Steve Bannon’s Ideological Juggernaut

Overlord of the Dark Enlightenment

Zachary B. Wolf described a recent conservative gathering featuring Steve Bannon as speaker. ‘Are we at war?’ Bannon demanded of the crowd, his voice slicing through the air. ‘Is this a political war to the knife?’ The phrase, steeped in historical resonance, harks back to a pro-slavery newspaper from the era preceding the American Civil War. Its invocation was deliberate, laden with the weight of conflict and division, evoking a time when the nation stood on the precipice of its most devastating internal struggle.

Bannon’s words, charged with intensity, painted a picture of an unrelenting, all-or-nothing battle. He called his followers to arms, framing the political landscape as a battlefield where only the most ruthless could prevail. The historical echo of ‘to the knife’ underscored the gravity of his message: a fight to the end, where no quarter would be given and no compromise accepted. Steve Bannon’s voice echoed with fervent conviction as he declared, ‘If they steal this election – and they fully intend to steal it – this republic ends.’ His words, charged with a palpable sense of urgency, transitioned seamlessly into a tirade against the upper echelons of the Department of Justice under President Joe Biden’s administration. He singled out Attorney General Merrick Garland, demanding his prosecution, and called for the complete disassembly of the FBI. ‘We are going to purge DOJ. We are going to take apart the FBI. The FBI, the American Gestapo … there’s not going to be an FBI,’ he thundered.

While former President Trump has hinted at the righteousness of targeting political adversaries, Bannon is unequivocal in his intentions. He pledges a relentless crusade against anyone he perceives as having thwarted Trump. ‘We are going to get every single receipt, and, to the fullest extent of the law, you are going to be investigated, prosecuted and incarcerated,’ he vowed. Bannon’s rhetoric is a clarion call for an uncompromising purge, a vision of retribution that promises a profound transformation of the American political landscape. His fiery declarations underscore a broader strategy, one that seeks not just victory but an overhaul of the very institutions that underpin the republic.

It is unmistakable that Steve Bannon’s vision stretches far beyond Election Day as he fervently enumerates a litany of priorities for the MAGA movement. His ambitions, notes Wolf, are grandiose and unyielding: severing financial aid to Ukraine, executing draconian cuts to government expenditures, initiating the dismantling of the Federal Reserve, fortifying the southern border with an impenetrable seal, deporting a staggering 10 to 15 million individuals and dismantling the administrative state piece by piece. Bannon, during his tenure as the White House chief strategist, was infamous for his expansive whiteboards crammed with meticulously detailed lists of objectives – objectives that still resonate in the agenda he passionately outlined over the weekend.

The previous administration’s attempts to realise these grand schemes were thwarted by a confluence of judicial rulings, congressional roadblocks and internal disarray. Bannon, however, is undeterred. His eyes gleam with the prospect of a more successful second attempt, especially given the anticipated absence of moderating figures such as John Kelly from the potential future administration. Wolf asserts that in Bannon’s strategic vision, the obstacles that impeded the fulfilment of these ambitions in the first term are mere stepping stones, lessons learned to pave the way for a more uncompromising pursuit of his revolutionary goals.

The Dark Enlightenment, or neo-reactionary movement, often abbreviated as NRx, has emerged as an ominous force, weaving an anti-democratic, anti-egalitarian web of reactionary philosophy. Conceived by Curtis Yarvin, an American software engineer blogging under the alias’ Mencius Moldbug,’ and further refined by English philosopher Nick Land, this ideology strikes at the heart of modern democratic values. In his 2012 online manifesto, Land denounces democracy and invokes libertarian thinkers like Peter Thiel, who famously contends that freedom and democracy are fundamentally ‘incompatible.’

Nick Land, Dark Enlightenment

The Dark Enlightenment’s shadow stretches further, entwining with white supremacist and anti-immigration factions such as the VDARE Foundation. As highlighted by the Southern Poverty Law Centre, VDARE serves as a platform for the more intellectually inclined leaders of the anti-immigrant movement to disseminate their views, perpetuating a cycle of exclusion and division. Steve Bannon, ever the connoisseur of radical thought, a far-right conjuror of post-truth devilry and celebrity Republican spellcaster, has aligned himself with the Dark Enlightenment, embracing its tenets with unique fervour. In this bleak landscape of ideological warfare, Bannon seeks a kinship with those who wish to dismantle the pillars of democracy, casting a long, foreboding shadow over the future. Bannon’s stark antithesis to Enlightenment values proved a triumphant strategy in the 2016 presidential election, heralding a seismic shift from liberalism to populism, nativism and authoritarianism. The underlying political currents in the US, their memetic diffusion and attractor neural networks that easily encode Trumpism for half the population, illustrate how Trump’s appeal has resonated with a disillusioned electorate yearning for radical change who share a similar associative memory attractor state when it comes to political conspiracies.

As Wlodzislaw Duch argues, ‘people that subscribe to specific subcultures share many common beliefs and contribute to replication of specific memes. In such subcultures, memes, units of cultural transmission, may become viral because they complement already existing episodic memories, extending memplexes that are common in such populations, adding new, easily excitable elements strongly associated with already memorised memes.’ And as Trump gears up for a second term, a coalition of formidable political forces rises in opposition to democracy, with Steve Bannon at the helm, striving to endorse Trump’s brand of divisive rhetoric and put an end to the waning ideals of democracy and reason. Bannon stands atop the political firmament as a political operative who embodies the ‘dark triad,’ which includes psychopathy (a lack of empathy), narcissism (excessive self-absorption) and Machiavellianism (the belief that the ends justify the means), and who has an ideological affinity for mixing occultism and political science.

According to Katherine Doyle, ‘Bannon is not a household name for most Americans, but among the pundit and governing class – and particularly among diehard political junkies – he is a behemoth. Depicted by critics as a venomous propagandist who helped mastermind the populist uprising that swept Trump into office, Democrats say Bannon helped fuel some of the former President’s most incendiary positions and see his show as the vehicle through which he tries to shape conditions to prop up Trump.

In 2016, Bannon fortified Breitbart News, the arch-conservative publication he helmed, into a relentlessly pro-Trump tool. After the election, he joined Trump as a senior White House aide. The architect behind Trump’s America First crusade, Bannon found himself unceremoniously ousted from the echelons of power after a mere seven months. His forced exile from the White House marked not the demise of this ideological juggernaut, but rather Bannon’s ascent to omnipresent media menace, casting a pall over the global stage that still lingers today. Reports whispered of tumultuous clashes with the President’s kin, Jared Kushner and other luminaries of Trumpian counsel. Trump himself bristled at Bannon’s audacious claims to the laurels of electoral triumph, while accusations of clandestine dealings with the press – not uncommon in the DC circuit – swirled in the political maelstrom. With a defiant flourish upon his return to the helm of Breitbart, Bannon’s declaration echoed through the corridors of political power: ‘I’ve reclaimed my arsenal. It’s Bannon the Barbarian once more.’

Despite Trump’s bravado in claiming sole credit for his electoral coronation, the scroll of victory bore the indelible wax seal of Steve Bannon’s brain, whose iconic strategy and subterfuge played a major role in Trump’s ascendence to the White House throne. Yet, as the sands of time unfurl, Bannon finds himself ensnared in the web of justice, facing legal retribution for his defiance before the January 6 Committee, tasked with unravelling the dark web of insurgency that gripped the nation’s capital in its icy, treasonous, embrace.

Earlier, a federal case emerged against Bannon, with New York prosecutors accusing him and three associates of swindling donors out of over a million dollars in a fundraising campaign ostensibly designed to support Trump’s border wall. Trump pardoned Bannon during his final hours in office. Despite their estrangement, Trump was keen to extend clemency to his erstwhile advisor, having rekindled their alliance as Bannon amplified Trump’s election conspiracy narratives.

According to Doyle, Bannon’s popular War Room show offered him a vehicle to re-enter Trump’s inner circle, championing the push to overturn the 2020 election and Trump’s baseless claims of rampant fraud. He fervently fought against the former President’s enemies in Congress and within the Republican Party itself. Since then, Bannon has emerged as one of Trump’s most aggressive zealots, largely due to his ‘War Room’ show. He has meticulously crafted this platform to rally the grassroots of the Republican Party to the ballot box in November, mainly through a mixture of intellectual swashbuckling and his signature rascality.

Bannon’s flair for messaging is evident, yet he envisions the show as more than just a megaphone for rallying cries; he sees it as a serious forum for discussing policy and ideas. Doyle describes how the show fosters scepticism on topics like artificial intelligence, vaccines, global trade, China and foreign wars, urging listeners to engage at every level of the political process. Trump remains the ideological weathervane, guiding the discourse and direction. Some claim Bannon is creating a shadow party within the GOP, a subterranean force aiming to reshape the political landscape from within through the ethereal whispers of New Thought and the arcane incantations of Chaos Magick to the shadowed corridors of Julius Evola’s far-right esotericism and the mystic dogmas of the Traditionalists.

Bannon, a scion of Latin-speaking Tridentine Catholics, traversed a path strewn with accolades from private military academies to the ivy-clad bastions of academia, culminating in a dizzying ascent through the maze-like catacombs of political power. A polymath of sorts, he donned the mantle of a naval officer, adorned the finery of investment banking and tread the boards of Hollywood as a producer before etching his name indelibly upon the annals of media as co-founder of Breitbart News. Now, a luminary in the realm of podcasting and ultra-masculinist media jocksniffery, Bannon’s pale, grubby visage, atop his trademark ensemble of multi-shirts and barn coat, has become both a caricature and a symbol of his enigmatic putrid presence.

Yet, beneath the veneer of sartorial eccentricity lies a figure whose influence extends far beyond the realms of fashion faux pas. Bannon, the harbinger of a far-right ideology christened Traditionalism by its devout acolytes, evokes comparisons to a modern-day Rasputin or an incarnation of J. Edgar Hoover’s clandestine cabal. Dubbed ‘Sloppy Steve’ by Trump himself, Bannon’s tempestuous tenure as the chief strategist to the commander-in-chief was marked by tumult and controversy.

In the history of contemporary political discourse, Bannon emerges as a provocateur par excellence, a domineering guru wielding his incendiary rhetoric like a leather sap, bludgeoning truth into submission beneath the weight of falsehoods. Stephen Collinson, CNN’s political savant, paints a portrait of Bannon as a political arsonist, igniting flames of discord with each syllable uttered in his inflammatory podcast, a veritable cauldron of lies and half-truths.

Bannon’s mindset was formed in the mythic hinterlands of medieval knights and Lords. Sadly, for Bannon, the days of ruffs and doublets have long since disappeared; instead, Bannon’s ilk is forced to clothe themselves in the trappings of Brooks Brothers seersucker suits (with maximum pucker), navigating the landscape of Republican fundraisers with the swagger of Tony Soprano’s henchmen. Bannon, as the capomandamento, can remain sinister in his’ smelly, disgusting, soiled’ Barbour Bedale barn coat that gives him a faux-revolutionary look that some claim ‘must be saturated with all the hateful ideas, white nationalist views and odious positions’ of the man credited with being the architect of President Trump’s anti-democratic, anti-American, misanthropic policies.’ It has also been described as so ‘infused with the demon’s depravity it can stand upright on its own… and [i]f it can stand on its own, it can probably initiate and execute villainous acts independently.’ It is telling, perhaps, that Trump’s ‘stern, unfriendly overcoat’ was not deemed as offensive according to a recent poll. Trump’s ‘signature cold weather garment was branded ‘the dark drape of death’ and ‘the cloak of the oppressors’ by many respondents,’ as it was ‘worn by some of the most malevolent men in history including Adolf Hitler, Genghis Khan, Dracula, Saddam Hussein, even Boris Badenov from The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show.’ But it did not ‘generate the same level of revulsion as the Bannon coat.’

For Trump’s fervent adherents, reality blurs into the realm of fantasy, where Democrats are intergalactic, reptile-looking, blood-slurping paedophiles masquerading as humans and QAnon conspiracy theories take root like ivy, choking the life from rational discourse. In this twilight realm of truth and fiction, Bannon reigns supreme, a modern-day alchemist transmuting fear into fervour and falsehood into faith. These charlatans like to huddle in their breakout groups, drafting into legislative red meat and hot-button cultural issues such as anti-critical race theory legislation and anti-vaccine mandates to appease Trumpists who are already convinced that the Democrats are reptiles from another solar system disguised as humans. While Bannon may not go the full Monty when it comes to QAnon reports that Democrats from the ‘Hollywood elite’ are paedophiles kidnapping their children whom they rape and then skewer on a spit after harvesting their adrenochrome and mixing it into a potent Moloko Plus with which they toast Satan, he does little to quash such reports.

Bannon’s voice can shift from a timbre of haunting fragility that resonates with an eerie allure reminiscent of the spectral whispers of a skinwalker to the thunderous menace of a slasher film villain sporting a smile like broken glass. In the realm of politics, his dishevelled bravado lacks the kinetic force of the fringe fascism that often accompanies Trump’s biker entourage – those bearded bruisers and leather-clad renegades exuding machismo and testosterone injections. A figure of dubious authority, Bannon cuts an image more akin to a medieval warlord than a modern-day statesman, blurring the lines between self-aggrandisement and massive delusion. The hardwearing strain of Bannon’s voice and his unshaven, grubby bluster lack the ripping, propulsive energy of a B-side strongman we have come to expect from Trump’s bearded big-riggers and biker-type miscreants with their hydraulic smiles, stomp and grind masculinity and fist-pumping rodomontade. A tin-pot potentate, a raving revenant from medieval lore, Bannon confounds any pretence to reason by his confusing his own image with that of a Byronic hero while having more in common with the ideology of a Roland Freisler, head of Nazi Germany’s People’s Court. Though lacking Freisler’s screeching rhetoric, Bannon wields influence with a subtler arsenal, weaving his narrative through the fabric of conspiracy, enveloping his audience in a fog of disingenuousness. I can imagine a red-faced Bannon putting the ‘woke’ crowd on trial using Freisler’s tactics: Subjecting them to his blistering harangues while they stand before him, beltless and unshaven, scrambling to hold up their pants, desperately trying to defend themselves amidst a jeering audience who are anxiously waiting to applaud the death penalty (a sentence which is, unsurprisingly, inevitable). In Bannon’s court of opinion, dialogue is deemed obsolete, replaced by the swift stroke of judgment, unyielding and final.

In this Faustian tale, Bannon has succumbed to the enticements of Mephistopheles (an ancient trickster demon in Germanic Folklore and the King of the Crossroad Demons) in exchange for his soul, only to unleash chaos upon the mortal realm, a tragic figure ensnared in his own hubris. The most outstanding characteristic of Mephistopheles is scepticism, the inability to believe in anything. Bannon, the Chaos Master trapped inside ‘Walpurgis Night’s Dream’ (one night of the year when all the witches, evil beings and magic creatures of the world gather in the Harz mountains), burrows his demented politics into the brainpans of his listeners, urging them to remember America’s bygone era, the world of old when American leaders were noble creatures who knew how to govern and win the Cold War.

Bannon has transformed his War Room into a space where the gratuitous violence of his fellow conspiracy peddlers can be celebrated and where lamentations for the lost tribe of America’s great leaders can be voiced through billowing vapours of disingenuousness. It is a space where Trump is the measure of all things orange and beautiful, a space of deception, a diversion from the narrative cultivated by the mainstream media that Bannon is a figure of pompous self-importance draped in the tattered cloak of Gothic melodrama. It is a trompe l’oeil, a devilish illusion designed to cover up the fact that Bannon and Trump ooze the same decrepit odour of shamelessness, of egomaniacal cunning, of boorishness, of mean-spirited destructiveness under the thrall of self-delusion and in the service of personal power. It is a space where Trump can be heralded as a beacon of blinding radiance, standing as America’s arbiter of truth and, yes, beauty (political beauty), and Bannon can be seen as Trump’s brother-in-arms.

A figure evocative of bygone eras, Bannon orchestrates a resurgence of ideological Specters thought long interred. Bannon loves to invite guests who condemn ‘woke’ liberal culture – transgender rights, LGTBQ rights, voting rights, cancel culture and critical race theory, the current bugaboos of the Republican right. Bannon is joined at the hip with the Tea Party as far as the culture wars are concerned. From transgender rights to voting rights, Bannon and the Tea Party stand united against what they perceive as the encroachment of progressive ideals. Yet, amidst Bannon’s bombast lies a deeper truth: a calculated manipulation of fear and uncertainty aimed at galvanising support for his vision of a world order rooted in tradition and hierarchy. In Bannon’s world, chaos is not a threat but a promise, a means to an end in his relentless pursuit of power and influence.

In their protected sanctuaries, the Trump-whisperer’s cabal of Republican operatives concocts legislative potions infused with the elixir of cultural warfare, pandering to the whims of Trumpian loyalists with red meat and hot-button issues. Anti-critical race theory legislation and anti-mask mandates are but breadcrumbs in the ‘peach tree dish’ (if I may quote Marjorie Taylor Greene attempting to use the term ‘petri dish’) of their machinations, designed to ensnare the unwary in a web of paranoia and delusion.

Mr. Bannon has adeptly transformed his tenure as the chief strategist for former President Donald J. Trump into a prominent role as a right-wing luminary. His hourlong ‘War Room’ podcast episodes are broadcast at least twice daily. A recent study by the Brookings Institution has crowned Mr. Bannon’s show as the leading purveyor of false, misleading and unsubstantiated statements among political podcasts.

According to Stuart A. Thompson of The New York Times, ‘[r]esearchers at Brookings downloaded and transcribed 36,603 podcast episodes from 79 political talk shows that had been released before January 22, 2022. When researchers compared the shows’ transcripts against a list of keywords and common falsehoods identified by fact checkers, they found that nearly 20 per cent of Mr Bannon’s ‘War Room’ episodes contained a false, misleading or unsubstantiated statement, more than shows by other conservatives like Glenn Beck and Charlie Kirk. Overall, about 70 per cent of the podcasts reviewed had shared at least one false or misleading claim, the researchers found. Conservative podcasters were 11 times as likely as liberal podcasters to share a claim that fact-checkers could refute.’

According to Bannon, Americans should rally behind the ‘anti-woke’ Russian President Vladimir Putin, a figure renowned for his staunch anti-LGBTQ stance. Bannon extolled Putin mere hours before the Russian leader commenced his invasion of Ukraine. His praise followed similar commendations from Trump and other conservative voices. ‘Putin ain’t woke. He is anti-woke,’ Bannon declared to private military contractor Erik Prince during a Wednesday broadcast of War Room, Bannon’s show on the right-leaning network Real America’s Voice. ‘The Russian people still know which bathroom to use,’ Prince concurred.

Bannon’s accolades resonate with sentiments expressed by Trump. Yet, Putin is infamous among global human-rights organisations for his vehemently anti-LGBTQ policies. Daniel Villarreal reports that, in June 2013, Putin enacted a law banning so-called ‘gay propaganda’ in Russia, ostensibly to ‘protect children’ from any’ propaganda of nontraditional sexual relationships,’ as the law’s text states. This legislation has been predominantly wielded to silence LGBTQ activist groups, disrupt events, censor websites and media, dismantle families and harass educators, according to LGBTQ Nation. The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and civil rights activists worldwide have vehemently condemned this law.

Moreover, Putin has turned a blind eye to the ongoing, years-long crackdown against gay, bisexual and lesbian individuals in Chechnya, a semi-autonomous Russian region. This brutal crackdown, which began in December 2016, involves police and military officials detaining suspected queer individuals on fabricated charges of drug dealing or terrorism. These detainees endure electrocution, beatings, exposure to extreme cold, starvation, dehydration, isolation, forced nudity and homophobic insults to coerce them into naming other suspected homosexuals, as reported by the Russian LGBT Network. An estimated 33 people have died in this crackdown, with hundreds fleeing the region since its inception.

The makeshift nature of Bannon’s War Room podcast, with its glitchy audio and buzzing phones, lends an air of absurdity to the proceedings, evoking visions of ‘Father Coughlin stumbling into Wayne and Garth’s basement’ according to Jennifer Senior. In the tangled recesses of Steve Bannon’s mind, there swirls a tempestuous amalgam of esoteric philosophies, a grim confluence where the gnostic visions of Norman Vincent Peale, the Trump family’s own apostle of positive thinking, intersect with the arcane wisdom of Manly P. Hall and the sinister allure of Julius Evola, the fascist muse and Nazi sympathiser. These are squeezed alongside the perverse metaphysical doctrines of René Guénon, the French-Egyptian sage who forged the spiritual underpinnings of Traditionalism. Looming in this shadowy congregation is also the contemporary intellectual spectre of Aleksandr Gelyevich Dugin, the fascist Russian philosopher and geopolitical theorist adored by Putin.

Bannon, with his peculiar blend of intellectual eccentricity, in some ways sets himself apart from the cacophony of gospel-shouting, truth-bending, rage-fuelled demagogues that animate Trump’s fervent followers. His affinity for the ‘trad Caths’ – staunch adherents of traditional Catholicism – serves as a badge of distinction, a shield against the chaotic chorus of election-denying, autocratic zealots that populate the Trumpian landscape. Bannon’s fringe intellectual bearing and his admiration from ‘trad Caths’ has managed to separate him from the gospel-screeching, fact-compromised, pathological, rage-tweeting, putschist, despotic, pandemic-denying fascists who populate Trump’s wide-ranging, calamitous base. He drew intensive media attention for criminal contempt charges after he refused to comply with a congressional subpoena from the House Select Committee investigating the January 6th riots at the United States Capitol building – charges that will allow him to play a heroic martyr’s role to the hilt when he enters prison on July 1.

His defiance of a congressional subpoena from the House Select Committee investigating the January 6th Capitol riots has, with Trump’s base, cast him in the role of a defiant martyr, a modern Prometheus chained not by rock but by the machinations of justice that will soon see him serve jail time. In the public eye, Bannon conceals his dark craft with a deft hand, presenting himself as a more scholarly and subdued incarnation of Alex Jones – a perfidious patriot poised to champion fundamentalist religious nationalism. Yet, those who have ventured deeper into the abysses of his philosophical and political psyche might well envision him as a creation from the secretive laboratory of Dr No, a James Bond villain forged in the volcanic depths, honed to a dangerous brilliance.

In the complex web of Steve Bannon’s rhetoric, there is a vehement disdain for Enlightenment rationalism, which he blames for ushering in the modernity that has given birth to today’s ‘woke culture.’ Bannon is astutely aware that a significant portion of Trump’s base has already wilfully divorced itself from the realm of rational discourse. Instead, they have embraced a retrogressive, racist, gun-worshipping and misogynistic anti-rationalism that has long festered within the American psyche. This cultural milieu provides fertile ground for Bannon’s incendiary sloganeering, allowing him to manipulate historical narratives and promote alternative interpretations of America’s belligerent entanglements in global politics with remarkable efficacy. For all Bannon’s talk about being against Enlightenment rationalism in the turn to modernity (which he sees as spawning today’s ‘cancel culture’), he understands the ideology that drives much of Trump’s base. He excels at re-codifying history and prosecuting alternative readings of belligerent US involvement in the politics of other nations. He has a ready-built audience, and the more social structures built upon Enlightenment values that he can lead them to fracture through his phantasmic philippics, the closer he can come to realising his medievalist dream as he proceeds down a dark polemical path lined with acolytes from America’s rural bloodlines to becoming America’s major political necromancer.

Bannon thrives in this environment, excelling at re-imagining history and challenging the conventional wisdom of US involvement in the affairs of other nations. His audience, preconditioned and eager for his madcap ravings, is ever ready to fracture the social structures founded upon Enlightenment ideals. Each crack and fissure he induces brings him closer to his medievalist vision – a vision where the dark allure of his polemics garners a fervent following, from America’s rural heartlands to the corridors of power along K Street, positioning him as the nation’s preeminent political miscreant.

In this sinister transformation, Bannon is not merely a puppet master of discontent but a disguised embodiment of the cranky old uncle you try to tolerate at Thanksgiving dinner. But unlike our cranky old uncles, Bannon commands millions of devout followers. This dichotomy of harmlessness and menace encapsulates his strategy: to cloak conservative radicalism in the guise of tradition, to rally a disillusioned populace around a banner of nostalgic extremism and to march them inexorably toward his dystopian dream of a Francoist-like (i.e., Catholic dictatorship). Francoist repression claimed the lives of between 30,000 and 50,000 souls, a grim testament to the era’s brutality. In 1937, Franco seized the severed hand of Saint Teresa of Avila, the revered Doctor of the Catholic Faith, and kept it beside his bed until his death in 1975. This relic, thankfully now returned to the nuns of Nuestra Señora de la Merced in Ronda, Spain, resides in a darkened, locked room, enshrined within a silver glove adorned with precious stones. Franco’s act of stark hypocrisy and deliberate sacrilege stands as a potent symbol of the inhumanity of right-wing demagogues throughout history. Teresa of Avila is a saint known for transforming self-centredness into other-centredness, a feature that Bannon would find incomprehensible, although he would very much like to align himself with the Catholic saints, the preconciliar rites after the Second Vatican Council associated with traditionalist Catholicism and the Tridentine Mass.

Bannon has called on people who are critical of Christian nationalism to be ‘purged’ from the US. This proclamation echoes Trump, who has not ruled out building detention camps for mass deportations of migrants who are not in this country legally. Who will be next? According to Jeffrey C. Alexander, ‘Bannon’s ideology is constructed around binary codes and temporal narratives, the former deeply othering, the latter dangerously, frothingly apocalyptic. At the core of Bannon-ideology is a series of extraordinarily simplistic contrasts between good and bad, sacred and profane. This series creates dangerous others whose continuing existence threatens the good folks who make up what Bannon describes as the ‘real America.’ These ‘others’ include immigrants. As Alexander notes, ‘Bannon heaps scorn on non-white immigrants – Hispanic, East Asian, South Asian – and purifies the people he describes as ‘native Americans.’ This fantasy category most definitely does not include our nation’s actual natives, America’s indigenous ‘Indians,’ much less the most culturally ‘American’ racial and ethnic groups of all, African-Americans.’

Disturbingly, when Bannon discusses whom he regards as the big thinkers, ‘he gestures admiringly to fascists, bigots, dictators and theocrats. Charles Maurras, for example, the rabidly anti-Semitic French Catholic political intellectual; fan of Mussolini and Franco; leader of the ‘anti-Dreyfusards’ who persecuted the Jewish army captain falsely accused of treason; decades-long agitator against the democratic and secular Third Republic; sentenced to life imprisonment after World War II for collaborating with the Nazi occupation; Or Julius Evola: Italian professor at the weird but aptly named ‘‘School of Fascist Mysticism’’; ferociously anti-Semitic; intellectual and spiritual advisor to Mussolini; godfather of the Racial Laws that sent thousands of Italian Jews to their deaths in the late 1930s.’

When we reconstruct Bannon’s political ideology, the truth reveals itself. Right-wing Republicans are ‘participating in democracy in order to destroy it.’ For instance, ‘Trump’s withdrawal from the climate accord, his persistence with the Muslim ban, his ‘decline of Western civilisation’ Poland speech – these efforts promoting particularism over universalism, in the guise of protecting national sovereignty, have Bannon’s fingerprints all over them.’

Alexander describes Bannon as ‘a performance-enhancing drug.’ He adds: ‘The secret of his power over Trump, and over some large swath of the American people, has been his mythopoeic abilities, writing the script, setting the stage, finding the actors and directing the mis-en-scene so effectively that anti-democratic ideas seem for many sensible and sometimes even inspiring, while democratic ideas appear irrational and profane. Bannon once called Trump a flawed vessel, but into that striving, overheated human container, Bannon has poured a magical potion, a fearsome brew.’

Alexander writes that as a mythologist, Bannon scripted and produced a new and pernicious political movie, which he continues to direct. Donald Trump plays the heroic protagonist, and Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Democrats and Enlightenment ideas play the dark Beast that the barking, bleached blond populist President has entered the arena to slay. Bannon once confided to Variety that he had a ‘kinetic editing style that seeks to overwhelm audiences.’

But what about the storied tribalism that separates the Republicans and Democrats? Does Bannon believe it will ever be breached? Alexander’s insight is incisive:

Between the people and institutions arrayed on one side or the other, one can imagine relations of different kinds. They might view themselves as aggressive opponents but not necessarily as enemies. In a democratic social order, the adversarial conflict between partisan opponents is agonistic, not antagonistic. Bannon sees it otherwise. There is no space for comity in his universe. Just as there is no room for supra-national governance, there is no space for constitutionally authorised third parties to mediate conflicts on the domestic scene.

If the opposing sides are not frenemies but enemies, there can be no mutually binding rules of the game. We find ourselves in Nixon-land, a world of plumbers, spies and liars, of fierce, extra-constitutional confrontations with Congress, the press and the courts. Clausewitz remarked that war is politics by another name. Bannon sees politics as war by another name. No wonder he has vowed that ‘every day, every day, it’s going to be a fight.’

Bannon’s infatuation with Evola is not uncommon among fascists. Born amidst the splendour of Rome to a lineage steeped in nobility, Baron Julius Evola epitomised the paradoxes of tradition and rebellion. His dalliance with Yoga, his trademark monocle askew, bespoke a disdain for Christian dogma and an embrace of Italy’s primordial ethos, entwining with the sinews of Roman paganism. Even as shadows of fascism and anti-Semitism danced in his wake, the alt-right clasps his banner with fervour, intertwining their destinies with his, united in the pursuit of hidden truths and whispered conspiracies.

Julius Evola

Evola emerges as a ‘devout diehard,’ navigating the tides of opposition with a stoic resolve, understanding that the battleground of the 21st century would not be between Left and Right but between democratic and fascist iterations of the Right. Evola’s legacy looms large, his tome ‘Ride the Tiger’ serving as a beacon for those seeking transcendence amidst the tumult of the Kali Yuga, the ‘end times’ known by Hindus as Kali Yuga.

A World War I veteran, Evola was a renaissance man of the shadowed realms – a mountaineer scaling existential heights, a painter infusing canvases with the chaos of Futurism and Dadaism, a poet weaving verses with the threads of mysticism. An aficionado of far-Eastern religions, he translated the ineffable into the tangible, all while harbouring elitist, anti-democratic ideals. A fervent disciple of René Guénon’s notion of tradition, Evola’s name gained prominence in the 1970s and 1980s, resonating with the far-right through his transcendent, anti-democratic tracts.

His literary pursuits drew him deep into the arcane worlds of occultism and philosophy. He penned extensive treatises on Eastern religions, alchemy, sexuality, politics and mythology, casting a wide net over the esoteric and the forbidden. His journey took a darker turn as he collaborated with the SS Ahnenerbe in Austria – Himmler’s cadre of Nazi intellectuals intent on proving the supremacy of the ‘Aryan’ race. Yet, like a spectre, he evaded retribution after World War II, facing trial only once in 1951 for his fascist ideologies and slipping through the grasp of justice for lack of evidence.

In this context, Bannon’s vision is one of a return to a world of communal belonging, a Volksgemeinschaft, where the sacral nation is reborn through the purification of its racial lines. His polemical path is one of mythic restoration, a quest to revive a nationalistic utopia that draws heavily on the aesthetics and ethos of a mythical past. Bannon’s dream, much like that of his European counterparts, is steeped in the romanticism of an idealised history, where the nation is a sacred entity, untainted by the amalgamation of diverse identities, as seen in the occult dimensions of Nazism.

Evola’s philosophic journey began with his contempt of modernity when he came to abjure scientific progress that turned its back on mythical traditions and perennial wisdom and instead embraced the horrors of industrialisation and cultural miscegenation that Evola claimed were responsible for the drastic decline of European civilisation. Evola shapes his analysis of race as a celebration of diversity. By asserting that racial distinctions are rooted in culture and spirituality rather than mere biology, his followers argue that their stance is not overtly racist. This has not prevented Bannon from emerging as a dark alchemist of ideology, blending ancient myth with contemporary fears, weaving a narrative that appeals to the deepest yearnings for purity and belonging. His rhetoric resonates with those who seek to reclaim a sense of lost identity, positioning him as a modern-day prophet of Anglo pluralism, a figure whose vision is both archaic and alarmingly resonant in the fractured landscape of modern politics.

Bannon’s self-aggrandising delusions that he is a modern-day Evola have helped him craft his appeal to the fringes of political thought that are symptomatic of a deeper, more insidious trend in contemporary politics. His vision, however muddled and malevolent, taps into the anxieties and discontents of the age, offering a dark mirror to the tumultuous landscape of our times. Bannon’s influence is not merely a testament to his own cunning but also to the vulnerabilities and fears that he so adeptly manipulates.

Bannon, ensnared in his fixation on antiquated bastions of power, envisions a regressive pilgrimage to the days when countries were not burdened by democracy. His vision, a stark reversal from democratic enlightenment to a fashionable feudal tableau, adorns the landscape with neo-medieval fiefdoms, where the yoke of ritual and obedience weighs heavily, relegating dissenters – the ‘woke,’ the liberal, the marginalised – to stocks and chains. In Bannon’s scheme, the grand design of the godless nation-state, in its twilight, undergoes a metamorphosis into a Judeo-Christian dystopia, spurning the idea of a unified humanity while scorning the very notion of diversity.

Bannon beckons us to forsake the annals of history, embracing instead a mythical consciousness that enwraps the trajectory of universal narrative in the hues of the American flag and places democracy on the slaughter bench of history. His ambition: to dismantle the sepulchre of modern epistemology, erecting in its stead an occult agora, shrouded in the fog of historical amnesia, a studied forgetfulness and cultivated ignorance surrounding the contributions of American figures who fought for social justice.

In the shadowy recesses of Himmler’s notorious SS-Schule Haus Wewelsburg, festooned with esoteric emblems, Bannon finds kinship. Like a pilgrim seeking enlightenment, he delves into the Bhagavad Gita, fashioning from its verses a personal ethos of duty, envisioning himself as a warrior in the cosmic battlefield, akin to the heroes of the Kurukshetra War. Yet he fails to comprehend that he is on the lease of a demon.

In this convergence of esoteric fascinations, echoes of Putin’s enigmatic aura reverberate. Just as Himmler sought enlightenment in the occult, Bannon embarks on a quest for transcendence, blurring the boundaries between political ideology and mystic revelation. Bannon has become America’s Aryan Svengali, a Rasputin figure of the ‘America First’ nationalist cause whose apocalyptic visions are crafted to rally the Great American Spirit of agrarian and industrial workers and designed to vanquish the pawns of the transnational financial elite and herald a new dawn for rural and inner-city America. While Bannon does not embrace every foundational principle of Traditionalism, including its racist and misogynistic tenets, he embraces enough to render him exceedingly dangerous. In fact, his own ignorance of the nuances of Traditionalism makes him more dangerous as a ‘populist anti-cosmopolitanist.’

Most liberals might find common ground with one aspect of Traditionalism: the notion that ‘it’s not America’s right or responsibility to invade and manage the world to universalise Western liberal ways.’ This stance, however, does little to deter the US military, which operates at the behest of the military-industrial complex. Bannon’s medievalism is woven with threads of racism, xenophobia, misogyny and traditionalism – elements that resonate deeply with conservative Christian evangelical communities and various religious cults. In this age of QAnon, conspiracy fantasies and the Cult of Trump, such groups wield considerable influence over election outcomes. Mussolini once declared that ‘fascism is the church of all the heresies,’ a sentiment strikingly applicable to today’s Trump supporters. Bannon aspires to supplant the degenerative effects of modernity with a new ‘nomos,’ a horizon of mythic splendour where a grand regeneration of human values can unfold.

This envisioned regeneration is both audacious and alarming. Consider the diatribes of Marjorie ‘Traitor’ Greene, a frequent guest on Bannon’s podcast. Greene, a lawmaker who seems plucked straight from a Coen Brothers film about Calamity Jane or a caricature from WWE’s Ruthless Aggression Era, rails against the imagined tyranny of Nancy Pelosi’s ‘gazpacho police’ – a nonsensical accusation that evokes images of chilled tomato soup enforcers patrolling the Capitol. And can we forget her accusations of Jewish space lasers being responsible for California wildfires? And these were part of her saner moments.

In this theatrical display, Greene has emerged as the new face of the Republican Party, overshadowing even Donald Trump, who now appears too moderate for the radicalised base. Bannon is left scrambling to keep pace, striving to align himself with the increasingly extreme rhetoric that defines the contemporary GOP. His vision of a mythic resurgence beckons, a darkly alluring mirage that promises to restore a bygone era’s supposed purity and grandeur, all while cloaking its dangerous ideology in the garb of tradition and faith.

Steve Bannon’s descent into the annals of infamy reached a nadir when his Twitter account was suspended after he incited violence against political adversaries – specifically, Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and FBI Director Christopher Wray. During a livestream of his Pandemic podcast, Bannon chillingly declared: ‘I’d put the heads on pikes. Right. I’d put them at the two corners of the White House. As a warning to federal bureaucrats: Either get with the program, or you’re gone.’

In a 2016 interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Bannon further revealed the depths of his philosophy: ‘Darkness is good,’ he mused. ‘Dick Cheney. Darth Vader. Satan. That’s power. It only helps us when they get it wrong. When they’re blind to who we are and what we’re doing.’ These sinister pronouncements emanated from the man who was appointed chief strategist for the Trump administration, a man whose endorsement of Governor DeSantis’s cultural crusade against Critical Race Theory and book bans, alongside civic literacy campaigns warning against socialism and communism, reveals a dark allegiance.

Yes, this is Steve Bannon – a figure who embodies the malevolent forces he so admires. Supporting a monster makes you a monster, a truth starkly evident to those who, like Tucker Carlson, propagate the same dark agenda. Carlson’s Tucker Carlson Originals offered episodes such as ‘Hungary vs. Soros: The Fight for Civilisation’ and ‘Patriot Purge,’ the latter a documentary about the January 6 riots, teeming with unadulterated lies and fabrications.

In Bannon’s worldview, the line between darkness and light is blurred, if not entirely erased. His rhetoric constitutes a harbinger of chaos, a clarion call to the disillusioned and the enraged. His vision is one where mythic grandeur and brutal reality intertwine, a nightmarish tableau where heads on pikes are not mere metaphor but a grim prophecy. The shadows he navigates are dense and foreboding, casting long and dangerous silhouettes over the American political landscape.

Steve Bannon’s scorched earth politics reveal more than a mere patina of malevolence; his sartorial style is grandiloquent in its tackiness, his swollen visage reminiscent of a Netflix cartel boss. Yet, to dismiss him solely as a cookie-cutter villain or an evil genius would be to overlook the complexities that summon our natural susceptibility to intrigue. Bannon is, first and foremost, an eccentric politico, his philosophical fabric deeply imbricated in the writings of various masters of the occult. When he isn’t busy trolling otherworldly spirits, one might imagine him shuffling about his penthouse apartment in a cotton waffle bathrobe and rubber flip-flops, unshaven and engrossed in tomes on Hinduism, Zoroastrianism, tantric sex magic and Wicca.

Is Bannon merely a misunderstood contrarian who stumbled his way into the White House, or is he a calculating Engineer of Chaos? Is he guileful and unscrupulous, manipulative and calculating – the very prototype of the Machiavellian personality – or simply a political bumpkin? Bannon emerges not as a mere caricature but as a figure whose dark charisma and philosophical eclecticism evoke a blend of curiosity and dread. His persona is an intricate mosaic, each piece a testament to his enigmatic allure. He remains a figure of both mythic and malevolent potential, straddling the line between the mundane and the arcane. His admiration for the likes of Trump only deepens the enigma, inviting us to ponder the true nature of his political machinations and the dark philosophies that fuel them.

We must remember that history has seen political figures far less charismatic and erudite than Bannon, who have, nonetheless, managed to exploit the contemporary zeitgeist in order to wreak political havoc on an unsuspecting world. Bannon refers to his international agenda of organising populist parties as ‘The Movement.’ Bannon’s ally, the UK’s Nigel Farage – who lauds Bannon as the ‘greatest political thinker and activist in the Western world today’ – has benefited from dark money funding that bolstered Farage’s Brexit Party.

Farage and Peter McLaren

Peter McLaren confronting Nigel Farage

In an unprecedented twist of fate, Nigel Farage’s Reform UK party has surged past the Tories in a national opinion poll, securing a staggering 19 per cent compared to the Conservatives’ faltering 18 per cent. As Thomas Foster reports, this seismic shift underscores the venomous impact of Farage’s entry into the electoral fray and highlights the Tory party’s monumental crisis. Farage foments animosity towards migrants and refugees, blaming them for the everyday struggles of ordinary people – a diversion from the real culprits: the wealthy and powerful. Yet, when the Tories and Labour echo similar pro-elite rhetoric, Farage can masquerade as a genuine alternative. Farage has lauded Enoch Powell, infamous for his incendiary’ Rivers of Blood’ speech, as his political hero, claiming Powell’s principles were ‘good and true.’ At the 2014 UKIP conference, Farage lamented that parts of Britain had become ‘unrecognisable’ due to migration, describing it as ‘unacceptable.’ During the 2015 general election, Farage accused British Muslims of lacking ‘British values,’ describing them as a ‘fifth column’ intent on transforming British society and posing a lethal threat. This narrative of division and xenophobia, which Farage has masterfully exploited, sounds very much like it has been crafted from Bannon’s playbook.

Clearly, Bannon’s support for far-right groups, including those with ties to neo-Nazis, is at the very least proto-fascist. His politics evoke the eccentric and roguish Italian writer, political leader and provocateur Gabriele D’Annunzio, whose ideas influenced Benito Mussolini and Italian Fascism. Bannon’s role has positioned him as part of an ecosystem of far-right inciters and grifters who see themselves as both ruling the world and waging a valiant, uphill battle to seize power.

Steve Bannon has audaciously described himself as a Leninist, proclaiming he wants to destroy the American state and crush today’s liberal establishment. In this, he conveniently overlooks that, according to Marx, political democracy must be firmly established before the state either dissolves or withers away. It is not difficult to see why Andrew Breitbart, founder of Breitbart News, once dubbed Bannon the ‘Leni Riefenstahl of the Tea Party.’ Steve Bannon likened Donald Trump’s infamous escalator descent to announce his White House candidacy to ‘Triumph of the Will,’ the notorious Nazi propaganda film crafted by Leni Riefenstahl, according to a newly published book, ‘Insurgency: How Republicans Lost Their Party and Got Everything They Ever Wanted,’ by Jeremy W. Peters. Leni Riefenstahl is best remembered for ‘Triumph of the Will,’ her cinematic opus on Hitler, centred on the 1934 Nuremberg Nazi Party Congress. As Trump descended the golden escalator of his New York skyscraper to announce his presidential bid, Jeremy W. Peters notes in his book that this iconic film ‘flashed’ through Steve Bannon’s mind: ‘Triumph opens with a shot of Hitler’s aircraft high above Nuremberg as it begins descending through the clouds…. When it touches down in a field, the massive crowd that has assembled to greet their leader rejoices. Hitler smiles as he drinks in the adulation…. Bannon thought that Trump’s entrance looked strikingly similar and that he was witnessing someone with an uncanny sense for manipulating public perception.’

Bannon’s rage is, in large part, fuelled by his disdain for the Baby Boomer generation. Bannon fervently believes that this generation has undermined the capitalist system and, in so doing, destroyed the system of values that led their parents out of the hardship of the Great Depression and World War II. He decries the left’s socialist values that he believes encourage dependency on the government, sounding very much like Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan. Guilford and Sonnad cite Edmund Burke, an influential 18th-century Irish political thinker, as a philosopher who has influenced Bannon in his declamations against the ‘liberal, secular, global-minded elite’ – those progressive leftists whom Bannon believes have egregiously shirked their Judeo-Christian heritage that built the US and cast aside their ‘Burkean responsibility by abandoning the tried-and-true values of their parents (nationalism, modesty, patriarchy, religion) in favour of new abstractions (pluralism, sexuality, egalitarianism, secularism)’ and in this account Bannon sounds very much like Tea Party Republicans. He sees immigrant labour as profiting the globalist elite, both in terms of profits and votes. We are in the ‘Fourth Turning’ (prophesied by Neil Howe and William Strauss in their book of the same title), according to Bannon, that followed the American Revolution, Civil War and the Great Depression/World War II, and now are facing the prospect of a major conflict with Islam.

Bannon views immigrant labour as a dual boon for the globalist elite, benefiting them both in terms of profits and political support. Bannon’s self-styled image as an apocalyptic prophet, combined with his vitriolic critiques and inflammatory rhetoric unleased with a Medusan fury, paint a portrait of a man who sees himself not just as a political strategist but as a harbinger of radical transformation, someone who, upon his death, expects a barrow to be erected in some promontory in his honour. His rhetoric and actions suggest a deep-seated belief in the necessity of upheaval to restore what he perceives as lost virtues and to combat the perceived threats posed by globalism and modernity. Through this lens, Bannon emerges not merely as a provocateur but as a figure who seeks to redefine the American political landscape by resurrecting a mythic past and ushering in a contentious future.

Steve Bannon commands a fervent following among the adherents of the Great Replacement and Great Reset conspiracy fantasies. These narratives find an unholy resonance in contemporary political culture where ‘Sieg heil!’ is to be replaced by an outward respectability, although for the hyper-active Bannon, that will prove to be a formidable struggle. How many will heed the call for a refurbished Nazism? This question arises at a time when the far-right militia movement is mobilising, armed and ready. When more Americans, and young people worldwide, are susceptible to the allure of hate. Notice if your friends start sporting ‘fashist’ high-and-tight haircuts – long on top and shaved on the sides – sometimes known as the Edwardian, the Breitbart, the Grace Jones, the Prussian Army or the Park Slope.

The rising tide of far-right ideologies, emboldened by figures like Bannon, calls for vigilant resistance. In recognising and confronting these insidious movements, we honour the timeless fight against tyranny and uphold the enduring Enlightenment values of human dignity. In a fervent departure from the frigid grasp of rational materialism, Bannon embarks on a quest to forge robust and conservative Christian cultural identities across Europe, entwined with the fortification of a potent nation-state. His disdain for identities tethered predominantly to race, gender or ethnicity is palpable, as he extols the virtues of hierarchical religious states, preferably under the aegis of Catholicism.

Much akin to contemporary European fascists, Bannon finds inspiration in Renaud Camus’ 2012 tome The Great Replacement, which prophesies the eclipse of native Europeans by torrents of non-white immigrants. This work lays the cornerstone for the ‘identitarian’ doctrine, embraced ardently by American adherents who decry globalisation’s dilution of national essence into a muddled amalgam of identities. For Bannon, salvation lies in the sacralisation of nationhood, achieved through racial segregation, a notion revered by fascists as genuine pluralism – a paradigm Bannon dubs ‘ethnopluralism.’ As Greene ascends to the forefront of the Republican Party, eclipsing even Donald Trump in her fervour, Bannon scrambles to keep pace, his efforts emblematic of a shifting political landscape where erstwhile norms appear quaintly moderate.

In the cavernous chambers of his War Room podcast, Bannon’s oratory unfurls like billowing clouds, heavy with accusation and insinuation. Amidst the sombre aftermath of the Waukesha tragedy, where five souls perished, and scores were wounded, Bannon’s scratchy voice pierced the air, casting blame upon the spectral figure of George Soros. With the alleged assailant’s rap sheet unfurled like a damning scroll, Bannon’s accusatory finger pointed squarely at Soros, attributing culpability to the philanthropist’s advocacy for criminal justice reform. ‘This is Soros at work!’ he thundered, his words a clarion call to arms against the perceived tide of anarchy and lawlessness. The spectre of Soros, wielded like a cudgel, served as a shrewd stratagem, a calculated gambit to stoke division and sow discord, linking heinous deeds to the contentious realm of ‘woke’ culture and liberal enlightenment ideals.

A colossus in the eyes of his fervent disciples, Bannon’s bloviating sway extends across a diverse spectrum, from the earnest truth-seekers to the axe-grinding zealots and conspiracy mongers. Yet, behind the veneer of his charismatic charm lies a mind honed in the art of manipulation. Cunningly cloaked in the garb of conspiracy cognoscenti, Bannon deftly manoeuvres through the labyrinth of public discourse, wielding his Harvard and Georgetown pedigree like a two-edged sword. His podcast, the War Room, stands as a bastion, its chains coiled around the very pillars of American democracy, a testament to Bannon’s conviction that he wields the strength of Samson, poised to topple the edifice of established order. His very essence seems tailor-made for the tumultuous terrain of screen media in the digital age, where the clamour of the id finds fertile soil in the closed encampments of hyper-connected youth. Bannon himself is neither stupid nor foolish – nor, for that matter, earnest. He exercises his charm through cultspeak, by pretending to be part of the conspiracy Illuminati, by charming his opponents with dime-store intellectual banter (embarrassing for a Harvard and Georgetown graduate) and by appearing earnest when he is the most crookedly deceptive. Yet beneath this tempestuous facade lies a darker undercurrent, a megalomania tinged with a malevolence that threatens to rend the fabric of American democracy asunder.

Jennifer Senior has written about Steve Bannon with stunning alacrity and insight: ‘He says he has five phones, two encrypted, and he’s forever pecking away, issuing pronunciamentos with incontinent abandon – after midnight; during commercial breaks for his show, War Room; sometimes while the broadcast is still live.’ He’s obviously a busy man. Bannon’s character is perfectly suited to what she calls ‘this id-favourable internet age.’ And she is correct. Of his character, she writes: ‘The chaos and the focus, the pugnacity and the enthusiasm, the transparency and the industrial-grade bullshit. Also, the mania: logomania, arithmomania, monomania (he’d likely cop to all of these, especially that last one – he’s the first to say that one of the features of his show is ‘wash, rinse, repeat’). Garden-variety hypermania (with a generous assist from espressos). And, last of all, perhaps above all else, straight-up megalomania, which even those who profess affection for the man can see, though it appears to be a problem only for those who believe, as I do, that he’s attempting to insert a lit bomb into the mouth of American democracy.’

In her brilliant Atlantic article, Senior draws much of her material from personal communications with Bannon, and she manages to draw out pieces of Bannon’s madcap personality, his dark pugnacity and magnificently crafted malevolence that reminds me of a more sophisticated version of Scientology’s belligerent squirrel busters. She describes Bannon as

a televangelist, an Iago, a canny political operative with activist machinations. With almost every episode, he hopes to transform his audience into an army of the righteous – one that will undo the ‘illegitimate Biden regime’ and replace the current GOP infrastructure, still riddled with institutionalist RINO pushovers, with adamantine Trumpists who believe that 2020 rightfully belonged to them. ‘The show’s not about entertainment,’ he told his audience in one of his typical pep talks. ‘That’s not us. This is for the hard-cores, okay? … The people who say, ‘No, no, no, no, no, not on our watch.’ He goads his followers into action with a combination of praise, flattery and drill-sergeant phrases he repeats like a catechism: Put your shoulder to the wheel! Be a force multiplier! And especially: Use your agency!

Senior notes how Bannon advocates the ‘precinct strategy’ (first developed by the Republican lawyer Dan Schultz, which encourages interested citizens to sign up for the grunt work of elections) to advance his agenda, which is to hoodwink ordinary citizens and convince them to ‘work the system’ on behalf of Republican lies and therefore become loyal compatriots of his ‘citizen army.’ Bannon is brilliant at this kind of grassroots scheme, and his show is a goldmine for Republican fundraising. Bannon reminds me of O’Brien in the novel 1984, the man who tortures Winston but whom Winston comes to love through all of O’Brien’s meticulous administration of pain. Eventually, Winston becomes eager to hear and believe more and more of O’Brien’s lies. And then he becomes, in today’s parlance, Trumpified.

The United States’s democratic infrastructure could implode if the Republicans take back the House in a rout, which they likely will. This possibility has become a political wet dream for Bannon and has him saying: ‘The left in the media … they’re all about democracy…. On November 8, the War Room and the War Room posse and all the little people at the school boards and things – we’re gonna give you democracy shoved up your ass. Okay? We’re gonna give you a democracy suppository.’

I suppose this metaphor hints at Bannon’s sexual predilections and certainly reflects his looks and demeanour as an unshaven and hyperactive Edgar J. Hoover. Senior writes that ‘an analysis by the Brookings Institution found that War Room had more episodes containing falsehoods about election fraud than any other popular political podcast in the months leading up to January 6.’ This makes Steve Bannon a very dangerous man. Bannon, in his own words, wants to ‘weaponise’ the type of people who write into comments sections of stories – and turn them into his ‘posse, cadre or vanguard’ of deputised agents who have come to love the online personas they have carefully manufactured but who in real life are more likely to be frustrated geeks or incels. Bannon urges his listeners to become one with old South’s rebel cry, with the hatchet-wielding Mel Gibson that they cosplay in their half-finished recreation rooms before a full-length mirror when the rest of the family is out shopping for supplies for the weekend barbeque. Senior writes:

But that’s precisely what happened on January 6. The angry, howling hordes arrived as real-life avatars, cosplaying the role of rebels in face paint and fur. They stormed the Capitol while an enemy army tried to beat them away. They carried their own versions of caissons. They skipped a day of work. And then they expressed outrage – and utter incredulity – when they got carted away. The fantasy and the reality had become one and the same.

Bannon, I am sure, would love to take credit for helping to marshal that army of delusionoids on January 6. Bannon is the type of archetype con man that follows you as soon as you enter a department store and says, ‘let me show you this, now here is something I think you will like a lot, take a look at this, I have a feeling you’re going to love it’ and doesn’t leave you alone for a moment. You are tempted to make a purchase just to get him off your back. He works his game well because he’s studied the art of manipulation. He’s read some books, obviously, and puts that knowledge to use like a good foot soldier for the fascist rule he so eagerly desires. Senior writes:

Bannon’s the guy with a perpetual meta-motive, always working an angle. He’s extremely skilled at getting others to do what he wants them to do. He speaks openly, almost exuberantly, about his talent for thought puppetry. When I asked him why Democrats are terrible at talk radio, he had an immediate reply: Democrats are masters of the cool mediums, like TV. ‘But radio is theatre of the mind,’ he said. ‘Hot and theatre of the mind. I can fuck with your mind so badly if you’re just hearing my voice, right? It’s a much more powerful medium.’ Bannon’s frequent comments when he worked in the White House included the phrase ‘burn it all down.’ In this, he sounds like a deranged ‘burn baby burn’ hippie radical from the 1960s, but I guarantee he was nowhere near Watts in 1965. (‘Burn, baby! Burn!’ was a catchphrase attributed to the 1960s R&B disc jockey Magnificent Montague, who used the term to refer to really ‘hot’ records, but the slogan became associated with the 1965 Watts Riots.)

Admittedly, there is a side to Bannon that is charming. Senior describes it this way: ‘When Bannon isn’t in full gladiatorial mode, he is upbeat, good company, almost clubbable.’ This puts liberals off guard and makes them susceptible to being used. Bannon is an elite code-switcher, which makes him extremely capable of speaking out of both sides of his mouth. He has a forked tongue (not literally), a feature common to many species of reptiles that gives them an increased ability to sense chemicals, which allows for heightened abilities to identify prey, recognise kin, choose mates, locate shelters, follow trails, and, in Bannon’s case, smell political enemies or rivals. The phrase ‘speaks with a forked tongue’ is also a First Nations cultural term that means acting in a duplicitous manner or lying. One 1859 account from Canada connects the native proverb that the ‘white man spoke with a forked tongue’ to a heinous French tactic of the 1690s, in their war with the Iroquois, of inviting their enemies to attend a peace conference, only to slaughter or capture the good faith ambassadors. That’s Bannon. He will make you feel calm and comfortable and then give you a sucker punch. Senior writes: ‘He’s quite capable of code-switching into the patois and patter of the coastal elite, probably because he’s a card-carrying member, whether he likes it or not: an alumnus of Harvard Business School, Georgetown School of Foreign Service, Goldman Sachs, Hollywood.’

Apparently, Bannon helped Trump amplify the lie that the 2020 election was stolen, not because he believed the preposterous idea but because he needed a presidential pardon for being indicted for scamming money in a crowd-funding scheme to build Trump’s wall. I wonder if he helped Milo Yiannopoulos, an ‘ex-gay’ and far-right provocateur, get his recent gig as an intern for Congresswoman Marjorie’ Traitor’ Greene, you know, the politician who, one day after the US Senate passed a bill that would make daylight-saving time permanent, alleged that DST is a ‘conspiracy to control clocks.’ The same person who believes the attacks on 9/11 were an inside job, the same person who floated the idea that a California wildfire that killed 84 people was started by ‘lasers or blue beams of light’ shot down from space by a Jewish space laser and who liked a video that mentioned Hillary Clinton and a top aide cutting off a child’s face.

Bannon is a master of pandemonium whose preferred media strategy is to ‘flood the zone with shit.’ It’s shit, yes, but shit with a face – like Mr Potato Head, you can pin eyes, nose and lips to it. It’s shit with a voice, shit that can speak to an audience of gullible listeners before it starts to stink. And Bannon shits in Costco-sized dregs of unflushable bulk yak dung. According to Senior, ‘It’s perfect doublespeak, a formula that allows his viewers to embrace a conspiracy without calling it a conspiracy, to believe a lie while claiming it isn’t one. His show positively burbles with conspiracies, or at least darkly hints at doings within doings, grimy wheels within wheels.’

We are in a time of national crisis. Bannon is making headway by claiming the United States is not a democracy but a Constitutional Republic. He will twist the notion of Constitutional Republic to bring it in line with his fascist politics, and millions of his listeners will be deceived. The Republicans, with the help of QAnon crazies and non-compos mentis podcast perpetrators, are going to galvanise the vote for those who are bent on turning our government into a hurricane of hapless haranguing hacks – at least, more of a hurricane than it is already. Right now, it’s a thunderstorm. After November 2024, it will likely be a hurricane. Ask Bannon. He’s the most accurate weatherman. He has his pudgy finger on the pulse of the country because he has supplied the arteries and veins of public opinion with a toxic form of haemoglobin. He has oxygenised the country with hate. Bannon sits behind his desk and smiles while War Room guests repeat that the COVID-19 vaccines are an experimental gene therapy that kills one out of every fifteen people who take them; that the vaccines are actually a software platform that can receive uploads. Seriously, these are people who might receive appointments in the next Trump administration. Bannon is confident: ‘We will show full-spectrum dominance in November. We will run the tables on those feckless Democrats; we will fieldstrip these clowns. Trump was the tip of the spear, an armour-piercing shell.’

Bannon will likely come out of prison stronger and more popular. Annie Karni of the New York Times writes: ‘Mr. Bannon, who has long revelled in his infamy, insisted that his impending imprisonment would only make him stronger. He framed it as the ultimate act of patriotism by a MAGA warrior whom the government was bent on silencing in the months leading up to the presidential election.’ Bannon concludes, ‘There’s no downside…. I served on a Navy destroyer in my 20s in the North Arabian Sea and Persian Gulf. I’m serving in prison in my 70s. Not a bad bookend.’

Karni notes that ‘Mr. Bannon’s main concern now is for the future of the movement he has helped foster through his show. There, listeners are known as ‘‘the posse,’’ and Mr Bannon preaches to them endlessly about all of his obsessions: the lie that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from Mr Trump, what he calls the ‘‘criminal invasion’’ of the southern border; the out-of-control federal budget; the insanity of sending aid to Ukraine; and the ‘‘uniparty’’ Republicans in Congress who have become indistinguishable from Democrats.’

Bannon is an apocalyptic thinker who despises incremental change. A historical determinist, he falls for the pseudo-science of generational upheaval proposed by William Strauss and Neil Howe in their book The Fourth Turning. Alexander notes that, for Bannon, ‘victory in the climatic struggle will pave the way for reactionary policy and belief about property, class, immigration, race, religion, nationalism, gender and sexuality. Victory would turn back the clock to good old American time when Americans really were God’s Chosen People.’

When Bannon proclaims, ‘I want to bring everything crashing down, destroying all of today’s establishment,’ Bannon is referring to demolishing what he calls the ‘Administrative state.’ Those who occupy the ‘dark side’ of this state, whom he refers to as ‘the Beast,’ voraciously feasted on the generations of liberals throughout the 20th century. Only the far right and Ronald Reagan could defeat the Beast, which they did when Reagan won the Cold War. But the Beast, according to Bannon, has grown stronger and once again threatens the ‘real’ America with woke culture. In Bannon’s 2010 documentary Generation Zero, the narrator warns,

‘History is seasonal, and winter is coming.’ First came the ‘Unravelling,’ from 1982 to 2004, when money culture ruled, the work ethic dissolved and ‘the self was really god.’ Now we face the ‘Crisis,’ the time of final reckoning. What we do now determines whether the American experiment fails or can be raised. If the right prevails, it will lead, in Howe’s words, ‘to a new founding moment in American history.’ If the left wins out, America is finished.

Bannon is set firmly against those who defend the Enlightenment principles of science, humanity, freedom and equality and what Alexander refers to as the ‘emancipatory humanism upon which democratic politics and a hopeful view of modernity are based.’ Alexander concludes that ‘Bannon is the ideological heir of the intellectual backlash against Modernity that has been unfolding from the Counter-Reformation right up to the present day. He is the foe of every idea, institution and movement that idealises the universal and raises high the banner of truth, liberty and equality.’

Bannon is smart enough to know better, but he has found himself living in a narrative of his own creation, rubbing shoulders with lesser intellects who possess the power to elevate him further into the stockyards of political power that he never dreamed possible. He has internalised his phantasmagorical narrative of himself as the golden gladiator up against the Beast to such an extent that it has become an independent variable in a dangerous experiment to destroy the modern architecture of democracy. Bannon is wrong. If the right wins, it will mean the institutionalisation of the megalomania of the leader, authoritarianism, intolerance, inequality, injustice and violence against any and all outsiders deemed secularists, cosmopolitanists, communists, liberals, gays, migrants and others Bannon assumes are the ‘face of evil.’ His narrative perfectly suits a disgruntled and enraged data-streamed population in the age of social media and artificial intelligence, where algorithmic ideologies premised on live feedback can be perfected by commercial codemakers adept at computer programming and who are willing to sell their overshared souls. Bannon is counting on a disaffected, burned out, always Twitter-skimming populace in the thrall of work-life crises joining him in creating an Ultimate Fighting Championship culture based on taunts and personal attacks, often related to race and religion, and the thrill of crushing social justice warriors and the woke liberal elites.

Trump likes to make a personal appearance at the UFC events. Ja’han Jones writes:

Trump’s supporters posted clips from UFC 302 over the weekend that highlight the angsty, hypermasculine energy swirling around him. Basically, it was a bunch of men gushing over him and cursing Joe Biden’s name. Homophobic fighter Sean Strickland encapsulated the vibes, whining that it’s a ‘damn travesty’ what’s being done to Trump in New York and vowing to donate to Trump’s campaign.

These are important snapshots of the Trump campaign because they highlight the power centre of the MAGA movement: irritable, whiny men. And it also shows how hypermasculinity, performative manhood and broader conversations around gender are playing a role in this year’s political campaigns. …. I truly believe this year’s election could hinge on men’s ability to reject right-wing appeals to their oppressive, hypermasculine id. And the best way to guard against those appeals is to call them out as we see them.

As someone who participated in martial arts as a young man and has great admiration for the artistry and skills displayed by professional mixed martial artists, I am saddened at how the culture of the UFC has evolved, where the term ‘savage’ and other exaggeratedly and domineeringly masculine adjectives are frequently used to complement fighters after they have knocked their opponents unconscious. Young men who are cultivating their identities in such an andronormative, misogynistic, male supremacist environment are not doing society, or the martial arts for that matter, any good. Trump is gleefully tapping into this UFC energy in order to foster a tough guy, strongman image. Trump loves to see his digitally modified image displayed on popular 3×5 flags decked out on the back of the pickup trucks of his followers: ‘Rambo Bazooka’; ‘tank Donald’; ‘never surrender,’ double-sided; ‘TRUMP, fuck your feelings’; and ‘Trump, Take America Back.’ Trump’s immature, impudent and child-like advertisements (not to mention the speeches at his rallies) are no doubt contributing to the arrested development of his followers, who are scooped into the Trump train of magical thinking and prefigurative politics modelled on a Fight Club mentality.

David McAfee reports on a talk that Trump gave at the Faith and Freedom Coalition’s ‘Road to Majority’ in Washington, DC Trump decided to address the issue of immigration by telling a story about a conversation he had with the UFC’s owner, Dana White. Trump recalled the conversation as follows:

‘Dana White… he’s a legend, right? UFC, ultimate fighter, ultimate fighting,’ Trump said. ‘I said Dana I have an idea. Why don’t you set up a migrant league of fighters? And have your regular league of fighters. Then you have the champion of your league, these are the greatest fighters in the world, fight the champion of the migrants. I think the migrant guy might win, that’s how tough they are. He didn’t like that idea too much … but not the worst idea I have ever had.’

Trump’s idea of forcing asylum seekers who had risked their lives to bring their families across the border to the US to participate in a blood sport for the amusement of UFC fans gives us an idea of how the MAGA mind works – deport the so-called rapists, murderers, and escapees from South American mental institutions, or let them take their chances in the octagon battling trained UFC combat veterans in public exhibitions. After all, it’s only fair that if they want so badly to become US citizens, then they ought at least to let their faces be smashed to pieces by a spinning wheel kick or their jaw dislocated by a roundhouse kick, or their nose caved in by a spinning back fist – all for the delight of UFC fans. If Trump had lived before the 1770s, he could have visited mental institutions for a small fee, to satiate his voyeuristic predilections. The Bethlem Royal Hospital of London, infamously known as Bedlam, turned the suffering of its patients into a grotesque spectacle, a tableau of exploitation, charging a shilling to those who wished to witness the ravings of ‘the beasts.’ In this human zoo, the distressed were paraded for the morbid fascination of the masses.

Christy Box writes how the halls of Bedlam echoed with the laughter of visitors, not unlike the grotesque revelry of a carnival. These early asylum tours transformed human agony into a spectacle, luring the wealthy and curious who sought the thrill of witnessing the bizarre and macabre behaviours of the patients. Trump’s idea follows on the same premise – watching those who are desperate and at the most vulnerable time of their lives being thrown into a cage of gladiators. Perhaps it’s going too far to envisage an ancient Roman Trump cheering in the Coliseum as Christians are thrown to starving lions, boars and leopards during the lunchtime intervals of daylong festivals celebrating the emperor. But I am sure he would be interested in the ratings.

Here is how Trump supporters reacted to his New York City ‘hush money’ trial. I wonder how many of them are deep into the UFC culture. Ryan J. Reilly is worth quoting at length:

The posts, which have been reviewed by NBC News, appear on many of the same websites used by Trump supporters to organise for vissolence ahead of the January 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol. These forums were hotbeds of threats inspired by Trump’s lies about the 2020 election, which he lost, and that the voting system was ‘rigged’ against him. They now feature new threats echoing Trump’s rhetoric and false claims about the hush money trial, including that the judicial system is now ‘rigged’ against him.

‘Dox the Jurors. Dox them now,’ one user wrote after Trump’s conviction on a website formerly known as ‘The Donald,’ which was popular among participants in the Capitol attack. (That post appears to have been quickly removed by moderators.) ‘We need to identify each juror. Then, make them miserable. Maybe even suicidal,’ wrote another user on the same forum. ‘1,000,000 men (armed) need to go to Washington and hang everyone. That’s the only solution,’ wrote another user. ‘This s— is out of control.’ ‘I hope every juror is doxxed and they pay for what they have done,’ another user wrote on Trump’s Truth Social platform Thursday. ‘May God strike them dead. We will on November 5, and they will pay!’

‘War,’ read a Telegram post from one chapter of the Proud Boys, the far-right group whose former chair and three other members were convicted of seditious conspiracy because of their actions at the Capitol on January 6, just a few months after Trump infamously told the group to ‘stand back and stand by ‘during a 2020 debate.’ ‘Now you understand. To save your nation, you must fight. The time to respond is now. Franco Friday has begun,’ another Proud Boys chapter wrote, apparently referring to fascist dictator Francisco Franco of Spain. One January 6 defendant who already served time in prison for his role in the Capitol attack also weighed in on X, posting a photo of Bragg and a photo of a noose. ‘January 20, 2025, traitors Get the Rope,’ he wrote, referring to the date of the next presidential inauguration.

The threats fit into an ongoing pattern. An NBC News analysis of Trump’s Truth Social posts earlier this year showed that he frequently uses the platform as a megaphone to attack people involved in his legal cases – and some of his supporters have responded. When the FBI searched Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in 2022, a Trump supporter who had been at the Capitol on January 6 sent angry posts about the search and then attacked an FBI field office. When Trump made a social media post last June that included former President Barack Obama’s home address, a January 6 rioter reposted it and then showed up at the residence. When Trump was indicted in Georgia in August, his supporters posted the purported names and addresses of members of the grand jury.

Special Counsel Jack Smith, who is overseeing Trump’s federal election interference case in Washington, was the target of an attempted swatting on Christmas Day. So, too, was US District Judge Tanya Chutkan, who will oversee that trial, if the Supreme Court allows it to go forward (though that could change if Trump wins in November). When Michael Fanone – the former police officer nearly killed on January 6 by Trump supporters who believed the former President’s lies about the 2020 election – criticised Trump at a press conference outside the hush money trial earlier this week, his mother was swatted. When Trump and conservative media outlets spread false information about the jury instructions in the hush money case this week, threats against Merchan rolled in.

Do any of these threats surprise anyone, especially when Trump comes out with campaign posts labelled ‘Haul out the Guillotine’? Bannon will continue to disincentivise truth-telling when being wrong gives Bannon more fuel to advance the Trumpist agenda.

Trump is so convinced of his God-like power to attract followers that he claims that many of them would prefer suicide to seeing him defeated in the 2024 election. Sarah K. Burris reports that Donald Trump is cultivating a following that eerily echoes the tragic loyalty of Jim Jones’s Peoples Temple, whose members infamously perished in a mass suicide in Jonestown. Trump’s casual jests about his supporters committing suicide reveal a macabre undertone. He provocatively suggests that ending their lives would be preferable to casting a vote for President Joe Biden. Jim Jones, the notorious cult leader of the late 1970s, orchestrated a mass suicide among his followers in what was formally known as The Peoples Temple. The haunting parallel to Trump’s rhetoric is impossible to ignore.

Adding to the bizarre tableau, Trump exhibits a peculiar obsession with Hannibal Lecter, seemingly conflating the fictional character with reality. At a rally in Las Vegas, Trump singled out a follower he dubbed ‘Front Row Joe’ and ominously quipped that Joe would rather commit suicide than vote for Biden. Extremism researcher Noelle Cook reported on X, ‘He gets more dangerous by the day.’ The chilling parallels between Trump’s rhetoric and the dark history of cults raise alarms about the direction of his influence and the depths of his followers’ devotion.

One of the most important columns to be written about the danger of another Trump presidency comes from Thom Hartmann and reiterates claims that Trump and Putin have worked together to get Trump elected and that their cooperation in the past has cost the lives of US spies, and have made it possible for Russian operatives to work inside the country to manufacture false stories about Biden and the democratic process (such as the US and Ukraine operating a bioweapons laboratory inside Ukraine) that have been reported by the QAnon cult and media personalities such as Tucker Carlson. The extent to which pro-Putin Bannon plays a part in this is as of yet unclear.

Annie Karni reports on Bannon’s mood during a week full of D-Day commemorations. Unsurprisingly, Bannon compared his impending prison sentence and attacks on the conservative movement to what happened to the Allied troops who landed on the beaches of Normandy: ‘My message to people is, ‘Next man up,’ he said. ‘This happened on June 6 in Normandy. It’s next man up. They’re going to sentence Trump to prison on the 11th. It’s got to be next man up.’

There is the gruesome possibility that most Americans will be ideologically corralled inside Bannon’s war room after November 2024, with little space for pushback or reprieve. Socialists, communists, anarchists, proponents of liberation theology, the LGBTQQIP2SA community, those who identify and democrats – all of whom will be ruthlessly purged – need to build a united front against the MAGA movement. The Handmaid’s Tale is closer to becoming a reality than ever before. Along with Thom Hartmann, ‘I fully believe that he [Trump] will go after the independent press and the legal system and will destroy both. It’s what Putin did in Russia, it’s what Orbán did in Hungary, it’s what Pinochet did in Chile, it’s what Bolsonaro nearly completely did in Brazil, it’s what Duterte did in the Philippines. There’s nothing new or surprising about this, yet so many in America are trying to pretend it’s not happening, essentially whistling past the graveyard.’

In the annals of history, Bannon’s legacy may well echo that of O’Brien from Orwell’s dystopian masterpiece, a figure of sinister allure who wields his power with ruthless efficiency. Like Winston before him, seduced by O’Brien’s honeyed words and twisted truths, Bannon’s followers find themselves ensnared in a web of deceit, their minds warped by the insidious allure of his propaganda. In the crucible of Bannon’s War Room, truth becomes a casualty of war, sacrificed on the altar of ambition and fanaticism.

Bannon would like to be one of the era’s great demolishers of liberal doctrine, especially in light of his traditional Catholicism. But, at his core, he is little more than a self-interested opportunist, a pompous, fist-pumping worldling hitching a ride on the coattails of a professional grifter, a Mr Moneybags with an increasing girth and diminishing gift of the gab, similarly drunk on power and with an insatiable thirst for fame, sharing a Lords of the Flatbush philosophy of breaking rules, embracing action, living hedonistically and basking in the public limelight. His idol has become the most powerful man in the world by spewing garbled, vindictive, jigsaw-puzzle utterances in a lilting cadence that seems a purposeful mocking of Cary Grant’s mid-Atlantic accent. You can do that and still control your followers if you can master the ability to sound persuasive. Just adhere to the following cardinal principles: never admit that you are wrong, always lie and the bigger the lie, the better, ceaselessly attack and humiliate your enemies unsparingly, make outlandish claims about your abilities and insist that you, and only you, can save a declining, decaying America. Bannon is sure to give it a try.

It would be wrong to deny that Bannon is a revolutionary. But the revolution that he is inciting is one driven by vengeance. Consider Bannon’s revolution in light of that of the late Ernesto Cardenal, Catholic priest, Nicaraguan Minister of Culture, poet, liberation theologian and communist revolutionary. A luminary in both the literary and political realms, Cardenal embraced revolutionary struggle with an unrelenting passion. He once remarked, ‘Christ led me to Marx…. For me, the four Gospels are all equally Communist. I’m a Marxist who believes in God, follows Christ, and is a revolutionary for His Kingdom.’ His conviction extended further as he declared, ‘The Bible is full of revolutions. The prophets are people with a message of revolution. Jesus of Nazareth takes the revolutionary message of the prophets. And we also will continue trying to change the world and make revolution. Those revolutions failed, but others will come.’ Such words as these would have made Cardenal a prime target of Bannon and his MAGA flunkeys steeped in the outlawry of the anti-kingdom.

On July 19, 1979, in the wake of Managua’s liberation, Cardenal was appointed Minister of Culture by the nascent Sandinista government. He championed a ‘revolution without vengeance.’ During Pope John Paul II’s 1983 visit to Nicaragua, the Pope famously and publicly reprimanded Cardenal, who knelt before him on the Managua airport runway, for defying his directive to resign from his governmental role, admonishing him, ‘Usted tiene que arreglar sus asuntos con la Iglesia’ (‘You must fix your affairs with the Church’). Subsequently, on February 4, 1984, Pope John Paul II suspended Cardenal a divinis for his refusal to vacate his political position. This suspension persisted until Pope Francis lifted it in 2019. I can only imagine Bannon’s reaction to this gesture by Pope Francis.

In the twilight of his journey, Cardenal severed his bonds with the FSLN in 1994, as he witnessed the once-revolutionary vessel veer into the stormy seas of authoritarianism under Daniel Ortega. He denounced this betrayal as ‘a robbery of the people and dictatorship, not a revolutionary movement.’ Seeking new horizons, he set his sails with the Movimiento de Renovación Sandinista (Sandinista Renovation Movement, or MRS), casting his lot in the tempestuous waters of the 2006 Nicaraguan general election. As the winds of change gathered, Cardenal, heralded as perhaps the greatest Latin American poet, declared his position like a beacon of light from a steadfast lighthouse whose Fresnel lens guided souls through the stormy seas of uncertainty: ‘I think more desirable an authentic capitalism, as Montealegre’s would be, than a false Revolution.’

Would that Bannon have the insight to see what has happened to his MAGA revolution – its foreshadowing the imminent annihilation of democratic rule – and the courage to face up to its false teaching and assaults on human decency as Cardenal did when facing Ortega’s betrayal of the Sandinista Revolution. Revolutions very often turn into their opposite – and we don’t have to thank Hegel each time for that observation.

In 1970, Ernesto Cardenal embarked on a transformative pilgrimage to Cuba, experiencing what he eloquently described as ‘a second conversion,’ a profound awakening that kindled his unique philosophy of Christian Marxism. This spiritual and ideological metamorphosis was forged in the crucible of revolution and repression. Until October 1977, Cardenal resided on the island of Mancarrón in the Solentiname archipelago, cradled in the serene embrace of Lake Nicaragua. There, he cultivated a flourishing community among the local peasants, a haven of solidarity and shared purpose. However, this idyllic existence was shattered when he was accused by the authorities of instigating an uprising in neighbouring San Carlos, a violent clash between the Sandinista Liberation Front and government troops.

In November 1977, with a warrant issued for his arrest, Cardenal was cast into the shadows of exile in Costa Rica. The Nicaraguan National Guard stormed Mancarrón, transforming the island into a landscape of desolation. The small local church, once a sanctuary of faith, was turned into a prison. The vibrant handicraft workshops were reduced to ruins, and Cardenal’s cherished library and home were obliterated.

Propelled into the heart of the Sandinista struggle, Cardenal’s spirit, like a phoenix rising from the ashes, burned ever brighter. He took up the mantle of field chaplain for the Sandinista National Liberation Front, his voice resonating with the fervour of revolution and the promise of liberation. His poetic vision, steeped in Biblical rhetoric and revolutionary zeal, crystallized in this crucible of conflict, giving birth to a body of work that would echo through the annals of literary and political history.
Robert Hass, writing for the Washington Post Book World, captures this epoch, noting how Cardenal’s poetic voice emerged from ‘a very difficult time in his country,’ culminating in the seminal collection Zero Hour and Other Documentary Poems (1980). In this work, Cardenal interweaves Biblical rhetoric with potent symbolism and the fervour of Marxist revolution.

Cardenal’s espousal of Christian Marxism ignited considerable controversy in the late ’70s and early ’80s. Yet, his vision was unwavering, rooted in his interpretation of ‘the kingdom of God.’ As Lawrence Ferlinghetti (one of my favourite poets) observed in Seven Days in Nicaragua Libre (1984), Cardenal’s vision of a primitive Christianity naturally extended to a revolutionary dream where ‘there were no more masters and no more slaves.’ Ferlinghetti asserted, ‘The Gospels foresee a classless society. They foresee also the withering away of the state’ (Ferlinghetti’s emphasis). Cardenal put his faith in Christ. Bannon puts his faith in a bloviating lunatic who has captivated the minds of tried-and-true Trump believers, much like a snake oil salesman, uses rhetorically flavoured sugar water for an ideological placebo effect.

Peter McLaren and Ernesto Cardenal

Bannon would like to be one of the era’s great demolishers of liberal doctrine, especially in light of his traditional Catholicism. But, at his core, he is little more than a self-interested opportunist, a pompous, fist-pumping worldling hitching a ride on the coattails of a professional grifter, a Mr Moneybags with an increasing girth and diminishing gift of the gab, similarly drunk on power and with an insatiable thirst for fame, sharing a Lords of the Flatbush philosophy of breaking rules, embracing action, living hedonistically, and basking in the public limelight. His idol has become the most powerful man in the world by spewing garbled, vindictive, jigsaw puzzle utterances in a lilting cadence that seems a purposeful mocking of Cary Grant’s mid-Atlantic accent. You can do that and still control your followers if you can master the ability to sound persuasive. Simply adhere to the following cardinal principles–never admit that you are wrong, always lie and the bigger the lie, the better, ceaselessly attack and humiliate your enemies unsparingly, make outlandish claims about your abilities and insist that you, and only you, can save a declining, decaying America. Bannon is sure to give it a try.

Trump has followed the formula of his parent’s pastor, Norman Vincent Peale, who promoted the power of positive thinking and the pivotal importance of the personal brand (basically self-worship). Gwenda Blair noted, nearly a decade ago, that as the years have passed, the public has strolled past opulent buildings, gambled in glittering casinos, and tuned into bombastic television shows, all bearing the name synonymous with overwhelming, gargantuan, and seemingly unending triumph. In this relentless march, Trump has forged an indomitable branding juggernaut, clad in armour, impervious to criticism, self-doubt, or introspection, at least to his base, and it continues to thunder over much of the Republican Party like an unstoppable force of nature.

Whether Trump’s ceaseless self-promotion will secure him the presidency, looks promising. Yet, as Blair notes, history has a way of echoing its lessons. Just as Norman Vincent Peale faced mounting criticism, Trump is facing a similar reproach. Nevertheless, we are compelled to agree with Blair’s observation in 2015, that, fueled by Peale’s doctrine and the alchemy of branding, Donald Trump has emerged as one of the most self-assured and seemingly invincible candidates in the annals of American politics. Despite the outcome of the 2024 election, Bannon is in for the long haul. He’s going to milk his association with Trump for all it’s worth. It’s already secured him a presidential pardon and will most assuredly earn him more pardons in the years to come.

While Bannon was told by the former president he needed to shower more, he remarked to Time’s Eric Cortellessa that he isn’t afraid of prison because he has no social life. I would caution Bannon, however, to be first into the shower each morning in order to hide the soap.

Author’s Note

Steve Bannon has been ordered to report to jail on July 1. It’s time that we familiarised ourselves with this man. With this in mind, I have modified some sections on Bannon that I have taken from some of my previous articles below in order to give a general overview of Bannon.

This essay is a modified version of text referring to Steve Bannon, taken from the following extended essays, below, published in PESA Agora, with a significant amount of newly added material:;;


Share this article on Social Media

Full Citation Information:
McLaren, P. (2024). Steve Bannon’s Ideological Juggernaut: Overlord of the Dark Enlightenment. PESA Agora.

Peter McLaren

Peter McLaren is Emeritus Professor at the Graduate School of Education and Information Studies, University of California, Los Angeles. From 2013-2023 he served as Distinguished Professor in Critical Studies, Co-Director and International Ambassador for Global Ethics and Social Justice, The Paulo Freire Democratic Project, Attallah College of Educational Studies, Chapman University, USA.

Article Feature Image Acknowledgement: