Contradiction and the Cultist
There is no human being more singularly identified with Donald Trump’s rise from kook fringe primary candidate to viable Republican frontrunner than Steve Bannon. In fact, one could make the case that no one is more responsible for that rise — or more to blame, depending on how you judge the matter — than Bannon. Bannon himself, however, quickly became somewhat estranged from the Trump cult that he had helped to foster, presumably because he found himself increasingly marginalized within Trump’s inner circle by the ascendant GOP establishment faction in the White House — the very establishment that Bannon, as a conservative media mogul, had manufactured the myth of Trump to oppose.
At this point, had Trump’s cult not been a cult, they would have begun to see the cracks in the fantasy they had been sold. Their man’s “great accomplishments,” as had become glaringly apparent, were not the ones they had been promised during the campaign, but rather the sort of milquetoast party line actions that any Republican president would have taken, apart from Trump’s unique brand of pseudo-courageous kowtowing to the world’s leading tyrants, and of course the Trump tariffs and bailouts.
With Bannon effectively marginalized, the man who would become more commonly associated with the Trump cult’s aspirational side — suitably enough, as the movement became less and less about the progressive demagoguery of “making America great again” and more and more about winning ugly, concrete goals be damned — was the sleazy conman and lifelong establishment dirt merchant, Roger Stone. Was the cult bothered about aligning itself with such a creature? No, for it was a cult, and therefore anyone who appeared to support Trump in any way was good, and anyone who appeared to oppose Trump in any way was evil. That this meant most of the Republican establishment itself, from Lindsay Graham to Mitch McConnell to “Lyin’ Ted” Cruz to Fox News to John Bolton to Kevin McCarthy, would now be in the good graces of the MAGA morons most of the time entailed no hypocrisy or self-contradiction, in the cult’s collective mind. For their standard of all judgment, and indeed all truth, was fealty to Donald Trump — not to any ideas of Trump’s, since of course he had none, but simply to the celebrity charisma of the man himself, however it may manifest itself on any given day. It also followed, inevitably, that whenever, or to whatever extent, any of those characters should speak a slightly less than reverent word about their god, the cult — all seventy million of them — would immediately condemn that person to the slag heap, unless and until he started speaking “correctly” again the next day. Truth, for the cult, was nothing but a continuous flux of restless chasing after Trump’s increasingly rattled and inconsistent prattle.
Roger Stone, of course, was pardoned by Trump in a pure act of senseless disdain for the law. Well, it was more likely a direct payoff for Stone’s having kept up his lies under oath to protect Trump all the way to the bitter end, but I am trying to take the most benign view of the Trump thug machine these days, so let’s just say the pardon was lawless and leave it at that. Bannon, meanwhile, who is certainly a crass slob but at least, one might say, believes in something, has been trying to forge a path forward for his Mussolini-esque dreams for America in the post-Trump world. To that end, he has tried to distance himself from the cult he himself worked so hard to create, by questioning Trump’s judgment, and even his mental condition, during the latter stages of his presidency. For that ultimate sin against Trumpism — conceding that the Orange God might not be capable of ruling the universe he created forever — the crass slob has come under public attack by the lifelong establishment dirt merchant.
In a statement shared to conservative social media platform Gab, Stone alleged: “Bannon was an informant for Robert Mueller and indisputably perjured himself at my trial. He also accused Donald Trump Junior of being a Russian traitor and insisted that President Donald Trump was suffering from Alzheimer’s.”
He added: “If you see this fat disheveled load of s**t I strongly recommend that you punch him in the mouth as hard as you possibly can. Do it for America !”
Hegel said the owl of Minerva flies at dusk. As it appears to be twilight for Trumpism, perhaps we may gain a little wisdom (or at least wisdom’s lunatic asylum equivalent) as we lay out the story arc of this peculiar subplot of the Trump cult drama.
In the summer and fall of 2015, Steve Bannon employed all of his considerable media resources in the effort to set and stoke the dumpster fire that became the Trump campaign supernova. It is not farfetched to say that without Bannon’s personal involvement and leadership, the Trump presidency could never have happened. He was the mastermind of the campaign’s aura of inevitability, both in terms of directing Trump’s demagogic policy focus and in terms of creating an aura of “conservative media” legitimacy and momentum around the Trump candidacy, while simultaneously promoting distrust and mob hatred toward all other GOP primary candidates — and, lest anyone forget, establishing the single most prominent platform for alt-right Russian propaganda in support of Trump. In short, it is probably no exaggeration to conclude: No Bannon, no Trump cult; and of course, no Trump cult, no Trump presidency.
Today, Roger Stone has told the cult, in no uncertain terms, that Bannon is the devil, the archenemy of the Trump godhead, and therefore that it would be right, justifiable, and desirable, not to mention patriotic (“Do it for America!”) to punch Bannon in the mouth “as hard as you possibly can.” In other words, Stone is encouraging seventy million people — many of them intrinsically violent in character and particularly triggered by anything that stands against Trump — to commit an act of violence, a potentially deadly one, against the very man without whom the cult would not exist.
Pardon me for being so pedantic as to state what almost states itself, but does this narrative not strike you as wonderfully reminiscent of the Bolshevik in-fighting that led to the exile and eventual murder of Leon Trotsky? The main difference, however, being that Trump (Lenin), Stone (Stalin), and Bannon (Trotsky) are all idiots. As Uncle Karl wrote about history’s repetitions, “the first time as tragedy, the second as farce.”
But what is a cultist to do in the face of this changing tide? This too is almost too obvious to require stating: He sits by obediently, listening to the radio and reading his own comments on trumpworship.com, waiting for someone more courageous than himself to punch that fat S.O.B. Bannon in the mouth as hard as he possibly can, as the self-serving loyalist thug Stone demands — for America, of course, where “America” means Trump.