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4 January 2018

The Trump-Bannon feud just feeds our need to put a narrative to the White House circus

We should stop allowing these men whose only agenda is a desperate need for relevance, to keep hijacking the media cycle.

By Nesrine Malik

Does anyone leave the White House with any dignity? In this series, Sean Spicer flounced out, stung by Scaramucci’s hiring, and allegedly stole a mini-fridge while he was at it. The Mooch soon after famously lasted less in his position than any perishables in that mini-fridge. Omarosa was dragged out by security after using the White House as a pre-wedding venue, and now Steve Bannon, who miraculously didn’t leave under any discernible cloud, is now in a full on food fight with Donald Trump. The White House is like a full digestive system, things go in fresh and clean, then are processed through its organs and are ejected, foul and rancid.

In the latest Trump administration bowel movement, a new “explosive” book by Michael Wolff, Fire and Fury (in a title that manages to outnaff Dan Brown – everything related to the Trump administration is out of really bad Tom Clancy fanfic), Steve Bannon burns any last vestiges of loyalty and among other salvos, calls the meeting between the president’s son and Russian officials during the 2016 election campaign “unpatriotic” and “treasonous”. Trump responded by saying that Bannon had “lost his mind” and was struggling to win in the real world, where he was not hitched to Trump’s winning machine. Reading the details in the excerpt obtained by the Guardian, written in Wolff’s characteristicly breathless thriller style, feels like binge eating on something that’s bad for you but gives you a bit of a high, followed by a wave of emptiness and self loathing. A specific passage, about Ivanka making fun of her father’s hair, was delight followed by despair. Haha, even his daughter thinks he’s ridiculous, the president of the United States is a vain buffoon held in contempt even by his own family. Haha. Oh God. 

Nothing anyone can say about Trump is surprising anymore, so why are we doing this. At this point it’s a fake highbrow reality show. Just because it’s the office of the president doesn’t make it less voyeuristic and petty than the Kardashian household. Which is why Wolff is an apt author for what is probably scripted reality. Apart from Bannon’s quotes, which are in themselves a subjective view of a political bottom feeder who has read his own press clippings, I would take the whole thing with a pinch of salt.

But we won’t, because no one can lay a glove on Trump and he is still in the White House a year later with the Mueller investigation frustrating us with its tiresome due process and so we are desperate for a hit. Narratives are created because people want to believe them. Remember Steve Bannon as Darth Vader? Remember how the media so badly wanted to believe that there was some genius behind the throne? Remember the long profiles with the moody photos of him as the dark Archangel, summoning grass roots anger and orchestrating it into a victory for Donald Trump? Remember the man who was not a racist, but a maverick, an ideologue? That man is the same one whose messages to Milo Yiannopoulos revealed a basic lack of literacy and a short temper. Behold the wise master engineer of the alt-right in correspondence:

“Your [sic] full of shit. When I need your advice on anything I will ask. … The tech site is a total clusterfuck—meaningless stories written by juveniles. You don’t have a clue how to build a company or what real content is. And you don’t have long to figure it out or your [sic] gone. … You are magenalia [sic].”

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In the latest interview with Wolff for his book, Bannon says that they are “…going to crack Don Junior like an egg on national TV”. That the meeting with the Russians was “bad shit”. Thanks for that Steve, your stints in the Ivy League and the upper echelons of investment banking which every media profile made sure to mention as prima facie evidence of your competence and genius have not let you down. 

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Even Trump, to this day, after everything, is still constantly cast as this or that. Someone who has made the White House “accessible“ when his predecessors were “aloof“, someone with a “social media strategy“. One of the most challenging postures for the human mind to become accustomed to, is that of incoherence and randomness. We didn’t need Bannon to go through his White House de-fanging, or to lose his Alabama punt on Roy Moore to realise that he maybe isn’t all that hot. Perhaps the fact that he was a comically grandiose Breitbart editor with bad spelling, willing to piggyback off the alt-right to promote his ego, should have given that away.

But no one comes out of this looking good. We’re clamouring for a book by Michael Wolff which is clearly a vehicle for a new Bannon “keeper of the flame“ psychodrama episode, to tell us something that we already know – the White House is a circus. The only thing we can take away from the whole affair is to be more skeptical of narratives and go by what our senses and prodigious evidence tells us. No one know what they are doing, there was no plan, and we should stop allowing these men whose only agenda is a desperate need for relevance, to keep hijacking the media cycle and imposing their own self-serving narratives.