Last night was the beginning of something. People mobilized spontaneously and acted and it felt like something new was being born. Normal people acting together gave courage to lawmakers and governors and mayors.
We can generate power through common life.
After the protest, it was reported that Steve Bannon will now sit on the National Security Council. He has been a strong figure in the Trump White House and seems to be the rising figure within the operation. I stayed up late after the protest and watched again Steve Bannon’s documentary “Occupy Unmasked.” The film is poorly made synaptic propaganda (hosted by Andrew Breitbart, who looks like he has a coke hangover) but I believe its important to watch Bannon closely to understand where he comes from, how he views the left, so we can better anticipate his moves and outmaneuver him the future.
My takeaway is that Bannon fundamentally misread Occupy. He does not have a strong understanding the left. Like many conservatives, anyone on the left is by default a “liberal” and blind dupe of Obama, Hillary, the Democratic Party machine. There is no room in their vision for something else because they do not know something else exists. They are just now only beginning to grasp what the Bernie phenomenon was. Its easier for them to do the traditional “snowflake” attack, which basically suggests that young liberals come from rich, culturally elite families or are indoctrinated in universities. Liberalism is something they were born into, or brainwashed into at Bennington or Swarthmore or the Upper West Side or wherever. This is topped off with a dabbing patina of the threat of “violent” “dirty” anarchists.
Bannon sees himself as a class-warrior. He’s waging a war of the 99% against the elite liberal .001% who made him feel weird or whatever.
His main talent as a strategist is revealing the glaring hypocrisy of the Democratic Party. You saw this with bringing Bill Clinton’s accusers to the third debate. Now that the Democratic Party is in remission, its unclear how this talent will be put to use. Everything he does springs from this “gotcha” move: “If we’re so bad, why didn’t you complain when Hillary/Bill/Obama did the same thing?"
This is the signature Trump coalition move, along with the new and unoriginal move of accusing protestors of being paid by George Soros.
This is not seven-dimensional chess. This is 101 level strategy. It’s childish but crudely effective. Attack the “snowflakes” and congeal the base. And its remarkably easy to hate on the elitism and vested privilege of Clinton liberals.
Bannon has not graduated to 202: He doesn’t know how to reckon with the broad left opposition beyond Clinton/Obama liberalism yet. He didn’t even really understand Occupy beyond the “dirty snowflake” model.
In “Occupy Unmasked” they interview a socialist woman, the only person they don’t seem completely dismissive of and overly curious about: “How did you get into this? Who taught you?”
They then fall back on the outmoded toolkit: she got it from her elite family, she got it from graduate school professors who “indoctrinated” her. They don’t know how to escape their own premises and can’t imagine something else more confounding or hegemonic.
I guess an argument could be made that he understands better than he appears to understand and is simplifying. That he purposefully painted Occupy in broad strokes to more effectively draw out simmering anti-elite resentments. But my impression is that he simply does not understand. For example, they portray Malcolm Harris and Natasha Lennard were essentially the Rosa Luxembourg and Karl Liebknecht of Occupy. Fundamental misreading of the situation. They don't even engage with the real vanguard of Tiqqunists and Graeberites that were at the heart of Occupy.
I truly believe that his Achilles heel will be an anti-elitist socialist coalition of the kind Bernie fostered, pulling in liberals like a whirlpool. This bloc has the wind at its back and also its a bloc that Bannon has given no indication of having a maneuver for.
Without sounding too triumphalist or self-congratulatory in this totally defensive time, I am strangely optimistic because in the long run all the pieces are there. I do think if the cards are played right, the American socialist left can outflank Bannon and eat him alive.