Stephen Bannon has been instrumental in the rise of right-wing populist politics in the US and Europe. His aim: to bring such politics into the mainstream and to push progressivism into the dustbin of history. “Darkness is good: Dick Cheney. Darth Vader. Satan. That’s power. It only helps us when they get it wrong. When they’re blind to who we are and what we’re doing.” The shocking election of Donald Trump in November 2016 was in no small part due to the work of Stephen Bannon, who offered this quote in a post-election interview. Bannon, who took over Trump’s campaign in August, pioneered Trump’s winning strategy by focusing on Mid-Western states and engineering an advanced social media campaign that spent $150 million on targeted Facebook ads in the weeks before the election. Although few had heard of him before he took over Trump’s campaign, Bannon had long worked toward his goal of building a right-wing populist movement in the United States and around the world. Born in Virginia in 1953, Bannon worked for the Navy, Goldman Sachs, and in Hollywood before beginning his political activities. In the 2000s, he produced documentaries about Ronald Reagan and Sarah Palin, painting them as conservative heroes. Bannon’s films, were “peppered with footage of lions attacking helpless gazelles, seedlings bursting from the ground into glorious bloom;” Bannon was once described as “the Leni Reifenstahl of the Tea Party movement”. His 2010 film, Generation Zero, is replete with such evocative imagery. It offered a historical explanation of how the Financial Crisis came about, and argued that the present crisis was part of a historical cycle of crisis, resolution, complacency, and decline. David Kaiser, who was interviewed for the film, would write in an op-ed after the 2016 election, “In 2009, when Bannon and I met, I hoped that Barack Obama and the Democratic Congress would use the economic crisis of our own age to revive the values of the New Deal. Bannon obviously had other ideas about where the crisis would lead.”
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