The following is a hilarious excerpt from Bob Woordward’s recent book, Fear: Trump in the White House:
In August 2010, six years before taking over Donald Trump’s winning presidential campaign, Steve Bannon, then 57 and a produced of right-wing political films, answered his phone. “What are you doing tomorrow?” asked David Bossie, a long-time House Republican investigator and conservative activist who had chased Bill and Hillary Clinton scandals for almost two decades. “Dude,” Bannon replied, “I’m cutting these fucking films I’m making for you.” The 2010 midterm congressional elections were coming up. It was the height of the Tea Party movement and Republicans were showing momentum. “Dave, we’re literally dropping two more films. I’m editing. I’m working 20 hours a day” at Citizens United, the conservative political action committee Bossie headed, to churn out his anti-Clinton films. “Can you come with me up to New York?” “For what?” “To see Donald Trump”, Bossie said. “What about?” “He’s thinking of running for president,” Bossie said. “Of what country?” Bannon asked. No, seriously, Bossie, insisted. He had been meeting and working with Trump for months. Trump had asked for a meeting. “I don’t have time to jerk off, dude,” Bannon said. “Donald Trump’s never running for president. Forget it. Against Obama? Forget it. I don’t have time for fucking nonsense.”
Bannon did in fact go up to the Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue the month after, and the rest, as they say, is history. Hilarious, but history nonetheless.
Steve Bannon went from Breitbart to being the Trump campaign’s CEO to being his White House Chief Strategist. Now he’s the Ra’s al Ghul of the alt-right across the world, stretching his support across Marine Le Pen of France to Matteo Salvini of Italy to the rather comical Mr. Jair Bosonaro of Brazil. Steve Bannon is set out to destroy the world.
But what has made Breitbart news so effective, that it propelled an idiot of an independent candidate like Donal Trump into presidency? Well, the answer is two-fold, one being actively and seriously pursuing ani-intellectualism and secondly by misusing the power of social media.
Breitbart, the real Breitbart, that is, Andrew Breitbart had been for decades, an anti-intellectual far right conspiracy theorist, who loathed intellectual discussions and debates. He not only departed from the normal National Review conservative thinker, he loathed them as well. It’s like when people are like, ‘What do you think we should do on health care?’ I don’t fucking have a clue. It’s too complicated for me,” he told Slate’s Christopher Beam in 2010. “I’m trying to shift the focus of conservative movement from the narrow — the policy — to a much higher elevation, granting them a greater perspective.”
Breitbart was Jordan Peterson before Jordan Peterson became THE Jordan Peterson. A conspiracy theory spouting far-right hatemonger, Breibart actually believed that the left has been since the mid-20th Century, trying to control the American culture because it is “smart enough to understand that the way to change a political system is through its cultural systems”. He especially blames the left for infiltrating Hollywood, the music industry and the churches. This was the world view of the person who founded the alt-right movement which is taking the West by storm today, almost identical to the far right of the 20th Century, who believed that the Jews must be eradicated because they conspire to control corporations, banks, Hollywood and let’s not be mistaken where Andrew Breitbart will find a place in history, a place similar to the publishers of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.
Breitbart’s philosophy since then has been ignoring the micro aspects of policy and news, ignoring facts and shifting to the macro – reporting that kind of news to people that would ‘trigger’ liberals and cause outrage and hatred among others, using buzzwords such as ‘libtards’, ‘radical leftists’, ‘Dems’, ‘illegal aliens’, ‘cultural Marxists’ in very sweeping terms, to categorize anyone who disagrees with their view point as enemies of the American people. While trying to prove themselves from the so-imagined ‘leftist dictatorial control of American people’ they are failing miserably. You can log onto Breitbart news to view some of these hilarious and ‘triggering’ headlines, ‘Far-Left Gillette Doubles Down on Woke’ or ‘Trump Voters Bullied by Liberals’. Even video platforms such as YouTube are replete with such fiery and provocative videos, involving conservative thinkers such as ‘Ben Shapiro (former editor with Breitbart) destroying a SJW’ or ‘Milo Yiannopoulos (former editor with Breitbart) destroying feminists cringe logic’. Which brings me to the second factor which makes Breitbart so effective – social media.
Whatever you believe in or whatever you are, in social media, it is very hard for people to be not-reactive, because the whole platform is built on the idea of instant connection, instant gratification and instant reaction. Everything needn’t be knee-jerk but it inevitably ends up being so. Just imagine the pace at which information is disseminated and consumed today. A big news breaks and people forget about it in two days, because the next big news breaks then. Most people rely on social media for news today, and people hardly even end up opening the links to the stories and actually reading the whole story, which is why media houses across the world are trying to shift the television format into social media (you may have seen more videos of news reports rather than articles or reports). This is also because the bounce rate on social media is quite high, meaning that people merely scroll through their social media rather than reading each and every news that is fed to them and hence videos or even fiery and clickbait headlines, the type Breitbart specialises in really has a huge impact, because the news is never really meant to be read, only the headline is, and that is meant to provoke people.
In many ways, it’s hard not see how the Breitbart people wouldn’t help Trump win. Steven Bannon helped defined Trumpism, the idea that to win something or to be the most relevant, all you need to do is be present everywhere all the time. Trump won more coverage than the other candidates because of his outrageous comments and because of his political incorrectness, just like Breitbart wins more views and outreach with every reaction, positive or negative it garners. It cares very little, just like Trump, about the negative, because they believe in the philosophy of “no such thing as bad publicity”. In social media, the consumer is the product, and if we are at all concerned about the rise of such dangerous media organizations such as Breitbart, we must engage in collectively ignoring Breitbart media. We always have that conscious choice, to unfollow, unlike a page or media organisation we don’t like, and Breitbart can be stopped only by such civil ostracization. After all, if you really did think that they were targeting and creating a new age conservative movement by enlightening the conservatives you are wrong, they did so by only gaining your attention and getting under your skin, by ‘triggering’ you, and they won’t stop, because that is what the whole Trump machinery is built on – provoke first, divide second.
Swagat Baruah is writer/editor for Catharsis Magazine.