Breitbart in the White House

You’ll notice I’m not doing the Election Day + posts any more. It’s been a week, and I don’t want to let the tragedy of Trump colonize any more of my brain. I’ve done a pretty good job distracting myself this past week. I still don’t want to see, or hear, Trump directly — hence I didn’t watch the hour long 60 Minutes special on Sunday night. I know the media has to cover him. And I know that his supporters are interested in seeing him and his family. I am not.

But I will write about certain aspects of what is unfolding — today, about the appointment of Steve Bannon as senior strategist. For those of you unfamiliar with Breitbart news, it’s the beacon of what had been considered alt-right media. That is, Breitbart news deals in speculation, paranoia, anti-feminist, anti-immigrant, anti-gay and anti-Semitic rants. Breitbart news fed the speculation that Hillary Clinton was sick and unfit for the presidency, and that President Obama is a secret Kenyan Muslim who was never a legitimate president. Breitbart promotes the angry white America belief that black men and women killed by police were engaged in wrongdoing and deserved to be shot — and that law abiding white Americans are the real victims of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Basically, anything that feeds angry white America’s fear of “the other” can be fueled by Breitbart news. Their attention to fact is non-existent, stretching to making up entire story lines and “data” to prove their points. Breitbart news is financed by the Mercer family, who brought KellyAnne Conway into the Trump orbit. There is speculation — not documented — that Trump funneled money into Breitbart in exchange for positive coverage.

Now, although Trump has yet to get around to arranging for a traditional White House press pool, he’s placed Steve Bannon in a position of equality with Reince Priebus, the new Chief of Staff, and brought Bannon into the White House. Some Trump supporters, like Sean Hannity, are calling for news outlets critical of Trump — like the New York Times — to be denied press credentials entirely. Trump has threatened to “open up libel laws”, whatever that means, so that he can sue media outlets who challenge him. All of this is bad, very bad, for those of us who care about a free press and care about the truth.

I’ll be interested to see, over time, if Breitbart and its angry scion Steve Bannon care more about Trump, or more about serving as our national wrecking ball. Bannon is vehemently opposed to the Republican establishment, figures like Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell. Right now Bannon is holding his fire. But when you make a deal with the devil, sometimes the devil turns on you too. I’ll be interested to see at what point, if ever, Bannon puts his own ambition first and goes rogue on Trump.

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