22 February 2019
Steve Bannon aligned himself with Donald Trump because he believes Trump is the 'chosen one' to bring his far-right politics to fruition. Photo: Reuters
Steve Bannon aligned himself with Donald Trump because he believes Trump is the 'chosen one' to bring his far-right politics to fruition. Photo: Reuters

How far can Trump’s chief strategist go?

President-elect Donald Trump raised a lot of eyebrows by appointing Steve Bannon, an ultra-right cyber media magnate, as “chief strategic officer”, a new position that is ranked higher than the White House chief of staff.

Born to a working class Democratic family in Virginia, Bannon served briefly in the navy in the late 1970s.

Dismayed at the way then President Jimmy Carter handled the Iran hostage crisis in 1979, Bannon soon began to feel disillusioned with the political establishment and left the military, only to join Wall Street and work for Goldman Sachs.

Later, he and a few of his former co-workers teamed up and founded their own investment bank specializing in raising capital for new media, and it wasn’t long before he himself became a media owner, too.

Bannon’s ultra-right political stance started coming of age after the 9/11 attacks, after which he, as a new media producer, began to commit himself to an all-out right-wing propaganda campaign, and release a series of documentaries trying to debunk the myth of the meritocracy, blame the decline of America on the left-wing liberals and urge white people to embrace rightist extremism in order to save their country.

After Bannon took control of the right-wing online media Breitbart News in 2012, he quickly turned it into a right-wing propaganda flagship, advocating “white power” and urging white Americans to stay vigilant against the collaborative conspiracy by ethnic minorities, Muslims and the LGBT community to dictate social agenda and undermine traditional American values.

The radical but rather loose political views of Bannon and his followers soon earned them the infamous name of the “Alternative Right”, better known as the “Alt-right”.

After Donald Trump announced his candidacy for president in June 2015, Bannon quickly aligned himself with the Trump campaign because he truly believed Trump is the “chosen one” to bring his far-right political ideas into practice.

In fact the relationship between Bannon and Trump are mutually beneficial. On one hand, Bannon shares a lot in his boss’s political views such as anti-establishment, anti-meritocracy and right-wing populism. On the other, Trump also finds Bannon helpful with his proven track record in mobilizing the public through the internet and social media.

Both Trump and Bannon have ridden on a tide of support for right-wing conservatism, and all they did was go with the flow rather than come up with any new ideas.

While it remains to be seen whether they can deliver their election promises in the days ahead, their ability to answer the anger of the conservative right in the US was proven during the election.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Jan. 5

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Associate professor and director of Global Studies Programme, Faculty of Social Science, at the Chinese University of Hong Kong; Lead Writer (Global) at the Hong Kong Economic Journal

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