Steve Bannon (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Artillery Row

What is MAGA America thinking: eavesdropping on the Deplorables

Contrary to what left-wing commentators might think, Steve Bannon’s podcast is no haven for fascists or white supremacists

Ever since the US Presidential election on 3 November I have been watching the daily editions on YouTube of War Room: Pandemic, which, as its host Steve Bannon frequently points out, is the number one political podcast in America, with 25 million downloads.

Bannon, you will recall, was President Trump’s guru and strategist until the two fell out and Trump started referring to him as “Sloppy Steve”, but Bannon still ranks as a leading keeper of the MAGA (Make American Great Again) flame.

Alongside occasional co-hosts Jack Maxey and Rahem Khassan (a former sidekick of Nigel Farage), Bannon presides over a daily discussion programme which has a direct line to all those Trump supporters who glory in the insult Hillary Clinton heaped upon them – the Deplorables.

Bannon’s War Room is no haven for fascists or white supremacists

Bannon started the podcast to monitor last year’s impeachment process, revived it for the pandemic, kept it going through the election campaign and the subsequent challenge to the results. It has now gone full circle and is back to monitoring an impeachment process. Unfortunately for Bannon, YouTube removed the podcast channel from its site on 8 January, two days after a mob stormed the US Capitol, after Rudy Giuliani, in a guest interview, blamed Democrats for the riot. (You can still watch the podcast on the Real America’s Voice website or mobile app, however.)

Every day Bannon appears in the same garb – he has swapped his waxed countryman’s jacket of the past for a khaki safari jacket. His beard neither advances nor retreats. His hair is lockdown-hippyish in length, but well-coiffed, in the style of those promotional photographs that hairdressers used back in the 1970s.

Contrary to what left-wing commentators might think, Bannon’s War Room is no haven for fascists or white supremacists. He hosts Trumpist rabbis along with Catholics – Bannon is himself a Catholic – and Evangelicals. He hosts African Americans who support Trump, such as Georgia State Representative Vernon Jones, whose dramatic switch from Democrat to Republican last Wednesday during a speech at the Save America March in Washington was somewhat overshadowed by the events that ensued.

Bannon’s choice for Man of the Year 2020 is “America’s Mayor” Rudy Giuliani, for his dogged championship of President Trump, while his choice for Woman of the Year 2020 is Dr Lee-Men Yan, a Chinese dissident and whistleblower, who has claimed that Covid-19 was developed in a Chinese lab. “She is pure MAGA,” he tells his viewers. “She’s a fighter.”

Watch War Room for a few days and you’ll soon become familiar with Bannon’s quaint lingo, his terms of approbation and disapprobation, and the targets of his ire.

Bannon loves the Chinese deplorables and Hong Kong dissidents

The first clue is in the podcast’s signature song, “Take Down the CCP” (Chinese Communist Party), by the exiled Chinese billionaire Guo Wengui, which has been high in the iTunes download chart in both Hong Kong and Taiwan. (This was briefly substituted over Christmas with carols sung by the Choir of King’s College, Cambridge, as the United States is a Judaeo-Christian country and War Room is a Judaeo-Christian programme.) Bannon loves the Chinese deplorables, the Hong Kong dissidents, and he dreams of putting the CCP leaders on trial one day in Wuhan.

Not far below the CCP in the ranking of shame is the “Biden crime family”. Bannon’s co-host Jack Maxsey was the person who first exposed the “hard drive from hell” from Hunter Biden’s laptop at the end of 2019. The War Room team are understandably dismayed, because they believe that if the contents of the hard drive had been widely disseminated during the election campaign – only Murdoch’s New York Post seemed to care – Sleepy Joe would have gone the same way as Hillary did following the Wikileaks dump of Democrat emails in 2016. They remain convinced that the Biden family is sodden with corruption.

For Bannon and the War Room team, the enemy comes in various forms. There is the MSM (mainstream media) and Big Tech (Facebook and Twitter). There is the now regularly condemned Fox News, condemned, though with the exception of some of its presenters, for calling the election for Joe Biden. There are the RINOS (Republicans in Name Only, such as Mitt Romney, the US Senator for Utah who was quick to dismiss President Trump’s claims of voter fraud). There are the Deep State people, especially the FBI and the Department of Justice, including the former Attorney General William Barr, who went from Trump hero to zero when he too failed to acknowledge that there had been voter fraud. And there are the Swamp people: the lobbyists for Wall Street, the conventional Republican strategists such as Karl Rove, and the Congressional staffers.

Bannon’s favourite term of abuse, although he sometimes uses it affectionately, is “grundoon”. Puzzled? It’s a reference to the diaper-wearing groundhog from the Pogo comic strip, which appeared in US newspapers from 1948 to 1975. It is hard to pinpoint the precise meaning of this word for Bannon, since it can be mean lackey but also a loyal retainer who does the hard grind for the cause. When Bannon worked for former US Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson at Goldman Sachs, he called himself a “junior grundoon”.

Those Bannon loves are his audience of true American Patriots. He addresses them as Deplorables, awarding this as a badge of pride. He will praise the OGs, or Original Gangsters – the early adopters of Trumpism. He will praise the MAGabees (get it?), after the biblical Jewish patriots called the Macabees, who led a revolt against the Seleucid Empire in 164BC. His highest term of praise is reserved for the toughest and most persistent of hombres. “He is a true honey badger,” he says of Rudy Giuliani. “He just grinds.”

The powerful myth of a stab in the back has been established

What has Bannon been saying for the past several weeks since the Presidential election and what did he say last Wednesday? Well, he believes that the result of the election is “a wound that will never heal” – that’s what he keeps calling it – and he has cited a Washington Post report recognizing that 50 per cent of US voters don’t trust the result. He has said that Giuliani will get the Democrats “to the point of shame” over it and he has given plenty of attention to Peter Novarro’s The Immaculate Deception report, which argues that the Democrats had a coordinated strategy to stuff absentee and mail-in ballots across battleground states. Roger Kimball, editor and publisher of The New Criterion, and by no means a headbanger, told Bannon that the 2020 Presidential election was “deeply fraudulent”, sufficiently so to have affected the outcome.

The oft-repeated message you hear on the mainstream American media and in practically all media in the UK is that there is no evidence of widespread fraud and that allegations thereof have been rejected in 60-odd lawsuits brought since 3 November. Yet, as Bannon keeps arguing, in most of those lawsuits judges have not assessed any evidence because they dismissed the lawsuits on procedural grounds, either because the complainant was deemed to have no standing or because of laches, the legal doctrine whereby a complainant has delayed in bringing an equitable claim and is therefore out of time.

Safe Harbor Day on 8 December was irrelevant, says Bannon, so was the day when the states certified their slates of Electoral College electors. Even the Joint Session on 6 January won’t end things, he has been arguing, since the liberal Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said back in 2000 that the result could be challenged right up until Inauguration Day on 20 January. That is the only date that counts since it is written into the US Constitution.

The Deplorables believe they have been betrayed by state legislatures that were asleep at the wheel

Over Christmas Bannon tapped into America’s Revolutionary mythology. It was all about Washington crossing the Delaware in December 1776, when the Revolutionary Army was at its lowest ebb. His troops were camped out on the Pennsylvania side of the Delaware river, they were about to be dispersed, when Washington took a force of 2,400 across the river to attack Britain’s Hessian mercenaries in Trenton, New Jersey. The message was clear: it’s always darkest before the dawn.

“If one falls, they all fall,” he said of the swing states where the results have been challenged. “Follow the signal, not the noise,” he repeated. We will be vindicated “in the fullness of time”. “This is bigger than Trump,” he’s been saying in recent days. It’s about “loss of civic virtue”.

“We are on the cusp of victory,” he told his War Room audience as Congress was about to go into joint session on 6 January. His hope was that the President’s supporters in Congress would lay bare the evidence of voter fraud and voter irregularities for the whole country to see in a supreme act of disintermediation. “Call the play, run the play,” he said, borrowing a phrase from American football.

Bannon’s hope was that pro-Trump legislators would get two hours to describe allegations of election irregularities in each of the swing states, amounting to 24 hours of educating the American public about what had happened. The MAGA crowd were only supposed to cheer the legislators on, not invade the People’s House.

On Thursday’s podcast, before that troublesome interview with Rudy, the proceedings started with prayers from an Evangelical pastor, Bishop Aubrey Shines, and Rabbi Aryeh Spero.

The powerful myth of a stab in the back has been established. The Deplorables believe they have been betrayed by state legislatures that were asleep at the wheel, by pusillanimous state supreme courts, by compromised election officials, and now by the vice president, who should have sent the certifications from the swing states back to the state legislatures, who are the proper constitutional authority under the 12th Amendment.

It’s not President Trump who should be held responsible for the mob that stormed the Capitol, Bannon argued, but Vice President Mike Pence, whose chance of going any further in the Republican Party is now over. Pence released his letter stating how he would conduct the Joint Session before Trump even finished his speech to the Save America marchers. “Pence dropped the bomb, says Bannon – or “Penceous Pilate”, as co-host Jack Maxey calls him.

If House Speaker Nancy Pelosi wants to impeach Trump, Bannon urges her to “bring it on”.

And what of the RINO Senators? “We’re going to primary the hell out of them” before the 2022 mid-term elections, says Bannon.

The Deplorables will see to that.

Christopher Silvester recommends that you watch the feature documentary about Bannon, American Dharma, by Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker Errol Morris. It is available on Amazon Prime Video.

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