Stephen Bannon, senior advisor to President-elect Donald Trump Indianapolis on Dec. 1. Photo by Mike Segar/Reuters
I’m not one of those people who instantly jumped on the anti-Steve Bannon bandwagon.
When President-elect Donald Trump appointed him to be his special White House adviser, a lot of people went nuts. The Anti-Defamation League registered protest. Hundreds of mostly young Jews and non-Jews gathered outside the hotel where Bannon was scheduled to appear at a Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) banquet, chanting and carrying signs aimed at Bannon, like “Shalom, Motherf—–!”.
At the time of Bannon’s appointment, I wrote that I had no idea if he is an anti-Semite. The word of an ex-wife in a bitter custody battle is hardly enough evidence to prove it, especially when people who know and work for him came to his defense. But — and this is a big but — Steve Bannon took over Breitbart.com following the death of its founder and took it hard right. Breitbart.com is the Dallas book depository of hate speech.
“We’re the platform for the alt-right,” Bannon told a Mother Jones journalist at the Republican National Convention in July. That boast has haunted Bannon ever since — and it should.
In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, he tried to downplay the site’s heinousness. The posts, he said, have “some racial and anti-Semitic overtones.” But Bannon said he has “zero tolerance” for those views and, in any case, he no longer has anything to do with the site.
“I took an extended leave of absence and cut all association with the site while I’m working at the pleasure of the president,” he said.
If the press, if the Republican Party, if Jewish organizations, if Jewish Republicans, if the president-elect of the United States let Bannon hide behind that excuse, they will all be guilty of mainstreaming vile hatreds — anti-Semitic, anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant, anti-women — into American society.
Because if he’s not an anti-Semite, Bannon built a lovely home where the purveyors can all meet one another, spew their stupidity from the safety of their stained couches, and thrive. And unless Bannon makes sure that Breitbart takes immediate steps to block posts and comments that fail to meet Bannon’s own professed standards of “zero tolerance,” he and his boss need to be held continually accountable.
The common response here is that on Huffington Post or other left-leaning sites vicious anti-Israel comments also appear in the comments and sometimes in articles. True, but guess what — their creators are not sitting in the White House, advising the president.
And as for Bannon’s dismissive concession that the stuff on the site has “some anti-Semitic overtones,” I wonder if he has read it.
You would think, for instance, that the comments following one story about how Islamic extremism is driving Jews from France would evoke standard Breitbart-issue Islamaphobia. Instead, the comments quickly turn to how the Jews brought on their own destruction in Nazi Europe by fomenting the pre-World War I revolutions.
“The atheist Jews hate themselves and hate Christianity even more,” wrote commenter gotham1883.
“1933-1939? You are autistic?,” wrote ExDeo. “1933 was the year Europe freed itself from Jewish control and finally RESTORED BORDERS and ENDED DEGENERACY. If anything the modern era is reminiscent of the DECADENCE of PRE WAR GERMANY, where ALL VICES (prostitution, drug use) financed by JEWS prospered and where MEDIA/FINANCE/POLITICS were controlled to oppress Europeans.”
Here’s another comment, following Trump election news: “It seems apparent that we need to get back to what the founders intended America to be: a new homeland for White European only immigrants. Jews can go to Israel, blacks can go to Africa, etc. We don’t need the ‘melting pot’ subversive lie of Jew Israel Zangwill! Jews don’t want goyim in Israel, blacks don’t want whites in Africa, and the world is ok with that. We don’t want/need ANY of you here so GTFO as multiculturalism is a failed concept re-branded and promoted by Jews to serve their interests in every country but Israel! FACT! Game over! Go be with your people and leave us ALONE!”
Someone hiding behind the name Cannon Fodder added: “… all I need is the glorious yuks of the left and jews destroying themselves.”
I collected those after spending five minutes on the site. As the techies say, these comments aren’t a bug of Breitbart, they’re a feature.
Ben Shapiro, former editor-at-large of Breitbart.com and a longtime associate of Bannon, said whether Bannon believes this garbage is irrelevant. The neo-Nazis use Breitbart.com and the high profile of its creator to strengthen their voice and advance their agenda.
“The alt-right would say, ‘Bannon isn’t one of us. Breitbart isn’t us. Trump isn’t one of us. But they’re the most useful tool we’ve ever found,’ ” Shapiro wrote.
In that Wall Street Journal interview, Bannon said he was going to focus on jobs. Great. I hope he re-employs the Rust Belt. But on his way to making America great again, he can’t escape accountability for unleashing his Frankenstein creation that has made it worse.
In this week’s New Yorker, Andrew Marantz describes the scene at the ZOA gala that Bannon said he would attend, but then didn’t.
“ ‘He didn’t need to come,’ ” a man sitting at the press table said. “ ‘He just announced that he was coming and got his name kosherized in the press.’ ”
If Bannon really wants to kosherize his name, he must start with his website.