In 2016, Donald Trump became President. Many in the Republican party were very happy with the outcome, but none more than Steve Bannon. A somewhat provocative journalist, nationalist, film producer, and master strategist, Bannon was Trump's presidential campaign CEO. With Trump's win, he had finally found a figurehead that could make his particular worldview real and tangible. He helped create a movement with the intent of transforming the country.
The line and philosophy behind "Make America Great Again" and the Trump administration's immigration policies all align with Bannon's worldview: that there is an ongoing epic war between America and terrorists. Speaking at a Vatican conference two years and some months before he became part of the White House and the Trump administration, Bannon describes himself as a combatant in a "civilizational battle between the forces of the West, faith and democracy versus that of Islam and terrorism."
His experiences in the Middle East shaped this worldview. He had enlisted in the Navy after college and saw the effects first-hand of violent religious extremism. In 1980, Bannon assisted with Operation Eagle Claw to help release the Americans trapped in the US embassy during the Iran hostage crisis. When the mission failed spectacularly, it marked an internal political turning point that would influence him for the rest of his life.
By 2001, Bannon had retired from the military, studied in the Harvard Business School, became a Hollywood power broker and producer. When 9/11 happened, everything his biggest fear had come to pass. Everything he saw in the Middle East, all of the horrors and terrorist attacks he witnessed during his time in the Navy, was suddenly in American cities and shores. He now had a new mission: to "fundamentally change Washington."
He initially thought that former Alaska governor Sarah Palin would be the perfect populist President that could bring forth his mindset and be good for the country. However, she chose not to run in 2012. That same year, he became the CEO of the infamous Breitbart News, a news and opinion website widely considered misogynistic, xenophobic, and racist by both liberals and traditional conservatives. Under Bannon, he transformed it into a more alt-right and nationalistic site, pushing his agenda with stories featuring the inner workings of the White House. He met one of his avid readers in 2014, a kindred spirit and the perfect "vehicle for his perspectives" - Donald Trump.
As he morphed from Trump's friend, adviser and campaign manager, Steve Bannon was genuinely effective in sweeping Donald Trump into the White House. He then became the President's chief strategist - a newly created position just for him. He helped draft policies and Executive Orders that restricted travel and immigration to the USA by members of (mostly) Islamic countries. He was also a controversial member of the National Security Council. Many even saw him as the true power in the White House, causing Trump to downplay his influence publicly.
Despite that, however, he still had the President's ear, squashing one White House crisis after another by pushing back against the media. This "combative strategy" aligns with his ongoing "war" and keeps his chosen populist President in power.
Directed by: Michael Kirk