Steve Bannon in his Own Words

 

Buzfeed (I know, right?) has published a transcript of remarks made by Steve Bannon – via Skype – to an event organised at the Vatican by the Dignitatis Humanae Institute in the summer of 2014 entitled “Poverty and the Common Good: Putting the ‘Preferential Option for the Poor’ at the Service of Human Dignity.” Bannon was the speaker for a module called “Should Christians impose limits on wealth creation?” Both the timing (the exact date was 27 June 2014) and the topics need to be borne in mind. I urge you to read — or, at least, skim — the transcript. (Or listen to the recording linked at the bottom of the Buzzfeed piece.) To whet your appetite, here is my summary:

Capitalism, in its enlightened form, gave the Judaeo-Christian West the wherewithal to defeat the atheists in the Second World War. This capitalism generated great wealth, and spread it to the working-cum-middle classes, enabling a decades-long Pax Americana. Or, as Bannon puts it:

And I believe we’ve come partly offtrack in the years since the fall of the Soviet Union and we’re starting now in the 21st century, which I believe, strongly, is a crisis both of our church, a crisis of our faith, a crisis of the West, a crisis of capitalism.

We’re now on the edge of losing everything that was built up in the last 2,000 to 2,500 years unless we bind together to fight the new barbarism.

Bannon identifies three kinds of converging tendencies:

  1. “[A] form of capitalism that is taken away from the underlying spiritual and moral foundations of Christianity and, really, Judeo-Christian belief,” being replaced by:
    1. crony or state-sponsored capitalism (see China, Russia, Argentina, the bank bail-outs, ExIm bank etc.) and/or
    2. “the Ayn Rand or the Objectivist School of libertarian capitalism”
  2. Immense secularization of the West.
  3. “[A]n outright war against jihadist Islamic fascism” (see ISIS)

So I think the discussion of, should we put a cap on wealth creation and distribution? It’s something that should be at the heart of every Christian that is a capitalist — “What is the purpose of whatever I’m doing with this wealth? What is the purpose of what I’m doing with the ability that God has given us, that divine providence has given us to actually be a creator of jobs and a creator of wealth?”

I think it really behooves all of us to really take a hard look and make sure that we are reinvesting that back into positive things. But also to make sure that we understand that we’re at the very beginning stages of a global conflict, and if we do not bind together as partners with others in other countries that this conflict is only going to metastasize.

On enlightened (one might say, traditional) capitalism:

One thing I want to make sure of, if you look at the leaders of capitalism at that time, when capitalism was I believe at its highest flower and spreading its benefits to most of mankind, almost all of those capitalists were strong believers in the Judeo-Christian West. They were either active participants in the Jewish faith, they were active participants in the Christians’ faith, and they took their beliefs, and the underpinnings of their beliefs was manifested in the work they did.

On a “global tea party movement”:

The central thing that binds that all together is a center-right populist movement of really the middle class, the working men and women in the world who are just tired of being dictated to by what we call the party of Davos. … I think you’re seeing a global reaction to centralized government, whether that government is in Beijing or that government is in Washington, DC, or that government is in Brussels.

On Wall Street:

I think you really need to go back and make banks do what they do: Commercial banks lend money, and investment banks invest in entrepreneurs and to get away from this trading — you know, the hedge fund securitization, which they’ve all become basically trading operations and securitizations and not put capital back and really grow businesses and to grow the economy. … the way that the people who ran the banks and ran the hedge funds have never really been held accountable for what they did, has fueled much of the anger in the tea party movement in the United States.

On right-wing extremists:

[E]ven in the tea party, we have a broad movement like this, and we’ve been criticized, and they try to make the tea party as being racist, etc., which it’s not. But there’s always elements who turn up at these things, whether it’s militia guys or whatever. Some that are fringe organizations. My point is that over time it all gets kind of washed out, right? People understand what pulls them together, and the people on the margins I think get marginalized more and more.

I believe that you’ll see this in the center-right populist movement in continental Europe. I’ve spent quite a bit of time with UKIP, and I can say to you that I’ve never seen anything at all with UKIP that even comes close to that. I think they’ve done a very good job of policing themselves to really make sure that people including the British National Front and others were not included in the party, and I think you’ve seen that also with tea party groups, where some people would show up and were kind of marginal members of the tea party, and the tea party did a great job of policing themselves early on. And I think that’s why when you hear charges of racism against the tea party, it doesn’t stick with the American people, because they really understand.

I think when you look at any kind of revolution — and this is a revolution — you always have some groups that are disparate. I think that will all burn away over time and you’ll see more of a mainstream center-right populist movement.

On Putin:

When Vladimir Putin, when you really look at some of the underpinnings of some of his beliefs today, a lot of those come from what I call Eurasianism; he’s got an adviser who harkens back to Julius Evola and different writers of the early 20th century who are really the supporters of what’s called the traditionalist movement, which really eventually metastasized into Italian fascism. A lot of people that are traditionalists are attracted to that.

One of the reasons is that they believe that at least Putin is standing up for traditional institutions, and he’s trying to do it in a form of nationalism — and I think that people, particularly in certain countries, want to see the sovereignty for their country, they want to see nationalism for their country. They don’t believe in this kind of pan-European Union or they don’t believe in the centralized government in the United States. They’d rather see more of a states-based entity that the founders originally set up where freedoms were controlled at the local level.

I’m not justifying Vladimir Putin and the kleptocracy that he represents, because he eventually is the state capitalist of kleptocracy. However, we the Judeo-Christian West really have to look at what he’s talking about as far as traditionalism goes — particularly the sense of where it supports the underpinnings of nationalism — and I happen to think that the individual sovereignty of a country is a good thing and a strong thing. I think strong countries and strong nationalist movements in countries make strong neighbors, and that is really the building blocks that built Western Europe and the United States, and I think it’s what can see us forward.

You know, Putin’s been quite an interesting character. He’s also very, very, very intelligent. I can see this in the United States where he’s playing very strongly to social conservatives about his message about more traditional values, so I think it’s something that we have to be very much on guard of. Because at the end of the day, I think that Putin and his cronies are really a kleptocracy, that are really an imperialist power that want to expand. However, I really believe that in this current environment, where you’re facing a potential new caliphate that is very aggressive that is really a situation — I’m not saying we can put it on a back burner — but I think we have to deal with first things first.

So there you go. A bit of something for everyone. The Putinophobes will see him as dangerously naive. The libertarians will see him as a social-con wannabe dictator. The klansman-under-the-bed types will see him refusing to police the conservative movement urgently enough. The isolationists will see a bloodthirsty meddler in the middle east and elsewhere. The militant atheists will see a theocrat in waiting. And so on.

Have a look — there’s lots more.

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  1. TG Thatcher
    TG
    @TG

    Thanks for bringing this to our attention, Genferei.

    • #1
  2. WI Con Member
    WI Con
    @WICon

    Very interesting. Much more than the media generated outrage of the past day. The controversy that’s been reported about him is looking more like agendas from groups in opposition to him (both Left and Right).  Thank you.

    • #2
  3. I Walton Member
    I Walton
    @IWalton

    All these attacks on Bannon have given us a variety of opportunities to see him in his own words and appreciate his insights and intelligence.  He saw all this coming and he helped it along.  I’m glad he’s where he is.

    • #3
  4. Scott Wilmot Member
    Scott Wilmot
    @ScottWilmot

    Great reporting – and thanks for sharing the link.

    • #4
  5. Columbo Member
    Columbo
    @Columbo

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CMZFfxFl53k

     

    • #5
  6. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    genferei: You know, Putin’s been quite an interesting character.

    He was a KGB cookie-pusher. In other words, a junior-level thug.

    • #6
  7. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Percival:

    genferei: You know, Putin’s been quite an interesting character.

    He was a KGB cookie-pusher. In other words, a junior-level thug.

    I think he has graduated to senior level by now.

    • #7
  8. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

     

    • #8
  9. Tom Meyer, Ed. Contributor
    Tom Meyer, Ed.
    @tommeyer

    Interesting. I’ll need to mull over that.

    • #9
  10. Skyler Coolidge
    Skyler
    @Skyler

    Christians sound so pathetic when they blame the world’s woes on others not sharing their superstitions.

    Believe what you want, it’s a free country.  But please stop insisting that everyone needs to agree.  Not all atheists are communists.

    • #10
  11. RyanFalcone Member
    RyanFalcone
    @RyanFalcone

    Skyler:Christians sound so pathetic when they blame the world’s woes on others not sharing their superstitions.

    Believe what you want, it’s a free country. But please stop insisting that everyone needs to agree. Not all atheists are communists.

    Pathetic only to people with a wanton disregard for history, economics and civics. The only words that should ever come from the mouth of any atheist who enjoys the liberty of western civilization towards any Christian is “Thank you!” You are of course free to say whatever you want as we won’t kill you like everyone else does but its still a bit of a turn-off.

    • #11
  12. cdor Member
    cdor
    @cdor

    I saw nothing in that report @genferei that is scary…unless you are an establishment Washington figure. He seems like the exact type of guy to be in a leading position in Trump’s administration, especially ideologically. I saw where Pence recently may have exposed why he took over from Christie in staffing this administration…he removed all the lobbyists from Christie’s gaggle. Again, from my seat in the nosebleed section, things seem to be progressing well.

    • #12
  13. Fredösphere Inactive
    Fredösphere
    @Fredosphere

    @genferei, what do you think of Ben Shapiro’s take, that Bannon panders to racists in the alt-right? Is that wrong? Or are, maybe, the above quotes another example of Bannon telling a group what it wants to hear? (This is a sincere question.)

    • #13
  14. Old Bathos Moderator
    Old Bathos
    @OldBathos

    But if you look at what Bannon has actually said and written doesn’t that complicate the task of calling him a neo-Nazi and then dismissing whatever he has to say as malignantly motivated?  You would be complicating the life of paid journalists and editorial writers by doing so so you must be some kind of fascist.

    I discovered over the last couple of years that I must be a racist because I attended a large tea party march in Washington DC with a lot of polite, cheerful, rather normal people and because I think Barrack Obama has implemented spectacularly bad policies.

    It was surprising to learn that I am a racist.  I have two half African-American grandkids, my dad was a lawyer in the Civil Rights Division of the DOJ in 1965-7 when the real struggle for racial justice was underway. I once got roughed up at a George Wallace rally because I was clearly not a supporter.  I am unaware of any current statements, actions or memberships that would make me a racist but all those smart people in the MSM think I am a racist so I guess must be.  And a Nazi, a misogynist and homophobe too, I guess.

    If if vigorously deny these tacit accusations and question the character and intellect of the accusers would that make me “divisive”? Just asking.

    • #14
  15. Skyler Coolidge
    Skyler
    @Skyler

    RyanFalcone: You are of course free to say whatever you want as we won’t kill you like everyone else does but its still a bit of a turn-off.

    Not recently, anyway.  I’ll watch my back.  I don’t trust any group with power.

    • #15
  16. Jamie Lockett Inactive
    Jamie Lockett
    @JamieLockett

    What I see is a man very much divorced from Classical Liberalism. Bannon seems to fall smack dab in the “Not a Classical Liberal” camp. I don’t know what that camp is other than its “Not Me”. To put it in terms of recent world politics, Bannon comes across as an American version of Nigel Farage without the sense of humor. I’m more interested in Daniel Hannan. Sure those two men can work together on discrete issues – but in the end they believe in fundamentally different ways of ordering society.

    • #16
  17. Terry Mott Member
    Terry Mott
    @TerryMott

    Jamie Lockett:What I see is a man very much divorced from Classical Liberalism.

    Based on actions and ignoring rhetoric, you could say the same about a depressingly large number of Republicans.  So, nothing much new in that regard, it seems to me.

    • #17
  18. Jamie Lockett Inactive
    Jamie Lockett
    @JamieLockett

    Terry Mott:

    Jamie Lockett:What I see is a man very much divorced from Classical Liberalism.

    Based on actions and ignoring rhetoric, you could say the same about a depressingly large number of Republicans. So, nothing much new in that regard, it seems to me.

    You’re right but I think there’s a difference in intent. Republicans are nominally adherents to Classical Liberalism but fail at execution due to either corruption or fecklessness. Bannon is actively opposed to it – there’s nothing inherently evil about that, it’s just not in line with my beliefs.

    • #18
  19. genferei Member
    genferei
    @genferei

    Jamie Lockett: What I see is a man very much divorced from Classical Liberalism.

    In what sense? I don’t disagree – if forced to generate a label from this transcript it would definitely have “Catholic” rather than “Hayekian” in it somewhere. Then again, it might even have “McCloskeyian” in  it (and she’s Anglican).

    • #19
  20. Jamie Lockett Inactive
    Jamie Lockett
    @JamieLockett

    genferei:

    Jamie Lockett: What I see is a man very much divorced from Classical Liberalism.

    In what sense? I don’t disagree – if forced to generate a label from this transcript it would definitely have “Catholic” rather than “Hayekian” in it somewhere. Then again, it might even have “McCloskeyian” in it (and she’s Anglican).

    If I could put a label on Bannon it would probably be Traditionalist. Nationalist and Populist also fit, but I think his  populism is a means rather than an end. That said there is absolutely a strain of central planning in his economic thinking that wouldn’t fit with a Classical Liberal worldview. He wants to direct banks to behave in certain ways, he wants to move us back to a certain type of manufacturing based economy. If that happened absent government intervention I would have no problem with it, and I certainly think that the incentive structure created by current government and Federal Reserve intervention is warped, but I don’t see Bannon as being a big proponent of emergent order.

    • #20
  21. Tom Meyer, Ed. Contributor
    Tom Meyer, Ed.
    @tommeyer

    genferei: I don’t disagree – if forced to generate a label from this transcript it would definitely have “Catholic” rather than “Hayekian” in it somewhere.

    I think that makes for a pretty good summary. At least, of that dimension.

    • #21
  22. Sleepywhiner Inactive
    Sleepywhiner
    @Sleepywhiner

    All that “classical liberalism” is great for think tanks and what’s left of the conservative academy, but, it seems to translate quite poorly to electoral success.

    And, since the opposition is quite content with managing the decline and accommodating Islamists, I am willing to trade a little classicism for some permanence to the majority.

    The liberals didn’t wreck America overnight, If we have to slowly march the country rightward for 100 years, so be it, as long as the direction is correct.

    • #22
  23. Christian Speicher Inactive
    Christian Speicher
    @ChristianSpeicher

    I don’t want to read the collected thoughts of John Kerry, Valerie Jarrett or Eric Holder. Yet somehow the country will soon (hopefully) have survived all of their tenures.

    To me it’s secondary if Mr. Bannon has a coherent philosophy or great historical judgment, apparently he did a very good job for Mr. Trump so far. I would not overestimate his influence, but think it’s only fair and logical that he stays as a close advisor to the President-elect.

    • #23
  24. Dorrk Inactive
    Dorrk
    @Dorrk

    Old Bathos:But if you look at what Bannon has actually said and written doesn’t that complicate the task of calling him a neo-Nazi and then dismissing whatever he has to say as malignantly motivated?

    I’m assuming that Bannon exploits-for-profit rather than wholeheartedly endorses the simmering racism of the alt-right fanboys reading Breitbart.com, but that does stand in stark relief from what he was saying about the decent old-timey corporate leaders letting their Judeo-Christian morality inform their capitalism. If he had taken the same approach to Breitbart when he assumed control, we wouldn’t be having this conversation (probably for many reasons).

    • #24
  25. Hoyacon Member
    Hoyacon
    @Hoyacon

    Dorrk:

    Old Bathos:But if you look at what Bannon has actually said and written doesn’t that complicate the task of calling him a neo-Nazi and then dismissing whatever he has to say as malignantly motivated?

    I’m assuming that Bannon exploits-for-profit rather than wholeheartedly endorses the simmering racism of the alt-right fanboys reading Breitbart.com, but that does stand in stark relief of what he was saying about the decent old-timey corporate leaders letting their Judeo-Christian morality inform their capitalism. If he had taken the same approach to Breitbart when he assumed control, we wouldn’t be having this conversation (probably for many reasons).

    Well said, and I generally agree.  However, those of us who are not regular Breitbart readers are at a disadvantage.  It’s really time for those like Ben Shapiro who seem more concerned with what Bannon sanctioned at Breitbart (as opposed to whom Bannon actually is) to start providing a decent selection of links to articles that support this proposition so we can judge for ourselves.

     

    • #25
  26. Jamie Lockett Inactive
    Jamie Lockett
    @JamieLockett

    Sleepywhiner: All that “classical liberalism” is great for think tanks and what’s left of the conservative academy, but, it seems to translate quite poorly to electoral success.

    That and, you know, founding our nation.

    • #26
  27. Front Seat Cat Member
    Front Seat Cat
    @FrontSeatCat

    Jamie Lockett:What I see is a man very much divorced from Classical Liberalism. Bannon seems to fall smack dab in the “Not a Classical Liberal” camp. I don’t know what that camp is other than its “Not Me”. To put it in terms of recent world politics, Bannon comes across as an American version of Nigel Farage without the sense of humor. I’m more interested in Daniel Hannan. Sure those two men can work together on discrete issues – but in the end they believe in fundamentally different ways of ordering society.

    Give him a chance to crack a joke –

    • #27
  28. Front Seat Cat Member
    Front Seat Cat
    @FrontSeatCat

    Very good post – there are already too many knee jerk reactions and why we have so much trouble – I believe he is also a Harvard Business grad and a former naval officer. Notably, earlier in life, he was also a Democrat, like many of us.

    Nobody has a perfect resume or life – we all screw up.  Those that are so quick to hold others under a microscope need to look in the mirror.  It has become dreadfully difficult to serve in public office.  Those that step forward, we should give them a chance.  There have certainly been some startling European characters in lead positions in their countries, as well as around the world.  It’s not helpful to demonize people before they have started the job.

     

    • #28
  29. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. Stephens
    @BryanGStephens

    All of that sounds like he has put thought into things.

    • #29
  30. Freeven Member
    Freeven
    @Freeven

    Bryan G. Stephens:All of that sounds like he has put thought into things.

    Yes, enough so that it makes me wonder about Ben Shapiro’s assessment that Bannon has no ideology other than power and self-promotion. Shapiro’s take on Bannon had struck me as fairly credible and even handed (especially considering his own history with Bannon). Now I’m not so sure.

    • #30
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