Stephen Bannon and Me

The left is hard after Stephen Bannon, Trump’s campaign strategist and former CEO of Breitbart. I’m not a huge fan of Breitbart in the post-Andrew Breitbart era, but the fact that the left is after Bannon so hard recommends him, of course. (While Breitbart has published some dodgy material and has shown some bad judgment about some issues and people—like trying to dump Paul Ryan from his House seat in Wisconsin—I do not believe the charges that Bannon is an anti-Semite.)

gen-zeroIt took a while for the synapses to fire off in my head, but I finally recalled that I spent an hour with Bannon once, back around late 2009, when he interviewed me on camera for a documentary film he wrote and directed for Citizens United, entitled Generation Zero. I had pretty much forgotten about the film, which is unique for its understanding of the financial crisis of 2008 from a moral and cultural point of view. He wanted to interview me and include a few of my thoughts in the film because he had read the first volume of my Age of Reagan books. He struck me as thoughtful and serious throughout, and he was very good at asking questions to prompt me to give good answers usable for the film.

Most treatments of the financial crisis emphasize the wonky side of things—the perfect storm of bad monetary policy, regulatory failure, and government pressure on lenders to make loans to people unable to pay them back, and, of course, Wall Street greed. Generation Zero wastes little time with these angles. Instead it opens with a simple question: was greed suddenly invented on Wall Street some time around 2005? Of course not.

The message of the film is that the wishful thinking that went behind a lot of the stupid government policy that created the conditions for the crash is yet another symptom of the self-indulgence and supposed mastery of the Baby Boom generation, leavened with the strain of sixties radicalism that deliberately wants to crash the U.S. economy, because revolution, right?

I only appear in the film briefly near the beginning, talking about Woodstock, and the film features a who’s who of our friends: Newt Gingrich, Michael Novak, Victor Davis Hanson, Roger Kimball, Charles Krauthammer, Heather Mac Donald, Stephen Moore, etc.

Following Andrew Breitbart, Bannon’s emphasis that politics is downstream from culture is a good sign. Most Republican administrations don’t perceive this very clearly, or are inept at dealing with this fact. At the White House Bannon will know who the enemies are and why, and working for a president who is a cultural as well as political phenomenon bodes well in many ways. No wonder the left is in such a tizzy about him.

Below is the short trailer for the film, but you can watch the whole 90 minutes on YouTube here.

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