- Joshua Green, Bloomberg News, October 8, 2015 “This Man Is the Most Dangerous Political Operative in America.”
- Neil Howe, Washington Post.com March 28, 2017 “Where did Steve Bannon get his worldview? From my book .”
- Neil Howe and William Strauss, The Fourth Turning, An American Prophecy, Broadway Books,1997
- Sun Tzu, The Art of War, 448. B.C. reprinted 2005
- Robert Draper, NYT Magazine, 4/2/2017, “Trump vs. Congress”
Who he is: Permanent Member, National Security Council, and Chief Strategist to President Donald J. Trump
Why it matters: In his position at the seat of power, Bannon is poised to carry out his beliefs in the necessity for destruction of the old order in order to usher in the new.
How he intends to do it: He tries to place unimportant but dramatic sounding information at the top of the news to sow confusion and to distract us, while quietly and as quickly as possible in the background, he is methodically carrying out actions such as canceling regulations from the Obama era, reducing the size of agencies such as the EPA and the Health & Human Services, and Education ,by firing and not replacing staff and by increasing the Defense Department at the expense of the State Department. This moves more power over international relations from the State Department to the Presidency, and centers more power over the Military in the presidency as well .In the end this would tend to develop a stronger, more authoritarian, militaristic and more isolationist government.
At the same time, with Bannon’s guidance, Trump consistently decries news from most trusted American sources as “fake news” in order to taint such sources as lies. Why?
The press is traditionally known as “The Fourth Estate,” i.e. the 4th branch of government in a democracy because without a free press you do not have a democracy. Without a free press, a dictatorship could conceivably control all three official branches.
What does our free press do? They are actually exposing Trump’s failures and his lies. During the 2016 election and beyond he has had some success in convincing a good chunk of the American public to believe in Fox news, Breitbart and various alt right sources rather than network news, the NYT, the New Yorker, the ‘Washington Post, the WSJ, and other traditional sources.
Where did he come from???
Steve Bannon grew up in a blue-collar working class family near the Naval Base in Norfolk, VA . He signed with the Navy out of college, spent 4 years at sea aboard a destroyer, then served as a navigator in the north Arabian Sea in the Iranian hostage crisis. Bannon became a special assistant to the chief of Naval Operations at the Pentagon, earned an MA in National Securities Studies at Georgetown at night. Navy photos show a dashing, fit young sailor hard to recognize in the Bannon of today with his unshaven appearance and sloppy attire.
After the Navy, and eager now to go to Wall Street, Bannon was advised to go first to Harvard Business School, so he did, working very hard, achieving honors, but he failed to get a summer job on Wall Street,. His fellow students told him he hadn’t come up through the right schools. But then, cleverly chatting with some Goldman Sachs executives outside a campus tent, Bannon made a hit, and got himself a permanent job at Goldman Sachs. In his Goldman Sachs years Bannon continued to be fit, well groomed and well dressed .
After several satisfying years at Goldman Sachs, Bannon eventually headed for Hollywood -he used his considerable financial skills to arrange banking for filmmakers, and fortunately was able to pick up ownership stakes himself in Seinfeld syndicated reruns, and then was off to make his own films, such as In the Face of Evil, a Reagan-venerating documentary.
Soon Bannon developed a relationship with kindred spirit Andrew Breitbart, who was modeling his website after the Drudge Report. After Breitbart’s sudden death, Bannon relaunched the website himself. He worked with others to discredit the Clintons with films such as Clinton Cash. Later his creative movie-making stood him in good stead when he had the chance “to create” a president in 2016.
Both Breitbart and Bannon understood better than most that many voters are not as eager to learn the facts as they are to experience the excitement of absorbing ongoing drama.
During the 2016 presidential campaign Bannon acted behind the scenes to promote Trump’s America First policy, espousing what he calls “economic nationalism” which often performs more like “White Christian Nationalism” and anti-Muslimism because he promoted the necessity of closing the borders to provide safety from the dangers caused by “radical Islamic terrorists.”
During one Hillary Clinton-Donald Trump debate In the 2016 campaign, it was Bannon who was audacious enough to call upon his experience attacking the Clintons in the “90s by placing onstage three female witnesses to Bill Clinton’s sexual adventures.
His prospects for success or failure
From Neil Howe, co-author with William Strauss of The Fourth Turning
“I wrote that book with William Strauss back in 1997. Where did Steve Bannon get his worldview? From my book.”
Howe goes on: “It is true that Bannon is enthralled by it.”
Howe tells that he worked with him on Bannon’s documentary film Generation Zero that is based on Howe and Strauss’s theories in The Fourth Turning-ie. that history in America unfolds in a recurring cycle of four generation-long eras, with a time of crisis called The Fourth Turning. in which the old order is destroyed so the new order can emerge.
Howe also worked with Bannon on other films. He says he never told Bannon what to think but Howe does admit to providing Bannon with the insight that populism, nationalism and state-run authoritarianism would soon be on the rise here and around the world.
Howe insists that the book merely predicts a cyclical, rather than a linear or chaotic view of social time and that events TEND to recur in a cyclical order.
Howe finds that the reporting on the book has been” absurdly apocalyptic” and that the headlines this month have been alarming. e.g.:
‘Steve Bannon’s obsession with a dark theory of history should be worrisome.’ (Business Insider)
‘Steve Bannon Believes The Apocalypse is Coming and War Is Inevitable’ (the Huffington Post)
‘Steve Bannon Wants To Start World War III’ (The Nation).”
For us now, it worth understanding how Steve Bannon might want to implement the Fourth Turning cyclical theory of history.
Howe says, “The Fourth Turning is a ‘Crisis’ period when our institutional life is reconstructed from the ground up ,always in response to an urgent threat. If history fails to produce such a threat, Fourth Turning leaders will invariably find one, and may even fabricate one-to mobilize collective action.
Without being specific,, Bannon has stated his wish’ to tear it all down” so as to rebuild .He has shared his enthusiasm for the destruction of the old order so as to make room for the new. Specifically, Trump has certainly turned his cabinet upside down, asked for huge increases in the military budget, while reducing the budget of the State department. This, of course, creates a more hostile approach to other nations, and reduces the funds intended for better relations among nations. He has appointed to head the EPA an admitted foe of environmental regulations, and slashed their budget. He has appointed to the HCA an enemy of our health care law. To date Congress has admitted its failure to repeal the ACA and pulled the bill, a serious defeat for President Trump.
It has already come to pass that some of Trump’s attempted cancellations of Obama-era regulations may fail because of safeguards put in under the Obama administration precisely because they foresaw such problems should Trump come into office. There are protections built in and considerable support from the states, especially California, to preserve environmental safeguards.
Bannon is certainly very bright. and creative. But he is not immune to poor judgment . He likes to make bold moves, to take huge risks, which do not always pay off. Despite his deriding of news as fake, he showed his fear of the press by the firing of Flynn so quickly. He is really afraid of the MSM after all. It is not so easy to get rid of real news. The USA is still a democracy and still has a free press.
It has been suggested that Trump could be turned against Bannon, if he sees that others view him as Bannon’s puppet.
So, at the seat of power we have an impetuous narcissist who tweets carelessly, and hardly reads at all with a close adviser who is extremely articulate and well-read. Together they are facing many in their own Republican ranks who mistrust them and their motives. Trump/Bannon efforts have already failed on several counts. So all is not lost!
Of course we should keep careful track of the various House and Senate bills, and respond regularly to our Reps and Senators about them, and to contact the media, including letters to editors.