How Steve Bannon Was Radicalized

Steve Bannon grew up in a working class family, joined the Navy after high school, eventually got a business degree from Harvard and went to work for Goldman Sachs. But he made his real fortune working for what the right calls “the Hollywood elite.” So where did he become radicalized?

Apparently along the way Bannon became acquainted with white supremacy literature. Paul Blumenthal and JM Rieger cite references the White House chief strategist made to a book that the Souther Poverty Law Center describes as an “anti-immigration analog to The Turner Diaries.”

“It’s been almost a Camp of the Saints-type invasion into Central and then Western and Northern Europe,” he said in October 2015.

“The whole thing in Europe is all about immigration,” he said in January 2016. “It’s a global issue today — this kind of global Camp of the Saints.”

“It’s not a migration,” he said later that January. “It’s really an invasion. I call it the Camp of the Saints.”

“When we first started talking about this a year ago,” he said in April 2016, “we called it the Camp of the Saints. … I mean, this is Camp of the Saints, isn’t it?”

Camp of the Saints was written by French author Jean Raspail in 1973 and has been published five times in the United States. The title comes from Revelations 20:9 in the New Testament. Here is the passage in context:

7 And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison,

8 And shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog, and Magog, to gather them together to battle: the number of whom is as the sand of the sea.

9 And they went up on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city: and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them.

Here is how the Southern Poverty Law Center summarizes the plot:

The book is a racist fantasy about an invasion of France and the white Western world by a fleet of starving, dark-skinned refugees, “a haunting and prophetic vision,” TSCP says, “of Western Civilization overrun by a burgeoning Third World population.”

The book characterizes non-whites as horrific and uncivilized “monsters” who will stop at nothing to greedily and violently seize what rightfully belongs to the white man.

While much of the story is taken up telling the tale of an “untouchable” from India rallying the masses of his country to make an exodus to France, the entire caucasian race is eventually under attack.

It is not just the people of France who suffer that fate. Near the end of Raspail’s novel the mayor of New York is made to share Gracie Mansion with three families from Harlem, the Queen of England must marry her son to a Pakistani, and just one drunken Russian general stands in the way of the Chinese as they swarm into Siberia.

But it is not simply the plot that is racist.

“[This book is] racist in the literal sense of the term. It uses race as the main characterization of characters,” said Cécile Alduy, professor of French at Stanford University and an expert on the contemporary French far right. “It describes the takeover of Europe by waves of immigrants that wash ashore like the plague.”

The book, she said, “reframes everything as the fight to death between races.”

That, my friends, is the world view of the man who is currently the chief strategist to the President of the United States. Let that one sink in for a moment. We know this because, as Blumenthal and Rieger point out, Bannon has used this book as a reference for what is happening in the world on at least four occasions publicly in the last 2 years. This is a very traditional form of racism in which the white supremacist incites fear by suggesting that the rise of those who have been oppressed signals that the masses will be as ruthless in revenge as they have been themselves.

Back in 1994, Matthew Connelly and Paul Kennedy wrote a cover story for the Atlantic that explored the themes addressed in The Camp of the Saints. While they were pretty alarmist about trends that have been somewhat mitigated in the last two decades, they cast this as a potential demographic and class struggle that goes far beyond the borders of the United States and encompasses what they ultimately call the North/South divide on a global scale.

This is why I have been suggesting that the movement Bannon views himself leading is not merely one that pits the white working class in this country against “the elites.” It is instead a movement to incite a global clash between the white race of the North against the hordes he envisions invading our lands from the South.

It is through that lens that we must view Bannon’s support for AG Sessions to roll back civil rights in this country, his desire to implement a Muslim travel ban, his efforts to “deport ’em all” when it comes to undocumented immigrants, his desire to incite a global war on Islam and his alignment with Russia while seeing China as a threat. It is also the context for understanding what Joshua Green described as the efforts of Bannon and Miller to take our focus off of the plight of immigrants/refugees and zero in on the threat they pose.

With that in mind, it is not difficult to understand why former president Barack Obama was not simply a threat to Bannon as a Black man. Their world views clashed on an epic scale. For example, take a look at how Obama talked about these same issues with Will Smith after his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech.

After years of colonization and proxy wars fought for domination of the North over the South enriched the former and left much of the latter in turmoil and poverty, we face a choice about how to deal with a changing dynamic. Steven Bannon wants to incite a race war for caucasian dominance and Barack Obama suggests that we need to expand our moral imagination as a way to promote peace.

Right now Bannon sits in the seat of power. His particular brand of anti-globalism is infused with a radicalized notion of racism and white supremacy gleaned from the pages of books like Camp of the Saints. Let’s be very clear what this struggle is all about.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.