Alt-right-hand man

Our view: Pres­i­dent-elect Trump can’t con­demn acts of hate while in­stalling a chief in­sti­ga­tor just steps from the Oval Of­fice

Baltimore Sun - - FROM PAGE ONE -

In an in­ter­view that aired Sun­day on “60 Min­utes,” Don­ald Trump looked into the cam­era and an­nounced “Stop it!” to those who are com­mit­ting hate­ful, ha­rass­ing or vi­o­lent acts in his name. It was in­tended as a de­fin­i­tive re­pu­di­a­tion by a pres­i­dent-elect. Per­haps he might have done bet­ter to look in the mir­ror in­stead.

Mr. Trump’s de­ci­sion to ap­point Steve Ban­non as chief White House strate­gist has sent an un­mis­tak­able mes­sage of ap­proval and val­i­da­tion to the alt-right move­ment and white na­tion­al­ists gen­er­ally. These are the de­scen­dants of groups like the Ku Klux Klan that see the na­tion’s “white iden­tity” un­der at­tack by non-whites.

No doubt most Amer­i­cans have no idea who the 62-year-old Mr. Ban­non is. They’ll see the crit­i­cism ex­pressed groups like the Anti-Defama­tion League as lib­eral over­re­ac­tion or by Democrats like Mary­land Rep. Steny Hoyer or Sen. Ben Cardin as in­side-the-belt­way par­ti­san pol­i­tics. But read­ers of Bre­it­bart News, the web­site Mr. Ban­non took over af­ter the death of founder An­drew Bre­it­bart four years ago, know his brand of hate-speech well.

In the Ban­non-Bre­it­bart world, Weekly Stan­dard editor Bill Kris­tol, a main­stream con­ser­va­tive Repub­li­can and fre­quent Trump critic, is a “rene­gade Jew,” the Con­fed­er­ate flag por­trays only a “glo­ri­ous her­itage,” fem­i­nism pro­duces “ac­ri­mony, con­stant sus­pi­cion and an­tag­o­nism,” “birth con­trol makes women unattrac­tive and crazy,” and Mus­lims are bring­ing “rape cul­ture” to the United States. It is a web­site that trades in misog­yny, sex­ism and a dis­torted view of Is­lam — not oc­ca­sion­ally or cau­tiously but in a full-throated, cal­lous and fre­quently dis­torted man­ner.

Bre­it­bart is surely the lead­ing pur­veyor of “fake news,” its sig­na­ture mal­ice of­fered in the style of re­port­ing with lit­tle re­gard for ac­tual facts of any kind. One of its spe­cial­ties is the kind of hit-job ru­mor cam­paign that at­tempted to con­vince read­ers that Hil­lary Clin­ton was des­per­ately ill, re­ject­ing her pneu­mo­nia di­ag­no­sis for some­thing more likely to dis­cour­age vot­ers like de­men­tia or Parkin­son’s. The writer sim­ply tracks down a “source,” of­ten just one in­di­vid­ual who will spec­u­late wildly, and then quotes him or her lib­er­ally.

Mr. Ban­non has a con­sti­tu­tional right to print such garbage as a form of po­lit­i­cal speech, as dis­taste­ful as it may be, but Amer­i­cans aren’t ob­li­gated to swal­low it. More than half of the vot­ers who showed up at the polls this year re­jected this brand of pol­i­tics, and if a Pres­i­dent Trump truly wants to gov­ern a united coun­try, he sim­ply can’t in­stall such a tainted in­di­vid­ual just a few steps from the Oval Of­fice. Even Google and Face­book have come around and have be­gun to rec­og­nize the prob­lems posed Stephen Ban­non, who will serve as chief White House ad­viser to Don­ald Trump, made Bre­it­bart News a hos­pitable home for ex­trem­ist views. by fake news on their plat­forms, an­nounc­ing this week that they will limit ad rev­enues to such sites.

Make no mis­take, Mr. Trump’s elec­tion has al­ready en­cour­aged so­ci­ety’s ugli­est cock­roaches to crawl out of their dark hidey-holes. As of last Friday, a sur­vey by the South­ern Poverty Law Cen­ter counted more than 200 acts of elec­tion­re­lated racial ha­rass­ment and in­tim­i­da­tion, and the numbers keep pil­ing up. Swastikas in a mid­dle school re­stroom; peo­ple show­ing up at a Con­necti­cut party in Klan cos­tume and Trump signs; Con­fed­er­ate flags in a Veter­ans Day pa­rade in Cal­i­for­nia; a man threat­en­ing to set on fire a woman in a hi­jab in Michi­gan; an In­di­ana church van­dal­ized with racist, pro-Trump slurs — the list keeps get­ting longer and longer.

It will take more than a few words on “Sixty Min­utes” to quell this ris­ing storm. Trump sup­port­ers can huff and puff all they want about re­cent protests by col­lege stu­dents who worry about the fu­ture for Lati­nos, women, mem­bers of the LGBT com­mu­nity and oth­ers who were tar­geted by the Trump cam­paign, but their fears are le­git­i­mate. You can’t dis­avow a pat­tern of van­dal­ism and in­tim­i­da­tion while of­fer­ing a top spot in the White House to the fel­low with the big­gest can of spray paint in his hands.

Trump de­fend­ers say there’s more to Mr. Ban­non than the con­tent of the Bre­it­bart site. Per­haps so, but the same might be said of run-of-the-mill street van­dals, too. If the pres­i­dent elect is will­ing to de­port un­doc­u­mented im­mi­grants on jay­walk­ing tick­ets, he ought to be will­ing to give the boot to Mr. Ban­non for far more ne­far­i­ous be­hav­ior.


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