Down, Down, Down: Steve Bannon's Red Tide Is Rising in Topeka, Sort Of


Bannon in Nikes at the Holiday Inn. Down, down, down he goes; where he lands, why would any of us care?  Photos by Sherman Smith

Speaking of shunning, a bit of comic relief: Former White House Chief Strategist and current racist low-life hack and "traveling carnie" Steve Bannon has begun popping back up in our dystopian national landscape, often in weird contexts and with less than stellar results. Recently relegated to skulking around Europe, where he's been consorting with Belgian and other right-wingers ahead of upcoming elections "trying to be the infrastructure, globally, for the global populist movement,” the once “powerful and influential figure” has now come home to take on somewhat more modest gigs. Two weeks ago, he was scheduled to headline a Florida GOP fundraiser celebrating the anniversary of the election of Herr President; ticket prices began at $20,000 for premier seats with "Sloppy Steve," with VIP tickets at $1,000. By the time of the event, the deafeningly silent response had caused prices to be slashed to $5,000 and $300 respectively, and then zero. "COMPLEMENTARY TO ALL!" GOP officials shouted. "We want to pack the house!!!"

Several underwhelming triumphs followed. On Staten Island, the only NYC borough that voted for Trump, Bannon held a rally and viewing for the movie Trump @ War, produced by his own Victory Films. "You’ll literally be standing on your chair with your pitchfork saying: ‘I’ve got to get people out to vote,’” he crowed about it. Some reports put attendance at 25; others said 38, but with no chair-standing or pitchforks. "You want grassroots leaders," said Bannon of the lack of screaming fans. "You don't need massive events - this is all about human contact." He got plenty a few days later in Kansas, where his RED TIDE RISING RALLY with STEVE BANNON at a Holiday Inn Express in North Topeka drew a handful of supporters; eventually, a journalist breathlessly reported, the crowd "swelled to 17." While the "micro-rally," publicized in unsolicited texts, urged support for the GOP's Steve Watkins in a key Congressional race, the Watkins campaign announced it "had nothing to do with" the event. Undaunted, Bannon rallied the small troops. “The key to the Trump movement is the ‘deplorables,’ right?” he said. "We’re all in this together.”

 Yes and no, according to disparate voices connected to Bannon's next bizarre gig. Despite no academic background in computer science or interactive design, but evidently because he likes to talk up "economic nationalism," second cousin to white nationalism, in tech jobs, he's slated to be keynote speaker at the upcoming 15th International Conference on Advances in Computer Entertainment Technology (ACE) in Montana; as a murky aside, that event is "co-located" with an International Congress on Love and Sex with Robots, an odd turn among several that made some ACE organizers quit even before they could work up their outrage over a Trump Nazi as keynote speaker. Still, many others are raging for them: Citing Bannon's presence, various academics have pulled out of the event, questioned its deteriorating standards, called for a boycott, slammed Bannon's "brand (as) personally odious," declared, "His is a marginal discourse that should stay where it is, marginalized," and fumed, “This is like inviting Ed Sheeran to keynote a microbiology conference. It's unfathomable.”

In truth, they seem to have plenty of company. Out in the land of actual human beings, Bannon - like Ted Cruz, Stephen Miller and so many others achieving their level of douchebaggery - inspires a particularly and understandably savage enmity. On Wednesday, Reuters announced the Senate Intelligence Committee was starting a wide-ranging investigation into Bannon's no doubt slimy activities during the election campaign, which surprised no one: "We investigated him and found no signs of intelligence anywhere." Many likewise reacted to his latest crimes and misdemeanors with weary but creative rancor. "Good to see the fall of the fascist fuckwomble," read one comment. The best in response to the Topeka farce: "That's not a 'micro-rally.' That's a bridge foursome and a moldering carcass of hubris and delusion encased in filthy garments from LL Bean's 1985 'Muttering Hobo' Fall Collection." Ah Stevie, we hardly knew ye. Hopefully, we won't have to for much longer.


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