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  • Steve Bannon

    Steve Bannon | Photo: AFP

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Bannon's journey "from right-wing media outlier to top propagandist of the U.S. empire," shows how his "economic agenda and racism go hand in hand."

The latest episode of Abby Martin's "Empire Files" examines the professional and ideological trajectory of perhaps the most powerful person in the White House, Steve Bannon.

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While much of Bannon's story is well known, Martin argues that it is essential to map Bannon's political development because "we need to understand the ideology behind (Bannon's) policies in order to best defeat them."

The episode examines Bannon's almost 40-year rise through the darkest corners of the U.S. far right, quoting the former head of the Ku Klux Klan, David Duke, who says that with Bannon "you have an individual who's basically creating the ideological aspects of where we're going. And ideology is ultimately the most important aspect of any government."

Martin traces Bannon's journey from young navy officer "in love with war" and disappointed the U.S. didn't invade Iran to prevent the 1979 revolution, to a leading propagandist for the far-right fringes of the Republican party, to chief policy maker for the Trump administration where his "most outlandish fantasies have been put into action."

style="text-align: left;">While Bannon's stops along the way included a well-known six-year stint at Goldman Sachs and several years as editor and chief of the "alt-right platform" Breitbart News, Martin explores some of the more obscure and creepy moments in Bannon's development connecting a "lack of ethics in his professional life" — raising funds for an internet company run by a group of accused pedophiles — to his "disturbing history of alleged domestic abuse" — noting that the mother of his twin daughters requested that Bannon's visitations take place in public after he allegedly hit his then 17-month-old daughter.

Before taking over Breitbart News in 2010, Bannon used his personal wealth to become — in the words of colleagues at Breitbart News referring to the notorious Nazi filmmaker — "the Leni Riefenstahl of the Tea-Party movement," by making films which, Martin notes, portrayed "an array of far-right dystopian fantasies which depict a society in collapse, invaded by criminal armies."

While those films were never successful, they brought him to Breitbart News where he also founded a right-wing think tank, the Government Accountability Institute, to mainstream his brand of anti-Black, anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant "economic nationalism."

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After Trump declared his candidacy for the presidency in 2015, Breitbart's readership more than doubled from 8 million a month to almost 18, and Bannon found his path to real power.

"A new relationship was born," says Martin. "Trump had something Bannon always wanted — a bigger megaphone for his right-wing dreams of transforming U.S. society — and Bannon had something Trump cherished too: a doting audience."

Martin roots Trump's success in Bannon's brand of narrowcast populism, which "appeals to (White) people because he's pointing out actual problems in society" — such as the neoliberal assault on the middle class with both establishment Democrats and Republicans have been unwilling to address — yet blaming them on a racialized Other.

While Martin notes that there is little new in this strategy — "throughout history rulers have rallied the white working class against other poor people to avert blame for systemic crisis" — she concludes that Bannon's rise is symptomatic of much larger systemic ills.

"The fact that someone like Steve Bannon could attain such a high seat of power shows how illegitimate the system really is, how quickly steps towards progress can be reversed."

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