Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Steve Bannon and "The Camp of the Saints": Fake News, Take Three, The Huffington Post Edition

“Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.” - Saul Alinsky, Rules for Radicals

This is my third post addressing the regressive left's attempts to brand presidential advisor Steve Bannon as a Nazi (for the first two posts, see here and here). This post examines the Huffington Post's "evidence" that Bannon is a racist via selectively-edited references to Jean Raspail's dystopian novel The Camp of the Saints and the use of the classic "guilt by association" tactic. The regressive left's obsession with Trump-Hitler comparisons during the election has since expanded to compensate for the widespread leftist belief that Trump is an idiot, and that Bannon is his "brain." Hitler broadcasted his policy intentions in Mein Kampf. Surely there is a comparable work announcing Trump's policy intentions, right? The comparison demands it! Yet, The Art of the Deal just doesn't fit the narrative. Despite never authoring a manifesto, Bannon -- rich, white, conservative, male, Christian, Republican -- provided an irresistible foil. 

Claiming that Bannon is a Nazi, and hence Trump's immigration policies will be anti-semetic, is a better sell than, say, slamming Bannon as a nationalist who sees mass Muslim immigration as potential Trojan horse security threat (for a short AEI piece on ISIS's use of refugee populations as cover for infiltration operations, see here). The real Steve Bannon -- blue-collar roots, Harvard grad, Naval officer, successful businessman, etc. -- is, above all, a nationalist. Not a "white nationalist." Just a plain old nationalist. Recognizing this might spare us all from yet another round of erroneous media claims. Concerning immigration policy, it would appear that Trump and Bannon intend to build a wall, beef up border security, and introduce extreme vetting procedures. Scandalous! If they've erred, it was on the side of security -- and perhaps for good reason.

Despite the media downplaying the post-911 jihadist terrorist threat (for an example, see here) and hyping the "right-wing extremist" threat, a sober analysis reveals that there's really no comparison. What, you may ask, would a side-by-side comparison of your chances of being killed by a jihadist or by a right-wing extremist in the U.S. since September 11, 2001, actually be? It's not even close. It's 62:1. Yes, you read that correctly -- Americans are sixty-two times more likely to be killed by a jihadist than by a right-wing extremist (for a short article on the the debunking of the think-tank manipulated statistics that claim the opposite, see here, and for the full study, see here). Radical Islamic terrorism poses a significant threat to the U.S. homeland. Perhaps Bannon's concerns about Muslim immigration reflect a real-world security issue.

Try cowboysplaining that to the regressive left, who are now making the case that a few Bannon references to the title of a 1970s dystopian French novel has somehow revealed "how Steve Bannon explains the world."

The Camp of the Saints, originally published in 1972, told an apocalyptic parable of dark-skinned Third World migrant hordes overrunning Western Civilization. The French people remained paralyzed in the face of the invasion as a result of a paralyzing loss of civilizational confidence. This disarming loss of confidence was due to the pervasive spread of "the beast" mentality -- white guilt coupled with anti-racism. Thus, the French, and Western Civilization, are overrun because of the unruly combination of self-blame for world poverty and labeling anyone who resists unbridled immigration as a racist. The novel was hailed by the French right, and vigorously denounced as racist and fascist by the French left. It found renewed interest from time to time, as immigration concerns resurfaced, and has gone through several editions.

Then, in 2011, a wave of migrants from the Middle East poured into Europe as a result of the Obama administration's blundered withdrawal from Iraq and its disastrous support for the so-called Arab Spring, which had particularly tragic consequences for Libyans and Syrians. The years that followed saw a flood of immigrants to Europe, and to a lesser extent to the U.S. Growing interest in the novel among readers of various European languages, as well as American readers, followed. Raspail (for a 2015 interview with Raspail, see here, for an English translation, see here, for Katharine Betts' early-1990s interview of Raspail, see here), a Catholic and self-described royalist, does not consider himself, or his novel, to be racist. He sees it as a patriotic work defending French identity. He does however, recognize that the novel has attracted attention by some on the "extreme right-right." Nevertheless, he laments what he sees as the the inevitable outcome of global demographics and current French immigration policy -- the potential end of a distinctively French national identity.

Why did the European migrant crisis attract so much attention? For starters, there was the sexual assault of at least 1,200 German women by at least 2,000 men (primarily foreign nationals have been identified) in several German cities on New Years Eve, 2015, including 600 attacks in Cologne and 400 in Hamburg (see here). An interpreter working on a documentary on exploited migrant children was raped at knifepoint at the Calais "jungle" migrant camp in France, which is part of a much larger problem of sexual violence in France's migrant camps. Consider the stories of child-rape in Greece's migrant camps. It could be argued that the horror stories involving the sexual exploitation of women and minors, as well as various other criminal activities associated with the European migrant crisis, provided reasonable cause for concern.

It was in this context (2015-2016 European migrant crisis) that Bannon referenced The Camp of the Saints -- literally saying "it's like The Camp of the Saints" -- during several radio appearances. In one radio segment, Bannon acknowledged that when The Camp of the Saints first appeared in print that it was called "racist and nativist." Yet the substance of these discussions focused on what Bannon considered to be the misguided policies of the European nations to take in significant numbers of migrants without regard for the cultural impact or potential security threats such groups might pose. In other words, Bannon's "it's like The Camp of the Saints" references represented passing references by a well-read commentator, which were made in the context of discussing the horrors of the European migrant camps and the unfurling of the Obama administration's plan to settle Syrian refugees in the U.S.

Enter Trump's "surprise" election, Bannon's emergence as an important player in the new administration, and the Huffington Post's attempt to conflate the storyline of Jean Raspail's The Camp of the Saints with Bannon's worldview. Paul Blumanthal and J.M. Rieger's Huffington Post article, "This Stunningly Racist French Novel Is How Steve Bannon Explains The World," introduced the digital frontier to the idea that The Camp of Saints provides the critical backdrop necessary to understand the Trump administration's so-called "Muslim ban" (for the full article, see here).

Blumenthal and Rieger include a brief audio clip with the write-up, which splices together brief edits from several different Bannon radio interviews in which he references The Camp of the Saints. The audio clip jumps from each "it's like The Camp of the Saints" reference, but without including any of the context of the discussion. No critical analysis of Bannon's references to The Camp of the Saints is attempted. Blumanthal and Rieger base the entire premise of the article on the claims made by GOP commentator, and Trump-critic, Linda Chavez, who happened to have reviewed the novel in the 1980s. She claimed that the novel was a "touchstone" of Bannon's thoughts on immigration, and indicative of his desire to "make America white again."

Since the election, Chavez has buried the rhetoric and publicly supports various aspects of Trump's policies, but she's was clearly bothered by Trump's campaign rhetoric on immigration (bad hombres), remains sensitive on immigration issues (particularly the issue of the status of illegal immigrants, see here), and is not a Bannon fan. It would appear that her vitriol toward Bannon, however, may be connected to a workplace dispute over The Camp of the Saints that brought an end to her tenure as the head of U.S. English -- an organization that promoted English as the official language of the U.S -- in the late-1980s. What's clear is that Chavez's comments about Bannon do not involve anything specific that Bannon has written or said that would indicate that Bannon holds racist views, besides the fact that Bannon mentioned the title of Raspail's novel. They do not appear to know one another personally, and Chaves' ire is most likely the result of her suspecting that Bannon opposes amnesty and is influencing Trump in that regard.

Following the Huffington Post's lead, Slate's Ben Mathis-Lilley's "Another Day, Another Report About Steve Bannon's Affection for Nazism," pegs Bannon's "affection" for Nazism to "white advocate" Jared Taylor (for the Mathis-Lilley article, see here). Mathis-Lilley argues that the references Bannon made to The Camp of the Saints must be considered alongside the praise the novel received from Jared Taylor (dubbed a white nationalist/supremacist by the SPLC, for Taylor, see here). The implication is that if Bannon read it, and Taylor read it, then they must share the exact same view of the world. Therefore, Bannon must be a racist/white nationalist/white supremacist by association. Of course, the SPLC -- perhaps at one time a meaningful organization -- now plays a leading role in accusing anyone to the right of Michael Moore of racism and bigotry (see here). Naturally, the SPLC assures us that "Bannon Has No Place in the White House" (see here).

The Huffington Post's Echo Chamber 
Once again, a contextless Bannon citation -- according to the previously used magic formula of the Atlantic and New York Times -- becomes guilt by association and dog-whistle "evidence" of Bannon's racism/Nazism. This time, it's courtesy of the SPLC and the Huffington Post.

For Daily Kos' typically unimaginative string of block quotes, see here.

For bustle.com's regurgitation, replete with Twitter references, see here.

Carbonated.tv -- see here.

Empty Lighthouse Magazine (yes, that's really the name of the publication) on Bannon's "Bible" with "actual quotes" from the Camp of the Saints -- see here.

Alternet, with a nifty photo of Bannon taken at an inopportune moment during a speech so as to make it seem like he is doing the classic Nazi Sieg Heil -- see here.

And the list continues, ad infinitum...

So what's really behind the attempts to connect Bannon to Nazism? Is it to diminish the newly elected president's policies before they are enacted? An attempt to control immigration policy despite Trump winning the election? Despite a Republican controlled Congress with a mandate to enact immigration reform? Is the implication that you are a racist Nazi if you oppose open borders? That you are racist to express security concerns about mass immigration from failed states where jihadist organizations have set up shop? The very premise of national sovereignty is being rebranded by the regressive left as "extreme nationalism" -- Nazism/fascism. And on college campuses, it appears to be working. Some students don't actually know what the term Nazi means, yet it has become the rallying cry of SJWs when shutting down the speech of campus conservatives; it's becoming the SJW catchall; it's becoming meaningless.

The effort to destroy national borders and culture by rebranding those opposing open border policies as "racists" has been used to great effect in Europe (see here). American leftists are currently employing the same strategy. Although General H.R. McMaster has recently taken over Bannon's spot at the NSC, Bannon will probably merit continued attention, as it is widely rumored that he runs an internal White House think-tank called the Strategic Initiatives Group.

A couple cowboy question for my progressive friends: How long can a nation exist without the rule of law and defined borders? Are you, by previously pushing open-border policies through executive fiat, and now through judicial activism and street protests, avoiding the Constitutional process of garnering enough sustained electoral support to change the law through Constitutional means? How about we debate the merits of Trumps policies; the election is over. Your bull-pucky is damaging the quality of the national discourse.

- The Cowboy Historian


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