Support 110 years of independent journalism.

  1. Politics
14 November 2016updated 16 Nov 2016 5:17pm

What Stephen Bannon as Donald Trump’s chief strategist means

An influential alt-right figure is now heading for the White House. 

By Julia Rampen

If anyone is still doubting that Donald Trump, the President-elect of the United States, won at least in part because of his divisive rhetoric on race, look who he picked as his chief strategist.

Stephen Bannon, 62, is the executive chairman of Breitbart News, viewed widely as the online news outlet of the “alt right” – an internet-savvy movement which has attracted white nationalists, men’s rights activists and accusations of Islamophobia. 

Bannon started his career as an investment banker, but he moved to Hollywood and began working as an executive producer. He directed and wrote several films with a specifically right-wing focus, including The Undefeated, a 2011 film about Sarah Palin, and Occupy Unmasked, a 2012 film attacking the Occupy movement. 

That year, Bannon was appointed executive chairman of the Breitbart News parent company. Breitbart News was originally founded as a “pro-Israel, pro-freedom” conservative news aggregator, but during Bannon’s tenure, white nationalists have flocked to it. A Twitter analysis by the Investigative Fund found 31 per cent of prominent social media influencers using the hashtag #whitegenocide followed Breitbart. Headlines during Bannon’s time included one calling Republican Bill Kristol “regenade Jew”. An article on the columnist Anne Applebaum declared: “And hell hath no fury like a Polish, Jewish, American elitist scorned.”

In the summer, Trump appointed Bannon as his campaign manager, to white nationalists’ delight. And while the ensuing months would contain personal scandals for the Republican presidential nominee, his eventual win has left Bannon in the driving seat.

Select and enter your email address Your weekly guide to the best writing on ideas, politics, books and culture every Saturday - from the New Statesman. Sign up directly at The New Statesman's quick and essential guide to the news and politics of the day. Sign up directly at Stay up to date with NS events, subscription offers & updates. Weekly analysis of the shift to a new economy from the New Statesman's Spotlight on Policy team.
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how New Statesman Media Group may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.

So what motivates Bannon? It seems to be a genuine anti-establishment feeling, coupled with personal views – his ex-wife has called him anti-Semitic, although he denies it – and a love for making headlines. He has talked warmly about how investigative journalists who may not share his politics can nevertheless be encouraged to write articles furthering his cause if given the right information. 

Content from our partners
Resolving the crisis in children’s dentistry
Planetary perspectives: how data can transform disaster response and preparation
How measurement can help turn businesses’ sustainability goals into action

Trump’s decision to appoint Bannon has sparked fury, but in the longer term it may give media previously considered to be on the edges of the right a veneer of respectability. Meanwhile, Bannon has an ear for populist rhetoric that is unlikely to go to waste. 

As an investment banker, Bannon learnt that putting yourself forward meant taking the flack. “Find a business partner,” he told Bloomberg in 2015. In Trump, Bannon has certainly found one.