Steve Bannon is out.
Here’s the statement:
White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and Steve Bannon have mutually agreed today would be Steve’s last day. We are grateful for his service and wish him the best.
From the DNC:
The may very well be an attempt not only to deflect criticism regarding how the President handled Charlottesville, but also an attempt to remove elements that might have begun to make Gary Cohn uncomfortable.
As Dave Lutz of JonesTrading put it earlier today, “another reason why the S&P 500 erased its earlier decline on the Axios report is that a Bannon exit might reduce chances Gary Cohn will leave [as] it’s been reported that Bannon and Cohn don’t get along.”
The question now is whether they’ll be a backlash from Breitbart and other nationalist media outlets that have thus far supported the President even as they have, at various times, lashed out at elements within the White House that were perceived as threats to Bannon’s agenda.
Part and parcel of Trump’s campaign was a nationalist message that resonated with parts of the electorate that identify with Bannon’s anti-globalist world view. It’s the same world view that’s helped spread the message peddled by the Nigel Farages and Marine Le Pens of the world.
With that tumor now cut out, it’s as yet unclear what the ramifications will be for the President from that base of previously reliable support.
More broadly, Bannon had succeeded in institutionalizing bigotry and xenophobia and his presence at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave did wonders to legitimize a poisonous ideology that has been relegated to the fringes of Western democracies since World War II.
What happens to that ideology now is anyone’s guess, but what we would suggest is that there will be an effort on the part of the alt-Right to claim that the Trump administration has been hijacked by war hawks and globalists.
President Trump and his aides are now discussing how and when to dismiss Stephen Bannon https://t.co/7KU0YTtXEM
— The New York Times (@nytimes) August 18, 2017
That headline came just moments after “good” old Matt made it “official” where “official” means it came from the Drudge Report, which I suppose in this case we can take seriously given their ideological affinity and shared lineage with Bannon:
And here’s The Times:
President Trump has told senior aides that he has decided to remove Stephen K. Bannon, the embattled White House chief strategist who helped Mr. Trump win the 2016 election, according to two administration officials briefed on the discussion.
The president and senior White House officials were debating when and how to dismiss Mr. Bannon. The two administration officials cautioned that Mr. Trump is known to be averse to confrontation within his inner circle, and could decide to keep on Mr. Bannon for some time.
As of Friday morning, the two men were still discussing Mr. Bannon’s future, the officials said. A person close to Mr. Bannon insisted the parting of ways was his idea, and that he had submitted his resignation to the president on Aug. 7, to be announced at the start of this week, but it was delayed in the wake of the racial unrest in Charlottesville, Va.
Also WSJ has their own version, which says Bannon departed on Friday of his own accord (or something like that):
President Donald Trump’s chief strategist Steve Bannon left his position Friday as the newly minted Chief of Staff John Kelly sought to bring order to a White House riven by infighting and power struggles, according to two people familiar with the decision.
Mr. Bannon’s departure marks the fourth senior White House official to leave the president’s administration in the past five weeks, which has yet to see a major legislative victory despite serving with a Republican-controlled Congress.
The former banker and media executive is credited with shepherding Mr. Trump to victory in last year’s election. He joined the campaign in the final months when Mr. Trump was trailing in the polls by double digits. He put an end to news conferences by his candidate and pushed for more rallies and a focus on closing the border, renegotiating international trade deals, and eviscerating Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton with personal attacks.
You’re reminded what Trump said earlier this week at his now infamous press conference in New York:
President Trump on Steve Bannon 3 days ago: "I like him, he's a good man. He is not a racist… But we'll see what happens with Mr. Bannon." pic.twitter.com/nq8CUyMRKp
— NBC News (@NBCNews) August 18, 2017
This seems like a particularly opportune time to repost one of the very first pieces that ever appeared on Heisenberg Report.
You can find it below.
At first I was amused.
Then, over time, my amusement gave way to concern.
Now, the political scientist in me is downright worried.
That describes the evolution of my thinking towards the the alt-right blogosphere.
For those unfamiliar, the “alt-right” is a label used to define the loose confederation of nationalists that view conventional conservatism as weak and generally incapable of countering the global shift towards progressive multiculturalism.
One of the alt-right’s most recognizable faces is that of Steve Bannon, the man President-elect Donald Trump named chief strategist back in November. Bannon was executive chairman of Breitbart News, a site that, as FT noted last year, has run stories with titles like “The Confederate flag proclaims a glorious heritage” and “Bill Kristol: Republican spoiler, renegade Jew”. In 2015, Bloomberg described it as “the crusading right-wing populist website that’s a lineal descendant of the Drudge Report and a haven for people who think Fox News is too polite and restrained.”
Although Breitbart’s CEO Larry Solov dismisses allegations of racism as “a smear tactic that has been concocted by a combination of leftwing activists, Hillary Clinton and the mainstream media,” it’s well nigh impossible to ignore the thinly-veiled message embedded in the site’s articles. Spend 10 minutes headline surfing on Breitbart and you’ll come away feeling as though you need a shower.
Apparently, the site has strayed from the editorial vision of its late founder Andrew Breitbart, who had a close relationship with Matt Drudge (of Drudge Report fame). Breitbart has, according some former employees, turned into the online echo chamber for Donald Trump who, via his Twitter account, provides a similar service to Breitbart.
With Bannon’s new role in the Trump administration, Breitbart “is positioned to become a paper of record,” Solov boasts.
Breitbart has emboldened a number of copycat sites that adopt a similar editorial bias and run the same type of inflammatory headlines. Breitbart and its progeny have a formulaic approach to producing content. They take a kernel of truth and inject it with so much bias and spin that it effectively becomes “fake news.”
For instance, say we find out that from 2006 to 2011, terrorist attacks killed 126 people in Europe but from 2012 to 2016, that figure rose to 281 (those are real figures). Now the first thing to note here is that that’s a sad statistic and no one would suggest that we attempt to sugarcoat it. On the other hand, we don’t want to be alarmists about it either and especially not if our only reason for being alarmists is to generate more pageviews, promote xenophobia and bigotry, or both. So how might an alt-right site or blog frame the statistic cited above? Well, they’re likely to come up with a headline like this: “Europeans Killed By Radical Muslims Soar 126% As Merkel’s Missteps Lead To Massacre.” The story under that headline would invariably be just as outlandish and overwrought as the title.
That’s how the alt-right blogosphere works. That’s how it prospers. And that’s how it inspires.
At the outset I said that I initially found all of this to be amusing. Why? Because there’s something terribly ironic about capitalizing on the publication of sensationalist articles while simultaneously bemoaning the dishonesty of the “mainstream liberal media” (a favorite target of the alt-right). Everything you read on one of these websites should have a giant, red “caveat emptor” stamp in the header and in case that’s not clear enough for some readers, perhaps there should be a “consider the source” warning in the margins. In short, the idea that these websites should criticize the mainstream media for being biased is the very definition of hypocrisy.
Breitbart and sites like it also inspire the burgeoning “fake news” industry, which caters to those who identify with the idea that mainstream conservatism is feeble and in need of a dramatic overhaul. “Fake news” created (literally) out of thin air has become so influential that some observers credit its authors with helping Donald Trump win the White House. Consider the following from an FT story that ran last year:
It was once known as “Tito’s Veles” in honour of the former Yugoslav leader who praised the gaily coloured porcelain tea sets its factories produced. But the small Macedonian riverside town of 44,000 is now better known for its wildly successful pro-Trump fake news websites.
More than a hundred US politics sites are run from Veles, where a handful of entrepreneurial Macedonian teenagers — apparently unconnected to American rightwing elements or alleged Russian operatives — produce hoax articles attracting millions of clicks and shares. One such article posted on December 6 said that Syrian terrorists had attacked New York. No such attack took place.
The emergence of a fake news industry in this unlikely spot in the Balkan hinterland may even have tipped the electoral balance in Donald Trump’s favour.
While that’s probably a bit strong, there’s no denying the fact that hundreds of thousands of netizens (some of whom apparently vote) are duped by stories that aren’t just biased or otherwise skewed, but are in fact completely made up. Here are some excerpts from an interview NPR conducted with a purveyor of make-believe narratives (emphasis mine):
On a warm, sunny afternoon I set out with a producer for a suburb of Los Angeles. Jestin Coler lived in a middle-class neighborhood of pastel-colored one-story beach bungalows. His home had an unwatered lawn — probably the result of California’s ongoing drought. There was a black minivan in the driveway and a large prominent American flag.
“The whole idea from the start was to build a site that could kind of infiltrate the echo chambers of the alt-right, publish blatantly or fictional stories and then be able to publicly denounce those stories and point out the fact that they were fiction,” Coler says.
During the run-up to the presidential election, fake news really took off. “It was just anybody with a blog can get on there and find a big, huge Facebook group of kind of rabid Trump supporters just waiting to eat up this red meat that they’re about to get served,” Coler says. “It caused an explosion in the number of sites. I mean, my gosh, the number of just fake accounts on Facebook exploded during the Trump election.”
Coler says his writers have tried to write fake news for liberals — but they just never take the bait.
“Liberals never take the bait” – imagine that.
But do you know who does take the bait? The growing ranks of disaffected voters that have found who they believe to be their saviors in populist/nationalist politicians like Trump, like Nigel Farage, like Marine le Pen, like Geert Wilders, and like Frauke Petry. All of their stars have risen.
Here are some recent poll numbers that presage a strong showing for Europe’s populist candidates in this year’s elections:
The groundswell of support for populism/nationalism comes at the expense of globalization and multiculturalism, two pillars of societal advancement.
But don’t think for a second that the growing ranks of alt-right bloggers and fake news distributors care.
Unconcerned with the real-world ramifications of their disingenuous online banter, they revel in the fact that they can exploit uneducated readers, conspiracy theorists, and those who generally lack critical thinking skills for their own personal gain (it is not unusual for the owners of these web properties to make between $10,000 and $100,000 per month).
One can only hope that eventually, the most influential of the bunch will see the danger in what they’re helping to create and disavow it. But I’m not optimistic.