Donald Trump decided not to speak on the anniversary of the January 6th insurrection, so his former adviser and best-friend-turned-worst-enemy-turned-best-friend-again, Steve Bannon, decided to fill the far-right gap. And what a gap-filling exercise it was.
On his “War Room” podcast — a sweat-fueled hatefest broadcast every day of the week on Real America’s Voice — Bannon took us on a journey. His multi-part series commemorating the deadly riot featured such illustrious characters as alleged sex trafficker Matt Gaetz, “Jewish space laser” believer Marjorie Taylor Greene, and author of the snappily named ‘January 6: How Democrats Used the Capitol Protest to Launch a War on Terror Against the Political Right’” Julie Kelly.
And yet, for a group of people who have made their names claiming to be the heirs to Trump’s America First philosophy, there was something distinctly un-American about what came next — perhaps even a little, well, Stalinist.
It started out pretty standard-issue, with some mutterings from Darren Beattie of Revolver News about how January 6th was a “sordid and dark operation” planned by the feds and used to entrap innocent, patriotic Americans. Bannon smiled and nodded: this kind of pessimistic fear-mongering is his bread and butter. “We’re gonna get to the bottom of the Wuhan lab and we’re gonna get to the bottom of the 6th of January,” he said, pointing his pen at the screen. “This is one of the darkest chapters in American history… We’re coming for you and you’re not gonna stop us.” He repeatedly referred to Donald Trump as “the sitting president of the United States”.
Bannon has a shtick, and he likes to keep to it. He’d carefully arranged the iconography surrounding himself for the show: on his right stood a portrait of Jesus Christ and a white cross; on his left, a large framed placard that said “There are NO conspiracies but there are NO coincidences” and another that simply called for “ACTION ACTION ACTION”. Propped up in front of Jesus was a small card that stated: “We can do hard things”, which was perhaps the most perplexing element of the scenery. We Can Do Hard Things is a gently inspiring self-help book written during the pandemic that became a bestseller; it has since been recommended by the likes of Reese Witherspoon and Adele. It’s hard to know what about the book — which advocates for compassion and all-women-led nonprofits — spoke to Bannon, but it’s true that Adele did say it would “shake your brain and make your soul scream”.
Regardless of whether he has hidden depths, however, Bannon is comfortable with this kind of backdrop. It’s manicured, it’s safe, it incorporates all the usual Republican motifs. He’s even more comfortable with batting the same conversation back and forth between himself and another ranty white man — we’re in a “national security state”, the American people will never accept this, we’re going to march into everyone’s houses with guns to keep the unborn children safe from the immigrants in your basement. He and Darren Beattie could’ve kept it up all day. Then MTG and Matt Gaetz came on and ruined it all.
You see, the Marjorie Taylor Greenes and the Matt Gaetzes of this world really can’t be controlled. Unlike Bannon, their rage is not manufactured and their political ideology is not well-developed. Almost as soon as he began talking to Bannon about how liberals control all the money in America, Gaetz went into a nonsequitur about how he would be happy to work with Elizabeth Warren to break up big tech. He did this moments after announcing that the era of small government is over, and “libertarians will have to suck it up”. Bannon’s alarm showed on his face — this was not the plan. Jesus was there for the evangelical wing of the party, “ACTION ACTION ACTION” was there for the libertarians, a MAGA-style hat sporting the logo of far-right wannabe Twitter replacement Gettr was displayed in the corner for the First Amendment enthusiasts, and now his guest was spoiling everything.
And so Bannon did what he does best: he turned to another spigot of rage. He asked MTG to describe how she had been kicked off Twitter a few hours earlier. And for a while, Greene warmed to it: “When Twitter kicked me, an elected member of Congress, off their platform, that’s a direct attack on our government,” she said with a straight face. Bannon nodded enthusiastically, adding that it was a disgrace “our commander-in-chief” had had his account suspended by a private company. “I want to turn them into public utilities and then have show trials around the executives that did this,” he added at one point, a veritable Stalin in the making.
But Marjorie doesn’t ever, ever stay on script. She wanted to talk about how Americans who test positive for Covid might be rounded up into camps. She needed people to know that “Omicron is no threat to anyone”. Gaetz simultaneously jumped in to say that “Chuck Schumer’s got so many relatives working in big tech I think he sends his Christmas cards straight to Silicon Valley.” (Chuck Schumer is quite famously Jewish, so I doubt he’ll be sending Christmas cards to family members in California or anywhere, but you never know.)
Among the usual buzzwords and familiar phrases (George Soros! Antifa! AMERICAN FAMILIES WHO AREN’T GOING TO TAKE IT ANY MORE!), a strange impression began to build. It seemed that Gaetz, Greene and even Bannon might be sleepwalking into authoritarian socialism. There was a lot of talk about how the First Amendment should mean private companies in Silicon Valley come under government control. There was a speech about the workers rising up and changing the Republican Party. There was denial of the democratically elected president. Jack Posobiec, who also featured on “War Room” today, tweeted soon afterwards: “Alexander Hamilton once referred to countries with pure democracy as deformed tyrannies.”
Nationalize the private companies, get out the show trials, lead the proletariat to install a leader who does away with democratic norms… it’s all starting to sound a little Bolshevik, really, isn’t it? “We need firebrands,” Bannon kept saying, while gazing intensely at MTG and Gaetz. One certainly got the impression the future was red. It might just be a little more red than anyone involved in the GOP bargained for.
Register for free to continue reading
Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism
By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists
Already have an account? sign in
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies