How Bannon Wins: Scare the Moderates

The psychological operations practiced by Bannon, whether by instinct or guile, are the kind that undermine the faith of good people in their fellow citizens.

Almost beside the point now is Mr. Trump, an impulse-driven gasbag, braggart, and bully, thoroughly unqualified to be president. Now that he’s in office he is every bit as out of his league as he was easily predicted to be, and is clearly unhappy to be where he is. He’s like the proverbial dog who caught the bus, and would never last a year of his presidency without close and canny support.

It is Steve Bannon who is, for the moment, running the executive branch; Bannon who is a noted phobe with several deep-seated irrational fears and a messianic urge to destroy the comity of cultures and religions; Bannon who, through Breitbart News (among others) systematically sowed fake news throughout the campaign and election seasons; Bannon who has reaped the reward. The reward is a seat at the psychological controls of a man who is as easy to drive as a bumper car.

While Trump distracts himself tweeting his outrage over everything that seems to diminish him (crowd sizes, judges’ decisions, negative polls, any criticism at all), Bannon and his minion Stephen Miller, with continued control of Breitbart News and 24-hour support from Fox News, are employing classic PSYOP tactics, especially baiting and provoking. Whether they are doing it by cunning or by instinct is open to question, but the effects are the same. Two easy examples: first, sending out an implausibly amateurish executive order on immigration, then dialing it back slightly and admitting a bit of disorganization, all the while decrying the ensuing protests and attacking the media both for unfair coverage of the executive order and sympathetic coverage of the protests; second, injecting the foul provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos into the all-too sensitive corpus of U.C. Berkeley, hoping that he would attract the black-hooded anarchist crowd to break some things — and he did. Reward!

Again, whether these maneuvers are carefully plotted or just part of a messy git-er-done campaign, Bannon knows full well beforehand what the effects will be: confusion, dismay, outrage, and a certain amount of overreaction, which becomes effective poison in the hands of the alt-right media. And he must greatly relish all of it, because it’s what he had hoped to produce all along.

This is how Bannon wins. These PSYOP tactics eventually take their toll. When seeing a black-hooded far-left/anarchist thug sucker-punch a Nazi, decent people get that damned if you do, damned if you don’t feeling. (Neither the Nazi nor the thug is similarly constrained.) Smart, instinctive operators like Bannon and Yiannopoulos play the Nazi supporters against supporters of the anarchist thug, baiting the thugs, then accusing the left of violence until more and more of the decent people in the middle begin to be convinced that they need better protection and more government authority to deal with the dangerous left.

The path to authoritarianism is well-marked. History is full of examples, and it can happen even in a society with well-established checks and balances. All you have to do is frighten enough people into wanting the government to save them.

— Doug Logan

@rhumblines