There’s a lot of talk about Steve Bannon being the intellectual force behind the Trump administration. With Harvard Business School and Goldman Sachs on his resume, he’s certainly a smart guy. He’s also profoundly dangerous if you believe in things like, say, the Constitution, human rights, or basic human decency.
I’m always fascinated with the intellectual lives of public figures, but when Bannon named dropped obscure neo-fascist crazy man Julius Evola the other day, I got really interested in what, exactly, this man so close to the president reads.
What Bannon reads, or claims to read, can help us understand what he believes, but it can also tell us how he wants to be seen. For example, according to various sources, he’s a voracious reader. I don’t know if that’s true. I haven’t been able to find much on what he’s actually read. But even if it isn’t, it tells me he wants to be seen (unlike the President) as someone who reads.
Below is what I’ve been able to gather from various news sources. If you know more, please get in touch.
The Art of War, Sun Tzu – Shocker, defense hawk ultra-nationalist likes classic text of military theory.
The Fourth Turning: An American Prophecy – What the Cycles of History Tell Us About America’s Next Rendezvous with Destiny, William Strauss and Neil Howe – Every Bannon article mentions his interest in this book by two amateur historians that posits that history moved in 80-100 year cycles of birth, life, and destruction and rebirth. Guess where Bannon thinks we are right now.
Anti-Fragile, Nicholas Nassim Taleb – Funny enough, this is one of the few Taleb books I haven’t read. While Black Swan and Fooled by Randomness diagnose the phenomenon of “black swans” and how our failure to understand them hurts us, Anti-Fragile is (so I understand) more of a guide of how to act in a world of Black Swans. Bannon apparently hands this out to aides. Trump is pretty much the quintessential black swan phenomenon, so I went ahead and order this today.
The Best and the Brightest, David Halberstam – Bannon was seen reading this history of the Vietnam War in an airport around Christmas. I haven’t read this, but my understanding is Best and Brightest focuses on the errors made by Washington experts in executing the Vietnam strategy. Interesting read for a man who would weeks later orchestrate the disastrous Muslim travel ban.
Bhagavad Gita, — One associate from Bannon’s days in the Hollywood recalls his interest in the concept of dharma, or one’s role in life. Bannon found this concept in his reading of this classic Hindu text. You could make the argument that Bannon’s interest int he cycles of history can be seen in his interest in both this book of karmic rebirth, and the Fourth Turning. Or it could just be random. There’s a whiff of traditionalism in his interest in this stuff, but it isn’t strong enough to really make the case.
Reagan’s War, Peter Schweizer – A Reagan biography focusing on the President’s anti-communism. Bannon made this into the film In the Face of Evil and Schweizer would go on to work for Bannon’s Government Accountability Institute and write Clinton Cash.
Time To Get Tough, Donald Trump – Trump’s campaign book from 2015. I assume Bannon read it before gushing over it on the Brietbart site.
I’m not going to list here all the right wing nut jobs he’s praised on Breitbart, just the most interesting or important
Michael Anton – the author of the piece that is viewed by many as the best intellectual defense of voting for Trump “The Flight 93 Election”. During the campaign, Anton was so worried about being outed as a Trump supporter he wrote under the pen name Publius Decius Mus. Now, he works in the White House.
Julius Evola – We don’t know whether or not Bannon has read Evola, but we do know he’s familiar with his ideas. Evola was a no joke self-described fascist and one of the leading writers of post-war fascist thought. He was also bonkers sex magic practitioner. Evola is best known for Revolt Against the Modern World. I’m not going to link to his books because dude is actually really bad news, but here’s a page I put together of resources on post-war fascism and neo-Nazism.
Alexander Dugin – Called by some the theoretician of Putin’s Russia, Dugin is another dodgy character that we know Bannon is familiar with, but has perhaps not read. Dugin is, like Evola, really, seriously, a fascist. Like it is not up for debate. His most famous work is The Fourth Political Theory. I’m not linking to that garbage either.
Jean Raspail — Bannon has also repeatedly name dropped Camp Of Saints, a novel by Jean Raspail “about the end of the white race” through mass immigration to Europe. Yeah you can buy this on amazon, but I don’t link to racist novels.