During a live-streamed interview conducted by pro-Trump commentator Mike Cernovich, former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon told Cernovich that ethno-nationalists can “go fuck themselves.”
Bannon’s repudiation comes as part of an ongoing effort to distance himself from the anti-Semitic and white nationalist uprising in the United States during 2016 and 2017 once the veneer of chic edginess that glossed over the sinister aspects of the movement began to wear away. But it was Bannon who, in a 2016 interview with Mother Jones, described himself as having built “the platform for the alt-right” during his tenure at the helm of Breitbart News. It was white nationalist Richard Spencer who popularized the term “alt-right” to describe the enthno-nationalist movement, and under Bannon’s command, the outlet promoted such figures as Milo Yiannopoulous,who served to repackage and promote white nationalism to a broader conservative audience. At the time, the website also featured a “black crime” tag on articles.
In November 2016, the then-unthinkable thing happened: Trump won the election. Suddenly in the global spotlight, Bannon and his allies headed into the White House under pressure to reinvent their approach in ways that lacked their signature racial demagoguery. Bannon’s solution was to repackage his approach as “civic” or “economic” nationalism.
But Bannon’s core mission of emboldening authoritarian leaders with racist still appears to be alive and thriving. He recently advised Brazil’s newly elected neo-fascist president Jair Bolsonaro, who defends torture and the country’s former military dictatorship. Brazil’s attorney general charged Bolsonaro in April with inciting hatred and discrimination against racial minorities, women, and LGBTQ people.
In Europe, Bannon has been cozying up to far-right leaders like Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, who has declared the “color” of Europeans should be kept separate from that of other ethnicities, and Italy’s interior minister Matteo Salvini, who is staunchly anti-immigrant. Ethno-nationalists often peddle anti-immigrant rhetoric to argue their fears of a supposed ethnic replacement and frequently suggest advancing their agenda by restricting immigration.
Despite this, Bannon still used his appearance with Cernovich to take a swipe at ethno-nationalists—a term used to describe people who advocate for federal policies and enforcement measures to maintain white supermajorities in the countries they reside in.
“They can go fuck themselves. I don’t give a shit, right? Because they’re irrelevant. What’s relevant is building a coalition here of working-class people and middle-class people who can take the country back. And this is not an ethno-nationalist movement. It’s a civic or economic nationalist movement, and it’s a winner,” Bannon said.
Bannon described unifying working- and middle-class people as “the entire mission that I’ve been working on for nine years.”
He added, “The future is populism, globally. You can see that in Hungary, in Italy, in what’s happening in Europe and Captain Bolsonaro in Brazil. The future is populism.”