Steve Bannon: A Reading List

US-POLITICS-TRUMP

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.

Other Thinkers

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 RaspailBannon 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.

My Idiosyncratic Guide to Books on Postwar Fascism

I’m a little puzzled myself at how many books on post-war fascism I’ve read. What’s the allure? Perhaps its a fear that these ideas, which never went away, would one day resurface into the mainstream? Perhaps its trying to grapple with how anyone can be filled with this kind of hate and paranoia?  However you view it, I thought it’d be worth while to collect reviews I have written on various books on the post-war fascism / Neo-Nazism.

Dreamer of the Day: Francis Parker Yockey and the Postwar Fascist International, Kevin Coogan — A biography of Yockey, a leading post war anti-semite and fascists, and a capsule history of post-war esoteric fascism

Against the Modern World: Traditionalism and the Secret International History of the Twentieth Century, Mark Sedwick — An academic history of the “tradionalist” religious movement, of which many of the more esoteric fascists of the post-war era have been enamored.

 Black Sun: Aryan Cults, Esoteric Nazism, and the Politics of Identity, Nicholas Clark — An overview of the major currents in post-war “esoteric nazism” i.e. the most out there crazy of the bigots.

Blood In The Face: Ku Klux Klan, Aryan Nations, Nazi Skinheads and the Rise of New White Culture, James Ridgeway — Good overview of the history of neo-nazi movement and other hate groups in the United States circa the 1990s.

Kill All Normies: Online Culture Wars From 4Chan And Tumblr To Trump And The Alt-Right Angel Nagle — Excellent look at the rise of the online “Alt-right”

Militias in America 1995: A Reading and Resources, Institute for Alternative Journalism — A collection of journalism written in the aftermath of the Oklahoma city bombing and the rise of the Militia movement.

Soundtracks to the White Revolution : White Supremacist Assaults on Youth Music Subcultures Devin Burghart, editor A brief overview of the white power / neo-nazi movements infiltration of various underground music scenes.

The Silent Brotherhood: The Chilling Inside Story of America’s Violent, Anti-Government Militia Movement, Kevin Flynn and Gary Gerhardt Story of White power criminal gang “the Order” who were responsible for a string of bank robberies and the death of liberal radio personality Alan Berg.

BONUS!

Adolf Hitler, Magic Yoga Spaceman — My friend V. Charm’s review of Black Sun: Aryan Cults, Esoteric Nazism, and the Politics of Identity by Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke. Charm is a much better writer than me, you’ll enjoy this.

Adolf Hitler, magic yoga spaceman

 

So here’s a first (but hopefully not last!) guest piece from good friend, and great writer, V. Charm. 

Black Sun: Aryan Cults, Esoteric Nazism and the Politics of Identity, by Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke, New York University Press (2002).

Few things are more tedious in political discussion than accusations that some politician or party is analogous to the German National Socialist Workers Party, more commonly known as the Nazis. Intended as the ultimate discrediting putdown, it almost always does less damage to the accused than to the accuser, whose use of the term reveals both a lack of imagination and a total lack of perspective. The Republicans are not Nazis, the Democrats are not Nazis, Rupert Murdoch is not a Nazi and neither is George Soros. Case closed.

But what about people who actually claim the label for themselves? Ever since the Third Reich’s total military defeat and subsequent identification as the most evil regime in human history, anyone publicly self-identifying as a Nazi has been seen as detestable and most likely insane. As Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke reveals in this fascinating, eye-popping study, “insane” doesn’t begin to describe it.

Goodrick-Clarke’s book explores the night garden of fascist yogis, fancy dress SS officers, Wotan-loving armed robbers, and Satanist science fiction fans who came to identify with Hitler and modified his beliefs to suit new circumstances in ways that would have been baffling to many vintage 1930s fascists.

Take James Madole, crash-helmeted fuhrer of the National Renaissance Party and “the father of post-war occult fascism.” Haranguing crowds in New York City throughout the 1960s and 1970s flanked by his dimestore stormtroopers, Madole was no common bigot: an avid sci-fi aficionado, he blended Theosophy, Hinduism, and Satanism in his ideology, creating a funhouse jumble of swastika armbands, Baphomet-adorned altars, and praise for India’s caste system.

Or take David Myatt, a Briton brought up in East Africa and Indonesia, who was attracted as a teenager to the anti-immigrant British Movement, but who quickly veered off the path of straightforward racist politics to found the Order of Nine Angles, a Nazi Satanic cult constantly in conflict with other Satanists for openly endorsing the practice of human sacrifice.

Some of the names in the book, like Colin Jordan and William Butler, will be familiar to anyone who’s followed far-right racist politics in the Western world, but Goodrick-Clarke digs much deeper, finding not only sideshow freaks like Madole and Myatt, but philosophers like Julius Evola, Savitri Devi, and Miguel Serrano, whose theories continue to exert a strong influence on the far right around the world.

Publicity Nazis like George Lincoln Rockwell may have been little more than clowns, but Evola, Devi, and Serrano were something different: genuine intellectuals and original thinkers, their contribution to post-1945 Hitlerism is likely to be more baleful for the world than that of a drunken skinhead throwing a rock at a synagogue. The skinhead goes to jail and is despised by everyone, but the ideas of the philosophers can burrow into mainstream political parties in places like Italy, and into the thought of nominally apolitical artists and writers attracted to the exotic discussions of Hindu theology and the Nietzschean rejection of contemporary social mores.

“Black Sun” is an important book that performs a valuable service by collecting information not readily available elsewhere, even today, nine years after it was published (Wikipedia, the first stop for any round of Internet spelunking session, contains stubs for many of the people mentioned in the book, and lacks entries on many others). Every chapter, from Nazi Paganism to Nazi UFO cults, could have made its own book, which is the only complaint I have: what “Black Sun” gains in breadth, it loses in depth. I found myself wanting more than a few mentions of the Weathermen-inspired National Socialist Liberation Front, the Nazi-Satanist Order of the Black Ram, or the Nazi-Muslim Greenshirts, who met at a Polish-Lithuanian mosque (!) in Brooklyn in the 1960s.

That aside, this is essential reading for anyone who wants to understand the bizarre appeal of National Socialism since 1945, and for anyone tempted to think it died in the bunker with Hitler.

(V.Charm)

I also reviewed this book here. 

Review: Sedgwick’s Against the Modern World: Traditionalism and the Secret Intellectual History of the Twentieth Century

Ed note: this review was written years ago for a now defunct livejournal account.

Against the Modern World: Traditionalism and the Secret Intellectual History of the Twentieth Century

Mark Sedgwick

I never said I had refined tastes. Anytime a book has got “secret” and “intellectual history” in the subtitle, I am definitely interested. Hell, I’ll even overlook pretty poor writing if the subject matter is worthwhile.

Traditionalism is an interesting idea. Basically it’s a combination of the sort of standard new age idea that all the world’s religions share a single basic kernel of truth coupled with a fascistic hatred for the corruption of the modern capitalistic world and a distrust for the average person. Add in a bunch of masons and western sufis, and it makes for an interesting mix.

As with most of these fringe intellectual movements, there’s a kernel of truth in their somewhere (indeed fairly mainstream thinkers like Huston Smith could be aligned with teh movement). But, as is often the case, that kernel is deeply buried under horrific politics (Julius Evola, a writer some closely aligned with the movement has been a major figure in post-war fascism) and bad personal behavior (you get the whiff of personality cults surrounding a number of the major players here).

All in all, its an interesting if ill defined movement. And this is an interesting read — if out-there intellectual movements are your thing. They’re definitely my thing and I enjoyed it. That said, it need to be noted that the writing is pretty poor. Sedwick identifies far to many people as “pivotal to the history of traditionalist thought” and way to many ideas are “key”.

Paragraphs tend to wander and the point can sometime be hard to pull out. However, as anyone who read much on a fringes knows, poor writing is the price we often pay for coverage of the murkier edges of intellectual life.

Recommended for the enthusiast.

Review: Goodrich-Clarke’s Black Sun

Black Sun: Aryan Cults, Esoteric Nazism, and the Politics of Identity
Nicholas Goodrich-Clarke

An overview of Nazi inspired right wing lunatics of the post World War II era, covering the heavy hitters and some lesser known individuals. It is a very well researched account of world for which it is difficult to get information, but it is also dry, and skims too lightly over the biographies of these people for my taste. While I think it is important to seriously engage with lunatic ideas about Nazis in Antarctica, I don’t necessarily want to read fifty pages about it. I’d recommend it for the person deeply interested in the lunatic fringe of the right, but perhaps not for the average reader.

A thought on the substance of the book: Much of post WWIII Nazism is enraptured with a mystical religious understanding of Hitler and Nazism. There is much talk in this book about Hitler as a Hindu avatar, Hitler as an alien intelligence, Hitler as a blah blah blah.. What all of this does it put distance between the reality of Hitler as the mastermind of one of the greatest genocides in history and the “theoretical” Hitler of Julius Evola’s books. Goodrick-Clarke hints at this, but is too much of an even keel academic to say what needs to be said – by placing a mystical veneer on the man’s action, you can attempt to cloud the history and make the man more than a murder. This mysticalization of Hitler and Nazism is a dangerous trend in modern ultra right politics, and one that needs to be combated with the cold hard truth that Hitler was just a sociopath, nothing more.

Recommended for the enthusiast*

 

*Though it feels weird to use “enthusiast” here. Note that I loathe fascism, racism and antisemitism and actively fight it. Knowing it is part of defeating it.

Review: Black Sun by Goodrich-Clarke

Black Sun: Aryan Cults, Esoteric Nazism, and the Politics of Identity

Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke

This is the first time two people associated with Fox Hill are writing a review of the same book, and, of course, its got to be a book about esoteric Hitler cults. We really aren’t this weird people – honest.

Charm laid out the nature of this book well in his review. It is an overview of Nazi inspired right wing lunatics of the post World War II era, covering the heavy hitters and some lesser known individuals. It is a very well researched account of world for which it is difficult to get information, but it is also dry, and skims too lightly over the biographies of these people for my taste. While I think it is important to seriously engage with lunatic ideas about Nazis in Antarctica, I don’t necessarily want to read fifty pages about it. I’d recommend it for the person deeply interested in the lunatic fringe of the right, but perhaps not for the average reader.

A thought on the substance of the book: Much of post WWIII Nazism is enraptured with a mystical religious understanding of Hitler and Nazism. There is much talk in this book about Hitler as a Hindu avatar, Hitler as an alien intelligence, Hitler as a blah blah blah.. What all of this does it put distance between the reality of Hitler as the mastermind of one of the greatest genocides in history and the “theoretical” Hitler of Julius Evola’s books. Goodrick-Clarke hints at this, but is too much of an even keel academic to say what needs to be said – by placing a mystical veneer on the man’s action, you can attempt to cloud the history and make the man more than a murder. This mysticalization of Hitler and Nazism is a dangerous trend in modern ultra right politics, and one that needs to be combated with the cold hard truth that Hitler was just a sociopath, nothing more.

– Sean

Adolf Hitler, magic yoga spaceman

Black Sun: Aryan Cults, Esoteric Nazism and the Politics of Identity, by Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke, New York University Press (2002).

Few things are more tedious in political discussion than accusations that some politician or party is analogous to the German National Socialist Workers Party, more commonly known as the Nazis. Intended as the ultimate discrediting putdown, it almost always does less damage to the accused than to the accuser, whose use of the term reveals both a lack of imagination and a total lack of perspective. The Republicans are not Nazis, the Democrats are not Nazis, Rupert Murdoch is not a Nazi and neither is George Soros. Case closed.

But what about people who actually claim the label for themselves? Ever since the Third Reich’s total military defeat and subsequent identification as the most evil regime in human history, anyone publicly self-identifying as a Nazi has been seen as detestable and most likely insane. As Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke reveals in this fascinating, eye-popping study, “insane” doesn’t begin to describe it.

Goodrick-Clarke’s book explores the night garden of fascist yogis, fancy dress SS officers, Wotan-loving armed robbers, and Satanist science fiction fans who came to identify with Hitler and modified his beliefs to suit new circumstances in ways that would have been baffling to many vintage 1930s fascists.

Take James Madole, crash-helmeted fuhrer of the National Renaissance Party and “the father of post-war occult fascism.” Haranguing crowds in New York City throughout the 1960s and 1970s flanked by his dimestore stormtroopers, Madole was no common bigot: an avid sci-fi aficionado, he blended Theosophy, Hinduism, and Satanism in his ideology, creating a funhouse jumble of swastika armbands, Baphomet-adorned altars, and praise for India’s caste system.

Or take David Myatt, a Briton brought up in East Africa and Indonesia, who was attracted as a teenager to the anti-immigrant British Movement, but who quickly veered off the path of straightforward racist politics to found the Order of Nine Angles, a Nazi Satanic cult constantly in conflict with other Satanists for openly endorsing the practice of human sacrifice.

Some of the names in the book, like Colin Jordan and William Butler, will be familiar to anyone who’s followed far-right racist politics in the Western world, but Goodrick-Clarke digs much deeper, finding not only sideshow freaks like Madole and Myatt, but philosophers like Julius Evola, Savitri Devi, and Miguel Serrano, whose theories continue to exert a strong influence on the far right around the world.

Publicity Nazis like George Lincoln Rockwell may have been little more than clowns, but Evola, Devi, and Serrano were something different: genuine intellectuals and original thinkers, their contribution to post-1945 Hitlerism is likely to be more baleful for the world than that of a drunken skinhead throwing a rock at a synagogue. The skinhead goes to jail and is despised by everyone, but the ideas of the philosophers can burrow into mainstream political parties in places like Italy, and into the thought of nominally apolitical artists and writers attracted to the exotic discussions of Hindu theology and the Nietzschean rejection of contemporary social mores.

“Black Sun” is an important book that performs a valuable service by collecting information not readily available elsewhere, even today, nine years after it was published (Wikipedia, the first stop for any round of Internet spelunking session, contains stubs for many of the people mentioned in the book, and lacks entries on many others). Every chapter, from Nazi Paganism to Nazi UFO cults, could have made its own book, which is the only complaint I have: what “Black Sun” gains in breadth, it loses in depth. I found myself wanting more than a few mentions of the Weathermen-inspired National Socialist Liberation Front, the Nazi-Satanist Order of the Black Ram, or the Nazi-Muslim Greenshirts, who met at a Polish-Lithuanian mosque (!) in Brooklyn in the 1960s.

That aside, this is essential reading for anyone who wants to understand the bizarre appeal of National Socialism since 1945, and for anyone tempted to think it died in the bunker with Hitler.

(V.Charm)