One of the things we’ve been pounding the table on for quite some time in these pages is the notion that what you see and read from popular alt-Right figures is not necessarily representative of what those people actually believe or indeed, who those people actually are.
The idea that populist “heroes” are in fact nothing more than actors/profiteers hell bent on exploiting the uneducated (and thereby gullible) masses applies across the board.
That is, it’s true of the fringe characters that inhabit the shadowy corners of the alt-Right blogosphere. It’s true of the folks who have managed to build a large enough following to slither their way into the public consciousness. And it’s true at the highest level in the form of Steve Bannon, who pitches himself as a populist’s populist – the alt-Right godfather – the anti-globalist par excellence.
Recently, Alex Jones (of InfoWars fame) had a tough decision to make. He was in a custody battle with his ex-wife, who used footage from InfoWars as evidence that Jones wasn’t a fit parent. When forced to choose between his kids and his fans, Jones admitted – through his attorneys – that the man you see on InfoWars is in fact just “a character.” Jones, his lawyers argued, is simply “a performance artist.”
Needless to say, that was news to the legions of fans who believe in the chest-beating, man’s man Alex pretends to be on camera (fans like Donald Trump). You can read our full coverage of that story in the following posts:
- Alex Jones Is A Dope Smokin’, Zebra Eatin’, Pantless Fit Parent
- Alex Jones In Court: It’s Not Real, I’m “Playing A Character”
- Call Alex Jones “A Russian” One More Time…
- Caught On Tape: Alex Jones Admits He’s A Fraud – “It’s Satire!”
Similarly, Steve Bannon wants you to think he’s a grizzled, angry, brooding populist mastermind.
But that characterization has been challenged recently by those who knew him in his Beverly Hills days. According to them, Bannon was “Republican, but not dogmatic, tried not to let his political beliefs get in the way of his work, [and] looked the part of a Hollywood executive—fast-talking, smartly dressed, and aggressively fit.”
In other words, hardly the man we saw plastered on the cover of Time magazine. You can read the account of Bannon’s former life here: “Is Steve Bannon For Real? ‘When I Knew Him, He Just Wanted To Make A Buck.’”
Well, lost in the 40 (or so) tabs we invariably keep open in Google Chrome, was a story we meant to run around two months ago.
Back on March 14, WSJ ran an absurd piece about Bannon which attempted to trace the roots of his angry (and we now know “false”) populism to a bad trade is father made in AT&T stock.
Here’s the story and yes, it’s just as fucking silly as it sounds:
On Oct. 7, 2008, in the cramped TV room of his modest home here, Marty Bannon watched with alarm as plunging stock markets dragged down his shares of AT&T, the nest egg he built during a 50-year career at the company.
His five children, including current White House counselor and chief strategist Steve Bannon, had often joked growing up that their devout father, a product of the Great Depression, would sooner leave the Catholic Church than sell those shares. The stock symbolized his deep trust in the company and had doubled as life insurance for his children.
As he toggled between TV stations, financial analysts warned of economic collapse and politicians in Washington seemed to mirror his own confusion. So he did the unthinkable. He sold.
Marty Bannon, now 95 years old, still regrets the decision and seethes over Washington’s response to the economic crisis. His son Steve says the moment crystallized his own antiestablishment outlook and helped trigger a decadelong political hardening that has landed him inside the West Wing, just steps away from President Donald Trump.
“The only net worth my father had beside his tiny little house was that AT&T stock. And nobody is held accountable?” Steve Bannon, 63, said in a recent interview. “All these firms get bailed out. There’s no equity taken from anybody. There’s no one in jail. These companies are all overleveraged, and everyone looked the other way.”
“Everything since then has come from there,” he says. “All of it.”
Here’s what we mockingly said after the Journal ran the piece from which those excerpts are taken:
Well fortunately, we weren’t the only ones who saw right through that bullshit.
And thanks to an editorial by Bloomberg’s Francis Wilkinson, we don’t even have to explain how absurd it is. Here’s Francis to do that for us…
White House strategist Steve Bannon understands how narrative works. In Hollywood films, at least the assembly-line models, plot points are inserted to send the hero off on a quest and, later, to send the action veering in an unexpected (well, sort of) new direction. They explain the hero to himself and others, give him a goal and erect obstacles (drama!) in the path of achieving it.
Bannon, who made documentary films before becoming chairman of the propaganda website Breitbart, has offered reporters his own plot point to explain how a multimillionaire Harvard Business School graduate and Goldman Sachs alumnus acquired his “fiery populism.”
Bannon’s father, Marty Bannon, worked and saved his whole life only to get clobbered by the financial crisis. I’ll let the Richmond Times-Dispatch deliver the elevator pitch: “When Steve Bannon saw Wall Street’s recklessness hit home and the impact on his father,” the paper reported in November, “it fueled his rage against a system he now describes as ‘socialism for the wealthy,’ where benefits accrue to those at the top while the downside is spread among the masses.”
The Wall Street Journal this week put the elevator pitch into long form. Marty Bannon, it seems, had put his faith in the stock of AT&T Inc., the company for which he worked for half a century. When the financial crisis hit, the senior Bannon didn’t turn to his wealthy and successful financier son for advice. He panicked and sold, losing more than $100,000.
The Journal reported: “There were many factors that turned Steve Bannon into a divisive political firebrand. But his decision to embrace ‘economic nationalism’ and vehemently oppose the forces and institutions of globalization, he says, stems from his upbringing, his relationship with his father and the meaning those AT&T shares held for the family.
Bannon concurs: “Everything since then has come from there,” he told the Journal. “All of it.”
It’s quite a Rosebud moment, and a compelling example of what Vanity Fair called “the frame in which Bannon views how policies have historically been manipulated to the benefit of elites and to the detriment of the working class.”
The reckless and contemptuous elites tank the global economy without remorse or penalty. Bannon’s dad, now 95, makes a bad stock trade in a panic, and our hero, his son, goes off on a quest to avenge the dignity of the average working man who has been so brutally betrayed.
Where to begin?
Imagine, for a moment, a Hollywood producer — I once saw a yacht-sized Mercedes on Wilshire Boulevard with the license plate “IDEAMAN,” so let’s make it that guy — taking this feeble, generic script and offering Bannon’s real-life trajectory as the conclusion.
Here’s how our story ends.
To avenge his middle-class father, Bannon goes to work for the heir of a real-estate fortune whose standard operating practice over decades has been to cheat people — tradesmen, contractors — who aren’t rich or powerful enough to be able to afford to sue him. People, in other words, like Marty Bannon.
When the heir wins the presidency, Bannon follows him to the White House where they promptly propose to relieve 24 million regular Joes and Josephines of their health insurance while giving the very wealthiest people in the country giant tax cuts. Oh, and the administration turns out to be chock full of Goldman Sachs alumni, including a Treasury secretary who made a fortune as the “foreclosure king,” destroying the households (and wealth) of lots and lots of Marty Bannons.
So if you want to know why Steve Bannon ran a website that became a digital drag bar for neo-Nazis and racists, or why he is determined to ban desperate, war-ravaged Muslim refugees from reaching American shores, or to deport mothers of American children to nations they haven’t seen in years, or to stop subsidizing health insurance for the poor and middle class, or to eliminate environmental safeguards, or to deregulate Wall Street so that it has fewer constraints in exploiting vulnerable investors, or to deliver vast tax cuts to extremely wealthy people like Steve Bannon — all while the president of the United States conceals his tax returns and sells the presidency for profit, well, it all comes down to what the elites did to poor Marty Bannon.
“Everything since then has come from there,” Bannon said. “All of it.”