Donald Trump’s presidential campaign announced this morning that it was shaking up its leadership in midst of terrible polling, bringing on Breitbart chairman Stephen Bannon as its CEO and pollster Kellyanne Conway as campaign manager. The choice of Bannon, whom former employee Ben Shapiro has described as a “vindictive, nasty figure” and “a smarter version of Trump,” is likely to take the Trump campaign yet another step in the direction of unabashed, racist nationalism.
GOP consultant Rick Wilson told the Washington Post: “If you were looking for a tone or pivot, Bannon will pivot you in a dark, racist and divisive direction. It’ll be a nationalist, hateful campaign. Republicans should run away."
Shapiro, who resigned as an editor at Breitbart after Bannon sided with Trump’s campaign in a dispute with then-Breitbart reporter Michelle Fields, said afterward that Bannon had “shaped the company into Trump’s personal Pravda.” Now that Bannon is officially working for Trump’s campaign, that transition is complete.
Breitbart’s role as a propaganda arm for Trump’s campaign goes beyond boosting the candidate. The outlet also fuels the racial panic that is the subtext of much of what Trump says. Breitbart’s editor-in-chief told Bloomberg last year that the outlet focused less on specific stories than on creating long-running narratives with heroes and villains—many of them painting immigrants and people of color as the latter:
[Late Breitbart founder Andrew] Breitbart’s genius was that he grasped better than anyone else what the early 20th century press barons understood—that most readers don’t approach the news as a clinical exercise in absorbing facts, but experience it viscerally as an ongoing drama, with distinct story lines, heroes, and villains. Breitbart excelled at creating these narratives, an editorial approach that's lived on. “When we do an editorial call, I don’t even bring anything I feel like is only a one-off story, even if it’d be the best story on the site,” says Alex Marlow, the site’s editor in chief. “Our whole mindset is looking for these rolling narratives.” He rattles off the most popular ones, which Breitbart News covers intensively from a posture of aggrieved persecution. “The big ones won’t surprise you,” he says. “Immigration, ISIS, race riots, and what we call ‘the collapse of traditional values.’ But I’d say Hillary Clinton is tops.”
It could easily be a description of Trump’s campaign.
Breitbart recently published a lengthy defense of the Alt-Right, claiming the white nationalists such asRichard Spencer and Jared Taylor who created the ideology “have been accused of racism,” choosing to ignore the well-documented openly-racist views.
But Breitbart’s open defense of the Alt-Right didn’t appear out of thin air.
Over the past year the media outlet has been openly promoting the core issues of the Alt-Right, introducing these racist ideas to its readership – much to the delight of many in the white nationalist world who could never dream of reaching such a vast number of people.
Breitbart has always given a platform to parts of the radical right, most notably elements of the organized anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant movements. Breitbart has also organized conferences featuring nativist speakers and published op-eds and interviews with movement leaders. But since 2015, Breitbart began publishing more overtly racist diatribes about Muslims and immigrants.
One of the co-authors of Breitbart’s defense of the alt-right was Milo Yiannopoulous, who was on hand at the Republican National Convention this summer to boost Trump.
SPLC noted that Breitbart also traffics in panic about “black-on-white crime,” something that Trump has also dabbled in:
Another popular racist conspiracy theory that Breitbart has propagated is the trope that African-Americans are committing crimes against whites at alarming rates.
Following the August 2015 murder of a white journalist and a cameraman live on air by a disgruntled African-American former co-worker, Breitbart published the race-baiting headline, “Race Murder in Virginia: Black Reporter Suspected of Executing White Colleagues – On Live Television!” The headline is remarkably similar to ones seen on the website of the white nationalist group Council of Conservative Citizens (CCC), which is dedicated to spreading the falsehood to the public about the “epidemic” of black on white crime.
Shapiro writes that since Bannon has jumped on board the Trump train, “Breitbart has become the alt-right go-to website, with Yiannopoulos pushing white ethno-nationalism as a legitimate response to political correctness, and the comment section turning into a cesspool for white supremacist mememakers.”
It’s a perfect match.