‘Like Karl Rove on an acid trip’: Inside the ‘apocalyptic paranoia’ of Steven Bannon’s fringe philosophy
In an interview with Vox, the author of a bombshell book on the relationship between President Donald Trump and Steve Bannon digs deep into the White House Chief Strategist’s psyche and paints a portrait of a man he describes as Karl Rove “on acid.”
According to author Josh Green, whose book Devil’s Bargain: Steve Bannon, Donald Trump, and the Storming of the Presidency became an immediate best seller after its release this week, Bannon has an “apocalyptic” streak that governs his every decision — the result of his years studying fringe philosophers.
“I absolutely think Steve Bannon has an ideology. I didn’t at first; I thought he was a huckster. But it became pretty clear early on that he had a very distinct ideology. At first I thought of it as being Tea Party conservatism, but the more I got to talking to him, the more it really just seemed like this hardcore right-wing nationalism,” Green explained. “The major elements to it, as far as I’m able to detect, are an antipathy to free trade, a hostility to immigrants both legal and illegal, this kind of misty nostalgia for the white, blue-collar manufacturing economy of the mid-20th century.”
“I initially got into this line of research for the book is I went and said [to Bannon], ‘Hey, if you’re not a racist and an anti-Semite’ — Bannon of course claims not to be — ‘why is it that you’re so drawn to these fascist nationalist ideologues from the 1930s and 1940s?'” Green told Vox. “People like Julius Evola, who was Mussolini’s ideologist and who Bannon mentioned in a video at this Vatican conference that he spoke to in 2014.”
According to Green, Evola led Bannon to investigate French metaphysician named René Guénon who was “raised a Catholic, practiced occultism, and joined a Freemason lodge, and eventually converted to Sufi Islam and followed Sharia.”
“What attracted Bannon to them was this idea of decline,”Green elaborated. “Guénon’s famous book was called Crisis of the Modern World, and it laid out this view that essentially beginning with the Enlightenment and the rise of modernity and the nation-state system, we in the West lost our connection to the esoteric, to God. And that we were entering a six-thousand-year dark age.”
“I’m trying to think how to explain this without sounding batshit crazy,” Green ruefully added.
Noting an article written by a New Age believer who has known Bannon for years, he explained, “He’s really into this kind of spiritual seeking and these kinda Christian mystical thinkers and some of these New Age guys.'”
Vox then asked Green about comparisons to Karl Rove, who had President George W. Bush’s ear.
“It’s like that but with an extra touch of weirdness, millennialist apocalyptic paranoia. Like Rove on an acid trip,” Green suggested.
“If you go back and read people like Evola and Guénon, they literally think that we’re in a dark age. That the apocalypse is coming, and stuff like that,” Green continued. “It’s impossible for me to draw the line between ‘Does Steve Bannon really think the apocalypse is coming, or does he kinda just get off on this apocalyptic imagery?’”
“But either way, the kinds of stories he published at Breitbart are pretty consistent with the idea that the whole world is falling apart, the country is going to hell, these dangerous immigrants and criminals are kinda marauding through our culture, and meanwhile the secular PC liberals are turning a blind eye to it and destroying American identity and so on and so forth,” the author concluded.
You can read the whole interview here.