With the move of Stephen Bannon and associates of the likes into the National Security Council US President Trump planted the seed to grow his personal regime within the US house of commons. The question remains, if democratic institutions in the US can withstand Trumps latest political movements laced with elective monarchy and personal favouritism or if political expertise will hold the upper hand in American foreign politics.
His words seem nothing but a faint echo, lost within the noise of the polarised masses of the WWW. Populistic, contradictive views on both sides of the argument mirror his inner torment and confusion. Yet he continues to express confidence. The smirk in his unshaved face is looking as if it has yet to decide whether to drop from below his eyebrows or keep hanging on. If he is a populist or Nationalist?
“I am a Leninist!”, he squealed hastily, almost shy.
These words belong to Stephen Bannon, the Executive Chairman of the right winged news portal Breibart News Network. As one of Trumps close associates he was able to secure a seat in the National Security Council – the most powerful institution of national security and US foreign politics. His media portal Breitbart News openly proclaims nationalist, racist and anti-semitic views.
The Politburo in the Oval Office?
He is only one of many fresh faces to sit in the presidential office elected by the new US President to raise the profile of a brand new image that is to be portrayed of a new house of commons. Another candidate to recently join the high office to replace former CIA director John O. Brennan is Mike Pompeo, Guantanamo fan and official supporter of the death penalty for whistle-blower Snowden. Minister of education Betsy DeVos wants to turn the schooling system into a business endeavour through voucher programmes and privatisation. And one that has already started is Jeff Sessions, new minister of justice. Known for successfully defying uproars within the Republican Party to prohibit torture and other inhumane practices, he now appeals to illegalise abortion and denies there is such a thing as climate change. The second most powerful man of the country, vice president Mike Pence even denounces the theory of Evolution.
One does have to take into account, that personal favouritism has always been playing a role in US government and previous members of the high office were not without flaws – Obama’s cabinet couldn’t be described as a club of humanitarians, either. However, even the reigns of George W. Bush seem harmless in comparison to Donald Trump’s ambitions and he has only been head of the country for less than 100 days. The composition of the NSC is especially important, as the American constitution leaves a long lead in regards to foreign politics. Trump also made sure to take care of the Chairman of the Staff Committee and the director of the secret service that had been a thorn in his side. This historic banishment of military experts on the one hand and the admission of an extreme populistic chief editor on the other hand illustrates how the future NSC will be characterized more by political volition than professional advice. This new set of associates and especially Stephen Bannon will fully support Trump when debating about international hot topics, such as the civil war in Syria, the Iran nuclear agreement, conflicts with Ukraine, war against IS or trade agreements with China.
Needless to say, there has never been a time, where the US was without enemies. Even during the short period between the fall of the iron curtain and 9/11 the US was actively interfering in political affairs in Iraq and Bosnia, mainly due to the NSC prompting to take initiative. Nevertheless, these conflicts now seem like a drop in the ocean with the US having to face more enemies than ever before – inside and out.
Trumps attitude towards national security almost seems reckless in some areas and one could get the impression that every government proposal or even the white paper hits Twitter and social media before it reaches the Congress. Is impulsive decision making above Trump’s national security? At least the US president doesn’t seem to worry and merely keeps on posting about easing sanctions imposed on Russia.
But a real reason to be worried, however, is Bannon’s involvement in the NSC. An ex-military who attended Harvard-Business-School and was recruited by Goldman Sachs in his young years before starting his own business – a financial institute for media and Hollywood productions. He made many business connections early on in his career and met conservative Andrew Breitbart, founder of Breitbart News, on the set of a movie about the life of the republican US President Ronald Reagan. After Breitbart’s death, Bannon followed into his footsteps and consequently joined the political Alt-Right-Movement, which promotes a ‘white America’.
This man is now Trump’s personal adviser and head of strategy, therefore occupying a key position of great influence and power. Bannon was a Trump supporter from the very beginning and headed up Trump’s ‘America First’ presidential campaign. They were introduced by Rebekah Mercer, daughter of multimillionaire Robert Mercer, who contributed generous donations to Breitbart News in the past. Some might even claim that Trump’s actions seem rational next to those of Bannon.
Despite all of Trump’s tirades he regularly praises the US system of democracy and tolerates political demonstrations directed at him, more or less. However, Bannon never even tried to argue the fact that he is planning to dissolve long established political structures in Washington, in order to replace them with a nationalist movement of his own creation. He openly expresses his dismay towards republicans and governmental institutions, which ironically he is inofficially a part of. Similar to Lenin, who destroyed the Russian Empire from within, in order to rebuild a new greater world power in shape of the Soviet Union, Bannon plans to redefine the American spirit from inside. Bannon being listed as the most important member of the Oval Office even before the actual chief of staff of the White House Reince Priebus proves just how important Bannon’s words are to Trump.
He already started to scare white Americans through his media news channel Breitbart News and doesn’t seem to scare away to be seen contacting Neo-Nazis. Not only homosexuality, immigration and religion are high on his agenda for defamation, but also moral concepts, such as feminism are titled as cancerous to American society. Breitbart News was also the power engine behind the rumour spreading machine working against Hillary Clinton and as a result, even the FBI started to investigate her, which caused a huge dent in Clinton’s image during her electoral campaign. However, none of the rumours ever turned out to be true. It is also common knowledge how Bannon despises freedom of speech and he describes all other news channels as enemies that feed false information to the masses to keep up the old ideals of society. Bannon’s news channel can therefore be compared to Prawda, which is Russian and translates into ‘The Truth’. Breitbart News – similar to the Prawda, which was a propaganda newspaper in the USSR that held a monopolistic position within the Soviet society for information and media – and Bannon ideally would like to hold the same position. Journalists that oppose the views of Breitbart News have been personally attacked in the past.
According to news-whip Breitbart News is one of the most influential news channels with its biggest impact on digital natives and the most shares on social networks world wide with some of the hateful news being read more often than articles of the Washington Post or New York Times. For example: 9 million readers shared a Breitbart article in June 2016 on Facebook, only 3.3 million for the Washington Post. Does this make Bannon the self-elected leader, who aims to enlighten the common people of North America, similar to Karl-Eduard von Schnitzler with his Propaganda-Show Der schwarze Kanal (The Black Channel) in former East Germany, that promoted government induced half-truths and lies?
Rassism with a human face
Trump’s cabinet is as predictable as the weather in the mountains. It is ever changing from stormy to sunny. It is therefore difficult to depict a coherence these days. Nevertheless, one can attempt to peak a glance through the crystal ball to get an idea of what the future holds given Trump’s elected cabinet. The current phalanx is at play in Washington and shifts the atmosphere – IS is turning into enemy No. 1 instead of Russia and China. The first step of implementing a ban of entry for selected Islamic countries, that are according to Trump supporting Islamic terrorist activities, was giving an indication of where the US is going.
Bannon’s influence as Trump’s personal adviser, however, stretches far beyond the mere responsibilities of the NSC. His personal interests and recent actions definitely underline the aim to expand the direct sphere of influence and control of the NCS apparatus, even though recent scandals lead to the passing of several control mechanisms. These passings shall not only be reversed, but CIA director Pompeo wants to take a complete different direction. In the soon future, financial data and personal information might even be stored for predictive analysis purposes. One can imagine how profiles will be generated and Muslims that fall within certain computer generated categories, such as ‘prone to be influenced by extremist views’ will be shadowed on the streets. Will we find ourselves in a reality similar to the one in the movie ‘Minority Report’? A reality, where people will be taken into custody before even committing the actual crime?
This view might sound futuristic, but it echoes an underlying truth. After all, there used to be communist think tanks in the former Soviet Union and the other states of the Eastern Bloc, that tried predict and prevent political misconduct to a certain degree through their widespread and overwhelming secret services like the KGB. However, the sheer abundance of data that is available for predictive analytics nowadays represents a game changer. Frankly, all that the Kremlin was missing during the Cold War was the advanced technical know-how that is now so widely accessible.
Triumph of the Trivial?
As of now the era of communism has passed, but we are in the era of populism: Walls stretching along borders, legal use of torture, fight against freedom of speech, as well as mass surveillance around the globe by secret services…that does not sound like the US how it was once drawn by Benjamin Franklin, Abraham Lincoln or Martin Luther King. It does not sound like a nation, where man can be free – the land of unlimited opportunities. Instead, one is reminded of the golden era of stagnation, the ghost of socialism and the former regime of the Eastern Bloc.
But there is one main difference: Democracy is deeply entwined into America’s DNA and in comparison to autocratic countries – such as Russia or China – the US lives through its values that are freedom and democracy. This nation does not know any different. On the other hand, one might say that lack of experience in terms of dictatorship can present a disadvantage to the US, as they never had to deal with this kind of crisis as the Europeans did. Would Americans even realise that a dictatorship is taking over their political system if it slowly enters the White House through the backdoor? The latest developments – not only since Trump – indicate that this scenario might be closer to the truth than predicted. However, it might still be well within the hands of established institutions to draw a line to Trump’s imperialistic views. Thus, Trump’s recently introduced ban of entry was quashed by the high court. We have yet to wait and see, if America’s traditions will prevail or if they will be casted out by the new kids on the block.
At least, monuments of freedom still stand in this country that lays between the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean. When reminiscing and looking upon these immense sculptures of freedom, that shall remind mankind of moments of historical importance, one almost looks up to the authority. It might sound surreal, but in times like these, it seems obvious as to why monuments like the Statue of Liberty have been built to last, made out of stone and steel.
Miss Liberty should not shake her head in resignation.