Donald Trump’s very first decision as President-elect was to name his close friend Steve Bannon as his future White House chief strategist. In his new role, Bannon would advise President Trump on all manner of policy and get his very own office just a few doors down from the Oval Office. It was quite a promotion for a guy who up until recently ran an alt-right website from his basement.
Who is Steve Bannon? A homophobic conservative smear merchant whose ex-wife testified in court that he assaulted her and would often make deeply anti-Semitic remarks, particularly in his obsession with ensuring that his daughters weren’t raised around “whiny” Jewish kids.
Despite that history of bigotry, conservatives have rushed to Bannon’s defense. In a truly hilarious bit of revisionist history, Federalist writer Joshua Seidel penned a piece claiming Bannon is no anti-Semite and the real anti-Semites are Democrats. He then promptly demonstrated that the reason he didn’t see Bannon as anti-Jewish is because he, himself, holds bigoted anti-Jewish beliefs. (Seidel is himself Jewish, making this defense of an unrepentant anti-Semite that much more unconscionable.)
We all know the stereotypes for Jewish women and girls: Aggressive, demanding, pushy! Maybe some might say “whiny”!
If you’re a Jewish man, you’ve either given voice to these opinions or privately considered them while walking home after another argument or sitting in a restaurant feeling emasculated. “All stereotypes are true” Murry Rothbard once said, and we all know there’s truth to this one. Yet what kind of non-Jewish person would DARE to voice to the same opinion? Clearly, only Hitler. Or Stephen Bannon.
But lest we think Bannon’s hatred stops at Jews and women, he is also, it appears, a pretty big racist as well. Mother Jones uncovered damning evidence to suggest Bannon has been a member of a ultra-conservative Facebook group that spends its days sharing racist memes, while also dabbling in calls to kill President Obama.
As of this writing, he is still listed as a member of the site, which Facebook helpfully points out he joined seven years ago, shortly after Obama’s election. The posts on Vigilant Patriots are disturbing; a mishmash of racism, anti-Obama lies, fake stories, and liberal bashing. As is often the case in right-wing extremist circles, much of the vitriol appears focused around an unrelenting hatred of President Obama.
The Vigilant Patriots page on Facebook pushes a vicious mix of agitprop and conspiracy theory. It has published calls to arrest, impeach, and execute Obama. A 2012 post declared that Obama must be arrested as a “terrorist” for “Treason, Espionage, Sedition and Fraud” and derided him as “an Illegal Commander-in-Chief.” A long anti-Obama rant from a member in 2011 called for hanging the “traitor.” A different member referred to Obama as “the muzzie usurping lying POS traitor.” (“Muzzie” is a derogatory term for a Muslim.) A group member in 2013 said Obama “must be tried, convicted, and executed as a traitor.” One member railed, Obama “still occupies the office because white members of Congress are too afraid of being branded racist to file Articles of Impeachment against him. It’s time to stop the charade. He is destroying America. Black, White, Green, Brown, or Purple, the man is a traitor. IMPEACHMENT NOW!”
The page also dabbles in overt racism. Posts from white supremacist websites pop up, like this one.
Bannon seems to be more inclined to take in these hate-filled posts than create his own. His Facebook page is largely inactive. One theory is that Bannon was using pages like this one to harvest right-wing stories to repackage and promote on his own alt-right website, Breitbart.
What makes this especially troubling is that this is the echo chamber in which Bannon and Trump now live. Bannon gets his news from pages like this one. He passes it along to Trump. And very real policy is at risk because of the influence of right-wing extremists. Already, Trump’s family has shown a willingness to believe fake right-wing stories they found on the internet and never bothered to fact-check. When he falsely claimed that a protester at one of his rallies had connections to ISIS, he defended his comments by arguing that he had read it on the internet.
And Vigilant Patriots is what Bannon “reads on the internet.” And soon he’ll be doing so on a computer sitting just a few doors down from the Oval Office.
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