Steve Bannon: Alt-Right Anti-Catholic or Political Opportunist?
Frank Cocozzelli printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Sun Dec 18, 2016 at 01:37:26 PM EST
In March 2016 Trump campaign strategist and CEO Steve Bannon made a comment that could be construed as being blatantly anti-Catholic. He accused the Catholic Church of supporting immigrant rights in order to pad the number of their American following. And as expected several Catholic spokesmen seized on the remarks, attacking Bannon as a bigot.

And while this criticism may well be warranted, it overlooks a more ominous dimension of Bannon's character. He will say anything in the blind pursuit of political power.  

That Steve Bannon comes from a working-class Irish Catholic family should not be lost upon us but for now; hold that thought. The former editor of Breitbart News has ascended to the pinnacle of American political power as the president elect's chief White House Strategist. That is quit a feat for someone who was not well known until last year.  

After high school Bannon joined the Navy where he served as an officer on a destroyer and later as a special assistant to the Chief of Naval Operations at the Pentagon. He attended Virginia Tech as an undergrad and then earned a Masters Degree in National Security Studies at Georgetown and MBA at Harvard.  Shortly thereafter, he made a fortune at Goldman Sachs. He has wisely picked moneymaking opportunities that have greatly enriched him (for example, by dint of an investment in the TV show "Seinfeld," he receives a healthy stream of royalties). But his main gambit has been to be part of rising political power and demonstrating a marked indifference to the collateral damage he does along the way.

Let us return to the example cited above. Bannon's modus operandi is goring established power structures both on the left and on the right. He specializes in appealing to the sometimes inconsistent and often contrary emotions of the American working class voter. And he does this successfully by keeping his opponents off balance. His comments on Catholicism bear this out in spades.

Back in 2014 Bannon somehow wrangled a plum presentation to speak before a Vatican conference on economics. Speaking to the gathering via Skype he echoed many of Pope Francis' themes about economic inequality, flavoring his statement with allusions to Distributive Justice. On its face it appeared to be an effort to be seen within the good graces of Catholic social justice. But just as quickly as Bannon will identify with the Church, he will not think twice about criticizing that same institution. Earlier this year in an interview with the Catholic neocon Robert P. George, The Hill reported:

I understand why Catholics want as many Hispanics in this country as possible because the church is dying in this country...

Earlier in that same interview, Bannon said of Ryan:

Paul Ryan is a Catholic in good standing. He's rubbing his social-justice Catholicism in my nose every second.

In one felt swoop Bannon was able to touch upon the criticism that many blue-collar Catholics would identify with while taking a simultaneous swipe at Republican party establishment figure Speaker of the House Paul Ryan. That was clearly by design.

It is not surprising -- indeed expected -- that such remarks would be criticized as anti-Catholic. To that end, several prominent Catholic groups and writers have made such criticisms (of course, our friend Bill Donohue was silent on the issue). Indeed his Paul Ryan comment was darkly ingenious. He managed to paint the Speaker of the House as a raging Catholic distributist when indeed his economic philosophy is still far more reflective of Ayn Rand than Pope Francis. But Ryan served a purpose and that was to criticize the very same faith Bannon had recently praised.

This is not the first time that Bannon has been charged with racial insensitivity. His associations with Breitbart News have reached a new low in appealing to the anti-Semitic prejudices of many on the Alt-Right. The often-cited headline about neoconservative William Kristol being labeled as a "renegade Jew" immediately comes to mind. But let us look closer at that article to better understand the game that Bannon is playing -- and it is a very dangerous one, indeed.

The hyperbolic Bannon has admitted that Breitbart News provides a platform for the Alt-Right. But when we understand that the Kristol hit piece was written by conservative writer David Horowitz, himself Jewish, we begin to get the full measure of Bannon's strategic recklessness.

Plausible deniability for his serial transgressions is a necessary element of the Bannon strategy. He will bump up to and even cross into anti-Semitism by a flagrant anti-Semitic remark but use a Jewish writer, conservative David Horowitz, to do so.  Likewise, with his blistering criticism of the Catholic Church's immigration policy he could again point to his own roots in Catholic economics and his Vatican appearance. In this way he can deny being either anti-Semitic or anti-Catholic but still tickle the prejudices of those who despise Jewish intellectuals or Catholic empathy for the marginalized immigrant -- hence the danger of his game.

Bannon likes to state that he is not a white nationalist but simply a nationalist of an economic bent. He understands the benefit of New Deal-style stimulus. To that end there is a dose of Keynesian stimulus in his ideas in that he believes in infrastructure investment. However, unlike Keynes he fails to advocate the use of fiscal policy to fund such final projects. This again serves him well to the unsuspecting observer to whom he may appear to be a Catholic distributist in the mode of Monsignor John A. Ryan.

But Bannon is no Monsignor Ryan.

A better analogy would be Reverend Charles Coughlin -- the anti-Semitic populist priest who subverted distributive justice teachings to fit a demagogic movement. Like Coughlin, Bannon is not above marrying very un-Christian bigoted overtones to Catholic economic pleas for justice. This is not a message that is neither fully pro nor anti-Catholic (or for that matter pro or anti-Jewish) but one that is truly opportunistic

Bannon exposed the heart of his message when he told The Hollywood Reporter that "Darkness is good ... Dick Cheney. Darth Vader. Satan. That's power. It only helps us when [liberals] they get it wrong. When they're blind to who we are and what we're doing."" The reader should take note of the very dark figures he pointed to. All of them, whether real or fictional, were power-above-all-else characters.   And much like those characters he so openly admires he is not above doing collateral damage to our civil discourse, notions of domestic tranquility, and the very civility of American democracy.  After all, it is not justice that he seeks

It's not clear whether Bannon is still a practicing Catholic. If he is, I'd recommend him for a Coughie award. I am not surprised at Bill Donohue's silence. Bill D's probably with Bannon.

by khughes1963 on Sun Dec 18, 2016 at 08:20:16 PM EST

« And while this criticism may well be warranted...» I think it is. As Catholics are again same-sex marriage not because it's against nature, as they say, but because it endangers the size of the herd.

by Rolberg on Mon Dec 19, 2016 at 05:10:11 PM EST

The author of this article is closing his eyes to the real character of the papacy. Amazing to me that nowadays apprehensions of the papacy can be ascribed to bigotry, when the papacy slaughtered millions upon millions during the Dark Ages. Under the papacy's reign, the Scriptures were almost unknown. The church Council of Tarragona ruled that: "No one may possess the books of the Old and New Testaments in the Romance language, and if anyone possesses them he must turn them over to the local bishop within eight days after the promulgation of this decree, so they may be burned." D. Lortsch, Histoire de la Bible en France, 1910, p.14. The Founders wisely sought to guard against the employment of secular power on the part of the church, with its inevitable result-- intolerance and persecution. The Constitution of the United States guarantees liberty of conscience. Nothing is dearer or more fundamental. Pope Pius IX, in his Encyclical Letter of August 15, 1854, said: `The absurd and erroneous doctrines or ravings in defense of liberty of conscience are a most pestilential error--a pest, of all others, most to be dreaded in a state.' " Americans are now in denial. The pope addressed Congress last year for the first time in American history and went on about "the greater good." The greater good as defined by the papacy. People don't realize that our Constitutional freedoms are protestant freedoms. A Catholic wrote the Patriot Act. Catholic governor Brown of California signed the bill to force vaccinations on children whose parents had religious objections. There is now no protestants on the Supreme Court. The oldest Catholic publication in America boasts that the Catholic takeover of the United States is almost complete: st-complete." It is my opinion that if the liberties of this country - the United States of America - are destroyed, it will be by the subtlety of the Roman Catholic Jesuit priests, for they are the most crafty, dangerous enemies to civil and religious liberty. They have instigated most of the wars of Europe." - General Lafayette, aide to General George Washington (1799). Our leaders and the American people are closing their eyes to the real character of the papacy, but the day is coming when we will feel what the purpose of the papacy really is - she is employing every device to extend her influence and increase her power in preparation for a fierce and determined conflict to regain control of the world, to re-establish persecution, and to undo all that Protestantism has done.

by johnnyshiloh on Sat Dec 24, 2016 at 08:01:00 AM EST
of most protestants in this Christian-dominated hellhole compared to Roman Catholics is that they are 100 times as intolerant and more likely to use sneaky, underhanded methods of coercion (such as blocking employment, preaching hateful sermons against living people, stalking, harassment, poisoning pets, or arson) than a Roman Catholic.

You're spouting the same old tired anti-Catholic rhetoric that I've learned is common to dominionists of all flavors.  Give it a break - the only Christians I've experienced who were actually tolerant and freedom-oriented (on a constant basis) are the Unitarian Universalists.  Their history is something I would suggest that people read... unlike the rest, they've been far more tolerant than any other Christian or Muslim sect.  On the conservative to liberal spectrum, the farther to the left (liberal) a church is, the more likely they will NOT be coercive and abusive.  Those that are further to the right are more likely to try to coerce those on the left to be more like them... read what has been written on this website about the IRD.

Before you try to pigeon hole me, I am not atheist, I am not Christian, I am not pagan... I literally don't have the words to describe what I AM but I don't do pigeonholes.  I'm relating our experiences, which drove us away (permanently) from your religion and the churches you claim are so good.  Think about that.

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I, too, live in the south, and the Dominionist-leaning protestants are a lot more oppressive than any Catholics I know. They want Christian Sharia, and it will be worse than the middle ages if they get it.

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But just as quickly as Bannon will identify with the Church, he will not think twice about criticizing that same institution.
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by danielusa0106 on Mon Jan 30, 2023 at 08:52:10 PM EST

Whether or not Bannon is still a devout Catholic is unclear. If so, he should be nominated for a Coughie. Bill Donohue's apparent lack of comment does not surprise me with cookie clicker. I think Bill D is hanging out with Bannon.

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Before becoming White House chief strategist, Bannon was the executive chairman of Breitbart News, which he described DMV Practice Test as a "platform for the alt-right."

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