February 8, 2017

America, meet “The Rain Man of Nationalism”


Just two bros, taking a walk, thinking about the end of democracy in America.

A strange little piece was published in Politico yesterday, reporting on Steve “The Face” Bannon’s reading habits, as documented by some unnamed sources in the White House. We’ve reported diligently on Donald Trump’s sad-as-fuck little library, and his reading habits. It’s a well-established alternative fact that he is an illiterate and possibly demented putz.

But what about The Face? What about the guy who is apparently in charge, who figures the president of the United States to be a “blunt instrument.” Can he read?

Oh yeah. He can read. According to an unnamed source in Eliana Johnson and Eli Stokols’s piece, not only can Steve Bannon read, he is “like the [fucking] Rain Man of nationalism[, bro].” The piece goes on:

[Bannon] is a voracious reader who devours works of history and political theory “in like an hour,” said a former associate whom Bannon urged to read Sun Tzu’s The Art of War… But, said the source, who requested anonymity to speak candidly about Bannon, “There are some things he’s only going to share with people who he’s tight with and who he trusts.”

Damn dude! That’s crazy reading you must be doing! And if you’re recommending a sick-ass book like The Art of War to this flunky, what wild shit are you recommending to your real bros?

The answer to that question is shockingly boring. Unless Bannon is holding out on us (because really, we’re not “super tight,” he and I), he is recommending and presumably reading some lame ass Malcolm-Gladwell-meets-FA-Hayek garbage. Also, weird blogs.

As noted by Alex Shephard at the New Republic, the only actual books mentioned in the piece are The Art of War, Antifragile by Nassim Nicholas Taleb (which the Guardian called “a deeply antisocial book”), and The Fourth Turning by William Strauss and Neil Howe.

Other than these three books (and The Best and the Brightest), Steve Bannon reads blogs — specifically blogs written by crazy people, like Michael Anton, a Bush-era flunky and speechwriter for Rudy Guiliani, and Curtis Yarvin, a Silicon Valley fuckwit whose obnoxious, unreadable, and asinine mixture of Bell Curvestyle racism and anti-democratic politics has caused a some minor kerfuffles in the software community.

As Shephard says:

This reading list does not suggest “the ‘Rainman’ of nationalism,” so much as “an unambitious rightwing college freshman at Claremont McKenna” or “someone who only buys books from the clearance section at Barnes & Noble.” Only in Trump’s White House would a guy whose taste in books could be defined as “airport bookstore” be considered an intellectual.

All this is a fair point. Despite all the handwringing over Bannon’s Machiavellian control of the Oval Office and his Lex Luthor-style plots to “smash the state,” he’s apparently just another puffed-up finance bro with megalomania and a wooden ear.

The problem (and this is also true of Trump) is that it doesn’t much matter how smart or how well-read—how whatever—he is. We know for a fact that he was at least smart and literate enough to become possibly the most powerful person in the most powerful office (thanks, Obama!) of American governance. And, sadly, you don’t get impeached for reading the wrong blogs. You get impeached (if at all) for commiting crimes, and for doing real and lasting damage to the integrity of the republic. So now we wait.



Simon Reichley is the Director of Operations and Rights Manager at Melville House.