The corporate media would have us believe that President-Elect Trump’s newly appointed Chief Strategist and Senior Counselor Stephen K Bannon is a raging anti-Semite, and “white supremacist.” Though best known now for his role in the Trump campaign, Bannon is a former US Naval officer, Goldman Sachs banker, director of Earth-science research at Biosphere 2, film producer, and chairman of Breitbart News. Over the last 24 hours he has been subjected to a well-orchestrated crescendo of op-eds and tweets attacking his character and political views.
For instance, Esquire’s resident hysteric Charles Pierce would have us believe that “The hiring of Steve Bannon as a WH policy advisor is exactly the same as hiring David Duke.”
Meanwhile, the Daily News’ chief fabulist-in-training Shaun King purports to explain how “Donald Trump is using Steve Bannon to turn the GOP into the new KKK.”
And deservedly obscure presidential candidate Evan McMullin asks “Will any national level GOP leaders condemn @realDonaldTrump’s appointment of anti-Semite Steve Bannon to senior White House role?”
Others using the anti-Semitism slur include Newsweek’s Kurt Eichenwald, Huffington Post’s Sam Stein, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, the ADL’s Jonathan Greenblatt, US Senator Ron Wyden, Slate, Salon, Forward, and a cast of thousands more piling on. Many are Jewish, though not all.
As an American Jew, I am completely horrified at this reprehensible smear campaign. It is shameful. Sadly, it is the norm. The media know that the charge of anti-Semitism is tremendously damaging. If they get away with using this on Bannon, I fear they will continue using it towards many others associated with the Trump administration. They go low. Period.
The fact that this is a smear without foundation seem obvious from statements made by Jewish friends and associates of Bannon. Former Breitbart reporter Ben Shapiro left the news site after a falling out with Bannon, and there is no love lost between the two. Yet he writes, “I have no evidence that Bannon’s a racist or that he’s an anti-Semite.” David Horowitz states that the accusation is completely without foundation. Milo Yiannopoulos, one of Breitbart’s main writers, wrote many of the headlines Bannon is currently under fire for, and he’s half Jewish. Orthodox Jew Joel Pollack, Breitbart staff writer, states “Steve is a friend of the Jewish people and a defender of Israel, as well as being a passionate American patriot and a great leader,” and he goes on to say that not only is Bannon not anti-Semitic, “if anything, he is overly sensitive about it, and often takes offense on Jews’ behalf.”
One would think that with a charge that carries the heavy social opprobrium of anti-Semitism there would be some evidentiary standard necessary, but in The Current Year one would be entirely wrong. Here is the case for Bannon’s anti-Semitism, as made in the press so far:
Evidence A. In divorce proceedings between Bannon and his former wife, Bannon was reported to have made a comment to the effect that he didn’t want his daughters to go to Archer, an elite private school in West Los Angeles, because “the ex-wife claimed Bannon “went on to say the biggest problem he had with Archer is the number of Jews that attend. He said that he doesn’t like Jews and that he doesn’t like the way they raise their kids to be ‘whiney brats’ and that he didn’t want the girls going to school with Jews.”
Bannon denies making any of these statements, and people say a lot of things during divorce proceedings. The kids ended up going to the school. Unfortunately, there is no reporting on to what extent they were actually surrounded by whiny brats.
Evidence B. Breitbart ran an article titled “Bill Kristol, Republican Spoiler, Renegade Jew.” The article was written by the aforementioned Horowitz, who wrote the headline as well.
Evidence C. Bannon said in an interview in July that Breitbart is now the platform for the “Alt Right.”
The first claim is hearsay. If Bannon really “didn’t like Jews,” it is unlikely he would surround himself with so many at Breitbart, open a Breitbart office in Jerusalem, work for a Jewish CEO who supported him, and join the Trump campaign with its Jewish advisors, speechwriters (Stephen Miller), and family members. It is entirely possible that Bannon visited the school and found that the students were indeed spoiled Jewish brats. This doesn’t suggest that all Jewish children are spoiled brats, or that all spoiled brats are Jewish, or that Bannon thought either of these things were true. Perhaps Bannon was describing the situation accurately, or perhaps he was being a bit unfair, or perhaps he never said any of this, or perhaps he meant it as more of a joke. The appropriate response to this question is — who cares? While I don’t personally feel that most Jewish parents raise whiny, spoiled brats, some do, and I’d expect more of this at elite private schools than elsewhere. I too would want to avoid those classmates for my children.
As far as the “Renegade Jew” title, the fact it was written by a Jew essentially confirms the lack of anti-Semitic intent. Accusing Horowitz of anti-Semitism or being a self-hating Jew is laughable to anyone who has read his Zionist writing over the years.
So finally we come to Bannon’s statement that Breitbart is a home for the Alt Right. The term Alt Right leaped into prominence this last year but has been enormously contested. There is no sense in which all the parties that use the term — both pro and con — to mean anything even close to the same thing. Some who self-identify with the Alt Right are expressly counter-Semitic. Some are not.
My personal take on this would be that when Bannon said Breitbart was a home for the Alt Right, he said this in error. There are many variants of Alt Right, much discussion about what it is, with little consensus, and many camps. I have no interest in exploring what the Alt Right is or isn’t here at all, but it is worth noting that many have claimed the title for themselves. Breitbart, however, simply isn’t thought of by most as being “Alt Right”. Thus, neither is Bannon. At best he might be considered “alt-light.” But for most people on the Alt Right and in general, Breitbart is simply a venue for the contemporary right, not the edgier and more transgressive Alt Right.
Thus the links between Bannon and anti-Semitism or “white supremacism” are essentially zero.
What bothers me most about this absurd episode, as a Jew myself, and a patriotic American, is the way accusations of anti-Semitism can now be deployed at virtually anyone with no evidence needed, as a form of political character assassination. The piling on by the corporate media and liberal pundits is shocking and alarming. Bannon has been smeared. His family, friends, colleagues, and the Trump presidency have been tainted by spurious accusations of anti-Semitism, in the absence of any evidence. This is a nakedly cynical attempt to demean an individual, an organization he headed, and the people he is associated with. It is orchestrated for political purposes — to keep Bannon, a voice for real fundamental change and reform, out of the Trump administration. It is designed to undermine the President-elect and his administration’s legitimacy. It is a yet another media-driven disgrace, driven largely, though not only, by Jewish liberals who resent their loss of influence during the ascendancy of the right, as democratically chosen by the American people.