Those trying to divine the roots of Stephen K. Bannon’s dark and at times apocalyptic worldview have repeatedly combed over a speech that Mr. Bannon, President Trump’s ideological guru, made in 2014 to a Vatican conference....Here's what Bannon said about Evola at that Vatican conference (emphasis added):
... a passing reference by Mr. Bannon to an esoteric Italian philosopher has gone little noticed, except perhaps by scholars and followers of the deeply taboo, Nazi-affiliated thinker, Julius Evola....
Evola, who died in 1974, ... became a darling of Italian Fascists, and Italy’s post-Fascist terrorists of the 1960s and 1970s looked to him as a spiritual and intellectual godfather....
A March article titled “An Establishment Conservative’s Guide to the Alt-Right” in Breitbart, the website then run by Mr. Bannon, included Evola as one of the thinkers in whose writings the “origins of the alternative right” could be found....
Evola’s ideal order, Professor [Richard] Drake wrote, was based on “hierarchy, caste, monarchy, race, myth, religion and ritual.”
That made a fan out of Benito Mussolini....
Evola eventually broke with Mussolini and the Italian Fascists because he considered them overly tame and corrupted by compromise. Instead he preferred the Nazi SS officers, seeing in them something closer to a mythic ideal. They also shared his anti-Semitism.
When Vladimir Putin, when you really look at some of the underpinnings of some of his beliefs today, a lot of those come from what I call Eurasianism; he’s got an adviser who harkens back to Julius Evola and different writers of the early 20th century who are really the supporters of what’s called the traditionalist movement, which really eventually metastasized into Italian fascism. A lot of people that are traditionalists are attracted to that.The key line there is "we the Judeo-Christian West really have to look at what he’s talking about as far as traditionalism goes." Bannon calls Putin a kleptocrat, and he says that Evola's philosophy evolved into fascism -- but he thinks Traditionalism is a good thing, certainly insofar as "it supports the underpinnings of nationalism" (nationalism is definitely a good thing as far as Bannon is concerned: "I think strong countries and strong nationalist movements in countries make strong neighbors").
One of the reasons is that they believe that at least Putin is standing up for traditional institutions, and he’s trying to do it in a form of nationalism -- and I think that people, particularly in certain countries, want to see the sovereignty for their country, they want to see nationalism for their country. They don’t believe in this kind of pan-European Union or they don’t believe in the centralized government in the United States. They’d rather see more of a states-based entity that the founders originally set up where freedoms were controlled at the local level.
I’m not justifying Vladimir Putin and the kleptocracy that he represents, because he eventually is the state capitalist of kleptocracy. However, we the Judeo-Christian West really have to look at what he’s talking about as far as traditionalism goes -- particularly the sense of where it supports the underpinnings of nationalism -- and I happen to think that the individual sovereignty of a country is a good thing and a strong thing. I think strong countries and strong nationalist movements in countries make strong neighbors, and that is really the building blocks that built Western Europe and the United States, and I think it’s what can see us forward.
So Bannon was saying some positive things about this Nazi sympathizer, and this Nazi sympathizer got name-checked in a guide to the alt-right published at Breitbart when Bannon was its editor.
Waiting for a big reaction in the political world? Don't hold your breath.
As a point of comparison, recall the story of Anita Dunn, who spent less than a year as White House communications director in President Obama's first term. Shortly before she was set to resign, Glenn Beck, then on Fox, unearthed a video clip in which Dunn cited Mao Zedong, along with Mother Teresa, to impart a lesson about staying true to oneself:
On the Oct. 15, 2009, episode of his Fox show, Beck aired a video of a speech Dunn made to high school students.Citing this, Beck referred to Mao as Dunn's "hero" and accused her and other Obama officials of being Mao worshipers:
In it, Dunn imparted a series of life lessons to the students, the third of which "actually comes from two of my favorite political philosophers: Mao Tse-tung and Mother Teresa, not often coupled together, but the two people that I turn to most to basically deliver a simple point, which is, you're going to make choices. You're going to challenge. You're going to say why not. You're going to figure out how to do things that have never been done before."
Dunn then told an anecdote about how Mao triumphed as an underdog over his rival, nationalist leader Chiang Kai-Shek, during the Chinese civil war. Asked how he would win, Mao said, according to Dunn, "You know, you fight your war, and I'll fight mine."
Dunn continued, "And think about that for a second. You don't have to accept the definition of how to do things, and you don't have to follow other people's choices and paths, okay? It is about your choices and your path. You fight your own war. You lay out your own path. You figure out what's right for you. You don't let external definitions define how good you are internally."
"America, how many radicals is it going to take?" Beck stated: "[W]e're not just talking about progressives now, we're talking about revolutionaries that idolize Mao."Dunn, who later said she got the Mao quote from the late GOP strategist Lee Atwater -- would go on to be attacked by The Wall Street Journal's John Fund, William Bennett and Lou Dobbs on CNN, multiple National Review writers, Breitbart, RedState ("Obama Communications Director Anita Dunn: Isn't Genocide Great?"), World Net Daily ("Why Obama's Lieutenants Love Mao"), Michelle Malkin ("Anita Dunn: A Corruptocrat Flack and a Mao Cheerleader"), and Laura Ingraham, whose website put a Mao hat on a photo of Dunn and paired it with a photo of Mao (headline: "Separated at Birth").
... Beck asked, "[I]s it a concern to any American that so many people now in and around this administration and this president seem to love a communist revolutionary dictator? Here's our White House communications director, Anita Dunn, standing in front of a group of graduating high school students and praising him."
Will there be anything like that for Bannon? There should be -- it's likely he genuinely admires Evola's philosophy, or at least some aspects of it, whereas Dunn is a veteran Democratic Party operative, and thus hardly a communist or Maoist. (If you don't believe me, go ask an actual communist or Maoist.) But I'm betting we won't hear much more about this. Nevertheless, a tip of the hat to the Times for the deep dive.