Steve Bannon: 'Breitbart' founder tried to take his brand — and populist message — global
It turns out top Donald Trump adviser Steve Bannon has been trying to take over the world for some time now.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Bannon's mission existed well before he became a notorious member of the Trump administration. But until he got his foot in the White House door, Bannon was using Breitbart, the right-wing media organization he led, as his vehicle — a narrative that circulated years before he moved into politics and one that was boosted after Trump won the election.
Breitbart currently operates in the U.K., with plans — predating the Trump administration — to further penetrate the European market by launching German and French sites. Both countries are caught up in the far-right populist wave taking over large swaths of the West, rooted in the political ideology that fuels the Breitbart media company.
And he's good at what he does.
"This man is the most dangerous political operative in America," Joshua Greene, a senior national correspondent for Bloomberg Businessweek, wrote in October 2015.
In 2016, Bannon laid the groundwork for a presence in France by publicly supporting Marine Le Pen, the controversial leader of the anti-immigrant, far-right National Front party.
Courting the French right appeared to work, leading Le Pen to tweet about Bannon to her hundreds of thousands of followers. It was just one example of Bannon's successful strategy to establish himself — and his media empire — in the global alt-right movement.
The professional propagandist also endeavored to influence Indian politics by setting up shop there, too.
"[O]n Nov. 17, 2015, I sat opposite Steve Bannon in his NYC office as he asked me if I'd be interested in starting Breitbart India," well-known Indian journalist Amit Varma wrote in India Uncut.
From the outside, India — itself a paragon of far-right nationalism, with its own brand of bigotry and anti-semitism — might seem like an ideal breeding ground for Breitbart's ideology. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, for example — leader of the ruling, far-right populist Bharatiya Janata Party — has been accused of human rights violations resulting in the deaths of hundreds of Muslims.
But according to Varma, there may be limits to Bannon-ism.
"There is no analog of American conservatism in India," Varma recalled telling the media tycoon in their 2015 meeting. "The Indian right is driven by bigotry and nativism, with no deeper guiding philosophy behind it."
Even if Varma is right — and India doesn't have a taste for American far-right media — there is a considerable overlap in the Venn diagram of Modi and Trump supporters. The Indian-born industrialist Shalabh "Shalli" Kumar, head of the Republican Hindu Coalition and huge Trump donor, has already entered the Bannon fray, serving as leader of the Trump campaign's Indian American community outreach.
In short, there may still be time for the Bannon brand to thrive, simply with a new face.
"He has long wanted to work with all of those parties, but that was only in promoting them with Breitbart," a Bannon associate anonymously told the Daily Beast. "Now he has the power of the White House to do it."