Michael Crowley writes: It was the day after Britain voted to leave the European Union in June, and the Western world was still absorbing the shock. With no clear plan for what would come next, the globe’s fifth-biggest economy had abruptly announced a divorce from the neighbors it had been trading with for nearly 45 years. Markets plunged. “A calamity,” declared the New York Times. “Global panic,” proclaimed one London headline.
Steve Bannon had a different reaction. He booked the calamity’s chief architect as a guest on his radio show to celebrate.
This was then still weeks before Bannon emerged into the national spotlight as CEO of Donald Trump’s struggling presidential campaign. Bannon was an executive at Breitbart News, an activist-editor-gadfly known mostly on the far right, and the “Brexit” campaign was something of a pet project. He hitched onto the Tea Party movement early in Barack Obama’s presidency and noticed a similar right-populist wave rising across the Atlantic, where fed-up rural, white Britons were anxious about immigration and resentful of EU bureaucrats. The cause touched on some of Bannon’s deepest beliefs, including nationalism, Judeo-Christian identity and the evils of Big Government. In early 2014, Bannon launched a London outpost of Breitbart, opening what he called a new front “in our current cultural and political war.” The site promptly began pointing its knives at the EU, with headlines like “The EU Is Dead, It Just Refuses to Lie Down”; “The European Union’s Response to Terrorism Is a Massive Privacy Power Grab”; “Pressure on Member States to Embrace Trans Ideology.” One 2014 article invited readers to vote in a poll among “the most annoying European Union rules.”
Bannon’s site quickly became tightly entangled with the United Kingdom Independence Party, a fringe movement with the then-outlandish goal of Britain’s exit from the EU. In October 2014, UKIP’s leader, Nigel Farage, poached a Breitbart London editor to work for him. That September, Bannon hosted a dinner for Farage at his Capitol Hill townhouse. Standing under a large oil painting by the fireplace, Farage delivered a speech that left the dozens of conservative leaders in attendance “blown away,” as Bannon later recalled. [Continue reading…]
Loren DeJonge Schulman writes: Here’s a handy rule for assessing the credibility of what you’re reading about national security in the Trump era: If somebody uses the term “Deep State,” you can be pretty sure they have no idea what they’re talking about.
The phrase’s appeal is undeniable. The notion of a shadowy network pulling the strings in Washington is an attractive one to an embattled White House and its political opponents, shorthand-employing commentators and conspiracy theorists alike. But uncritical use of this canard is lazy at best and counterproductive at worst. The term, which political scientists invented to refer to the networks of generals and spymasters that rule many authoritarian states around the world, has migrated from leftist critics of U.S. foreign policy to the alt-right advisers running the White House. As a card-carrying former member of America’s vast national security bureaucracy, I find it offensive. But I also find it offensive as an analyst, because it’s a deeply misleading way to understand how the U.S. government really works.
So what is — or isn’t — the Deep State?
Let’s start with standard insinuations of the phrase. There are more than 2 million civilian executive branch employees (not counting the U.S. military or portions of the intelligence community, which does not fully report employment numbers). At least half of that number work in an agency related to national security, broadly defined. When combined with the million-plus uniformed military and support system of contractors, this is an unwieldy group. A mix of hard-working patriots, clock-punchers, technocrats, veterans and scammers, these folks swear the same oath to defend the Constitution.
Hollywood bears much of the blame in portraying this group as some combination of Rambo, the All-Seeing Eye of Mordor and the cast of Homeland — an omniscient guerilla force unaccountable to any authority. Reality is less made for the big screen; if, say, “Zero Dark Thirty” had been true to life, it likely would have been a single shot of 100 hours of lawyers’ meetings. The national security bureaucracy does wield awe-inspiring capabilities that could be disastrous if abused; months sitting through the Obama administration’s surveillance policy review made that clear. But while civil servants and military personnel do pledge to defend the Constitution, it is not only the goodness of their hearts but a complex web of legal, congressional, bureaucratic and political oversight that guards against such risks. These checks are met with both grumbles and keen awareness of how they set the U.S. rule of law apart from, say, Russia. These systems are not foolproof, and could undoubtedly be improved. The flaws of the administrative state — ranging from redundancy and waste to self-interested bloat to inability to innovate to scandalous incidents of corruption — have been well documented, its day-to-day successes far less so. But find me an alternative to the national security bureaucracy, or find me a functioning state without one. [Continue reading…]
Alexandra Petri writes: We have been hearing more about the Deep State lately. It is about time. I have cherished my admissions letter to DEEP STATE ever since it was flown down my chimney by an old bat with large leathery wings shortly after my 11th birthday. It is below.
Congratulations on your admission to DEEP STATE!
We’d love to learn more about you as you make up your mind about whether to attend this elite institution and join the many graduates who proudly proclaim our Latin motto, “status in statu.”
First, a question. There are only two ways that
mugglesReal Americans find out about American Deep State. How did you?
a) I read an article on Breitbart.com
b) I am the president of the United States, with access to the work of the world’s most vital intelligence apparatus, privy to all kinds of classified information that can get to the heart of things, and I read an article on Breitbart.com [Continue reading…]
Business Insider reports: Breitbart, the website that has fervently supported President Donald Trump’s campaign and nascent presidency, signaled this week that its brief cease-fire with the establishment wing of the administration may have come to an end.
The reliably pro-Trump website has lately been reluctant to skewer former Republican National Committee members who now work inside the Trump administration, such as Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and press secretary Sean Spicer.
But that appeared to change on Tuesday, when Breitbart savaged House Speaker Paul Ryan’s proposal, which Trump supports, to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare. The website deemed it “Obamacare 2.0” and told its readers the legislation “gives illegal aliens healthcare through identity fraud” and amounted to “GOP welfare entitlement.”
An additional story by Matthew Boyle, the website’s Washington editor, went after Spicer for “inaccurately” saying the bill “fully repeals Obamacare.”
“We are Breitbart,” Boyle wrote in a Slack conversation about his story, according to a screenshot obtained by Business Insider. “This is war.” [Continue reading…]
Carole Cadwalladr writes: Mercer started backing Ted Cruz, but when he fell out of the presidential race he threw his money – $13.5m of it – behind the Trump campaign.
It’s money he’s made as a result of his career as a brilliant but reclusive computer scientist. He started his career at IBM, where he made what the Association for Computational Linguistics called “revolutionary” breakthroughs in language processing – a science that went on to be key in developing today’s AI – and later became joint CEO of Renaissance Technologies, a hedge fund that makes its money by using algorithms to model and trade on the financial markets.
One of its funds, Medallion, which manages only its employees’ money, is the most successful in the world – generating $55bn so far. And since 2010, Mercer has donated $45m to different political campaigns – all Republican – and another $50m to non-profits – all rightwing, ultra-conservative. This is a billionaire who is, as billionaires are wont, trying to reshape the world according to his personal beliefs.
Robert Mercer very rarely speaks in public and never to journalists, so to gauge his beliefs you have to look at where he channels his money: a series of yachts, all called Sea Owl; a $2.9m model train set; climate change denial (he funds a climate change denial thinktank, the Heartland Institute); and what is maybe the ultimate rich man’s plaything – the disruption of the mainstream media. In this he is helped by his close associate Steve Bannon, Trump’s campaign manager and now chief strategist. The money he gives to the Media Research Center, with its mission of correcting “liberal bias” is just one of his media plays. There are other bigger, and even more deliberate strategies, and shining brightly, the star at the centre of the Mercer media galaxy, is Breitbart.
It was $10m of Mercer’s money that enabled Bannon to fund Breitbart – a rightwing news site, set up with the express intention of being a Huffington Post for the right. It has launched the careers of Milo Yiannopoulos and his like, regularly hosts antisemitic and Islamophobic views, and is currently being boycotted by more than 1,000 brands after an activist campaign. It has been phenomenally successful: the 29th most popular site in America with 2bn page views a year. It’s bigger than its inspiration, the Huffington Post, bigger, even, than PornHub. It’s the biggest political site on Facebook. The biggest on Twitter.
Prominent rightwing journalist Andrew Breitbart, who founded the site but died in 2012, told Bannon that they had “to take back the culture”. And, arguably, they have, though American culture is only the start of it. In 2014, Bannon launched Breitbart London, telling the New York Times it was specifically timed ahead of the UK’s forthcoming election. It was, he said, the latest front “in our current cultural and political war”. France and Germany are next. [Continue reading…]
Southern Poverty Law Center reports: As President Trump is pressured to substantively respond to the rise in anti-Semitic incidents since his election, a new analysis reveals that Breitbart News under Trump’s chief strategist Stephen Bannon fostered a comment section — a sample of Breitbart’s readership — that increasingly reflected language specific to the white nationalist “alt-right” movement, including anti-Semitic sentiment.
Comparing the language of Breitbart commenters to the language of the most aggressive far-right extremists online — e.g. language used by Twitter users who advocate for violence against minorities and are openly pro-Nazi — we can see a clear trend of increasing similarity over a three-year period, the bulk of it under Bannon. Bannon left Breitbart to join the Trump campaign in mid-August 2016 but the editorial focus of the site stayed the course he set it on.
Diving deeper into anti-Semitic sentiment we see a similar trajectory. In early 2013, the term “Jewish” was used in a similar way as “white” or “black” as a racial/ethnic descriptor, which is similar to how “Jewish” is used in the mainstream press. By 2016 on Breitbart, however, “Jewish” had morphed into an epithet, used in similar contexts as “socialist” or “commie.” [Continue reading…]
Southern Poverty Law Center reports: After half a century of being increasingly relegated to the margins of society, the radical right entered the political mainstream last year in a way that had seemed virtually unimaginable since George Wallace ran for president in 1968.
A surge in right-wing populism, stemming from the long-unfolding effects of globalization and the movements of capital and labor that it spawned, brought a man many considered to be a racist, misogynist and xenophobe into the most powerful political office in the world. Donald Trump’s election as president mirrored similar currents in Europe, where globalization energized an array of extreme-right political movements and the United Kingdom’s decision to quit the European Union.
Trump’s run for office electrified the radical right, which saw in him a champion of the idea that America is fundamentally a white man’s country.
He kicked off the campaign with a speech vilifying Mexican immigrants as rapists and drug dealers. He retweeted white supremacist messages, including one that falsely claimed that black people were responsible for 80% of the murders of whites. He credentialed racist media personalities even while barring a serious outlet like The Washington Post, went on a radio show hosted by a rabid conspiracy theorist named Alex Jones, and said that Muslims should be banned from entering the country. He seemed to encourage violence against black protesters at his rallies, suggesting that he would pay the legal fees of anyone charged as a result.
The reaction to Trump’s victory by the radical right was ecstatic. “Our Glorious Leader has ascended to God Emperor,” wrote Andrew Anglin, who runs the neo-Nazi Daily Stormer website. “Make no mistake about it: we did this. If it were not for us, it wouldn’t have been possible.” Jared Taylor, a white nationalist who edits a racist journal, said that “overwhelmingly white Americans” had shown they were not “obedient zombies” by choosing to vote “for America as a distinct nation with a distinct people who deserve a government devoted to that people.”
Richard Spencer, who leads a racist “think tank” called the National Policy Institute, exulted that “Trump’s victory was, at its root, a victory of identity politics.”
Trump’s election, as startling to extremists as it was to the political establishment, was followed by his selection of appointees with anti-Muslim, anti-LGBT and white nationalist sympathies. To lead his domestic transition team, he chose Kenneth Blackwell, an official of the virulently anti-LGBT Family Research Council. As national security adviser, he selected retired Gen. Mike Flynn, who has described Islam as a “malignant cancer” and tweeted that “[f]ear of Muslims is RATIONAL.” His designated CIA director was U.S. Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.), who is close to some of the country’s most rabid anti-Muslim extremists.
Most remarkable of all was his choice as chief strategic adviser of Stephen Bannon, the former head of Breitbart News, a far-right media outlet known for promoting the so-called “alternative right” — fundamentally, a recent rebranding of white supremacy for public relations purposes, albeit one that de-emphasizes Klan robes and Nazi symbols in favor of a more “intellectual” approach. With Bannon’s appointment, white nationalists felt they had a man inside the White House. [Continue reading…]
The Atlantic reports: Breitbart News has a target in its crosshairs following the departure of former National Security Adviser Mike Flynn from the White House in a cascade of scandal over his contacts with the Russian government: White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus.
Targeting Priebus, who leads the faction of Trump aides that is composed of experienced establishment political hands, is really just a stand-in for a larger conflict about the future of Trumpism in the White House. Breitbart News is treating Flynn’s ouster as the first salvo in a war against those in the administration they deem insufficiently loyal to Trump. Backing up Breitbart are legions of other Trump loyalists in the right-wing media sphere. And their angry reaction to Flynn’s exit signals the unpopularity of the move with a vocal segment of Trump’s base.
Trump loyalists — meaning the true believers who supported Trump from the start, not Republican politicos who became attached later on — have been privately musing about getting rid of Priebus. Now, that musing is going public. “I think this is Pearl Harbor for the true Trump supporters, the Trump loyalists,” said Roger Stone, a former Trump campaign adviser and longtime Republican operative who still has a relationship with Trump. “I believe Reince Priebus moved on General Flynn and I think he intends to move on Steve Bannon and Stephen Miller next. He is not serving the president well. The people he hired are loyal to the Republican National Committee, not the President of the United States.” [Continue reading…]
The New York Times reports: Staff members on Capitol Hill recall Stephen Miller, the 31-year-old White House adviser behind many of President Trump’s most contentious executive orders, as the guy from Jeff Sessions’s office who made their inboxes cry for mercy.
As a top aide to Mr. Sessions, the conservative Alabama senator, Mr. Miller dispatched dozens and dozens of bombastic emails to congressional staff members and reporters in early 2013 when the Senate was considering a big bipartisan immigration overhaul. Mr. Miller slammed the evils of “foreign labor” and pushed around nasty news articles on proponents of compromise, like Senator Marco Rubio of Florida.
One exhausted Senate staff member, forwarding a Miller-gram to a reporter at the time, wrote: “His latest. And it’s only 11:45 a.m.”
The ascent of Mr. Miller from far-right gadfly with little policy experience to the president’s senior policy adviser came as a shock to many of the staff members who knew him from his seven years in the Senate. A man whose emails were, until recently, considered spam by many of his Republican peers is now shaping the Trump administration’s core domestic policies with his economic nationalism and hard-line positions on immigration. [Continue reading…]
Time reports: Sometime in the early 2000s, Bannon was captivated by a book called The Fourth Turning by generational theorists William Strauss and Neil Howe. The book argues that American history can be described in a four-phase cycle, repeated again and again, in which successive generations have fallen into crisis, embraced institutions, rebelled against those institutions and forgotten the lessons of the past–which invites the next crisis. These cycles of roughly 80 years each took us from the revolution to the Civil War, and then to World War II, which Bannon might point out was taking shape 80 years ago. During the fourth turning of the phase, institutions are destroyed and rebuilt.
In an interview with TIME, author Howe recalled that Bannon contacted him more than a decade ago about making a film based on the book. That eventually led to Generation Zero, released in 2010, in which Bannon cast the 2008 financial crisis as a sign that the turning was upon us. Howe agrees with the analysis, in part. In each cycle, the postcrisis generation, in this case the baby boomers, eventually rises to “become the senior leaders who have no memory of the last crisis, and they are always the ones who push us into the next one,” Howe said.
But Bannon, who once called himself the “patron saint of commoners,” seemed to relish the opportunity to clean out the old order and build a new one in its place, casting the political events of the nation as moments of extreme historical urgency, pivot points for the world. Historian David Kaiser played a featured role in Generation Zero, and he recalls his filmed interview with Bannon as an engrossing and enjoyable experience.
And yet, he told TIME, he was taken aback when Bannon began to argue that the current phase of history foreshadowed a massive new war. “I remember him saying, ‘Well, look, you have the American revolution, and then you have the Civil War, which was bigger than the revolution. And you have the Second World War, which was bigger than the Civil War,'” Kaiser said. “He even wanted me to say that on camera, and I was not willing.”
Howe, too, was struck by what he calls Bannon’s “rather severe outlook on what our nation is going through.” Bannon noted repeatedly on his radio show that “we’re at war” with radical jihadis in places around the world. This is “a global existential war” that likely will become “a major shooting war in the Middle East again.” War with China may also be looming, he has said. This conviction is central to the Breitbart mission, he explained in November 2015: “Our big belief, one of our central organizing principles at the site, is that we’re at war.” [Continue reading…]
The cover of Time magazine brands Bannon as “The Great Manipulator,” and however accurately that might describe him, it is an image that serves Trump’s interests in this regard: it turns Bannon into Trump’s insurance policy by availing the so-called president with the option of firing Bannon rather than admit the failure of his presidency. Indeed, it’s reasonable to assume that Trump will sooner declare the failure of America than ever take responsibility for his own actions.
The Washington Post reports: The flag fluttering above the U.S. Capitol is emblazoned with a crescent and star. Chants of “Allahu Akbar” rise from inside the building.
That’s the provocative opening scene of a documentary-style movie outlined 10 years ago by Stephen K. Bannon that envisioned radical Muslims taking over the country and remaking it into the “Islamic States of America,” according to a document describing the project obtained by The Washington Post.
The outline shows how Bannon, years before he became a strategist for President Trump and helped draft last week’s order restricting travel from seven mostly Muslim countries, sought to issue a warning about the threat posed by radical Muslims as well as their “enablers among us.” Although driven by the “best intentions,” the outline says, institutions such as the media, the Jewish community and government agencies were appeasing jihadists aiming to create an Islamic republic.
The eight-page draft, written in 2007 during Bannon’s stint as a Hollywood filmmaker, proposed a three-part movie that would trace “the culture of intolerance” behind sharia law, examine the “Fifth Column” made up of “Islamic front groups” and identify the American enablers paving “the road to this unique hell on earth.”
The outline, titled, “Destroying the Great Satan: The Rise of Islamic Facism [sic] in America,” lists Bannon as the movie’s director, as well as its co-writer with his longtime writing partner Julia Jones. The title page includes the line “A Film By Stephen K. Bannon” in capital letters.
Jones, reached by The Post, declined to discuss the contents of the document in detail but confirmed its authenticity. She added that it was essentially Bannon’s product. [Continue reading…]
Lawrence Douglas writes: That didn’t take long. From no-drama Obama to all-trauma Trump: the shift has been seismic, leaving millions in this country and abroad frightened and struggling to make sense of America’s new political landscape.
Some of the upheaval appears to be the consequence of incompetence, the predictable result of an under-qualified real estate mogul struggling to master the most powerful and demanding job on the planet.
But not so with the travel ban. In this case, upheaval was the intent – not to the degree we have seen; that clearly caught the administration off guard. But it was upheaval nonetheless.
As we now know, the drafting and rollout of the travel ban was largely the work of Steve Bannon, the president’s chief political strategist. It was Bannon who reportedly overruled the proposal to exempt green card holders from the ban. And it was Bannon who pushed the order through without consulting experts at the Department of Homeland Security or at the state department.
The Nacht und Nebel quality of the ban’s announcement makes clear that the president’s chief strategist wanted to send tremors through the world. Here was bold proof that the portentous accents of Trump’s inaugural address, also Bannon’s work, was not mere rhetoric. [Continue reading…]
Politico reports: Lounging at the back of his tour bus in a parking lot behind the Springhill Suites, Milo Yiannopoulos, the flamboyant right-wing British provocateur known for his bleach-blond frosted tips and relentless campaign against Islam, munched on a whole cucumber protruding from a paper bowl of raw vegetables and made plans for a party. He had just been asked to host “DeploraBall,” an unofficial celebration planned for the presidential inauguration weekend. Yiannopoulos described his vision for the event: As guests entered the National Press Club, shirtless Mexican laborers would be building a physical wall around them. Instead of doves, Yiannopoulos would release 500 live frogs in honor of Pepe, the cartoon mascot of pro-Donald Trump internet trolls. The room would be lined with oil portraits in gilt frames, each depicting a celebrity who had vowed to leave the country in the event of Trump’s election. At the end of the night, the portraits would be thrown into a bonfire and burned. Yiannopoulos would send a bill for the party to the Mexican Embassy.
The party is unlikely to proceed in exactly that way, or really anything like it. But the ball is real — a month ahead of the inauguration, the organizers had already booked the room and sold all 1,000 tickets — and it marks a kind of gala debut of a new clique in Washington.
Known until recently as the “alt-right,” it is a dispersed movement that encompasses a range of right-wing figures who are mostly young, mostly addicted to provocation and mostly have made their names on the internet. On the less extreme end, they include economic nationalists and “Western chauvinists” like Yiannopoulos, who wants to purge Islam from the United States and Europe; the movement also encompasses overt white nationalists, committed fascists and proponents of a host of other ideologies that were thought to have died out in American politics not long after World War II. Over the course of Trump’s campaign, these ideas came back to life in chat rooms, on Twitter and on the fringes of the internet—driven by supporters united by their loathing of progressives and their feeling of alienation from the free market Republican Party as it defined itself before Trump’s takeover.
This “new right” is now enjoying something of a moment. It’s not clear whether the movement helped fuel Trump’s rise or just rode its coattails. But energized by his success, this loose confederacy of meme-generating internet trolls, provocateurs and self-appointed custodians of Trumpism has begun making plans to move into Washington’s corridors of power, or at least shoulder their way into the general vicinity. When they look at Washington — a besuited city that moves to the rhythm of lobbying and legislative calendars and carefully worded statements — they see an opportunity for total disruption, the kind of overthrow the movement already takes credit for visiting on American politics. [Continue reading…]
AFP reports: German media and politicians have warned against an election-year spike in fake news after the rightwing website Breitbart claimed a mob chanting “Allahu Akbar” had set fire to a church in the city of Dortmund on New Year’s Eve.
After the report by the US site was widely shared on social media, the city’s police clarified that no “extraordinary or spectacular” incidents had marred the festivities.
The local newspaper, Ruhr Nachrichten, said elements of its online reporting on New Year’s Eve had been distorted by Breitbart to produce “fake news, hate and propaganda”.
The justice minister of Hesse state, Eva Kühne-Hörmann, said that “the danger is that these stories spread with incredible speed and take on lives of their own”.
The controversy highlights a deepening divide between backers of German chancellor Angela Merkel’s liberal stance toward refugees and a rightwing movement that opposes immigration, fears Islam and distrusts the government and media. [Continue reading…]
The Guardian reports: Donald Trump will disappoint and disillusion his far-right supporters by eschewing white supremacy, according to some of the movement’s own intellectual leaders.
Activists who recently gave Nazi salutes and shouted “hail Trump” at a gathering in Washington will revolt when the new US president fails to meet their expectations, the leaders told the Guardian.
The prospect of such disillusion and internecine squabbling may console liberals who fear a White House tinged with racism and quasi-fascism. All the more reassuring because it comes from far-right influencers and analysts, not wishful progressives.
Instead of enjoying proximity to power, according to this analysis, vocal parts of the loose coalition known as the “alt-right” could remain on the political fringe, wondering what happened to their triumph.
“Their hearts are bigger than their brains,” said Mark Weber, who runs the Institute for Historical Review, an organisation dedicated to exposing “Jewish-Zionist” power. “Saying they want to be the intellectual head of the Trump presidency is delusional.”
Jared Taylor, a white supremacist who runs the self-termed “race-realist” magazine American Renaissance, said the president-elect had already backpedalled on several pledges that had fired up the far-right. “At first he promised to send back every illegal immigrant. Now he is waffling on that.”
David Cole, a self-proclaimed Holocaust revisionist and Taki magazine columnist, envisaged the movement sliding into bickering and in-fighting, stuck in “rabbit warrens” of online trolling rather than policy shaping.
“In January Trump will start governing and will have to make compromises. Even small ones will trigger squabbles between the ‘alt-right’. ‘Trump betrayed us.’ ‘No, you’re betraying us for saying Trump betrayed us.’ And so on. The alt-right’s appearance of influence will diminish more and more as they start to fight amongst themselves.”
In an email interview Peter Brimelow, founder of the webzine Vdare.com, which alleges Mexican plots to remake the US, said Trump’s failure to deliver “important bones” could trigger a backlash. “I think the right of the right is absolutely prepared to revolt. It’s what they do.”
There is, however, a catch: Weber, Taylor and Brimelow – all classified as “extremists” by the Southern Poverty Law Center – said Trump’s victory energised the far-right and that the movement can grow with or without White House help. [Continue reading…]