While many of us were enjoying a lovely fall weekend, former Apprentice star and now U.S. president-elect Donald Trump was busy choosing his transition team.
Three of his children are on it, signalling the start of candidate Trump’s promised purge of Washington insiders and ringing in a hopeful new era of banana republic cronyism.
Over the weekend he also chose the top staff people who will advise him in his challenging new role as leader of the free world and all Americans — even the ones he called “rapists,” “crooks,” “terrorists,” and those whose p*ssies he occasionally likes to grab.
Trump filled two of the most senior roles in his White House by appointing Reince Priebus his chief of staff and Steve Bannon his chief strategist and senior advisor.
Bannon was the Trump campaign’s CEO and was instrumental in helping elect The Donald, so it’s unsurprising to me that he would be rewarded with a key position of trust.
What has been surprising has been the way many mainstream media outlets have chosen to downplay Bannon’s troubling past.
Business Insider, US Weekly and CBC News, to name just a few, have all used the term “controversial” in their reporting, which is akin to me describing VP-elect Mike Pence as “sort-of into religion,” or Trump supporters wearing “Lock that b*tch up” T-shirts as “slightly aggressive.”
Track record of bigotry
“Controversial” is a euphemism used by media to communicate that the subject matter is perceived ambiguously and elicits a variety of reactions from pundits and partisans. Controversial, by definition, means disputable and debatable. While I understand the need for media to be impartial and neutral, what about Bannon’s proven track record of expressed misogyny, bigotry, white supremacy, and anti-Semitism is controversial? Which part of his resume is okay with you?
As the chief executive of Breitbart News Network from 2012 to 2016, the virulently anti-establishment Bannon made the news site the standard bearer for the alt-right and white nationalist movement.
Bannon is a tactician who tapped into the angst and fear of millions of (mostly white) men and women who feel left out and let down by the “American dream.” Breitbart is a site where angry men go to complain about social justice warriors, feminism, and anything they believe is keeping them down and away from their rightful place as rulers of the world.
These are the people who jubilantly shouted out Trump’s war cry of “Make America Great Again,” because they long for a time when white men dominated everything, women stayed home, and minorities knew their place. They believe that if some of that lost power reverts to Trump, then perhaps some will also trickle down to them.
A quick sample of Breitbart headlines tells you everything you need to know about their vision of the world, their grievances and their targets.
“The solution to online ‘harassment’ is simple: women should log off” (note how harassment is in quotes, because it’s all a figment of women’s imaginations), “birth control makes women unattractive and angry,” “Would you rather your child had feminism or cancer?” and “Does feminism make women ugly?” That final article starts with the obvious-to-everyone assertion that “becoming a feminist makes women less marriageable, more crass, and generally unpleasant to be around.”
I’m aware Breitbart’s headlines are obvious clickbait and Bannon was simply being a shrewd and calculating businessman in pushing people’s buttons. Only this is the same shrewd and unscrupulous tactician who’s now counselling a president. This kind of language isn’t harmless drivel that sells magazines and advertising. It was never harmless drivel! What you put out in the world matters.
When you choose to validate, legitimize, and normalize hate you are emboldening bigots, opening the door to haters, and making the lives of marginalized people that much harder.
Terrifying enough that Steve Bannon is a misogynist, which, when coupled with Pence’s regressive policies on reproductive rights, hints that overturning Roe v Wade may be a possibility. He’s also been described as a white supremacist with extreme nationalist views on immigration and trade, and as an anti-Semite.
White supremacists delighted
Bannon was “the main driver behind Breitbart becoming a white ethno-nationalist propaganda mill,” according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. If you need more proof that he has validated hate, the Ku Klux Klan’s David Duke issued a statement expressing his delight with Bannon’s appointment.
Steve Bannon isn’t “controversial.” He’s dangerous. And now he’s been put in a position to do even more damage, influencing a man who suddenly has a lot of power to make decisions that can affect a lot of people — within and without U.S. borders.
Calling someone with so many abhorrent qualities and such a vile track record “controversial” may be safely neutral, but it’s not accurate. Misogyny, bigotry, xenophobia, anti-Semitism and white supremacy aren’t questionable or controversial values; they are quantifiably wrong.
The wonderful Irish poet and playwright Seamus Heaney once said:
Two sides to every question, yes, yes, yes…
But every now and then,
Just weighing in
Is what it must come down to.
Those who refuse to take a stand and call out what is so blatantly dangerous are taking a stand for silence, and that silence allows it to grow and fester.
Don’t normalize the ugly and the dangerous. That’s what enabled Trump’s win in the first place.