Authoritarianism experts and national security analysts are seriously disturbed by top White House adviser Steve Bannon’s newfound position on the National Security Council (NSC) principals committee, which further deepened the influence of his ethno-nationalist ideology on the Trump administration.
Multiple reports have also named Bannon as the driving force behind a series of hard-right executive orders from President Donald Trump’s desk, most notably the widely criticized Muslim ban order. The ban was “obviously an Islamophobic dog whistle,” according to Cas Mudde, an associate professor at the University of Georgia who studies radical right wing movements, and indicative of Bannon’s enmity toward Islam as a whole.
“Islam is not a religion of peace. Islam is a religion of submission. Islam means submission,” Bannon said.
Bannon has largely followed up on Trump’s populist campaign message by delivering nativist and populist policy instructions without bothering to consult the National Security Council staff.
“He is running a cabal, almost like a shadow NSC,” an unnamed intelligence official told Foreign Policy. The official had originally kept an open mind about the incoming Trump administration, but FP reported he is now “deeply troubled by how things are being run.”
The directness of such decrees and the lack of input from advisers has done little to mitigate concerns that the Trump administration exhibits authoritarian tendencies.
Now Bannon’s malevolent world view — he is the person most responsible for turning Breitbart into a platform for the white nationalist “alt-right” — will have even greater influence over pressing matters of national security. Both the Muslim ban and Bannon’s prior remarks suggest he will use his NSC post to advocate belligerence to the global Muslim community.
In 2010, Bannon told Western Word Radio with Avi Davis, a right wing online radio station, his views on Islam. “Islam is not a religion of peace. Islam is a religion of submission. Islam means submission,” Bannon said.
Islam is a religion of over 1.6 billion people with no central authority, leaving it the subject of rigorous theocratic and philosophical debate by religious scholars and many other members of the global Muslim community. Only fundamentalist radical groups like ISIS or anti-Muslim fear-mongers seem to agree on what they view to be Islam’s clear-cut ideology of violence — a set of values rejected by the vast majority of Muslims across the globe.
Bannon’s ideology is now not only reflected in the president’s executive orders, but also on a panel that dictates American acts of war and peace.
“Bannon’s [worldview] is one of inevitable war,” Mudde told ThinkProgress. “If he honestly believes in this type of view then he doesn’t believe in diplomacy…he believes diplomacy and compromise are signs of weakness and that — in combination with by far the most powerful military in the world — is beyond frightening.”
Bannon’s emnity toward Islam is part of a holistic, nationalist ideology that shares plenty of common ground with the thought of Russian philosopher and uber-nationalist named Aleksandr Dugin, one of the white nationalist movement’s favorite traditionalist thinkers.
Bannon’s words and ideas seldom appear in the media firsthand, but a speech he delivered at the religious right wing Human Dignity Institute in the summer of 2014 revealed some of how he views the world. In his remarks, he spoke of Julius Evola, an Italian traditionalist philosopher who had a hefty influence on the political ideology of Benito Mussolini.
In more recent times, Evola’s ideology has been adopted by Dugin. During his 2014 speech, Bannon suggested Putin had taken on some traditionalist ideology from Dugin, and expressed agreement with some of its principles.
“[W]e the Judeo-Christian West really have to look at what [Putin is] talking about as far as traditionalism goes — particularly the sense of where it supports the underpinnings of nationalism — and I happen to think that the individual sovereignty of a country is a good thing and a strong thing,” said Bannon. “I think strong countries and strong nationalist movements in countries make strong neighbors, and that is really the building blocks that built Western Europe and the United States, and I think it’s what can see us forward.”