If you’re like most Americans, you weren’t familiar with the name Steve Bannon prior to the 2016 presidential election.
While Kellyanne Conway may have been the face of Donald Trump’s successful campaign, it was Bannon who most often seemed to monopolize Trump’s ear.
Now that Trump has been sworn in as the 45th President of the United States and kicked off an agenda of state-sanctioned bigotry, it seems he may be doing so at the behest of Bannon, a development with implications for the future that are far more frightening than many Americans realize.
Bannon is an investment banker turned Hollywood producer and a leading figure in the white nationalist and "alt-right" movements, both of which are widely regarded as thinly-disguised hate groups.
Prior to his involvement with the Trump campaign, Bannon was executive chair at Breitbart, a fringe-right news organization recently described by Time magazine as dangerously "racist, sexist, xenophobic and anti-Semitic."
Under his leadership, Breitbart took an even more radically far-right approach, publishing such scandalous headlines as "Trannies whine about hilarious Bruce Jenner billboard" and "Birth control makes women unattractive and crazy."
The latter piece concluded with the sentence, "We need the kids if we’re to breed enough to keep the Muslim invaders at bay."
For obvious reasons, when President Trump began signing executive orders which seemed to give government consent to discrimination against various religious and minority groups, many concluded that he was doing so on the advice of Bannon.
On Saturday, Trump took the unprecedented step of naming Bannon to the National Security Council, a move that granted the president’s top adviser a degree of power usually reserved for cabinet members, elected officials, and military personnel.
The New York Times went so far as to say the appointment has allowed Bannon to position himself as a sort of de facto president.
Strangely, Bannon has made no secret of the fact that he covets absolute power and emulates those who have seized it through violence and subterfuge:
"Darkness is good," he told The Hollywood Reporter following Trump’s election. "Dick Cheney, Darth Vader, Satan. That’s power."
Bannon covers the new issue of Time, and the accompanying piece (which describes the 63-year-old Virginian as "the second most powerful man in the world") reveals that he’s a firm believer in a bizarre theory regarding America’s history.
The so-called "fourth turning" theory, first espoused by authors William Strauss and Neil Howe, holds that societies move in 80-100 year cycles, which culminate in cataclysmic events that force nations to rebuild, often with a whole new set of ideals and values.
According to the theory, the previous American "turnings" were the Civil War/Reconstruction and the Great Depression/World War II.
Bannon believes that the nation is currently in the midst of another fourth turning (he’s written that it began with the 2008 financial crisis), and he clearly feels that Donald Trump is the man to bring it to fruition.
If Bannon’s plan to court destruction sounds familiar, that might be due to the fact that it’s not far off from the beliefs of a more widely-feared radicalist movement.
The thing that makes ISIS so difficult to combat is that the group welcomes all that we most dread, hoping to bring about utter devastation as the fulfillment of an arcane koranic prophecy.
Similarly, Steve Bannon feels that it is only through the destruction of the present world order that America can be rebuilt to the specifications of right-wing radicals such as himself.
If all of this sounds extreme, that’s because it is.
Bannon is the poster boy for a terrifying new breed of extremism, and his vision of seizing control through total destruction is dangerously close to being realized.