On Thanksgiving, Steve Bannon told his Sirius XM listeners he wondered what “Pilgrims” and American Revoluton “freedom fighters” would think if they saw NFL players kneeling for the U.S. national anthem, but standing for Britain’s anthem God Save the Queen.
As materially advanced as we are, everything, the struggle that those folks went through to have people that are making millions of dollars a year kneel at the national anthem, but stand at God Save the Queen, it’s just so… it just blew my mind so much.
Bannon trades on a widely held perception that he possesses prophetic insights into the macro-historical rhythms and movements of empires and civilizations. In reality, for anyone who parses his statements with more than cursory interest, his “deep knowledge” of history extends no further than the casuistry of the meme and the sound-bite.
Manufacturing History and Tradition
The first sign of any “deep historical thinker” out of his depth is the reduction of the richness and variety of historical flow to a flat, single-factor, one-dimensional perspective on the past.
The idea that the “Pilgrims” or American Revolution “freedom fighters” were somehow monolithic communities that would have any opinion at all about decisions to stand or kneel for a national anthem defies credulity. These were diverse communities that were radical in ways entirely foreign to the “radicalism” of our times. They knew nothing about football, national anthems, or subservient patriotism of the sort Bannon implies the protesting NFL players lack.
Bannon cynically deploys these historical movements and moments as propaganda, as symbols with superficial cultural currency for his crazed band of Breitbart “hobbits.” In this sense, he manufactures history and tradition – like ethno-nationalists everywhere – to serve his own bizarre political goals (see Susan Faludi, In the Darkroom).
Myths about Money and Gratitude
Bannon repeats standard shibboleths about how his Pilgrims and colonial freedom fighters endured great hardship so NFL players could “make millions.” Here he once again manipulates facts and inferences that fuel, rather than dampen, the primitivism of his Breitbart base.
Obviously, white European settlers did not endure hardship so anyone could make millions. NFL players also have no obligation to be any more grateful for their station and success in life than any other American. In reality, of course, NFL players are world-class athletes who compete in the most violent professional team sport, with no job security, the lowest average salary, the most unequal salary distribution, the shortest average playing career, and the most difficult personal and professional prospects once they leave the league. From a risk and lifetime earnings perspective, NFL players absolutely deserve every dollar they make, and more. Moreover, the money they make has no bearing on a Constitutional right to peacefully protest systemic inequalities that shame all Americans.
Of course, Steve Bannon, who reminded Roy Moore supporters that the rest of the world (presumably including himself) regards them as “a pack of morons,” knows exactly what he is doing. He has mastered the politics of division on behalf of the most rancid and spurious resentments and superstitions, with unclear personal motivations that seem to derive from some twisted mix of traditional Catholic mysticism, Irish bravado, and thwarted military aspirations.
Bannon’s base of support concentrates in the South and in the rural outposts of the nation. Among this base, he casually panders to and provokes the darkest, deepest, and most gothic instincts of the American people. For those willing to descend into the satanic chaos of a Breitbart comment thread, here are a sample of responses to Bannon’s “Thanksgiving” radio address concerning the NFL, which in Trump country has apparently come to stand for “Niggers For Life” (presumably not a reference to anti-abortion African-Americans).
Tex: Now you’re talking some sense! But seriously, back in the day all of these kneeling football players would be in the fields working for free. How dare they complain now about what happens when you disrespect the police. They have no idea how good they have it.
Laurasia: They obviously don’t want to live here otherwise they would not be disgracing our nation like this. They have shown repetitively that they do not belong here and it is is everyone’s best interest if they leave. If they do not want to return to Africa then they can find some place else to live just so long as they leave.
Sam’s Son: Same Planet with common sense. Less than 30% of the people commit 70% of violent crimes in America. Blacks. Somalia deserves them, and they deserve Somalia. They could have been Policing/teaching their own all this time, but they keep encouraging violence. Remember the voter intimidation in 2008 ? And no one was LEGALLY CHARGED for it ? THAT”S the COMMUNISTS in America.
Disqus and Facebook both host Breitbart comments. It might be useful for Congress to investigate the impact on these specific comment threads of fake accounts and foreign influences or agents. Whatever we learn about the source of this dark energy (whether it signals a domestic howling or foreign mind-fucking) would be an improvement upon the chaos our confusion and distress presently breeds.