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. TheRoyalFamily Member
    TheRoyalFamily
    @TheRoyalFamily

    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.

    Thinking a lot about things can also leave one extremely cynical.

    • #31
  2. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. Stephens
    @BryanGStephens

    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.

    Ben is also young.

    • #32
  3. Freeven Member
    Freeven
    @Freeven

    TheRoyalFamily:

    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.

    Thinking a lot about things can also leave one extremely cynical.

    Not to mention depressed.

    • #33
  4. Gil Reich Inactive
    Gil Reich
    @GilReich

    Excellent! Thanks!

    • #34
  5. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    The New York Times is now using Bannon’s mere citation of Julius Evola to explain Vladimir Putin’s personal philosophy as proof that Bannon himself is a devotee of Evola.

    “The fact that Bannon even knows Evola is significant,” said Mark Sedgwick, a leading scholar of Traditionalists at Aarhus University in Denmark.

    It’s not until the very, very, very end of the article do they bother to quote was Bannon actually said about Evola.

    https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/10/world/europe/bannon-vatican-julius-evola-fascism.html

    • #35
  6. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    If I say “A metastasized into B,” does it follow that I am in favor of B?

    • #36
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