the imaginative conservative logo

Steve Bannon is a deeply thoughtful pugilist who does not care what you think. Some will say this is a recipe for disaster. I say it’s just what we need…

Screen Shot 2017-02-21 at 10.48.17 PMOut of the blue in the summer of 2014, I received an email from Steve Bannon asking if I ever published anyplace other than Crisis Magazine and would I be interested in writing for Breitbart. I knew Mr. Bannon’s name from a weekly conservative coalition that still meets in Washington DC. Mr. Bannon occasionally called in but never appeared in person.

A few months later, I sent him a piece about a new book puncturing holes in the Matthew Shepherd myth, that he was killed by homophobes just because he was gay but rather was killed in a deal gone bad by a fellow drug dealer and sometimes gay sex partner. That story ended up getting something on the order of 25,000 Facebook shares and thousands of comments. That was my introduction to the power of Breitbart.

It was also my introduction to the mission of Breitbart and to Steve Bannon, which primarily is to change the leftist narrative, which is sometimes impossible to change. Even now after Stephen Jiminez’s masterful investigative book on Matthew Shepherd, the left still lies about his death.

Andrew Breitbart dedicated his career to changing the narrative and taking down the establishment.

There is much stuff and nonsense said about Steve Bannon, particularly after Andrew’s untimely death, when Mr. Bannon became executive chairman. They say he has taken Breitbart News far from Breitbart’s vision. It should be known that Breitbart is run by Breitbart’s childhood best friend and his longtime business partner Larry Solov. The editorial staff is helmed by Breitbart’s first employee, Alexander Marlow. Breitbart’s widow is still involved as is Joel Pollack, a kippah-wearing Orthodox Jew. There has not been some great disconnect from Breitbart’s death to the present day.

Steve Bannon came onto the scene as a documentary filmmaker. He came out of investment banking where, among other things, he handled the sale of Castle Rock Entertainment and instead of taking a fee, took a piece of a series then in pilot called Seinfeld. Mr. Bannon and Breitbart made films together including the remarkable Occupy Unmasked that explains who is behind the masked rioters who are even now burning American cities. Mr. Bannon became a partner in Breitbart News, bringing cash, vision, and drive.

The stuff and nonsense about Steve Bannon includes that he is a “white nationalist,” and that he and now Breitbart News are racist, xenophobic, and anti-Semitic. Certain Breitbart stories are trotted out to make the point; David Horowitz’s story calling Bill Kristol a “renegade Jew” for a political position David Horowitz said would have exposed Israel to a nuclear Iran; Milo Yiannopoulos’s perhaps too gleeful story explaining the “alt-right.” There is also Mr. Bannon’s quote from last summer that Breitbart is a “forum for the alt-right.” Mr. Bannon also said he is a “Leninist” and “Thomas Cromwell in the Court of Henry VIII.” This last quote was from after Mr. Bannon joined the Trump campaign.

Here is the Steve Bannon I know. He is brilliant, salty, visionary, and driven. Did I say salty? Very salty. He can be loud and some say bullying but he’s just a tough boss, something even young snowflakes on the right aren’t used to.

Steve Bannon never sleeps. Over almost three years I wrote several hundred stories for Mr. Bannon and Breitbart. I might be trading emails with Mr. Bannon at midnight, go to bed, and at 6 a.m. see he was still emailing me at 3 a.m. He and President Trump are similar that way. I suspect they email each other all night long.

He is broadly and deeply read. I took Robert Reilly on the Breitbart News radio program on Sirius Satellite Radio one morning to talk about his then-new book Making Gay Okay: How Rationalizing Homosexual Behavior is Changing Everything. We sat down in the studio, went live, and quite unexpectedly Mr. Bannon launched into a half hour debate about a Theban general named Epaminondas, whom Cicero called “the first man of Greece” and who had two or three male lovers, one of whom he was buried with. Mr. Bannon knew everything about this man and about the political and military issues of those days. Mr. Reilly gave as good as he got. I could only sit and watch. Walking away, Mr. Reilly said, “That was amazing.” You get the feeling Mr. Bannon can do this on almost any topic.

Steve Bannon is visionary; he engineered the expansion of Breitbart with bureaus in California, Texas, London and Jerusalem—odd for an anti-Semitic site?—with more to come in France and Germany. He took Breitbart from an also-ran conservative site to one of the largest sites of any kind in the world. He started Breitbart News radio that is now a daily show on the Sirius XM Patriot Channel. And he had a vision on how to take over the conservative movement and supplant the GOP establishment.

One thing people don’t know is that Breitbart publishes a huge amount of Catholic content. I call it the largest Catholic site on the net. Mr. Bannon moved the radio show to Rome to cover the canonization of John Paul II and John XXIII live. He hired former priest Thomas Williams to report from Rome and Williams files Vatican and other Catholic news constantly. I wrote on Catholic topics all the time, as do many other Catholic writers on Breitbart. Breitbart’s editor-in-chief, Alex Marlow, is a Catholic who in recent years has re-engaged his faith.

I call Mr. Bannon a non-practicing orthodox Catholic. I am not aware that he dissents from any teachings of the Church, still I am not aware that he practices the faith. It could have something to do with three ex-wives. But it should be understood there is a difference between weakness and dissent. Moreover, he came this close to going with me on a retreat a few years ago. Maybe one day.

So, what about the things he has said? Steve Bannon did not prepare all his life for this moment in the public square, most especially this moment in the global spotlight. Like President Trump, he is not airbrushed like so many bland talking-head-type politicians these days, those guys who have planned to be president since the seventh grade. Have you seen those pictures of Mr. Bannon just last year sitting on the couch at the Breitbart Embassy behind the Supreme Court? He sits there in short pants, white legs, wrinkled shirt, three-day growth, unkempt hair. This is not a guy who expected to be in the White House a few months later. Even during the campaign, you could see him walking in his cargo shorts and canvas coat alongside dapper Donald Trump.

“We are a forum for the alt-right,” he said. I suspect that Mr. Bannon considered the alt-right to be nothing more than young guys on the Internet who were sick of globalization, illegal immigration, Mitch McConnell, and National Review. And what he was no doubt referring to was the comment boxes of Breitbart, which are lengthy, bawdy, scatological, and often hilarious.

“I’m a Leninist.” Yes, Steve Bannon is a revolutionary but not a Bolshevik. He wants to overturn the GOP establishment that seems incapable of doing anything they promise to do and seem utterly indifferent to those Mr. Bannon calls “Hobbits from the Shire.”

There are hundreds of radio hours the Washington Post and others are scouring right now for more shocking things Mr. Bannon has said. They reported recently that he said something about going to war with China on the radio so now the Trump administration is supposed to be going to war with China.

Much of what he has said is Mr. Bannon riffing, having fun, shocking the lefty reporters. What the left and sadly some conservatives have done is take these quotes and spun dystopian fantasies about Steve Bannon. The best glimpse into the thinking of Steve Bannon is the lecture he gave via Skype to a conference at the Vatican two years ago. You can find the transcript online. There is also his interview with Kimberly Strassel a few months ago in the Wall Street Journal. What you will find is not a cartoon villain but a deeply thoughtful man.

Mr. Bannon always called Breitbart “Fight Club” and the highest compliment one could get at Breitbart’s Fight Club is “Honey Badger.” When Mr. Bannon and Mr. Marlow called me this one day, I had to look it up on YouTube. He is a tough determined and utterly fearless little animal that takes down anything in his way including bigger and nastier creatures. To put it politely, “Honey Badger, doesn’t give a hoot.”

So, there is the seeming contradiction; Steve Bannon is a deeply thoughtful pugilist who does not care what you think. Some will say this is a recipe for disaster. I say it’s just what we need.

Books on the topic of this essay may be found in The Imaginative Conservative Bookstore. Republished with gracious permission from Crisis Magazine (February 2017). 

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
"All comments are subject to moderation. We welcome the comments of those who disagree, but not those who are disagreeable."
7 replies to this post
  1. He covered the canonization of Pope John XXIII? Interested to understand how someone like Breitbart can make the distinction between understanding the teachings of the Catholic Church, but not practice. Seems like an oxymoron. Appreciate the article.

  2. Yes, we need to quit letting the Left off the hook when they falsely and viciously smear and attack our people.

  3. Mr. Ruse,

    I know very little about Steve Bannon. This article is the most I have seen regarding his past.

    If your intention was to present Bannon as acceptable to Conservatives, please be advised, it did the opposite. Strictly on what you have written, the man is not in any way, shape, or form “conservative”. He is certainly a ‘Man of the Right’, in Whittaker Chambers’ phrase, but otherwise a bomb-throwing radical who wants to tear down society and rebuild it in his image. What does he wish to conserve? Little beyond Steve Bannon, apparently.This is my take from your description.

    That he despises Conservatives is also evident. “Hobbits of the Shire”, indeed. As one of those “Hobbits”, I do not think Bannon is good for America. Downright disastrous, more like.

    But, not to worry. Recent history has shown that making a deal with the Devil to achieve victory over one’s enemies is never a good thing. Where now is Christie, Giuliani, Gingrich, Flynn? Where is Romney after sacrificing what dignity he had for the sake of a job (and didn’t get the job)? Trump evidently views his minions as expendables, and I expect Priebus and Conway to be out soon. Also Bannon, after he becomes inconvenient.

    Elsewhere, I see Trump’s forces are dominating CPAC. He is not Conservative, neither are they. Why are they there?

    Conservatism is roadkill, the formal burial only remaining, if Trump is the Great White Hope of Conservatism

  4. Mr Naas,

    I only know a little more about Steve Bannon. To my mind he does seem to be sincere in his opposition to the currently dominant social
    liberal regime. Please understand, that political movement is today extraordinarily powerful and they are determined to destroy any rival system of belief in the Western world. Can we afford to be so critical and dismissive toward those among us whom are prepared and able to make a stand?

    Were we to take such a critical position toward anyone who would step up to the plate and have a go, in the end none would be prepared to make a stand on Western conservatism. Are we so nihilistic that no person could be perfect enough to champion conservatism against the power of social liberalism? If this is so, then we have already lost.

    Bannon, well he is not perfect. Nor is Trump. But the alternative is annihilation at the hands of social liberalism. This is a zero sum game. It is kill or be killed. They will never compromise. With respect, Mr. Naas, we are not in a position to be able to afford the luxury of waiting for saints to save us. I hope you will give some time to reflect carefully on the dire circumstances of the socially conservative West. Bannon, radical though he may be, is exactly the sort of man we need today.

    • Mister Anthony,

      Really?

      Bannon/Trump or annihilation? I know you are serious, but — you have to be kidding.

      Not to go full Godwin (and I reject the comparison of Bannon and/or Trump with Hitler, Mussolini, or any other organized movement), but such thinking as you have expressed in your eloquent reply is exactly the sort of thinking the conservatives in Germany employed in the 1930s — EITHER Hitler OR the Bolsheviks.

      I am not asking for “saints” to save us, and it is most disingenuous to suggest that is what I am calling for. America is not a hellhole on the verge of destruction and only Bannon/Trump can save us (“Save us, Obiwan Kenobi…err… Steve Bannon, you’re our only hope.”) Now, I realize there are many who think differently, and frankly, one can either be a Bannonite (or a Trumper), or one can be a Conservative.

      Trump is not Conservative, and his hostile takeover of the Republican Party and CPAC to the contrary, will never be a Conservative. It bespeaks badly of those Principled Conservatives who revealed their “principles” boil down to Money, Power, and Snobbery.

      Sincerity is not a virtue. The Devil is quite sincere in wanting the destruction of humanity, but that does not excuse his depredations. And, yes, I CAN be critical and dismissive of anyone in politics, and those who pretend to be on my side are no exception. (Whence came this ridiculous notion certain politicians are above criticism? That is a Leftist, not a Conservative position.)

      Not to go full Godwin (and I reject the comparison of Bannon and/or Trump with Hitler, Mussolini, or any other organized movement), but such binary thinking as you have expressed in your eloquent reply is exactly the sort of thinking the conservatives in Germany employed in the 1930s — EITHER Hitler OR the Bolsheviks. I would not expect it to end that badly here, the USA is not Weimar Germany, Leftist rhetoric to the contrary.

      The writhing and reeling of the SJ Left have reconciled many people in the Middle to Trump, and that is OK. To suggest he and his minions are above reproach is absurd. Such adulatory propaganda will only drive what few Conservatives as are left into the Middle, or into apathy. Which may be the objective of the alt-Right and its fellow travelers.

      In short, we do not need a Man on a White Horse, and even so, Steve Bannon (and Trump) are certainly not the Designated Saviors of America.

  5. I agree with Mr. Anthony on this one, though in the big picture, the long run, etc. … neither Buckley nor Kirk would have approved of Bannon or Trump. They would have however, IMHO, agreed with Mr. Anthony’s assessment of our current situation.

  6. I know little about Mr. Bannon, but, having read some of Ronald Radosh’s writings, and Diana West’s discussions of the matter, to assime that Radosh’s Leninist charge is almost certainly mendacious.

Please leave a thoughtful, civil, and constructive comment: