Steve Bannon is just plain weird…or he’s America’s Rasputin


I guess corrupt old cronies of the Trump administration can’t simply fade away, they have to constantly pop up in the news, over and over again. But at least I learned something new to me: Steve Bannon is one of those creepy fanatical Catholics? Yikes. I thought he was just a garden-variety fascist, but apparently he has a philosophical ethos.

Bannon’s philosophy has been written about quite a bit, including by yours truly [Heather Digby Parton], because it is extremely radical and very, very weird. It’s all wacky mysticism mixed with antediluvian, pre-enlightenment, authoritarianism posing as nationalism based upon the writings of an obscure French writer named René Guénon from the early 20th century and the teachings of one of his followers (and Mussolini adviser) Julius Evola. The school of thought is called “Traditionalism” and it is like no tradition you’ve ever heard of. But Bannon is not alone with this philosophy. It’s held by members of far-right leaders’ inner circles throughout Europe and in places like Brazil and Russia. If there is an intellectual rationale for Trumpism beyond the Dear Leader cult of personality, this “traditionalism” is it.

No, I do not want to know more. But Digby gives a couple of sources, and like a doomed character in a horror movie, I can’t resist the urge to go down into the dark basement alone. So here’s one.

From an early age, Bannon was influenced by his family’s distinctly traditionalist Catholicism and he tended to view current events against the broad sweep of history. In 1984, after Pope John Paul II permitted limited use of the Latin-only Tridentine Mass, which was banned by the Second Vatican Council, Bannon’s parents became Tridentine Catholics, and he eventually followed. Though hardly a moralizing social conservative, he objected bitterly to the secular liberalism encroaching upon the culture. “We shouldn’t be running a victory lap every time some sort of traditional value gets undercut,” he once told me. When he was a naval officer in the late 1970s, Bannon, a voracious autodidact, embarked upon what he described as “a systematic study of the world’s religions” that he carried on for more than a decade. Taking up the Roman Catholic history first instilled in him at his Catholic military high school, he moved on to Christian mysticism and from there to Eastern metaphysics. (In the Navy, he briefly practiced Zen Buddhism before wending his way back to Catholicism.)

Bannon’s reading eventually led him to the work of René Guénon, an early-20th-​­century French occultist and metaphysician who was raised a Roman Catholic, practiced Freemasonry, and later became a Sufi Muslim who observed the Sharia. There are many forms of traditionalism in religion and philosophy. Guénon developed a philosophy often called “Traditionalism” (capital “T”), a form of anti-modernism with precise connotations. Guénon was a “primordial” Traditionalist, who believed that certain ancient religions, including the Hindu Vedanta, Sufism, and medieval Catholicism, were repositories of common spiritual truths, revealed to mankind in the earliest age of the world, that were being wiped out by the rise of secular modernity in the West. What Guénon hoped for, he wrote in 1924, was to “restore to the West an appropriate traditional civilization.”

No. Enough. Stop. Wait…what’s that creepy figure crawling out of the television set?

Bannon acknowledges affinities with the philosophies of Julius Evola and Dugin in relation to his conservative vision for world politics. Like them, Bannon believes in an Eurasian Christian empire led by “the church militant” that will reform religious, economic, political and social foundations around the world. Such views underlie his speech about conservative Christianity as a bulwark against liberalism at the Vatican in 2014, and it’s no coincidence that Bannon has been integral to the establishment of the conservative Catholic Dignitatis Humanae Institute in an 800-year-old monastery.

All of this should give pause. These appropriations of the Middle Ages by figures like Dugin and Bannon pose an odd reversal of the problem of calling things we don’t like “medieval.” Yet these appropriations are equally misleading and even more dangerous. The resulting racist, xenophobic, misogynist, “traditionalist” construction of the Middle Ages is pervasive in conservative spheres. This ideology is now not only Dugin’s construction but also the view that informs many right-wing thinkers like Putin, Bannon and Trump.

No more, please. I’m going to have nightmares about Catholic fanatics under the bed.

It’s a little bit difficult to sort out exactly what Bannon does believe since he’s definitely a populist and nationalist. Mostly, it seems, he’s a sort of spiritualist, like the Russian Rasputin. According to Green, Bannon’s most important influences are René Guénon, a French writer whose 1929 book “The Crisis of the Modern World” stated that everything started to go to hell in 1312 when the Knights Templar were destroyed; and Julius Evola, an Italian writer whose 1934 book, “Revolt Against the Modern World,” influenced Mussolini. Interestingly, that book was also a seminal work for the Russian philosopher Alexander Dugin, Vladimir Putin’s most influential ideologue, and the man who once called Steve Bannon his ideological soulmate.

Alexandra Nemtsova at the Daily Beast reported:

According to Alexander Verkhovsky, director of Russian SOVA, a Moscow-based NGO monitoring ultra-nationalist groups, “Dugin is talking about creating some new cross-cultural nation of anti-Atlantic, traditional ideology—his theory often sounds like a pretty fascist approach. He said and wrote a lot, calling for a war in Ukraine; many Russian nationalists who listened or read Dugin’s texts actually joined the insurgencies in Ukraine afterward.”

I don’t think Bannon looks quite strong and healthy enough to put up as much of a fight as Rasputin, but you never know. He could be like Jason, or Michael Myers, impossible to kill.

“This devil who was dying of poison, who had a bullet in his heart, must have been raised from the dead by the powers of evil,” Yusupov wrote. “There was something appalling and monstrous in his diabolical refusal to die.”

Comments

  1. Akira MacKenzie says

    Yeah… I think most reputable historian would point out that Prince Yusupov’s account of Rasputin’s murder was maybe, kinda, sorta, exaggerated just a lot. They were trying to vilify a man whom the traditional power that be (the aristocracy and the mainstream Church) thought had too much access to the Romanov’s, making his literal demonization a necessary component in justifying his death.

  2. davidc1 says

    When he was over here on a visit he met with that twat faced twat jacob reese mogg ,another rightwing catholic twat .
    Don’t know how they are going to go about this renewal ,most people are seeing through this religion bollox .

  3. Akira MacKenzie says

    Oh, and Bannon? He’ll get off with a wink and nod. No one, not even Democrats, have the nerve to punish their enemies no matter what they do. Even if he get’s a slap on the hands, the Republican president dictator who wins in 2024 will just pardon the little shit again.

  4. blf says

    Bannon has been integral to the establishment of the conservative Catholic Dignitatis Humanae Institute in an 800-year-old monastery.

    Out-of-date, Steve Bannon loses battle to set up rightwing political academy in Italy (March 2021):

    […]
    The Council of State on Monday [March 15th?] ruled against the Dignitatis Humanae Institute (DHI), which Bannon backs, and which wanted to start the school in an 800-year-old monastery south of Rome.

    The case has been in the Italian court system for years, with suits and countersuits between the DHI on one side and the culture ministry, which owns the property, and a group of local environmental and civic organisations on the other.

    […]

    During the administration of the US president Donald Trump[Wacko House squatter hair furor], the project for the institute found support among Italy’s populist rightwing politicians, such as former interior minister Matteo Salvini.

    Over the years the project lost support of key Roman Catholic conservatives, including American Cardinal Raymond Burke, who for years strongly backed Bannon and was a honorary president of the institute.

    Burke withdrew his support after Bannon said he wanted to make a film from a book alleging homosexuality in the Vatican.

    […]

    Bannon’s über-wacky alleged beliefs, and Burke’s support of Bannon, have come up every now and then over multiple years in poopyhead’s [Pandemic and Political Madness All the Time] Infinite Thread (link is to the current iteration of that series of threads). I do not recall if Bannon’s (or Burke’s) über-wacky alleged beliefs have been explored in any detail, however.

  5. raven says

    Bannon’s über-wacky alleged beliefs, and Burke’s support of Bannon, have come up every now and then over multiple years …

    True.
    Cardinal Burke is a twisted and warped old man who somehow has a very high position in the RCC. His latest accomplishment was to be a vocal antivaxxer, lie a lot about the vaccines, and then…come down with Covid-19 virus. He ended up on a ventilator and managed to survive that.

    Catholic cardinal who spread vaccine misinformation now on … https://www.cbsnews.com › news › raymond-leo-cardin…

    Aug 17, 2021 — Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke, Archbishop Emeritus of St. Louis, said in a tweet on August 10 that he recently tested positive for COVID-19.

  6. says

    “can’t simply fade away, they have to constantly pop up in the news, over and over again.”

    Steve Bannon has a very popular (among the 74 million wackos) podcast. He is vastly better known and influential than you are. That’s not at all a good thing … the point is that you, like all of us, live in an epistemic bubble, and aren’t aware of what’s going on outside of it.

  7. says

    “Anyway bannon might be in jail for the next few years”

    Perhaps, but he has access to very good lawyers (I don’t mean Rudy) and all he needs is one Trumpkin on the jury, or a few Trump appointees on an appeals court.

    Bannon is very intelligent, competent, and effective. He should not be dismissed lightly.

  8. James Fehlinger says

    It’s all wacky mysticism mixed with antediluvian, pre-enlightenment,
    authoritarianism posing as nationalism based upon the writings of an
    obscure French writer named René Guénon from the early 20th century and
    the teachings of one of his followers (and Mussolini adviser) Julius Evola.
    The school of thought is called “Traditionalism”. . .

    Now where have I heard the name “Julius Evola” before?

    Ah, yes. About a decade ago, a contingent of erstwhile “Transhumanists”
    and “Singularitarians” and denizens of Eliezer Yudkowsky’s
    “LessWrong” blog (re)discovered the Right way, led by erstwhile
    Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence[*] public-relations
    chieftain and Web cheerleader Michael Anissimov (among others,
    including Curtis Yarvin a.k.a. “Mencius Moldbug”).

    Evola is quoted on Anissimov’s spin-off blog “MoreRight” (no longer
    available on the Web, and — alas! — excluded from the Wayback Machine’s
    archive. ;-> ).

    (via
    https://amormundi.blogspot.com/2013/09/de-twitterized-privacy-treatise.html )

    ++++++++
    Do you remember the days when Michael Anissimov objected to
    your criticism of the right-wing tendencies of >Hism by
    protesting that he’d been raised as a genu-wine
    San Francisco Bay democrat?

    Now look where he’s ended up:

    http://www.moreright.net/about/
    +-+-
    It grew out of the correspondences among like minded people in late 2012
    who first began their journey studying the findings of modern cognitive science
    on the failings of human reasoning and ended it reading serious 19th century
    gentlemen denouncing democracy.
    +-+-

    http://www.moreright.net/reaction-as-a-return-to-natural-order/
    +-+-
    Reaction as a Return to Natural Order
    Posted on June 10, 2013 by Michael Anissimov

    From Julius Evola, Men Among the Ruins (1953):

    “What is the Right expected to do? While activists of the Left
    are ‘acting’ and carrying forward the process of world subversion,
    is a conservative supposed to refrain from reacting and rather
    to look on, cheer them on, and even help them along the way? . . .”

    Evola said, “My principles are only those that, before the
    French Revolution, every well-born person considered sane and normal.”
    These are principles not only accepted before the French Revolution,
    but over a hundred years after it across large swaths of central
    Europe, particularly Austria, Hungary, and Germany. Observe that
    over the 47 years it existed, from 1871-1918, the German Empire
    received more Nobel Prizes in science than Britain, France, Russia,
    and the United States combined. So, the predominance and success
    of a largely traditional government based on hierarchy and order
    was clearly evident as recently as 95 years ago. . .

    The Reaction is not primarily about opposing anything, but
    offering positive principles for stability and civilizational
    success — governments based on values, not just money; traditional
    principles of hierarchy and authority, which foster order;
    a long-term view based on inter-generational nobility rather than
    four-year election cycles, and so on. Leaders that lead, instead
    of simply following popular opinion. The whole idea is remarkably
    simple, and stood on its own for thousands of years without being
    contrasted with anything else except chaos and anarchy. Reaction
    stands alone, because it is based on what comes naturally. . .
    +-+-

    Love the picture: Lord and Lady Muckety-muck of the Future
    gazing at starships in the sky. Looks like an illustration
    for H. Beam Piper’s Space Viking. Oh, of course —
    it’s supposed to be Dune:
    http://www.moreright.net/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/cropped-dune__atreides_final_by_angelitoon-d37l1yh1.jpg
    [ https://www.deviantart.com/angelitoon/art/Dune-ATREIDES-Final-194138153 ]
    (Lord M. has a nice ass, though!)

    Are we surprised?
    ++++++++

    [*]Now known as the Machine Intelligence Research Institute (MIRI),
    and funded by, among others, Peter Thiel.

    ;->

  9. Walter Solomon says

    Every time Bannon is shown on TV he looks as if he’s in need of a mortician and a few gallons of embalming fluid. I swear I saw pieces of flesh fall off of him.

    It’s also mind-blowing how many facets of 20th century Americana he’s been involved in, from Seinfeld to the Sanctuary II habitat experiment. Sadly, if you plug his name into a movie search directory, quite a few big budget films he has produced pop up.

  10. James Fehlinger says

    Evola said, “My principles are only those that, before the
    French Revolution, every well-born person considered
    sane and normal.”

    “Bertrand Russell Speaks His Mind”
    (Woodrow Wyatt interviews, 1959)
    ++++
    WYATT: Do you think that organized religion’s going
    to go on having the same grip on mankind?

    RUSSELL: I think it depends entirely upon whether
    people solve their social problems or not. I think
    that, uh, if there go on being great wars and great
    oppressions, and many people leading very unhappy
    lives, probably religion will go on, because I’ve
    observed that the belief in the goodness of God is
    inversely proportional to the evidence. When there’s
    no evidence for it at all, people believe it; and
    when things are going well and you might believe it,
    they don’t. So I think that if people solve
    their social problems, religion will die out. But,
    on the other hand, if they don’t, I don’t think it
    will. Now you can get illustrations for that in the
    past. In the eighteenth century, when things were
    quiet, a great many educated people were
    freethinkers. Well, then came the French Revolution,
    and certainly English aristocrats came to the
    conclusion that freethought led to the guillotine,
    and so they dropped it and they all became deeply
    religious, and you got Victorianism. And the same
    thing again happened with the Russian Revolution.
    The Russian Revolution terrified people, and they
    thought that unless they believed in God their property
    would be confiscated. And so they believed in him.
    So that, I think you’ll find that these social
    upheavals are very good for religion.
    ++++

    From Oscar Wilde’s last public success, before he fell afoul
    of “the ordinary decencies of family life”:
    ++++
    Lady Bracknell: . . .Mr. Worthing, I confess I feel somewhat bewildered
    by what you have just told me. To be born, or at any rate bred, in a hand-bag,
    whether it had handles or not, seems to me to display a contempt for the
    ordinary decencies of family life that reminds one of the worst excesses
    of the French Revolution. And I presume you know what that unfortunate
    movement led to!

    . . .

    Algernon: Oh! I killed Bunbury this afternoon.
    I mean poor Bunbury died this afternoon.

    Lady Bracknell: What did he die of?

    Algernon: Bunbury? Oh, he was quite exploded.

    Lady Bracknell: Exploded! Was he the victim of a revolutionary outrage?
    I was not aware that Mr. Bunbury was interested in social legislation.
    If so, he is well punished for his morbidity. . .
    ++++

    ;->

  11. Walter Solomon says

    Correction: I meant to write Biosphere 2. Sanctuary II is Thanos’s ship which is appropriate in a way since Bannon is arguably more evil.

  12. birgerjohansson says

    Europe is full of trivial little fascists that have read obsolete ideas by some ancient writer and elecated it to holy scripture status. Steve Bannon is only relevant because of his big following of like-minded would-be blackshirts.

  13. unclefrogy says

    i did not know any of this but it does not really surprise me very much he does have the look of an old parish priest about him.
    The only solace if it is solace i can take from this is that the corruption of this really smart and competent is working against the long term success of his visions of a new feudalism.
    His corruption and conceit is what will put him back in prison regardless of what comes out of his “testimony” (lies) in front of the Committee

  14. Nemo says

    Yeah, I’m surprised some haven’t heard this before.

    AFAIK Bill Barr comes from a similar viewpoint.

  15. Nemo says

    @birgerjohansson #14:

    Steve Bannon is only relevant because of his big following of like-minded would-be blackshirts.

    “Doubleshirts”.

  16. cartomancer says

    Wight Supremacists always were a weird bunch.

    Also, the Middle Ages just didn’t work like that. As anyone would know who has actually read any of their literature. Medieval Christians were perhaps the fiercest critics of corruption and greed within their church hierarchy, and the distinctive democratic institutions of modern government originate with Medieval attempts to rein in absolute autocratic power. Medieval people were every bit as divided, idiosyncratic and varied as modern people when it came to ideas of how to run things.

  17. rrutis1 says

    Doesn’t autodidact mean self taught? And doesn’t that imply something was learned? It doesn’t sound like he really learned much. Then again, I’d be a fool to believe that Bannon actually believes in anything except that he deserves wealth and power.

  18. simonhadley says

    Spoiler alert: Most of today’s fascists are some form of Christo-fascist. They have to get their philosophy from somewhere, right?

  19. chrislawson says

    @22–

    And yet it’s amazing how many atheists will align themselves with the Christofascist agenda at the faintest whiff of progressive discourse.

  20. Lofty says

    @23, not surprising at all. Those atheists just want themselves in control instead of some mythical figure. Simple power swap.

  21. chrislawson says

    I don’t really expect historical literacy or ideological coherence from Bannon, but it’s still funny to see how badly he and his ilk mangle their history. First of all, why anyone would want to return to the political structures that led to the Crusades is beyond me. I guess if you’re a pitiless sociopath it might make sense, but they forget that by the time the Knights Templar were destroyed for internal European political reasons, the Crusades were already falling to pieces. There were no mainland Crusader states or even cities left. There’s a reason the Templars, founded in Jerusalem, were holed up in Malta developing trade and banking roles because there was no longer much value in being a military order.

    Most of all, I am quite certain that had Bannon been around at the time, he would have been one of those royal advisors conspiring to destroy the Templars. I mean, here we have Philip IV of France, charismatic but vapid, ruthless egotistical and flagrantly dishonest, obsessed with concentrating power in his own hands at all costs, responding to all efforts at diplomacy and negotiation with contempt and calculated insults (even within his own immediate family), and willing to traffic in preposterously malignant conspiracy theories and confessions under torture just so that he could get out of repaying his recklessly accrued debts to Jews and Templars. The extent of Philip’s moral corruption can be measured by the fact that after expelling the Jews from France so that he could default on his debt and seize their wealth, he took over the loans owed to them by his own subjects and enlarged his retinue of royal guardians so he could send them out as debt collectors. Can anyone imagine a mediaeval Bannon taking a principled stand for the already-diminished Templars when he could be grifting for Philip?

  22. birgerjohansson says

    Anyway, far-right kooks tend to have a lot of weird ideas, just like Heinrich.
    But- unlike old skull insignia boy – Bannon does not have any instincts to sacrifice himself for the cause/ race/whatever. If he is ever facing a long prison term he will sing like a bird to save himself.

  23. jrkrideau says

    This ideology is now not only Dugin’s construction but also the view that informs many right-wing thinkers like Putin, Bannon and Trump.

    Here is an interview with Dugin. He not talking about those “Traditionalist” ideas except to say that Western analysis does not apply to Russia. If his work has affected Bannon, it probably means that Bannon did not understand him. Trump appears to have formed as a result of an abusive farther not an ideology.

    Putin may well been influenced by Dugin. He is well-read and has been known to quote 19th & early 20th C Russian political philosophers. He,also, has been known to refer to Kipling’s The Jungle Book.

    BTW Dugin & Putin are, if anything, Russian Orthodox. I doubt that weird Catholic ideologies have much appeal.

    Interview with Alexander Dugin

    @25 chrislawson
    Exactly. King Arthur ruled Britain, no one ever bathed and everyone knew the World was flat.

  24. says

    Bannon as “Rasputin”? The best analogy I’ve heard is cockroach, surviving no matter what gets sprayed on him. He’s Trump’s equivalent of Karl Rove, just not a blossom.

    “Rah, rah, Steve Bannon / Leader of the Q-Anon”

    Holy crap, did I just say that?

  25. kayden says

    “This ideology is now not only Dugin’s construction but also the view that informs many right-wing thinkers like Putin, Bannon and Trump.”
    Nah, Trump has no ideology except love of self.

  26. chrislawson says

    davidc1–

    Yes, sorry about the error. The Templars moved their HQ to Cyprus, not Malta.

  27. chrislawson says

    Jim Balter@29–

    Very depressing reading, that. But let’s not forget that the reason these autocrats are winning is at least partly because the Western powers, who are supposed to represent democracy, are willing to throw entire nations into the mincer just to keep a dozen or so of their billionaires happy.

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