Notes on the Bannon Appointment

  1. The key problem with Steve Bannon, Donald Trump’s newly named strategist, isn’t that he’s an anti-Semite. He may be, though the only piece of personal information suggesting anti-Semitic views come from a contentious divorce proceeding two decades ago—and such charges need to be viewed skeptically. Anti-Semites usually out themselves on a regular basis because they can’t help it. And the late Andrew Breitbart, who was his close friend as well as mine and a loyal if entirely nonpracticing Jew, would not have had a minute’s time for someone who spewed anti-Semitism in private.
  2. No, the key moral problem with Steve Bannon is that as the CEO of Andrew Breitbart’s namesake organization, he is an aider and abetter of foul extremist views, including anti-Semitic ones. He used the site to promote the alt-right, which has retailed anti-Semitism as well as general outright racism and white nationalism. The distinction may seem like a minor one, but it isn’t; the hatred Breitbart has channeled is too general for it to be singled out for its anti-Semitic content.
  3. Breitbart hasn’t promoted the alt-right for the purposes of advancing the alt-right agenda, I don’t think. It may well be he doesn’t care about these matters one way or the other. What he hates are liberalism and leftism, and he sees the alt-right’s utterly implacable vileness as a useful organizing tool. He is a self-described Leninist who wants to use Lenin’s “by any means necessary” philosophy to extirpate liberalism on the one hand and to pursue the concomitant extirpation of those he perceives as collaborationist conservatives on the other. That’s why the greatest degree of passion on the site these past two years has been directed not at the Left but rather at Republicans deemed insufficient in their rage against the Left and insufficiently bloodthirsty in their efforts to destroy the Left. They are his kulaks.
  4. It should go without saying that the president of the United States should not have a tawdry, destructive, and repulsively uncivilized goon as a chief strategist. One can hope he will be moved into a tiny windowless office at the end of the hall in the West Wing next to the closet where they keep the toilet paper and scrub brushes. One can hope. One does not know. He could be Trump’s Valerie Jarrett for all we know.
  5. With Bannon in a senior role at the White House and the possible appointment of the radical congressman Keith Ellison as head of the Democratic National Committee, we could be seeing our political system devolving to its extremes. Donald Trump hasn’t sounded as though that is the direction in which he is heading himself in the interviews he’s given since the election, but it’s all a guessing game until he starts implementing actual policy.
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Notes on the Bannon Appointment

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