I came across this hit piece at the New York Times recently, that uses guilt by association to demonize White House Chief Strategist Stephen K. Bannon and scare its readership into questioning the Trump administration’s motives and legitimacy. The headline itself begins with dark and ominous tones. “Taboo Italian Thinker Is Enigma to Many, but Not to Bannon.”
Uh oh, who is this obscure Italian, and why is he taboo? And how can an obscure Italian philosopher be an enigma to many, when most Americans have never heard of him?
Those trying to divine the roots of Stephen K. Bannon’s dark and at times apocalyptic worldview have repeatedly combed over a speech that Mr. Bannon, President Trump’s ideological guru, made in 2014 to a Vatican conference, where he expounded on Islam, populism and capitalism.
But for all the examination of those remarks, a passing reference by Mr. Bannon to an esoteric Italian philosopher has gone little noticed, except perhaps by scholars and followers of the deeply taboo, Nazi-affiliated thinker, Julius Evola.
The first sentence passes off opinion as fact, and sets the tone for how the reader is supposed to feel about the rest of the article. “Bannon’s dark and at times apocalyptic worldview.” (Cue ominous organ music.) The second paragraph delves deeper. It tells us Bannon made a “passing reference” to Julius Evola, a 20th-Century Italian occultist and fascist intellectual. What was this reference? You’d have to dig to the bottom of the article to find it.
Mr. Bannon suggested in his Vatican remarks that the Fascist movement had come out of Evola’s ideas.
As Mr. Bannon expounded on the intellectual motivations of the Russian president, Vladimir V. Putin, he mentioned “Julius Evola and different writers of the early 20th century who are really the supporters of what’s called the Traditionalist movement, which really eventually metastasized into Italian Fascism.”
As the article points out, Bannon was actually incorrect. Evola used the fascist movement to promote his ideas, not vice versa. The real intellectual architect of Italian fascism was Giovanni Gentile. But so what? Bannon’s crime is having a passing knowledge of obscure philosophers and interwar European history? That’s like saying anyone who has read about terrorism is a proponent of terrorism.
Contrast this to June 2009, when White House communications director Anita Dunn called Mao Tse-tung one of her favorite political philosophers. Glenn Beck was the only mainstream political commentator to suggest that raised a red flag. Chairman Mao led the Communist Party of China from 1949 to 1976, and his policies are estimated to have resulted in the deaths of at least 45 million people.
I said at the time that if a Bush administration official had said National Socialist intellectual Alfred Rosenberg was one of his favorite philosophers, the US media would have gone crazy. I guess I was only half right. All a Republican has to do is mention a fascist theorist when speaking about the rise of Nationalism before and after WW2.
It’s commonly known that most people don’t read past the article headline, let alone the first few paragraphs. The writers at the New York Times know this. That’s why they buried what Bannon actually said at the bottom of the article, past all the scary stuff about how Neo-Nazis love Julius Evola, so Steve Bannon must be a Neo-Nazi because he mentioned Evola in a speech once. There are 43 paragraphs in this article. Seven actually talk about Steve Bannon, not including the two or three introductory paragraphs.
But I wonder, if Bannon’s reference to Julius Evola was “passing,” even according to the New York Times, and it wasn’t even accurate, how familiar can he really be with Evola’s work? I guess the fact he even knows Evola’s name makes him suspect. The lesson is, you better not familiarize yourself with any historical events or people not approved by the New York Times.