Bannon to Enter White House, Voters Ambivalent Over his Alt-Right Connections
The appointment of Stephen Bannon to chief strategist by President-elect Donald Trump has renewed a conversation about white-supremacy within the United States.
Bannon, previous executive chair of Breitbart News and more recent chief executive officer of the Trump Campaign, has been heavily implicated with the alt-right, an internet-based radical white nationalist movement.
“We’re the platform for the alt-right,” Bannon told journalist Sarah Posner earlier this year in July when speaking about Breitbart News, the popular conservative news and opinion site which came under his leadership in 2012.
While there is no concrete evidence showing that Bannon himself identifies as a white supremacist, Time magazine has written that Breitbart is, “a website that has pushed racist, sexist, xenophobic and anti-Semitic material into the vein of the alt right.”
Through his appointment of Bannon, Trump is potentially embracing the radical readership of Breitbart, something that has ignited both fear and celebration in the electorate.
Many took to social media following the statement of appointment to express their reactions, among them was Mike Cernovich, an alt-right social media personality and author, who tweeted, “Steve Bannon as chief counsel. This is amazing. The ride is getting started!”
There was also a strong response of distaste and fear upon the announcement, including Independent candidate, Evan McMullin, who tweeted hours after the appointment, “Saying ‘stop it’ to racist attacks means little when you name white supremacist darling Steve Bannon chief strategist in the very same day.”
Others took it a step further, taking to the streets to protest. The People’s Power Association of New York congregated in Columbus Circle among holiday shoppers, tourists, and a strong police presence this past Saturday to protest white supremacy in an indirect response to Bannon’s appointment.
The protest featured chants, stories, and protest songs against a backdrop of signs and banners, including a large poster that stretched across the ground in front of the protesters, crossing out white supremacy with long strokes of red paint.
Protester Chelsea Gelwarg said, “I am out here today because we have been organizing for the day, and black lives matter, and we have a President-elect who is surrounding himself with a group of people who are going to really challenge everything we’ve been fighting for.” She listed islamophobia, xenophobia, and racism among her main concerns.
Organization did not end there, the Southern Poverty Law Center, began a petition against the appointment of Bannon, saying he, “has no business working in the White House.” A Facebook post circulating the petition — when last checked — had received over 52k shares on the social networking site.
Sarika Andavolu, a third year Fordham University student, spoke about her personal feelings following Bannon’s appointment, “I think that the disenfranchised communities have a lot to be fearful of with Trump being President, and I think appointing someone who not only endorses those ideologies, but has had a really long history of implementing those in the work that he has done in this country is really, I mean, to put it lightly, triggering.”
Bannon’s history of endorsing and creating far-right content can be traced through Breitbart and his direction of various documentaries, including one on Sarah Palin called, “The Undefeated.”
While operating at the head of Breitbart News, Bannon collaborated with Milo Yiannopoulos, technology editor at Breitbart, and a vehement adversary to feminism, immigration, and political-correctness. Today,Yiannopoulos has been permanently banned from Twitter for intense harassment of SNL comedian Leslie Jones, but still operates as one of the most recognizable faces of the alt-right.
Today Twitter has come under fire for the suspension of a number of alt-right accounts, many of the white nationalists arguing that it violates their right First Amendment right to free speech. Twitter has responded citing their content rules that “prohibit targeted abuse and harassment,” saying, “we will suspend accounts that violate this policy.”
Cited as one of the most media-savvy of the alt-right leaders by The Washington Post, Richard Spencer — president of a the National Policy Institute, an alt-right white nationalist think tank, and editor and founder of the Radix Journal — who once finished a speech saying, “Hail Trump. Hail our people. Hail victory,” has had his once-verified Twitter account suspended.
In the wake of his suspension Spencer commented, “I and a number of other people who just got banned were not even trolling…I was using Twitter just like I always used Twitter: to give people some updates and maybe comment on a news story here and there.” He further elaborated that the suspension of his account among many others was a, “coordinated effort to just wipe out alt-right Twitter.”
While alt-right accounts continue to be suspended by Twitter, Breitbart continuea to defend alt right supporters, including a “#FreeMilo” in their Twitter bio.
Many continue to raise questions about Bannon, and thus Trump’s connection to the alt-right, despite Trump’s disavowment of the movement, saying, “It’s not a group I want to energize, and if they are energized, I want to look into it and find out why.”
He may not have to look much further than his own Twitter account, where many have tweeted him about Bannon’s connections to the alt-right movement, including Twitter user, Jeff Tollerson, who tweeted, “If @realdonaldtrump truly disavows the alt right as he says then he would disavow his right-hand Man Steve Bannon.”