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Ultra-nationalist? I guess he of all people would know… September 14, 2017

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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Steve Bannon, Donald Trump’s former consigliere, has compared China to 1930s Germany, warning the country could go down the same dark path if the US fails to challenge its rise.

“A hundred years from now, this is what they’ll remember — what we did to confront China on its rise to world domination,” Bannon told the New York Times.
“China right now is Germany in 1930,” he said. “It’s on the cusp. It could go one way or the other. The younger generation is so patriotic, almost ultranationalistic.”

I’ve found Bannon a fascinating individual. Here’s someone who uses a faux populist rhetoric of workers and so and yet in his very core is fundamentally opposed to workers given the range of positions he’s got on various issues (not least his boast that he would deconstruct the ‘administrative state’). And there’s a terrible confusion about him…Thomas Frank in this piece addresses some of that confusion…

A former executive at Goldman Sachs, Bannon is also the product of what the Hollywood Reporter calls a “blue-collar, union and Democratic family” who feels “an unreconstructed sense of class awareness, or bitterness – or betrayal”. Bannon is a founding member of the objectionable far-right website Breitbart and an architect of Trump’s unlikely victory, the man at the right hand of power. And yet almost no one in Washington seems to understand how he pulled this off.

But to come from that background is not to be of that background or represent it. And even a ‘sense of class awareness or bitterness or betrayal’ does not mean that he represents the interests, or even much understands them. So Frank rightly notes that while he has a tendency to use anti-banker rhetoric (albeit being ex-Goldman Sachs) his actual approaches are fundamentally not at odds with the system. Indeed they’re diversionary. Frank quotes him as saying:

“The current economic crisis is not a failure of capitalism, but a failure of culture.”

And continues:

What culture do you think Bannon means? The buccaneering culture of the Wall Street traders? The corrupt culture of the real estate appraisers or the bond rating agencies? The get-rich-quick culture of the mortgage originators?
No, no and no. He means … the counterculture of the 1960s. Bell bottoms. Drum solos. Dope. That’s the thing to blame for the financial crisis and the bailouts. Not the deregulation of derivatives in 2000. It was those kids having fun at Woodstock in 1969.

It’s like Peter Hitchens if Peter Hitchens threw in the terms working class once in a while into his argument. I hate those approaches – not least for the utter condescension of the use of the concept of working class, as if it was simply a synonym of social (and economic) conservatism.

Frank sort of agrees with some aspects of the narrative Bannon puts together…

He included it because this rainy-day Marxism is pretty much the only way you can do what Bannon set out to do in this movie: get deregulated capitalism out of the shadow for the financial crisis and blame instead the same forces that the family-values crowd has been complaining about for years. Blame the hippies for what arch-deregulator Phil Gramm did 40 years later and call it a high-flown theory of history: the “fourth turning”, or some such nonsense. Of course Bannon’s fans believe it. It makes perfect sense to them.
A funny thing about Bannon’s stinky pudding of exaggerations and hallucinations: in the broadest terms, it’s also true. The counterculture really did have something to do with both our accelerated modern capitalism and the Democratic party’s shift to the right – it’s a subject I have written about from The Conquest of Cool to Listen, Liberal.

Except it isn’t really, because that’s mistaking cause and effect. The counterculture is no more is responsible for the excesses of capitalism than any other cultural phenomenon (that the Branson’s of this world and some of the silicon valley folk and so on moved from hippy to millions is merely evidence of how thin hippy and indeed any other similar cultural ‘movement’ actually was). What is true is that as those who were involved in the counter culture aged many (though not all) settled down, pretty much assumed identities that were much less counterculture and were assimilated into the mainstream. Capitalism pulled its oldest trick by taking in the counter and selling it back albeit in moderated form.

And when Frank writes the following I’m hard pressed to see how liking Fleetwood Mac or the Grateful Dead has any real policy or other influence on contemporary US politics. In fact I’d hazard a guess that only in the US would this charge even begin to line up because of a slightly different cultural dynamic, that being a sort of low level culture war between generations where even the mildest deviation from supposed norms is regarded as unusual and where for all the excess of television and media and so on in truth this is a pretty socially conservative state we’re talking about. How else to understand the following?

The Clinton administration really did strike up an alliance with Wall Street, and this really did represent a new and catastrophic direction for the Democratic party. Trade deals really did help to deindustrialise the US, and that deindustrialisation really was a terrible thing. The bankers really did get bailed out by their friends the politicians in 2008 and 2009, and it really was the greatest outrage of our stupid century. And there really is a lot of narcissism mixed up in modern capitalism. Just look at the man for whom Bannon presently works.

But it’s a travesty to assume that Clinton is a counter-cultural figure. Was he ever? Only by assuming that by smoking a bit of blow and listening to more (then) contemporary musical styles at some point in ones that represents some vast hinterland is it possible to make that case rather than pointing to Clinton as someone who moved from a sort of working class background neatly into the middle class and in doing so assumed many of the beliefs of same. And what of the sheer hegemonic grip right wing economics and policies had during the period from the late 1970s onwards and how that inflected all else? And in fairness Frank is spot on. Trump is as much or as little a representative of that as Clinton or anyone else.

By the way, all this reminds me a bit of something else in relation to culture. Dmitry Medvedev is a huge fan of Deep Purple and hard rock, so much so that DP played for him on his birthday during the 2000s. Is there anyone who would seriously suggest that his musical taste (one I kind of share as it happens) has any policy implications? Are Russian authors writing shallow multi-sentence named books on how the counter culture in the US inflected Russian social and economic policy in the last seventeen years or so? Of course they’re not.

Because the big problem is in relation to the US example that even if Bannon thinks that the 60s were responsible for the economic crisis and that because attitudes from the 60s inflected the Democratic party, how on earth can he reconcile that with the simple fact that the Republicans held identical policy positions, indeed were responsible themselves for initiating some of the policies that proved so noxious?

Where I think Frank is on very solid ground is when he shifts away from the self-serving Bannon critique of the counter culture and gets back into gear in relation to how the Democrats politically (as did so many vaguely leftish or centrist or social democratic parties over the same period in Europe as well as other places) aligned with aspects of capitalism that previously would have been unthinkable. That’s nothing to do with the counter culture, that is all to do with specific interests and indeed emerging class issues.

That some have been taken in by Bannon’s rhetoric is no surprise. That some on the left have tipped that way too is more of a surprise.

And little surprise too that he sees the world in overtly nationalistic terms – albeit with a cosmetic layer of economism applied to mask that slightly – of warring states. Even when he says the following it is so clearly from a position rooted in unquestioning assumptions about capitalism that it’s almost a travesty of analysis…

“China’s model for the past 25 years, it’s based on investment and exports,” he said. “Who financed that? The American working class and middle class. You can’t understand Brexit or the 2016 events unless you understand that China exported their deflation, they exported their excess capacity.”
“It’s not sustainable,” Bannon added. “The reordering of the economic relationship is the central issue that has to be addressed, and only the US can address it.”

And given his own penchant for ultranationalism can he seriously explain how a Chinese dominated planet under capitalism (or whatever variant of same the PRC practices) would be in any significant way different to that of the form of capitalism championed by himself and his erstwhile employer?

Of course he can’t because one has to suspect there’d be little difference bar the nationality of those doing the domination.

Here meanwhile from the Guardian is an example of deep thinker Bannon in action…

…noting that New York’s Catholic cardinal Timothy Dolan opposed Trump’s decision this week to end the Daca program to protect young people brought to the country illegally as children from being deported, Bannon said the church was “terrible” on immigration issues.
“You know why? Because [they have been] unable to come to grips with the problems in the church, they need illegal aliens. They need illegal aliens to fill the churches. It’s obvious on the face of it,” Bannon said.

To which Cardinal Dolan (not someone I’d usually write in hugely approving terms) gets right to the heart of matters and notes:

Dolan said in an interview on Thursday that it was “a preposterous and rather insulting statement.” He added that the Bible is “so clear that to treat the immigrant with dignity and respect, to make sure that society is just in its treatment of the immigrant is Biblical mandate.”

Jamelle Bouie on Slate.com has more on this.

By the by I never bought the line that his leaving the White House would function as a force multiplier of his influence. Even his John the Baptist to Trump’s Jesus gig this week in Asia feels forced. Whether he was up to the job or not, and one would have to wonder, being inside the Presidential camp would be by almost any serious yardstick a better position than being outside.

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1. CL - September 14, 2017

The Bannonites are not too happy with Trump’s latest move on DACA
.
“In a meeting with establishment politicians from the Problem Solvers Caucus and the Blue Dog Coalition, President Trump signaled a full-fledged cave on the issue of giving amnesty to nearly 800,000 illegal aliens currently protected by an Obama-created executive immigration program.”
http://www.breitbart.com/big-government/2017/09/13/report-trump-caves-on-daca-wants-quick-amnesty-for-800k-illegal-aliens/

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WorldbyStorm - September 14, 2017

This is where I think their talk about the ‘working class’ is shown up for what it is – a facade!

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CL - September 14, 2017

Jane Mayer has a comprehensive piece in the New Yorker about the Mercer family financing Bannon.
“Mercer … put ten million dollars into Breitbart News, which was conceived as a conservative counterweight to the Huffington Post. The Web site freely mixes right-wing political commentary with juvenile rants and racist innuendo; under Bannon’s direction, the editors introduced a rubric called Black Crime….
The Washington Post recently published a house-rental lease that Bannon signed in 2013, on which he said that his salary at Breitbart News was seven hundred and fifty thousand dollars….
“The Hope & the Change,” an anti-Obama film that Bannon and Citizens United released during the 2012 Democratic National Convention. After Caddell saw the film, he pointed out to Bannon that its opening imitated that of “Triumph of the Will,” the 1935 ode to Hitler, made by the Nazi filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl. Bannon laughed and said, “You’re the only one that caught it!” In both films, a plane flies over a blighted land, as ominous music swells; then clouds in the sky part, auguring a new era.”
This imagery was echoed in Trump’s inaugural address.

https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/03/27/the-reclusive-hedge-fund-tycoon-behind-the-trump-presidency

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WorldbyStorm - September 14, 2017

Jesus. He’s proud of emulating Riefenstahl. 😦

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