Steve Bannon's obsession with this racist novel is just the tip of the iceberg

Steve Bannon's obsession with this racist novel is just the tip of the iceberg

Yes, Steve Bannon has repeatedly compared refugees from war-torn nations to the demonized depiction of immigrants in an obscure novel who eat their own poop and try to murder all white people — but somehow, that isn't even the whole story.  

Bannon, the former chief of far-right site Breitbart whose rise to power as President Donald Trump's chief strategist has alarmed people across the political spectrum, repeatedly cited a racist French novel in defense of Trump's ban on entry from certain Muslim majority countries, the Huffington Post reported.

On at least four occasions, Bannon referenced Jean Raspail's obscure 1973 novel The Camp of the Saints to defend Trump's immigration policies, according to the Huffington Post; in interviews and speeches, Bannon referred to "Camp of the Saints-type invasion into Central and then Western and Northern Europe" as well as a broader "global Camp of the Saints" scenario.

There's a reason that reference might have slipped below the radar: The Camp of the Saints is a breathtakingly racist novel describing a ship-borne invasion of Indian migrants into France led by a demagogue named the "turd-eater" (because he eats feces) and a deformed psychic child. Over the course of the novel, French authorities belabor over whether to accept the migrants or slaughter them all, and reach the latter conclusion too late, only for the 800,000 Indians to flood into France and destroy the country.

The book describes the Indian refugees in an openly racist manner: "Scraggy branches, brown and black ... All bare, those fleshless Gandhi-arms." Indian children are "starting to rot, all wormy inside or turned so you can't see the mold." At the end, refugees from other countries storm the rest of the West, trampling it into the ground.

A protagonist, Calgues, surmises what went wrong in the brain of a young hippie he is preparing to murder: "That scorn of a people for other races, the knowledge that one's own is best, the triumphant joy at feeling oneself to be part of humanity's finest — none of that had ever filled these youngsters' addled brains."

The book was described as an anti-immigration counterpart to The Turner Diaries, a novel glamorizing white supremacist terrorism, by the Southern Poverty Law Center in 2001.

When it comes to Bannon's reading list, The Camp of the Saints is only the tip of the iceberg.

In a cover story for Time in February, the magazine wrote Bannon was captivated by a book called The Fourth Turning: What Cycles of History Tell Us About America's Next Rendezvous With Destiny. Authors and generational theorists William Strauss and Neil Howe wrote U.S. history can be explained in roughly 80-year cycles in which generations fall into crises, forge a new path forward and then forget the lessons of the past, resulting in a subsequent crisis.

Bannon, historian David Kaiser told Time, was obsessed with the idea the previous crises outline in the book — the American Revolution, U.S. Civil War and World War II — were doomed to repeat themselves in the form of a looming worldwide conflict even bigger than WWII. In appearances on Breitbart radio, Bannon theorized the war may begin with nuclear-armed China over disputed territories in the South China Sea. Bannon has also argued it might be a global war with "radical Islam."

Bannon also reportedly has an interest in the writings of Curtis Yarvin aka "Mencius Moldbug," a far-right blogger central to the "neo-reactionary" (NRx or Dark Enlightenment) movement, Politico reported in February. Neo-reactionaries post liberal democracy and economic freedom are fundamentally incompatible; some advocate a return to more supposedly natural order of things, like autocracy or feudalism, while NRx-affiliated philosopher Nick Land would prefer to abolish democracy and simply appoint a national CEO.

Politico reported Bannon has been in some kind of contact with Yarvin, who notably does not believe in the equality of all races and has at times flirted with the idea of bringing back slavery.

As the Boston Globe noted, Bannon also has made passing reference to Nazi-affiliated philosopher Julius Evola. Evola advocates "a hierarchical society run by a spiritually superior caste," a traditionalist perspective  beloved by white supremacists like Richard Spencer of "Hail Trump" fame.

Bannon's far-right reading list has informed his career

At Breitbart, Bannon worked hard to drive the already far-right site more reactionary, openly embracing the alt-right, the loosely organized digital confederation of racists and supremacists that sprung to prominence in 2016 (and has a strikingly similar reading list).

As the Huffington Post noted, Breitbart articles in recent years made repeated references to The Camp of the Saints amid anti-immigrant takes on the news, as well as described 1in heated terms a supposed global conflict between Islam and the Judeo-Christian West. Under Bannon's tenure, Breitbart cited Evola as one of the formative thinkers of the alt-right, and also issued an angry defense of Yarvin when he was banned from a programming conference.

With Bannon's entry to the White House, he may be the most powerful of Trump's advisers. Now, he's had a chance to put theory into praxis, securing a role on the National Security Council, co-authoring Trump's refugee and travel bans and exhorting Trump's particular brand of nationalism.