Monday, November 21, 2016

Steve Bannon and the Last Crusade

What does Steve Bannon believe in? The only lengthy articulation of his worldview that I know of comes from this 2014 speech. Essentially, Bannon's worldview, as laid out in this interview, seems to have three main pillars:

1. The fruits of capitalism should be more broadly distributed.

2. The West is in a war with radical Islam and must prevail.

3. Secularism contributes to the weakness of the West.

Here's where he talks about Pillar #1, his economic philosophy:
[C]apitalism really generated tremendous wealth. And that wealth was really distributed among a middle class, a rising middle class, people who come from really working-class environments... 
But there’s a strand of capitalism today — two strands of it, that are very disturbing...One is state-sponsored capitalism...The second form of capitalism that I feel is almost as disturbing, is what I call the Ayn Rand or the Objectivist School of libertarian capitalism...It is a capitalism that really looks to make people commodities, and to objectify people...So I think the discussion of, should we put a cap on wealth creation and distribution?... 
The central thing that binds [my movement] together is a center-right populist movement of really the middle class, the working men and women in the world who are just tired of being dictated to by what we call the party of Davos...[T]here are people in New York that feel closer to people in London and in Berlin than they do to people in Kansas and in Colorado, and they have more of this elite mentality that they’re going to dictate to everybody how the world’s going to be run.
This "center-right populism" is basically a cross between FDR, Bernie Sanders, and Ross Douthat. Bannon also lambastes "crony capitalism", and says that he thinks a Judeo-Christian ethic facilitates a more equitable form of capitalism.

Bannon criticizes secularism, which is pretty standard for religious conservatives, and which also reminds me of Ross Douthat. In fact, Bannon's ideas sound a lot like the "reform conservatism" that had been making the intellectual rounds before Trump showed up on the scene.

But the one place where Bannon comes out very strongly against an external enemy is when he talks about radical Islam:
[W]e’re at the very beginning stages of a very brutal and bloody conflict...the people in this room, the people in the church, [need to] bind together and really form what I feel is an aspect of the church fight for our beliefs against this new barbarity that’s starting.. 
[I]t’s a very unpleasant topic, but we are in an outright war against jihadist Islamic fascism. And this war is, I think, metastasizing far quicker than governments can handle it... 
[L]ook at what’s happening in ISIS...That war is expanding and it’s metastasizing to sub-Saharan Africa. We have Boko Haram and other groups that will eventually partner with ISIS in this global war, and it is, unfortunately, something that we’re going to have to face, and we’re going to have to face very quickly...[W]e’re now, I believe, at the beginning stages of a global war against Islamic fascism... 
I believe you should take a very, very, very aggressive stance against radical Islam...If you look back at the long history of the Judeo-Christian West struggle against Islam, I believe that our forefathers kept their stance, and I think they did the right thing. I think they kept it out of the world, whether it was at Vienna, or Tours, or other places… It bequeathed to use the great institution that is the church of the West.
Bannon's view is that radical Islam is attacking the West, and must be defeated by a united Judeo-Christian West.

This is part of a very very long strain of thought. Europeans and Middle Easterners have been fighting each other for basically all of recorded history. Two heavily populated regions, mostly but not completely separated by natural barriers, naturally tend to come into conflict at their borders. These conflicts include a millennium of wars between various Christian and Islamic powers, another millennium of wars between the Greco-Romans and the Persians, and maybe even he Trojan War and the Late Bronze Age Collapse. So this is a clash of civilizations that has been going on essentially forever.

Bannon's call for a "church militant" and a "church of the West" is basically similar to the Holy Leagues that fought the Ottomans in the 1500s. It's not a call to invasion, like the original Crusades, but rather a defensive move. Bannon is calling on the Catholic Church in particular, but also Christianity, Western capitalism, and all other unifying institutions of the West, to act as unifying and motivating forces to fight this struggle.

This is perfectly understandable. Al-Qaeda killed thousands of innocent American civilians on 9/11, and carried out a bunch of other smaller attacks on the West. ISIS has attacked the West a few times, and has horrified the world with its gruesome videos. Barbaric indeed.

But I believe that Bannon fundamentally misunderstands what's going on with radical Islam. Some of the malign energy of al-Qaeda, ISIS, and other radical Islamic groups has been directed against the West and against Christians, yes. But most of it has been directed at other Muslims in Muslim countries. Only a very small part of what we're witnessing is a continuation of the eternal clash between Europe and the Middle East. Most of it is an internal civil war within the Islamic Umma.

Let's look at the main wars currently being fought by radical Islamic forces. These are:

  • Syrian Civil War (~470,000 dead)
  • 2nd Iraqi Civil War (~56,000 dead)
  • Boko Haram Insurgency (~28,000 dead)
  • War in Afghanistan (126,000 dead)
  • Somali Civil War (~500,000 dead)
  • War in Northwest Pakistan (~60,000 dead)
  • Libyan Civil War (~14,000 dead)
  • Yemeni Civil War (~11,000 dead)
  • Sinai Insurgency (~4,500 dead)

This is a lot of dead people - maybe about 2 million in all, counting all the smaller conflicts I didn't list. But almost all of these dead people are Muslims - either radical Islamists, or their moderate Muslim opponents. Compare these death tolls to the radical Islamist terror attacks in the West. 9/11 killed about 3,000. The ISIS attack in Paris killed 130. The death tolls in the West from radical Islam have been three orders of magnitude smaller than the deaths in the Muslim world.

Three orders of magnitude is an almost inconceivable difference in size. What it means is that only a tiny, tiny part of the wars of radical Islam is bleeding over into the West. What we're seeing is not a clash of civilizations, it's a global Islamic civil war. The enemy isn't at the gates of Vienna - it's at the gates of Mosul, Raqqa, and Kabul.

And radical Islam is losing the global Islamic civil war. In Syria and Iraq, ISIS is losing. In Nigeria, Boko Haram is losing. In all of these wars except for possibly Afghanistan, radical Islamic forces have been defeated by moderate Islamic forces.

Sometimes that's because of Western aid to the moderates. But much of it is just because a medievalist regime holds very, very little appeal for the average Muslim in any country. Practically no one wants to live under the sadist, totalitarian control of groups like ISIS. These groups are fierce, but their manpower is small and their popular support is not very large anywhere.

So I think Bannon should relax. Radical Islam will punch itself out. It's a brief, violent outpouring of reaction against internet-borne modernity, and against stagnant and repressive local regimes. It has weak popular appeal, little organization, few adherents, few weapons, and almost no safe territory anywhere on the planet. The Western attempts to help local Muslims defeat radical Islam, which have been largely successful everywhere, have not required a church militant or a Crusading spirit - in fact, they were pretty cheap and low-risk.

Many conservatives also fear that Muslim immigrants will become a fifth column in the U.S., a group with strong anti-American sentiments, committed to destroying the country from within. In fact, nothing like this is happening. Muslim immigrants in the U.S. are marrying out of the faith at increasing rates. The same pressures of modernity that have increased secularism among Jews and Christians are secularizing Muslims in the West. A lot of American Muslims now celebrate Christmas. (A few Muslims in the West, spurred by the incredibly bad example of ISIS, are even converting to Christianity, which just goes to show how radical Islam is backfiring.)

In other words, secularism isn't a dagger in the heart of Western resistance to radical Islam. It's one of the key forces that will eventually cause Muslims in the West to assimilate into broader Western society - just as it has done for non-Orthodox Jews, and many others.

So I think Steve Bannon should rethink his view on the war against radical Islam. If you think secularism is bad for society, fine. But we definitely don't need to transform our society in order to resist a radical Islamic menace. In fact, the menace was always mostly a danger to other people, far away. And they're whupping its ass. Meanwhile, Islam in general does not look like a threat to the Western way of life.


  1. affinis3:57 AM

    From an article in Time magazine, by David Kaiser, a historian Bannon sought out for one of his films.

    Kaiser: "When I was first exposed to Strauss and Howe I began thinking how their ideas explained the histories of other countries as well, and during our interview, I mentioned that crises in countries like France in the 1790s and Russia after 1917 had led to reigns of terror. Bannon included those remarks in the final cut of Generation Zero.

    A second, more alarming, interaction did not show up in the film. Bannon had clearly thought a long time both about the domestic potential and the foreign policy implications of Strauss and Howe. More than once during our interview, he pointed out that each of the three preceding crises had involved a great war, and those conflicts had increased in scope from the American Revolution through the Civil War to the Second World War. He expected a new and even bigger war as part of the current crisis, and he did not seem at all fazed by the prospect.

    I did not agree, and said so. But, knowing that the history of international conflict was my own specialty, he repeatedly pressed me to say we could expect a conflict at least as big as the Second World War in the near or medium term. I refused.

    Apocalyptic rhetoric and apocalyptic thinking flourish during crisis periods. This represents perhaps the biggest danger of the Trump presidency, and one that will bear watching from all concerned citizens in the months and years ahead."

    1. I find it interesting that Bannon is plugged into Generatoinal Theory as represented by Strauss and Howe's work. For my part, I view the current crisis from the premise that the post-war institutions are failing and will leave chaos in their wake until new institutions and expectations form in their place. Of course we can never escape the cycle.

      I am not surprized but a bit alarmed that others interpret generational crisis in apocalyptic terms. When I first read Generatoins in the 90's I thought the Crisis would clear away the crap I saw as a hinderance to my well-being and peace of mind. It turns out that Crises are messy. While I am relieved that no global military conflict seems to be in the offing this time around (unless Putin can pull it off, I suppose), I no longer expect any Kumbaya moments liek I naively did when first thinking about the topic.

  2. affinis4:55 AM

    Additional tidbits useful for understanding Bannon's views. I'll just let these speak for themselves.

    1. Interview with Steven Camarota on immigration (condemning legal immigration)
    "I started reading it and my head blew up. It is stunning. The explosion of legal immigration and illegal immigration in this country...
    What's so stunning is that this is not front page news in every newspaper and the census bureau is not putting this out and it's not considered a crisis that's got to be addressed and dealt with....
    how are we going to absorb all of these people and what kind of suppression are you going to put on wages..."

    2. Interview with Pamela Geller, talking about Islam.
    "I want to talk about the $15 million extortion, excuse me potential lawsuit by Ahmed the clockmaker and his radical Islamic dad..."
    "The migrant invasion of Europe by Islam, by Muslims..."

    3.Interview with Jason Richwine about immigration.

    From notes on RightWing Watch:

    "Breitbart frequently highlights the work of Jason Richwine, who resigned from the conservative Heritage Foundation when news broke that his Harvard dissertation argued in part that Hispanics have lower IQs than non-Hispanic whites.

    Bannon loves Richwine. On Jan. 6 of this year, when Richwine was a guest on [Bannon’s Sirius XM] radio show, Bannon called him “one of the smartest brains out there in demographics, demography, this whole issue of immigration, what it means to this country.”

    There’s more to that January 6 interview. After praising Richwine for being “one of the smartest brains” on demographic issues, Bannon said that he believed that the presidential election was “going to become a referendum on this whole issue of what is the sovereignty of our country, what is legal immigration, what is illegal immigration, what are we prepared to do with people here illegally, what about this whole situation in Europe … the whole thing in Europe is all about immigration, it’s a global issue today, this kind of global Camp of the Saints.”

    “The Camp of The Saints” is a racist dystopian anti-immigrant novel beloved of white supremacists. The Southern Poverty Law Center describes the plot:

    The book depicts an invasion of France and the white Western world by a fleet of starving, dark-skinned refugees, characterized as horrific and uncivilized “monsters” who will stop at nothing to greedily and violently seize what rightfully belongs to the white man."

  3. affinis5:00 AM

    A few more tidbits useful for understanding Bannon (from two articles).

    4. Excerpt from an article by Dana Milbank:

    "The Trump campaign’s chief executive believes the Obama administration is “importing more hating Muslims” and asks whether Clinton is “complicit in a fifth column.” He doesn’t think Huma Abedin, a Muslim aide to Clinton, should have a security clearance, and he has alleged that Clinton’s vice-presidential nominee, Sen. Tim Kaine (Va.), has an “affiliation with the Muslim Brotherhood.” He argued that Gretchen Carlson’s sexual harassment case, which forced the ouster of Roger Ailes at Fox News Channel, was a “total dud,” and he alleged the existence of a “militant-feminist legal wrecking crew.”

    Fox News, in Bannon’s view, is a “centrist” outlet — and compared to Breitbart, it most certainly is....

    In his writings and broadcast commentary, Bannon, a veteran and former banker, has argued that immigrants — legal as well as illegal — are to blame for crime, terrorism and disease. He disparages “anchor babies” and says FBI Director James Comey’s recommendation not to prosecute Clinton is “inextricably linked” to anti-police violence. He speaks of Megyn Kelly’s “blonde ambition” and alleges that the military is trying to “eradicate Christianity.” To counter “the Islamization of the United States,” he believes authorities should be going into mosques to find bad guys and “rounding them up.”"

    5. Many quotes from Bannon in MediaMatters article "The Trump Campaign's New CEO Sees Muslim Brotherhood Connections Everywhere".(Worth checking out entire article).

  4. affinis5:36 AM

    Bannon and his defenders are seeking to rehab his image (normalizing it). An example of why those assertions shouldn't be taken at face value.

    1. You actually think citing Media Matters and the Southern Poverty Law Center is going to change minds or open eyes? Or are you just preaching to the choir which Liberals have for some reason adopted as their strategy these days? Why don't you take Noah's approach and argue against an actual idea or platform rather than arguing your accusation?

    2. affinis1:39 PM

      re: Media Matters article

      Rather than engaging with the actual content (evidence and logic) provided by the source (Media Matters), attack the source.

      Logical fallacy type - ad hominem attack.

      Subtype - ad hominem circumstancial.
      "Ad hominem circumstantial points out that someone is in circumstances such that they are disposed to take a particular position. Ad hominem circumstantial constitutes an attack on the bias of a source. This is fallacious because a disposition to make a certain argument does not make the argument false; this overlaps with the genetic fallacy (an argument that a claim is incorrect due to its source)."

  5. I wonder if Muslim Americans may be less disaffected than (some) European ones. If you've made it from Pakistan to the US, you've probably swallowed the American dream before you've arrived. Whereas many first generation Muslims in Europe were from former colonies, recruited for low paying jobs, often thinking they would return home. They might have more ambivalent feelings on arrival (and not all had happy experiences after they arrived). Pure speculation, btw.

  6. Noah, thank you for a reasonable post from the Left regarding one of Trump's administrative selections. The Left's current hysteria is beyond the level of ridiculousness at this point and I appreciate your ability to step back in this instance and analyze the actual ideas being put forth rather than following the current trend of the Left's Salem witch trials of each cabinet nominee.

  7. Guy clearly thinks that Americans of European ancestry are smarter, and there is strong evidence that he thinks this is associated with some genetic component reinforced by a superior "white" culture. This is standard white nationalism.

  8. I don't know Bannon from Adam, and thus don't have an opinion on him. But your analysis of radical Islam sounds splendid and accurate: it would have made a great separate post.

    1. Ditto. Radical Islam is more a case of a bunch of disaffected testosterone-charged young men doing what they are prone to. We have plenty of these people ourselves, and the domestic versions are actually more of a real threat. You are much more likely to be killed by a drunk driver than an Islamic radical.

      The real pity is that these countries don't have the institutions of social capital to contain them. Some of our activities haven't helped but I don't think they are the root cause.

    2. Radical conservative Islam is part of a conflict with conservative and repressive Islam. Many of the Islamic governments are not sufficiently able to educate and employ their populations and maintain sustainable population growth rates. They are thus producing a large class of idle young men that create chaos rather than utility.

      In America, we are trying to follow this lead. Rather than choosing to educate our young people for the 21st century and strengthen the middle class, we just voted to create more idle young men.

  9. affinis1:54 PM

    Conservative commentator Ben Shapiro, former editor-at-large of Breitbart News writes:
    "I have no evidence that Bannon’s a racist or that he’s an anti-Semite; the Huffington Post’s blaring headline “WHITE NATIONALIST IN THE WHITE HOUSE” is overstated, at the very least. With that said, as I wrote at The Washington Post in August, Bannon has openly embraced the racist and anti-Semitic alt-right – he called his Breitbart “the platform of the alt-right.” Milo Yiannopoulos, the star writer at the site, is an alt-right popularizer, even as he continuously declares with a wink that he’s not a member. The left’s opposition to Trump, and their attempts to declare all Trump support the alt-right have obfuscated what the movement is. The movement isn’t all Trump supporters. It’s not conservatives unsatisfied with Paul Ryan, nor is it people angry at the media. Bannon knows that. He’s a smart man, not an ignorant one. The alt-right, in a nutshell, believes that Western culture is inseparable from European ethnicity. I have no evidence Bannon believes that personally. But he’s happy to pander to those people and make common cause with them in order to transform conservatism into European far-right nationalist populism."

  10. affinis2:13 PM

    After extensively reading and listening to Bannon, it appears to me that this comment by "Energywatchers" might be capturing things fairly accurately:

    "To make up my mind on Steve Bannon, I did the obvious: check up Breibart news, the site he’s been an editor of, rather than what other people say of him.

    From a general review, and searching the site for the sort of terms one would be concerned about, looking at what’s been said about Bannon, my conclusions are:
    1. It’s correct that he seems to be pro-Israel, rather than anti-semitic. In fact, he’s so pro-Israel you may feel uncomfortable with it, if you happen to have different opinions about Israel.
    2. He isn’t a white supremacist in the old-fashioned sense, the sort of person that would automatically assume that whites are genetically superior to everyone else. What he seems to be is a tribalist. Somebody who divides the world into tribes of people defined both by genetic and cultural characteristics. And he seems to believe that tribes are in constant fight with each other, and he must defend his own tribe (white English-speaking Christians and Jews) against all others. That’s why a common theme in Breibart news is the worry that Muslims, blacks, Hispanics, etc. are possibly getting a better deal than his own tribe.

    I would agree that people are instinctively tribal. I don’t agree with Bannon that this is fundamentally a good thing, and that tribal instincts should be encouraged. Among other things, because some people (like myself) don’t belong neatly into any tribe, often because of the circumstances of their birth that they couldn’t change even if they wanted to. Some people are mixed race (like my own nephew). Some people traveled extensively during the early years of their life (like myself) and therefore find it hard to associate exclusively with people of a particular cultural background. Why should I choose whether to associate with English or Spanish-speaking people? I understand well both cultural backgrounds, and I like them both.

    Also, I would mention that tribalism, rather than anti-semitism, is the better description of where Nazi ideology stood. Nazis weren’t simply anti-semitic, they were also anti-gypsy, anti-black and anti-anyone who wasn’t German Aryan. And they were pro-Israel, in the sense that they felt the Jews should go and live as a separate tribe in their own land. We all know how badly that particular instance of tribalism ended.

    Finally, America is the one country in the world that can claim it was built under anti-tribalism principles. Admittedly, people were rather racist two centuries ago. But within the white population, America never accepted the principle of cultural tribalism, people were from the start welcome from every country in the world. Remember those famous lines written on the Liberty Statue? It seems to me fairly anti-American (or at least, against the wishes of the Founding Fathers) to be a tribalist."

    1. This is just silly. Tribalism might be good or bad, but it's idiotic to reduce it to Nazism. Nazis were a special case of German nationalism gone nuclear. It did not turn into a general principle. Unlike, say, social justice that ended up in mass murder over and over again.

  11. Anonymous2:38 PM

    Fascinating, Noah. Apparently, thinking brown CEOs reduce "civic society" doesn't count as white nationalist. Please, elaborate (no really, I want you to follow through).

    As a South Asian in the US, it sure as fuck sounds like he wants us out *because we're not white*. If that's not white nationalism, what is? Humor me.

    1. No, he wants you out, because he doesn't consider you sufficiently American. In other words, he wants people invested and committed to the american project to be at the top of the society. He rejects visitors that want to rent a country out. That's why he complains about the elites that have more in common with people in London than in Kansas.

  12. Anonymous3:35 PM

    Bannon is financed and ideologically trained by Jews. He is Sheldon Adelson and more closely, a Rebeka Mercer disciple. More importantly, both of those 2 idiots run "white nationalism" blogs and thinking. Much like the Rockefellers learned, control thy opposition.

    There is no such thing as s "alt-right" and many people in that are jewish(in hiding). It is time for the media to be honest about the Trump victory: It was heavily driven by terrorism and abortion. It motivated Republican turnout, not economic issues.

    To me this is GWB part 2 in steroids. The mass spying and permanent war culture, further tied into society.

    1. That's my expectation: An awkward and cringe-inducing President but with far more bungles and possibly a few major warsand/or catastrophes. He doesn't have the diplomatic baggage that W had but he is far less predictable and has a need to demonstrate dominance that makes him unpredictable.

  13. Great commentary, Noah.

    I think analysis like this is much more informative and productive than the (unfortunately common) knee-jerk name-calling that makes it hard for some people to figure out what Bannon really thinks.

    1. If you are claiming that Trump is not racist, anti-feminist, and xenophobic, then you are ignorant. Otherwise, because Bannon supports and enables these actions, he clearly values racial, gender, and religious equality and tolerance less than some other set of values. The fact that he does not value these forms of equality and tolerance sufficiently highly, makes him racist, anti-feminist, and xenophobic as well. That is not "name-calling". It's logic. But, of course, facts and logic have a strong liberal bias.

  14. I think you're misreading Bannon to try and argue against his fixation on radical Islam in terms of military strategy as such. I don't think Bannon starts with the threat of radical Islam and then proceeds through rational deduction to the need for an aggressive military posture. Rather he starts with the need for an aggressive military posture (and quite possibly military action) and then proceeds by process of elimination to find the most plausible target. The fact that radical Islam is not really much of a threat to the West is a feature, not a bug, because it makes the military adventuring relatively safer to conduct. Why go after someone truly dangerous like a Kim Jong-Un, when you have a convenient and relatively weak bogeyman like ISIS available. A cynical worldview like Bannon's needs military action - it gives the working class something to do, it loosens the spigots of federal money, and not least, it elevates the status of ruthless men like Bannon.

  15. Rock. Crawlly things.
    Some decades ago PBS TV had a program on Islam and Modernity. Islam is struggling with Modernity and has been for 100's of years. The struggle is not over. It may not be even in my grand children's lives. One could even say the Christian struggle with Modernity is not over.

  16. Anonymous1:24 AM

    I was going to write a comment about how the evidence from Europe is a pretty important counter point to the part about Muslim assimilation (see: "Reflections on the Revolution in Europe"), but I realized the more pertinent question is:

    So what if Bannon (and by extension the new Western right broadly defined) has *exaggerated* the size of the problem that Islam poses for Western societies? As long as *any* non-trivial problem between Islam and the West exists, why would any self-respecting citizen of a Western society put their countrymen and women at risk through mass importation of Muslims? People in European nations like Poland and Hungary that don't have Muslim populations don't have to worry, for some unknown reason, about dying in Muslim terrorist attacks. The burden of proof shouldn't be on leaders like Trump and Orban who oppose further Muslim immigration, but rather on the elites who believe it will produce some benefit to the native-born population that will outweigh its obvious costs (especially relative to immigration from more compatible, less violent cultures in e.g. East Asia.)

    1. Good point. Also, Bannon twice states that we're at the very beginning of the battle. That more or less renders Noah's argument that mostly Muslims are being killed, irrelevant.

      I kept thinking as I read this post, the same things were said about Winston Churchill's anti-Hitler warnings in the 1930s. Had he been taken seriously, Europe could have dealt with Hitler decisively at an early stage, at low cost.

    2. Bill Ellis5:24 PM

      OH skittles...

    3. Bill Ellis5:38 PM

      " Had he been taken seriously, Europe could have dealt with Hitler decisively at an early stage, at low cost."

      Bull...Hysterical historical revisionism... the europeans were not prepared to deal with Germany in the 30's. Churchill knew that...that's what he was warning about... He knew the europeans would have to amass a huge force to counter germany... Low cost ? no way. By the Time Chamberlain famously "appeased" Hitler... Germany was too powerful for the allies to stop from just taking what they wanted anyway... even if what Chamberlain didn't work as he hoped...he had nothing to lose...and maybe brought some time to prepare...

    4. This is exactly right. This is the major achievement of Bannon and Trump: to shift the Overton window to the point where the basic questions are considered: Immigration should be only considered when it's good for the natives. Otherwise we end up in a stratified society of the enlightened aristocracy that imports its voters and the peons that fight over the scraps generously granted to them by the chosen.

    5. I like how you built that straw man so you could knock it down. Wow, you certainly are clever. Too bad for your argument that no one is calling for "mass importation of Muslims". What we do know is that diversity produces benefits. Having a variety of smart, educated, diverse elements in a group of people produces better results. (see e.g. _The Difference_ by Scott Page)

    6. It seems that you went here to react, not to read. Virtually all the victims of radical islam are from islamic countries ("The death tolls in the West from radical Islam have been three orders of magnitude smaller than the deaths in the Muslim world.")

      Since Patrick Sullivan brings up the 1930s, the US didn't punish the jews and slavs and communists and mentally illed by closing its doors on the basis that they came from Germany and similar countries.

    7. @csimmons Diversity produces benefits only up to a point. It has also significant downsides: it undermines social capital in general and trust in particular.

      The US is way past the point of needing more diversity. Quite the opposite: it needs much more assimilation right now.

      @internaciulo The US did not punish anybody by closing its doors in the 30's, since the doors had been firmly closed in the early 20's.

      Speaking of punishing: have you heard of Galeanists?

  17. Anonymous11:52 AM

    You're putting a ton of weight on things he's said and very little on things he's done; i.e. running a website for racists.

    1. Things he's one.... Like serving as a naval officer, getting a couple of graduate degrees, financing Seinfeld....

      Things like that. How do they get weighed?

  18. Most of the comments are on the Radical Muslim point but I think people are overlooking #1. We will see what happens with the infrastructure spending proposal and tax reform both of which are likely to happen. If the infrastructure spending is largely made up of tax credits it will enrich the companies involved rather than the populace.

    If tax reform doesn't do away with all or a significant portion of tax preferences it will do little to address the inequality problem. Trump wants to end the carried interest loophole; is he equally anxious to clean up all the loopholes for real estate investors. If Bannon is true on #1, he would argue for radical tax reform. We'll see.

  19. affinis6:18 AM

    The Daily Beast
    "One former Breitbart worker puts it a little differently. Kurt Bardella, who had the site as a client until quitting this year, said Bannon regularly made racist comments during internal meetings.
    “I woke up and the world came to an end,” he told The Daily Beast. “They have put in place someone who is a dictator-bully—a figure whose form of management is verbal abuse and intimidation.
    “He made more off-color comments about minorities and homosexuals than I can recount,” he added."

    ABC News
    "Kurt Bardella, who worked with Bannon at Breitbart for two years, says the former Breitbart News chairman regularly disparaged minorities, women, and immigrants during daily editorial calls at the publication....
    “If anyone sat there and listened to that call, you’d think that you were attending a white supremacist rally,” said Bardella, citing what he called Bannon’s “nationalism and hatred for immigrants, people coming into this country to try to get a better life for themselves.”"

    The Hill
    Bardella: "What derailed much of this potential was Breitbart’s own General Chairman Stephen K. Bannon.
    Steve ran the site and controlled the content as a dictator, not only limiting the expression of his journalists but also purposefully changing the narrative to increase vitriol, playing to the fears of his readers."

    "Breitbart News executive Steve Bannon‘s appointment as President-elect Donald Trump‘s chief strategist in the White House should be taken as a frightening development, a former Breitbart spokesman says.
    “Everyone should be terrified of that prospect,” says Kurt Bardella. “No matter what the official title is going to be, he’s going to be prominent in advising the president-elect.”"

    1. So, this guy listened for two years to white supremacist hate rhetoric and then he discovered in march this year that there had been something off?

      Or is complaining about too much immigration by definition "hate"?

  20. Anonymous3:21 PM

    Hi Noah i have read probably all your posts but never felt the need to comment...
    I just want to ask what exactly you mean by muslims will assimilate( is this about how we worship, our values, or customs and culture) and what if we don't does that mean you think islam is fundamentally a threat unless its watered down? can one be a practicing muslim and an american in your view?

    1. I admit that in general I distrust strict, organized religions, and feel more comfortable when everyone's religion is more moderate. When organized religions start having a strong influence in politics, they sometimes fight against things like separation of church and state, which I consider to be essential to the American project.

      But the answer to your question is: Of course I think one can be a practicing Muslim and an American!

    2. Anonymous7:41 PM

      Ok i understand where youre coming from but the implication in your words is that the threat that these terror groups pose can be solved in the long term by muslims taking their religion less seriously... That implies that Isis and ilk are just too strict in islam when clearly all research suggests that they are religious novices with a history of crime

      Surely as an economist the fact that they are offering a quarter million and a house and bride of choosing for any islamic scholar who joins them tells you something

      And surely the idea of the tiny muslim minority posing a threat to secularism in america is one of the more crazy alt-right fantasies

    3. Agree that it's a fantasy.

      I don't think ISIS is economically motivated. I think one reaction when a conservative culture abruptly encounters modernity is for young men to join violent utopian movements. We saw this with anarchism in Europe. The vast majority of people from conservative cultures adjust well to modernity, but a few don't. So.i think every culture has something like ISIS when its culture begins to open up to sex, gender equality, religious pluralism, modern job markets, etc. The ISIS crap will be gone in a few decades.

    4. "can one be a practicing muslim and an american in your view?"

      That depends entirely on what your definition of a practicing Muslim is. If your definition of being a practicing Muslim is, for example, that you have a holy duty to murder Christians or Jews or Muslims who follow a different branch of Mohammad's family then you cannot be an American and a practicing Muslim. If you believe you should murder your daughter because she dates someone you don't approve of then you cannot be an American.

  21. IF threat from Islamic Terrorism gone, people like Bannon would simply search for New Enemy (Confucian Asia, Slavic Orthodoxy, etc).

    its their belief on 'weakness' of 'current society' that needed to be addressed, not 'strength' of rival society. Sadly, idea of Decadence-weakness and return to glory-strength-simple time has always been exist and become backbone of Fascism (and its past version) since ancient times. our struggle to confront Laconophilia must continue.

  22. Anonymous2:11 PM

    While I mostly agree with your points, there are some things I'm going to have to dispute.

    1. While 'global Islamic civil war' is a relatively accurate description of what is going on, actually 'clash of civilizations' is fairly accurate as well -- with a twist. Western 'universalist' culture is at war with traditionalist and fundamentalist Islam, but universalism is on the *offensive*, with traditionalism/fundamentalism fighting a desperate worldwide rearguard action. I'm of course on the universalist side, but it is clear that this clash is happening because Islamic societies are undergoing a rift caused by the intrusion of universalist cultures and values. Incidentally, this is the biggest reason I think the Iran deal was a good idea -- let Iran prosper, with modern prosperity always comes exposure to universalist culture.

    2. With a more connected world and the ability of small groups to do increasing amounts of damage, I'm actually really worried about Islamic terrorism (without any idea how to deal with it). All it takes is one incident -- nuclear, chemical, biological -- for an enormous amount of damage to be done. Basically, I fear that terror attacks follow a fat-tailed distribution, and it's only a matter of time before a tremendous one hits that will propel Western casualties up to within an order of magnitude of Islamic casualties in this war. If a bunch of Japanese wackos could rustle up homemade sarin (ok it didn't kill that many people, but still), I think it totally possible that a major, actually devastating attack could occur.

    3. I think you're dismissing the psychological appeal of a rigid, controlled hierarchical society. Maybe the hardline cut-your-hands-off Islamism is a bit too extreme for most people, but libertine Western freedom can often be alienating -- it certainly doesn't seem as 'natural' than rigid social hierarchies (which mode of social organization dominated virtually all of human history?) As a born-and-bred universalist, I prefer liberty, but I still get the appeal of simply knowing your place in a society rather than having to define it for yourself (I sometimes wonder how I'd do in the military, for example). I suspect that part of the rise of the populist right-wing is actually driven by this.

    1. Islam might be traditionalist, but is every bit as universalist as the Western civilization. Just a different set of precepts that are open ( or actually more than open) to everybody

    2. Anonymous3:30 AM

      Sorry, wasn't being clear with my terminology. 'Universalist' to me refers to modern Western culture, in particular the culture of the academic and economic elite. I took this term from Moldbug, who (correctly, in my opinion) sees this culture as having Protestant roots (though it shed the religious stuff along the way).

      Universalism and traditional Islamic culture both seek to remake the world in their own image (which is what you're saying, right?) but it's Islamic culture which is becoming more Universalist and not the other way around. One great strength of Universalism is its ability to tolerate and incorporate superficial aspects of the cultures it digests - they keep their foods, rituals, and languages (and these are even celebrated) while underlying power relations are remodeled on Universalist lines, i.e. the culture becomes Universalist.

    3. That's a strange distinction. Islam has been universalist since the very beginning. That's how it successfully converted huge chunks of the world. When triumphant it was also very open to influences and could be quite generous to other faiths taking over hostile populations by osmosis and small disabilities.

      People confuse the last 50 years with the whole history of Islam.