BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Steve Bannon's openly declared war on the mainstream media may be the kind of hot-button news that drives headlines, but his new role on the National Security Council gives the former Goldman Sachs executive-turned-head of the ultra-right xenophobic and misogynistic Breitbart News, and the architect of Trumpism, unimaginable power. In an executive order, possibly written by Bannon himself, President Trump made it clear that Bannon could "join the government's most senior members during any meeting of the principal committee, led by national security advisor, Michael Flynn," The New York Daily News reported.
Bannon, according to Raw Story's David Edwards, "personally overruled a decision by the Department of Homeland Security not to include green card holders in the president's temporary ban on travel from Muslim countries," a ruling that set off a firestorm of protests at airports across the country.
“Whatever else he is, Steve Bannon is a smart guy, and he had to know that this would produce turmoil at airports around the country and widespread condemnation from the press,” Mother Jones’ Kevin Drum wrote. “In cases like this, the smart money is usually on incompetence, not malice. But this looks more like deliberate malice to me. Bannon wanted turmoil and condemnation. He wanted this executive order to get as much publicity as possible. He wanted the ACLU involved. He thinks this will be a PR win.”
Earlier in the week, Banning pointedly told The New York Times' Michael Grynbaum that: "The media should be embarrassed and humiliated and keep its mouth shut and just listen for a while." Bannon then added, "The media here is the opposition party. They don't understand this country. They still do not understand why Donald Trump is president of the United States."
As Vanity Fair magazine's Emily Jane Fox pointed out, it is Bannon who is majorly responsible for "fuel(ing) Trump's firefight with the media, discrediting and undermining the mainstream voices opposed to his anti-immigrant and anti-trade agenda."
According to Fox, Bannon was responsible for writing part of Trump's dark inaugural address, and for writing some of the executive orders signed by Trump in his first week. Politico’s Isaac Arnsdorf, Josh Dawsey and Seung Min Kim reported “Inside the West Wing, it is almost impossible for some aides to know what is in the executive orders, staffers say. They have been written by Stephen Miller, Trump’s senior White House adviser for policy, and Steve Bannon, Trump’s chief strategist, according to people familiar with the matter. Ideas for some of the Trump executive orders came from transition officials and so-called ‘landing teams,’ sources say, who weren’t working in the White House.”
Bannon has soared to powerful heights that even he may not have imagined as recently as last summer, when he characterized Trump in Vanity Fair interview with Ken Silverstein, as a "blunt instrument for us," and added, "I don't know whether he really gets it or not."
On a recent episode of Don Lemon’s CNN show, in response to the Sean Spicer kerfuffle over inaugural counts, and Kelly Anne Conway’s huffing about “alternative facts,” reporter Carl Bernstein said: “Weather reports are about what is going to happen, not what happened. We’re talking about lies about what occurred. Just one thing quickly about Steve Bannon, and that is I would speculate here, not report, that he is very concerned that the story is now moving to Donald Trump’s emotional stability and maturity.”
Lemon asked former Breitbart staffer Kurt Bardella who previously worked with Bannon, “You know these folks in the White House. Is it like — do they believe facts are like a weather forecast?”
Bardella said that with Breitbart it’s not about facts, but rather, “it’s alternative reality. In their minds they did it their way and they won. They don’t need to change. Everybody else needs to change. As long as they believe that, media will cover anything they do. As soon as Donald Trump tweets something, it becomes breaking news, saturating every television and online news site.”
He continued, “They’re going to keep doing what they’re doing and care less about the relationship with the press.”
“One thing too that is interesting,” Bardella explained, “They are obsessed with getting coverage. The worst thing you can do to Steve Bannon is not give him coverage.”
As AlterNet’s Jefferson Morley pointed out, “The Breitbartization of the White House comes as no surprise to people at the conservative news site. ‘I’m surprised it took this long,’ one Breitbart reporter told The Hill. ‘There are a number of people on staff who clearly have resumes that would lend themselves to the administration. These two [Breitbart immigration operative Julia Hahn and Breitbart’s national security propagandist, Sebastian Gorka] are ideologically in line with Bannon. They’re people he can trust. It makes sense.’”
Morley pointed out that “Bannon projects the image of a strong, if flabby man. He’s a winner in the mold of Trump but perhaps more intelligent, an ordinary guy, a Seinfeld fan. He is also a self-proclaimed revolutionary from Wall Street, imbued with the animal spirits of capitalism and the racial chauvinism of the so-called alt-right.
“Compared to Bannon, Pence and Priebus are out of his league. They want to play with piety and politics. Bannon wants to remake the globe. Pence worries about the morals of gay people. Bannon wants to depose German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
“Bannon’s unsurprising emergence as first among equals in the White House is a signal moment in the Trump interregnum. Compared to Trump, he looks presidential.”
Even reliably conservative Bill Kristol – a target of a Breitbart News headline “Bill Kristol: Republican Spoiler, Renegade Jew” -- is dumbfounded by recent events, particularly with Bannon’s calling the media the “opposition party.” On a segment with CNN’s Erin Burnett, Kristol mockingly called Bannon a “sensitive guy … Such a snowflake, really, right?” Kristol continued, “Poor guy, he’s in the White House. They’ve been there five, six days. He’s been looking forward to four years. Six months ago he’s editing a fringe website, now he’s in the White House. He’s so insecure,” said Kristol. “I mean his boss Donald Trump is, too. All they can do is attack the media?”
Bannon’s war with the media, his seat on the National Security Council’s principals committee, and his contribution to Trump’s executive orders, has given him extraordinary power. And it has resulted in a boatload of coverage. He may be counting on the fact that the mainstream media has a lower approval rating than Trump, and it appears that one of Bannon’s personally designated tasks is to drive that approval rating even lower. That would allow an opening to bring in more alt-right media to the forefront, and begin America’s makeover into Breitbart Nation.