Breitbart, who also lived in Los Angeles, had a profound influence on Bannon. When they met, Breitbart was starting his website, after having worked with Drudge and having helped Arianna Huffington launch the Huffington Post. Bannon lent his financial acumen and office space. He marveled at Breitbart’s visceral feel for the news cycle and his ability to shape coverage through the Drudge Report, which is avidly followed by TV producers and news editors.
“One of the things I admired about him was that the dirtiest word for him was ‘punditry,’ ” says Bannon. “Our vision—Andrew’s vision—was always to build a global, center-right, populist, anti-establishment news site.” With this in mind, he set out to line up investors.
Bannon continued making documentaries—big, crashing, opinionated films with Wagner scores and arresting imagery: Battle for America (2010), celebrating the Tea Party; Generation Zero (2010), examining the roots of the financial meltdown; The Undefeated (2011), championing Palin. In the Bannon repertoire, no metaphor is too direct. His films are peppered with footage of lions attacking helpless gazelles, seedlings bursting from the ground into glorious bloom. Palin, for one, ate it up and traveled to Iowa, trailed by hundreds of reporters, to appear with him at a 2011 screening in Pella that the press thought might signal her entrance into the 2012 presidential race. (No such luck.) Breitbart came along as promoter and ringmaster. When I spoke with him afterward, he described Bannon, with sincere admiration, as the Leni Riefenstahl of the Tea Party movement.
You’re a Trump supporter. You tell me that I’m overreacting to Trump’s statements at rallies, that it was all bluster and locker room talk, that I should give him a chance—the space—to succeed. I swallow my pride and agree.
Explain to me, then, considering all those facts, what Steve Bannon is doing in the White House.