish wealth to focus on his true passion, making apocalyptic right-wing propaganda films.
CROWD: (chanting, drums)
MAN: There shall be open borders, and it’s just nuts.
MAN: What would have happened if a Senator was killed by Armando Garcia?
ABBY MARTIN: His movies over the years cover an array of far-right dystopian fantasies that depict a society in collapse, invaded by criminal armies.
MAN: The cartels control everything.
ABBY MARTIN: Whoa… Dang…
Bannon’s political films were never successful outside the dark circles of Tea Party types. So, in 2004, he took a more lucrative position at a peculiar company — Internet Gaming Entertainment. IGE was based on exploiting Internet games, like World of War Craft, paying thousands of people to drone away at mining virtual resources, so that they could be sold to other players.
Brought in for his banker connections, IGE’s investment paid off well. As one industry expert pointed out, “Bannon managed to convince Goldman Sachs to plough $60 million into a company that sold imaginary goods, in an imaginary world.”
In addition to the bizarre nature of their profits, Bannon was making money for highly problematic people. IGE was an investment project of Mark Collins-Rector, a fugitive on the run for child rape, and human trafficking. In fact, all three heads of the firm were sued for sexual abuse of under-aged boys, including the founder and CEO of IGE.
A year after Bannon secured the investment, the company tanked, embroiled in shady dealings, a class-action lawsuit brought by gamers. As the company went down in flames, its remnants became Affinity Media. Bannon had the CEO ousted and replaced, with himself. He stayed in this position until leaving for Breitbart, in 2012.
Considering Bannon’s lack of ethics in his professional life, it’s not surprising that his personal life is also marred with scandal.
Like several members of the Trump Administration, Bannon has a disturbing history of alleged domestic abuse. Details from the second of his three marriages reveal what kind of man Bannon really is.
In 1995 he married Mary Louise Picard, only three days before she gave birth to their twins. According to Picard, he wouldn’t marry her until the babies were proven to be, “normal”. In the divorce documents, Picard wrote, “Bannon made it clear that he would not marry me just because I was pregnant. I was scheduled for an amniocentesis, and was told by the respondent that if the babies were normal, we would get married.”
Even though the babies were normal, Bannon didn’t seem to pay much attention to them, as he made them wear costumes to tell them apart, and repeatedly refused to pay them child support.
Less than a year into their marriage, a violent incident happened that could be best explained through the police report itself. According to the report, Bannon got angry at his wife for making noise while feeding their newborn twins. When she asked him for money to buy groceries, a fight erupted, and carried out onto the driveway.
The fight culminated with Bannon becoming violent, grabbing her wrists and neck, and, “pulled her down, as if he was trying to pull her into the car, over the door.” When she broke free to try to call 911, Bannon jumped over her and the twins, to grab the phone from her.
“I took the phone to call the police, and he grabbed the phone away from me, throwing it across the room and breaking it, as he was screaming that I was a crazy F****** C***,” the document states.
Police verified the abuse, writing, “I saw red marks on her left wrist, and the right side of her neck.” These were photographed.
According to a study in the Journal of Emergency Medicine, women who have been strangled by their partner are seven times more likely to be killed, than other victims of domestic violence. The same study shows that 43% of women murdered in domestic assaults, had been strangled by their partner in the previous year. According to the officer on the scene, she broke down and admitted that their turbulent six-year relationship had been plagued with physical violence early on.
Bannon was arrested for misdemeanor domestic violence, battery, and witness intimidation. Picard filed a restraining order, and divorced him. But Bannon was never convicted, because Picard didn’t show up for court.
Later, she revealed that Bannon and his lawyers had threatened to ruin her life, if she pursued charges. Bannon retained visitation rights of their children. Yet, just months later when the babies were only 17 months old, he was caught hitting one of them. Picard then requested visitation in public spaces only, because she said he was verbally abusive in front of their kids, and she did not feel safe.
He’s also been charged with crude verbal abuse against female employees. When one female worker challenged his leadership, he reportedly called her a bimbo, and threatened to, “kick her ass”.
But his relationships, and Wall Street career, have always come second to his drive for political influence. Throughout his years as a propagandist, Bannon hitched his wagon to things he thought would elevate his views.
When the Tea Party movement emerged, Bannon praised it as the vanguard of a new American revolution.
When Sarah Palin came on the scene, Bannon was so enthused by her popularity; he created an entire film about her. Considering Palin herself isn’t even interviewed in the film, it’s unknown whether Bannon actually saw her as a visionary political leader.
SARAH PALIN: The man can only ride ya, when your back is bent. So, strengthen it!
ABBY MARTIN: Or, if she was just a convenient vehicle for his own vision. This strategy of riding a fringe character to power didn’t succeed with Palin. But it would with Trump. But nowhere would Bannon’s quest for political influence be realized more, than at Breitbart News.
Bannon developed a friendship with Andrew Breitbart in the early 2000s, through a shared love of arch-reactionary media. Breitbart even had a cute nickname for Bannon, the Leni Riefenstahl of the Tea Party movement. Riefenstahl was a Nazi filmmaker known for creating some of Hitler’s most iconic propaganda. The comparison was meant as a compliment.
When Bannon became a protégé of Andrew Breitbart, he entered into a fringe circle with enormous sway over the beliefs of millions of dispirit white men. Andrew Breitbart is credited for changing the way media is consumed, helping launch huge websites, like Huffington Post, with good friend at the time, Ariana Huffington; and of course, his own website, Breitbart News.
Breitbart was a protégé of Matt Drudge, creator and head of the Drudge Report. He converted the power of right-wing talk radio, where ideologues had a platform for views unacceptable on TV, onto the Internet.
Drudge Report is an aggregate that curates a particular narrative of white male victimization. Long-time Editor, Drudge, Andrew Breitbart, took this model of aggregation, but manipulated the headlines into stories that fostered a hysterical climate against progressives, women, immigrants, etc., As well as a comfortable hub for white nationalists.
Along with Breitbart, the elusive Matt Drudge also handpicked Alex Jones, as the next right-wing icon. While Alex Jones is treated as just a loony Internet sideshow, he has a following of millions of people, who take his every word as gospel. Bannon was a fitting addition to this mix.
Bannon’s initial role in Breitbart News was as a money bundler, again, using his Wall Street connections to raise capital for their project. But by 2012, the site was going under. It was blacklisted for a hoax against a black government official, where her speech was manipulated to appear as if she had advocated violence against white people.
During this time, Bannon was hard at work raising cash from right-wing millionaires to resurrect it, and Andrew Breitbart dropped dead. Bannon promptly stepped in as CEO and relaunched the site under his leadership.
In his scheme to inflate his new platform, he created the Government Accountability Institute, a right-wing think tank which issues reports like this one, that attempts to validate the conspiracy of paid protestors.
GAI’s donor list shows who among the empire’s ruling elite are behind Bannon. It was bankrolled by a multi-million dollar investment from a man named, Robert Mercer; dubbed one of the most influential billionaires in the world. Mercer has financed anti-Muslim ads that use the so-called Ground Zero Mosque, to whip up xenophobic panic, as well as campaigns advocating the death penalty.
But he’s also known for something else — having the largest collection of machine guns in America. What else would a far-right billionaire spend his money on, other than stockpiling an arsenal of weapons in his mansion bunker?
Other top donors to Bannon’s GAI, are America’s premiere bloodthirsty, planet-destroying billionaires, the Koch brothers.
But GAI had another purpose. It offered a way for these super rich donors to essentially launder money to Breitbart, without them having to deal with the fallout of doing so publically. Hey, they’re just making charitable donations to a non-profit.
Their tax-deductible donations through GAI were sent directly to pay Breitbart reporters’ salaries, which is illegal. Though Breitbart News had always been a medium for extreme right-wing forces, Bannon took it even further down that path.
While he remains more tight-lipped in public about the true nature of his beliefs, Bannon used this site as the vehicle to promote his most incendiary views. According to one former Breitbart writer, Bannon ran the site and controlled the content as a dictator. Making sure his guests and contributors all fell in line with his own ideological outlook.
Among the voices Bannon often highlighted on Breitbart, are Pamela Geller, America’s most prominent anti-Muslim bigot. Michael Flynn, Trump’s short-lived National Security Advisor, who says Islam, is a cancer. And washed up hate peddler, Milo Yiannopoulis.
Entire sections of Breitbart are dedicated to sensationalizing distorted facts about minority groups, to whip up and justify hatred of Muslims, and people of color. For example, one tab, labeled, “Black Crime,” aggregates stories of offences committed by black people, another compiles reports of honor killings, and child marriages, from around the globe.
The site routinely portrays Muslim refugees as disease-carrying criminals. As it has sought to expand its presence in Europe, the website has frequently attacked Muslim communities, by propagating racist tropes, and justifying violence against immigrants. This site has taken advantage of recent anti-Muslim hysteria in Europe, to exploit their audience’s irrational fears of Muslim immigration.
The presumable audience of angry white men that Bannon accumulated at Breitbart, reached far greater heights with the rise of the Trump phenomenon. While Breitbart News, under Bannon drew in about 8 million readers per month, it shot up to over 18 million, in the months after Trump announced his campaign.
A new relationship was born. Trump had something Bannon always wanted — a bigger megaphone for his right-wing dreams of transforming American society. And Bannon had something Trump cherished too — a doting audience.
Now that Bannon has this much power, a lot has been speculated about his actual political beliefs. And because he rarely gives media interviews to people, other than Breitbart employees, we don’t often see him challenged.
Bannon is a well-known critic of mainstream conservatives, but not just for the sake of pushing them further to the right. He wants to build an insurgency — to destroy both traditional Republican institutions, and everything to the left of them.
He’s called a populist, but he’s really only a populist for a specific sector of the working class. That’s nothing new. Throughout history rulers have rallied the white working class against other poor people, to avert blame for systemic crisis — in Germany and beyond, this tactic has served as the basis for fascism.
His political philosophy is also rooted in a rejection of what the alt-right calls, globalism.
MAN: The globalists and their minions just want to get rid of our sovereignty, and say we don’t have a right to have a country.
MAN: It doesn’t matter what race, or country you’re from, you should be against the globalists. We need nationalist governments.
MAN: But the world at large, however, is not united by a common culture. That’s why the globalists are waging a war against national identity.
WOMAN: Globalism means any law your government passes is subject to invalidation by unelected hall monitors, who would rather police the boundaries of free speech, than the borders of actual countries.
ABBY MARTIN: It’s a vague concept that’s applied to everything from a shadowy international network of elites usurping American sovereignty, to the destruction of Western culture from foreign invaders –- a.k.a. immigrants. They rail against multiculturism, which really just means people of different religions, and nationalities, co-existing.
Bannon vehemently denies the charge of white nationalism, but he proudly calls himself an economic nationalist.
STEVE BANNON: The internal logic makes sense. Their corporatist, globalist media, that are adamantly opposed… adamantly opposed (applause) to an economic nationalist agenda, like Donald Trump has. If you think they’re going to give you your country back without a fight, you are sadly mistaken. Every day… every day, it is going to be a fight.
ABBY MARTIN: But who is fighting whom? What is this nation Bannon says he stands for? And who does he consider part of it? Well, it’s clear who he doesn’t consider part of it.
MAN: It’s pretty dark here in Europe right now, but there’s something actually much darker, and that is Islam.
ABBY MARTIN: Bannon doesn’t even try to mask his anti-Muslim bigotry as a fear of terrorism, as others do. He’s clear in stating that Islam is a threat to white American Christian culture.
MAN: To be brutally frank, I mean, Christianity is dying in Europe, and Islam is on the rise. Let’s talk about that.
ABBY MARTIN: Bannon’s views on Islam, make Trump’s Muslim ban look like child’s play. If it were entirely up to Bannon, no Muslims would ever be able to enter the U.S.
MAN: Why are you going through all this thing on vetting? Why even let them in? The opportunity cost to put in a structure to actually vet these people, the cost to do that… to what end? Can’t that money be used in the United States? I mean, I think the issue is, should we just take a pause and a hiatus for a number of years?
ABBY MARTIN: Apart from Muslims, Bannon’s anti-immigrant views go as far as to depict his nation as literally, being at war. In his 2006 film, “Border War: The Battle over Illegal Immigration,” he uses a small majority white border town as a symbol of America — depicting it as being invaded by an evil immigrant army.
But Bannon goes even further than most of his anti-immigrant counterparts. His nation doesn’t even include highly educated, totally legal immigrants. In this 2015 recording, we hear Bannon rebuking Donald Trump on the matter.
DONALD TRUMP: We’ve got to be able to keep great people in the country. We’ve got to create, you know, job creators. One man went to, I think it was Harvard, there was a story a month ago — went to Harvard. Did well, good student, wanted to stay in the country, wasn’t allowed to, went back to his home in India, started up a company.
Now it’s a very, very successful company, with thousands of people. He wanted to do that here. We have to be careful of that, Steve, you know. We have to keep our talented people in this country.
STEVE BANNON: Um.
DONALD TRUMP: I think you agree with that. Do you agree with that?
STEVE BANNON: Well, I… I’ve got a tough… you know, when two-thirds, or three-quarters of the CEOs, in Silicon Valley are from South Asia, or from Asia, I think, I… on a… my point is that a country is more like Sessions. A country is more than an economy. We’re a civic society.
ABBY MARTIN: Apart from immigrants, Bannon’s ideology, as seen during his reign at Breitbart, heavily scapegoats African-Americans, with racist depictions as welfare scammers, and violent criminals.
So, while Bannon says he’s just a nationalist, not a white nationalist, it seems that his nationalism doesn’t apply to anyone other than white people. At the same time, he claims that the alt-right’s appeal to racists is simply coincidental.
Bannon’s fears of Islam and immigrants, are tied to what he sees as the demise of Judeo Christian values, which he believes were foundational to the so-called golden age of capitalism. Bannon’s ideology appeals to people, because he’s pointing out actual problems in society — like the absence of a rising middle class, and many other symptoms of neoliberalism.
According to Bannon, America’s golden age was in the 1950s, where institutions, stability, and upward mobility for white families thrived. While African-Americans, and others, continued to be impoverished and brutalized.
Bannon thinks the Civil Rights and Social movements of the 1960s, eroded these stable institutions. Without them functioning as they did before, Bannon thinks corporate greed was able to run wild. Big government and big business, schemed together against the interests of small businesses, favoring instead globalization and free trade agreements. The problem is that the globalists gutted the American working class, and created a middle class in Asia, Bannon says.
Though Bannon’s story about the economy does contain some kernels of truth, he demonizes those hurt most by these policies. He even blames the 2008 financial crisis on the Civil Rights movement, and anti-racist movements. As his 2010 film, “Generation Zero” explains.
MAN: So, white Americans have been in a position where they constantly have to prove that they are not racist. It is that phenomenon of white guilt, is what pressures people in the government to say things like, everybody has a right to a house.
ABBY MARTIN: This hatred of progressive movements was accentuated in Bannon’s 2012 film, “Occupy Unmasked.” Which became the main propaganda piece smearing the movement. With Breitbart News, he often discredited organic mass protests as manufactured fronts, for either communists, Democrats, or George Soros.
With the decline of the capitalism that made America great, Bannon curmudgeonly blames millennials, their secularism, and pop culture, as having, “sapped the West of its strength to defend its Judeo Christian ideals.” He even blames this for the rise of ISIS. Bannon’s economic agenda, and his racism, go hand-in-hand.
His economic nationalism dissolves any semblance of minority rights, as they are all under a dominant zeitgeist of Judeo Christian values, and a distinctly American — really white, cultural identity.
STEVE BANNON: I think we… the center core of what we believe, that we’re a nation with an economy. Not an economy just in some global marketplace, with open borders. But we are a nation with a culture, and a reason for being.
ABBY MARTIN: Bannon’s message had so much reach in the recent election cycle, because it appealed to the same economic issues the Democratic Party establishment has been unwilling to address. All of this is couched in a virulently anti-establishment ethos. Democrats and mainstream Republicans are the ones that got us into this mess.
His solution is as apocalyptic as his films. “I want to bring everything crashing down, and destroy all of today’s establishments.”
Now, that he has the President’s ear, it’s not hard to see how, even within the first several weeks, his ideology and most outlandish fantasies have been put into action. Bannon is credited for penning the most extreme elements of the Muslim Ban, excluding those on tourist visas, and green card holders initially.
Part of Trump’s anti-immigrant plan is a tactic straight from Breitbart News. Trump announced he would publish a weekly list of crimes committed by undocumented immigrants. Trumps main attack strategy on the media, is also straight from Bannon’s mouth.
In an interview with the New York Times, Bannon said, “The media here is the opposition party.”
DONALD TRUMP: Yeah, I think the media is the opposition party.
REPORTER: …state categorically–
DONALD TRUMP: –You are fake news.
ABBY MARTIN: Perhaps the biggest danger of Bannon’s power and influence in the White House, is leading a march to his first love — war.
MAN: You have an expansionist Islam, and you have an expansionist China, right, they are motivated. They’re arrogant. They’re on the march, and they think the Judeo Christian West is on the retreat.
ABBY MARTIN: Last March, Bannon boasted that there is no doubt the U.S. will be going to war in the South China Sea, in the next five to ten years.
In January, a Chinese government official wrote, that a war within the President’s term, or war breaking out tonight, are not just slogans. They’re becoming a practical reality.
The danger of a war with China is just one terrifying scenario we face under Bannon’s guidance. With a myriad of generals, and politicians, hoping to push Trump into new wars with Iran, North Korea, China, Iraq again, Syria, etc. — Bannon could be the deciding factor. For Trump, with so many loathsome establishment figures in his ear, Bannon is the trusted companion to tell him whether or not to listen.
While Bannon may likely be just using Trump to advance his own agenda, there’s a whole extremist group of the empire’s elites who are using Bannon to advance theirs.
While it’s imperative to fight every member of the Trump Administration, we need to understand the ideology behind their policies, in order to best defeat them. That demands we expose figures like Steve Bannon, and the entire system that subjects us to the will of such repugnant individuals.
The fact that someone like Steve Bannon could attain such a high seat of power, shows how illegitimate the system really is; how quickly steps towards progress can be reversed.
The Democrats, who are beholding to their own corporate interests, and advocate the same racist wars, cannot be trusted to lead any real opposition.
The real resistance will come from what Bannon fears the most — a united, multi-cultural, progressive movement in the streets.