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Joshua Green on How Bannon’s Experience with Video Gamers Gave Rise to the “Alt-Right”

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Journalist Joshua Green talks about how Steve Bannon used his experience in the video game industry to use Breitbart News to mobilize young, largely white men. “The reality is, Fox News’ audience was geriatric and no one was connecting with this younger group,” Bannon told Green. Bannon’s hires at Breitbart include Milo Yiannopoulos, who has been widely accused of being a white nationalist.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to Joshua Green. His new book is Devil’s Bargain: Steve Bannon, Donald Trump, and the Storming of the Presidency. You also talk about how Breitbart News went after Fox News to make it more extreme, and the gaming background of Steve Bannon, recognizing that Fox News was for old folks. There was this huge young conservative set that he could bring in.

JOSHUA GREEN: You know, another story in the book—another thing I got asked about a lot as a political reporter was: Where did this idea of the “alt-right” come from? Who are these people? How did they infect our politics in the way that they had? And Bannon, oddly enough, is a critical figure in the rise of the “alt-right,” many of whose members, I should just add as a side note, read and admire Julius Evola and his thinking.

But back in 2007, after Bannon had done Hollywood and filmmaking, he wound up, for about a year and a half, as the CEO of a video game company in Hong Kong, which did not actually make video games that you play. It pioneered something called gold farming, which I had never heard of. But what gold farming is, is the process of going into these massive multiplayer games, like World of Warcraft, and winning armor and prizes and gold, which allow you to advance in the game, but then turning around and selling them to people in the real world. So Bannon’s company would hire teams of low-wage Chinese workers to play these games in 24-hour rotating cycles, win all this stuff, and then sell it to wealthier gamers offline, which was considered a serious enough business that Goldman Sachs actually invested money in Bannon’s company.

But what happened was, the gamers—most of the people who played the games considered this cheating, and they got very angry. You know, kids would spend hours and weeks and months absorbed in these games, and didn’t like the fact that there was this shortcut. And so, the gamers themselves organized on message boards. There are special message boards devoted to these multiplayer games. And they organized themselves and said, “Hey, we’re going to put pressure on these video games and make them shut down the practice of gold farming.” And they did. And it destroyed—it bankrupted Bannon’s business.

But the lesson he took away from this was that there are millions and millions of young, white—mostly white—men who spend their entire lives in these online alternate realities, and that—

AMY GOODMAN: 4chan.

JOSHUA GREEN: 4chan, exactly, Reddit—and that if they are motived to do so, they could be a very powerful political force: “They bankrupted my company. I want to see if I can channel them into politics.” And when Bannon got to Breitbart News, he hired a notorious internet troll named Milo Yiannopoulos to be Breitbart’s tech editor and to essentially entice these legions of angry online gamers into the world of populist right-wing politics. And eventually Bannon was able to turn them on to Trump.

AMY GOODMAN: So, you now have Bannon in the White House. His main issues, as he talked about at CPAC, is dismantling the administrative state. Is he succeeding? How powerful is he right now

JOSHUA GREEN: He is, to an extent, not the extent he’d like to. But when you saw the CPAC clip that you showed him deconstructing the administrative state, that is a signal that is operating on two levels. If you are a ordinary, traditional movement Republican—you don’t like government, you want government to shrink—you hear what Bannon said as “We’re going to shrink government.”

But on another level, and this gets back to Guénon and the Traditionalists, Bannon is using coded language there, which says deconstructing the administrative state—one of Guénon’s beliefs was that there were two pivotal moments in world history that brought us away from God and the transcendent. One was the destruction of the Order of Knights Templar in 1312, which cut off Western connection to esoteric knowledge. And the other was the Peace of Westphalia, which gave rise to the modern nation-state. That is what Bannon wants to destroy.

AMY GOODMAN: Finally, he talks about fake news. He talks about The New York Times as fake news, but he used The New York Times to advance his goals. And that goes to the issue of Clinton cash, etc.

JOSHUA GREEN: Absolutely, yeah. And so I tell the story in the book. Bannon, for all his complaints about the media, is a very savvy guy who understands how to manipulate the mainstream media. And one of the things—

AMY GOODMAN: We just have a minute.

JOSHUA GREEN: One of the things I thought he did so brilliantly, and I write about in the book, was find a way to get his stories into The New York Times. And so, he funded two years’ worth of research, produced the book Clinton Cash by Peter Schweizer, which documented all this stuff, all these financial connections, and then brought the book to reporters in mainstream outlets like the Times, like the Post, who took these stories, published them in their papers and spread his anti-Clinton message in the mainstream media, dissuading and discouraging a lot of Clinton’s own voters. And in the end, that proved to be a very effective tactic.

AMY GOODMAN: And he also went after Fox News.

JOSHUA GREEN: Well, he also went after Fox News because Bannon believes that there is a—there was a split between populist Republicans and what he would call Fox News establishment Republicans. There’s a scene in the book of Bannon screaming profanely at Roger Ailes. Eventually Bannon won that war, broke the back of Fox News, and now they’ve become the most pro-Trump station you can find anywhere on the cable dial.

AMY GOODMAN: Finally, we have just 30 seconds, but you went to college with Sean Spicer, Josh.

JOSHUA GREEN: I did go to college with Sean Spicer. I went to Connecticut College, a very PC liberal arts school. He was one of about 10 openly Republican kids on campus, very loud about it. His nickname in college was Sean Sphincter, so that gives you an idea of his popularity. But it was surprising to see where he’s wound up, but I certainly recognize the guy that I went to college with.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, we’re going to leave it there. Joshua Green, senior national correspondent for Bloomberg Businessweek. His new book, Devil’s Bargain: Steve Bannon, Donald Trump, and the Storming of the Presidency.

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