A close friend wrote this blog post for Seraphic Secret. Because the author is Conservative and works with intolerant Progressives, it is being published anonymously in order to protect life, limb and employment.
A host of the usual suspect journalists, liberal activists, and all the same pundits who called this election wrong from the very beginning are now having a collective freakout about President-elect Donald Trump’s appointment of Breitbart News co-founder Steve Bannon as chief strategist and senior counselor. These usual suspects say all Americans, but especially racial minorities and Jews, should be alarmed that a man they believe is a racist quasi-leader of the so-called “alt right” movement has been put into such an influential position. Once again, the usual suspects are wrong. Dead wrong.
It’s not clear how often Bannon’s major detractors read Breitbart News, if ever. No matter, because I read it every day. It’s not exactly a straight news website, it’s mostly a conservative political agenda sounding board peppered with real stories cherry-picked to advance the conservative mindset. You know, kind of like Huffington Post or Daily Kos does for the liberal agenda. But when it comes to racism and antisemitism, Breitbart is simply being smeared with a label it doesn’t even remotely deserve. When it comes to the real source of most of the violent racism and religious intolerance in the world, Breitbart is possibly the strongest voice in all the media against it. That’s because Breitbart News, under Bannon’s guidance, documents and scrutinizes almost every serious act of Islamist terror and hate in the world. When Islamist groups attack Jews in Israel, Europe, or the U.S., Breitbart News is often the first and only site to report it. When so many innocent Muslims get killed when they happen to be caught on the wrong side of ISIS, Syrian President Bashir Asad, Iran, etc. Breitbart News is likely to be the only U.S.-based site to care. And when it comes to respecting and simply just recognizing religious Jewish news events, Breitbart News is also often the only non-religious Jewish website that covers those topics as it did this weekend for the worldwide Jewish Sabbath event.
Now it’s time for a personal disclaimer: I am a yeshiva-educated, relatively religious, and extremely proud Jew who has indeed read Breitbart News for years and appreciated just about everything I’ve seen there. I consider it a great opinion website overall. If I ever saw anything there that would lead me to believe it was fostering antisemitism, something I was indeed a victim of as a kid growing up in the South, I wouldn’t ignore it.
Now, let’s get to Bannon personally. Because a major source of the antisemitic and other negative claims against him stem from things his ex-wife said and claimed about him during their divorce proceedings. Mary Louise Piccard said Bannon told her not to send their children to schools with a lot of Jewish students. She also claimed he committed physical abuse. These are troubling accusations if true, but any lawyer will tell you the most serious allegations husbands and wives make against each other in divorce proceedings are often more than a little dubious. This phenomenon has been widely documented over the years and most expert divorce lawyers warn against taking these allegations with anything other than extreme prejudice. And these are indeed the most serious pieces of “evidence” that Bannon is antisemitic. Weighing that is really no contest against years of Breitbart and Bannon being rare voices alerting the world to the undisputed and truly violent antisemites out there.
One other voice accusing Bannon that’s more credible is former Breitbart writer Ben Shapiro, who also happens to be a religious Jew. Shapiro’s complaints about Bannon are mostly rooted in his claims that he was too pro-Trump from an early stage and pushed Breitbart content accordingly. That’s definitely a problem for the quality of Breitbart’s journalism, but surely an asset now that Bannon is continuing to work for the Trump team. Shapiro’s more serious accusation that Bannon gave a home to the white racist groups and ideas at some point this year simply does not stand up to the facts. Pro-Israel and Jewishly-centric content continued and continues to appear on the site all the time. Shapiro’s specific complaints about Bannon should not be dismissed out of hand, but his conclusions about what the sum total of those complaints mean are something else. And yet even he does not say that Bannon is a racist or antisemite. But it’s hard not to think that Shapiro’s extreme dislike for Trump and the Trump campaign, something he certainly has a right to have, may have tainted his judgment and tone when it comes to Bannon’s alleged tolerance for some racists and antisemites.
But wait, there’s more! Look closely at Trump’s rhetoric on the campaign trail before and after Bannon became a senior leader of the team. Trump’s messaging undeniably became less fiery and controversial and was more focused in the final months. And Trump’s close connections to openly religious Jews, like his son-in-law and close confidant Jared Kushner, must also be weighed against the most extreme fears about his association with Bannon. Strictly kosher food will now have to be served in the White House to accommodate the Orthodox Kusher and his wife Ivanka Trump. These are hardly the actions of an antisemite. Add to that Trump’s campaign promise to crack down on antisemitic and anti-Israel incidents on U.S. college campuses and his close friendship with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and you have a much less menacing picture… if you choose to see it.
But the biggest reason why we have to look at these accusations of racism and antisemitism against Bannon with extreme scrutiny is because they are just all too familiar. Even before Barack Obama became president, and in the eight years since, just about every serious critic of the White House, liberal policies, and Democrats in general have been routinely labeled as racists. Are some of those critics racists? Absolutely yes, but the Left has the same share of racists and especially antisemites too. I’ve eagerly been awaiting the day when one of our political parties finds a way to discourage any and all racists and haters from identifying with one of them. I’ve been waiting a long time.
As with all things, actions should speak louder than words, hearsay, former employee accusations, or divorce proceeding depositions. Let’s wait to see what kind of policies the Trump administration enacts, with or without Bannon’s influence. But preemptively labeling the Trump White House as a hate mongering factory will set the bar too low for Trump to clear and then claim to be a great president. America needs Trump to be better than just not a racist or antisemite for the next four years. That would be too easy. We all need a better economy, better health care, better immigration policies, and better foreign policies than just any run of the mill “non-racist” can come up with now.