…Unless it’s between 11:00 AM and 1:30 PM EST, in which case he has sobered up from his Irish Coffee, and the subtle tremors are beginning to show from a doomed attempt to make it until lunch without a taste.
Steve Bannon has glassy, jaundiced, bloodshot eyes. There is not a single unexploded capillary in his entire nose. His jowls explode from his jawline as lumpy, misshapen artifacts of his body’s desperate struggle to contain the toxins his scar-tissue-addled liver cannot process. He refused to shave at any point while running the campaign of a major-party nominee. Lemme give you a little tip about my people: if the above things are true about a middle-aged Irishman, then there is no chance that he is not an alcoholic.
The man can’t lead himself in a straight line, but he ascended to the de facto leadership of the GOP over the past few weeks. Breitbart was already ascendant as both a media outlet and a neo-fascist paramilitary movement, but now the site’s CEO and Editorial Grand Wizard has been speaking to major conventions of conservative activists. Furious conservative donors are turning to Bannon’s “Burn This Bitch Down 2018” initiative out of disgust with the mainstream GOP’s failure to ruin everything for no reason. Roy Moore beat Luther Strange in Alabama with Bannon’s help, and Jeff Flake and Bob Corker have resigned rather than adapt to the Trumpian worldview, thus clearing senate races for the Nihilist wing of the party. Steve is winning, and he’s winning in the name of booze.
Drunks speak in sweeping pronouncements and self-assured bombast, their lack of inhibition revealing itself in every sentence. They authoritatively spout home-cooked theses that have never been exposed to the light of sobriety, indicting the bastards who are the real cause of all our problems, inevitably proving themselves to be sorta/overtly/hella racist. They demonstrate immense pride in the brilliance of everything they’re saying, and no matter how juvenile or deranged a worldview they espouse, they demand that you recognize their brilliance, too.
Such is the nature of Stephen Bannon’s mad quest to bring down the Western liberal order. When you’re really shitfaced, destroying the world feels like an appropriate remedy for your political grievances.
He speaks in superlatives, absolutes, and ultimatums. His opinion of the president and his fellow arsonists is one of total confidence, and his opinion of everyone else is bitter contempt: “you all need to shut up,” “their speeches are more pablum,” etc. He publicly describes himself as John McCain’s moral and intellectual superior. He actually called himself a Leninist, which is something that no one outside of their sophomore year of college has any business saying. He can’t accept the norms of American democracy or geopolitics because, in his intemperance, he prefers the visceral indulgences of the clash of civilizations, the looming race war, and guerilla class conflict.
He’s lost in an incoherent fantasy that combines Helter-Skelter with a return to Christian values and the public execution of all past and present Goldman Sachs employees (excluding him), driven to this worldview by the same aggressive, ethanol-fueled impulses that compel younger, healthier drunks to do pull-ups on walk signs or to dare people to punch them in the stomach. The bleakness of his outlook is so hopeless and apocalyptic that it could only be the product of decades of constant depressant abuse.
Now that he’s been driven out of the West Wing for his bucolic tendencies, and to a lesser extent his Nazism, he’s finally free. No longer must he suffer the injustices of watching his mouth, wearing a shirt without stains on it, or shaving, let alone bear the ritual humiliation of the Secret Service inspecting the fifth of Johnny Walker Black he brings to work every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday (Saturday if he’s working the weekend). Now he’s been liberated to marshal American hatred from the safety and privacy of his own office-cum-whiskey-sanctuary, while retaining the privilege to whisper sweet Islamophobic nothings in the president’s ear.
American policy is being set by the living incarnation of cirrhosis. To look upon him is to witness the slow death of his body and soul, yet right-wing “thought leaders” are hanging onto the supposed wisdom contained in every blast of Scotch fumes that emanates from his throat. The conservative media sphere is taking Breitbart’s cues, the president is taking Bannon’s calls, and the bitch-ass wing of the Republican Party spends their days in constant fear of Bannon and his champion’s inchoate wrath. McConnell’s attempts to refute Breitbart fall laughably flat in the face of his own utter moral bankruptcy — getting rid of that reptile might be Steve’s only good idea, though I want nothing to do with anyone he’d choose to replace him.
However, it’s not a normal impulse for an American to want to destroy the American government. Most reasonable folks would like a country with 4,000 nuclear weapons and responsibility for the security of all global commerce, the country which our forefathers died to create and preserve, to remain relatively functional. This used to be a consensus position, but Bannon feels otherwise.
Furthermore, pretending we aren’t racist used to be an essential component of the white American civic religion, yet the leader of Donald Trump’s political movement has a “black crime” section on his website, he is friendly with neo-Nazis, and he hires writers who are undercover neo-fascist agents of chaos (if not orchestrating that chaos himself). There’s something about his antagonism towards the American idea that I find slightly fishy. There’s a popular theory about why that is, one which I find more and more convincing by the day.
Breitbart is bankrolled by Bob Mercer, the billionaire head of Renaissance Technologies, a hedge fund, and part-owner of Cambridge Analytica, a data-analysis firm that handled the Trump campaign’s data operations. Mr. Mercer is arguably the Temple Grandin of white supremacy. He’s a mathematical genius who has said that he gets along better with animals than people, which sure as shit sounds like autism to me.
A few years back, after Andrew Breitbart had died and Bannon got the hate-site party properly started, Bannon met his future patron Bob and his daughter, Rebekah, and enchanted them both with a magical tale of the white race’s degradation by the mud people. Drunks do have a tendency to be entertaining storytellers, and for a person with autism who struggles with social cues, a boozy raconteur’s exaggerated facial expressions and operatic body language are refreshingly easy for them to read — they get it for the same reason they understand the frozen faces on Thomas the Tank Engine.
Bannon redirected the misanthropy bred by Mercer’s lifetime of autistic social frustrations into open antipathy towards the brown and unworthy (moochers who demanded he pay taxes first and foremost). Mercer became so devoted to the cause that a member of his own company denounced him as a patron of white supremacists, and was subsequently fired. He became so obsessed with fighting the onslaught of social parasites that he was willing to partner with just about anyone to fight the socialist Negro menace.
I don’t pretend to know Bannon, Mercer, or Breitbart’s exact connections to Russia prior to this, but I know they got a Russian agent elected. After the dump of the Facebook and Twitter memes from the Troll Farm, I feel pretty convinced they were the American operatives of a hostile foreign power.
Translation is perhaps the most challenging of all mental pursuits. The meanings of words and idioms are inextricable from the contexts in which they are used, and two different cultures present their people with wildly different contexts. Expressions in two different languages almost never have exactly the same sensibility, because two peoples never have exactly the same sensibilities. You have to come from a culture in order to fully appreciate the finer notes of what offends them, and what animates them, and what will truly scare them.
We live in a country with a free press and loads of Russian immigrants, but we barely understand Russia, let alone Putin or the mindset of everyday Russians. I know geography is not our thing, but if we’re so blind to their nature, what are the odds that Russian operatives, raised on a mix of anti-American agitprop and the dumbest products of Hollywood, living in a repressive country that constantly lies about us, could grasp the nuances of American political culture well enough to infiltrate our political system?
Despite those long odds, they knew where to strike us, and how. They knew that “Black Lives Matter” and “Muslim Women for Hillary” would cause a fiery stirring in the loins of any conservative who saw them, and they knew to go after liberals with memes about Hillary’s supposed corruption. I know that Americans believe they’re entities of pure free will, who can’t admit they’re susceptible to any kind of suggestion, so this is a fruitless path of argument, but sociological research has shown that people are significantly more receptive to xenophobic ideas after they’ve been visually triggered. The American electorate was no exception.
The Hackers, the GRU, and Wikileaks knew when to drop the “bombshell” emails for maximum effect. They knew which states to target with social media advertising. They had individual targeting data that allowed them to keep the ad buys relatively small and focused, thus evading detection by the media or the tech companies who made their scheme possible. In short, the Russians had extensive American political knowledge, and it was more than likely provided by Americans.
So who was translating aggressive foreign meddling into the vernacular of native pride? Who is America’s analogue to Nigel Farage or Marine Le Pen, the local contact for Putin’s campaign to destabilize the West with spurious nationalism, empty traditionalism, and a new birth of racism? Who was working with Moscow to destroy our sacred idea, in order to prove by comparison the superiority of Putin’s broken-glass-strewn, corruption-ridden failure to improve his people’s lives?
Well, Bob Mercer has that data analysis firm, which WikiLeaks claims to have been contacted by regarding Hillary’s 33,000 missing emails, and Steve is an agent provocateur with command of a broad user network who elevates the inflammation of prejudice to an art form, and they are both openly hostile to the ideals that would prevent one from betraying the United States…
Crazy as the world is right now, we are too riven with wild speculation about this scandal for me to add to the frenzy. Following my thoughts to their logical conclusion would be sinking to Breitbart’s level. I don’t possess the first detail about the structure of the conspiracy. The very fact that I wonder if the FBI raid on that Republican office was really about Ken Cucinelli’s campaign could be proof positive that my judgment is being compromised by my hatred of Trump. It’s also jumping to conclusions to ponder if the Russians would kill an American in a hotel room as readily as they’d kill one of their own on our soil.
Maybe the Russians got everything they needed from Manafort. Maybe Christopher Steele is a liar, and the Trump Tower meeting was an isolated incident born of the family’s endemic stupidity. Maybe I just want the destruction of America to stop, and my mind is inventing some faint glimmer of hope for me to hang on to. The overwhelming evidence of Trump’s fealty to Russia notwithstanding, only Mueller and the investigators can tell us whether or not I’m right.
But to the die-hard crackers of the Party of Lincoln, who are swooning at Steve’s talk of a “75-year majority” the way that German voters once thrilled at the “thousand-year Reich,” whether or not you believe any of this, I’d like to humbly offer that you reconsider handing control of the party over to a drunk driver. I mean, you’ve already done that with the government itself by voting for Trump, but there’s always a different government ready to go, and your mess will be handed over to Democrats for us to clean up eventually.
However, if you join Mr. Bannon’s “season of war” (another pompous, drunk-ass thing to say) and allow your party infrastructure itself to become fully invested in the fevered ravings of Trumpism, and your biggest donors and activists allow themselves to become intertwined with its rickety Soviet-made apparatus, then the damage will be much harder to recover from when this catastrophe falls apart.
President Trump and his cirrhotic Svengali are going down, and the closer you ally yourself with their priorities, the less will remain of conservatism after the inevitable downfall. You can leave yourself the hard work of regrouping the party from chaos, or the impossible labor of rebuilding the conservative movement from the ashes of Nazi-lite treason. Your choice.
I have little doubt that the GOP will choose the latter. They’ve declined to get off Trump’s night train to hell at every stop it’s made thus far, because being drunk on power compromises one’s judgment. Just as Steve Bannon drinks until he silences the nagging voices of morality, restraint, and guilt in the back of his mind, so too has the Republican Party numbed their moral impulses with Bannon’s swill. The Right is going to have a monstrous, skull-splitting hangover once it wakes up from the madness.
Just like Steve Bannon does, every single morning of every single day.