On Tuesday, Breitbart News executive chairman Stephen K. Bannon — a man who used his position to shift Breitbart News into a propaganda outlet on behalf of his own political interests — found himself jobless and perhaps homeless after being unceremoniously fired by the Breitbart News board. That firing, spearheaded by the Mercer family, followed hard on President Trump destroying Bannon in a public statement after Bannon told muckraking author Michael Wolff that the Trump campaign had engaged in criminal and treasonous activity. Bannon also ushered Wolff into the heart of the West Wing, where Wolff used his position to cobble together his bestselling gossip book, Fire and Fury.
Bannon’s ouster is a long time in coming. Actually, Bannon never should have been hired in the first place. He was not a close friend of Andrew Breitbart’s; he was instead a fellow who attempted to use his minimal documentary-making skills to ingratiate himself with Breitbart, making a movie with Breitbart as narrator. That unwatchable monstrosity was Bannon’s calling card after Breitbart died; Larry Solov, Breitbart’s business partner and lifelong friend, turned to Bannon in the aftermath of Breitbart’s tragic passing.
Bannon gradually began exerting more and more control over editorial of the site; by 2015, as outside observers noted, Bannon had shifted the site into fully political, DC-centric, Trumpian territory. This wasn’t at all what Andrew had intended: Andrew saw the site as a weapon in the fight against what he called the “Democrat-Media Complex,” destroying left-wing narratives crafted by the faux-objective media. Andrew believed that his site could play an outsized role in the culture war, and he saw culture as upstream of politics. And Andrew wanted to do so in the mold of the “happy warrior,” not as the grim-faced, stubble-bearded force of darkness Bannon attempted to project.
Bannon, by contrast, saw the site as a lever to exert influence in the circles of power — or at least the impression of influence. And he would abuse and use anyone he needed to in order to pose as Darth Vader.
By January 2016, it was clear to anyone with two eyes that Bannon had transformed the site into a propaganda outlet on behalf of the Trump campaign, and weaponized the site against Trump’s opponents. That wasn’t out of pure love for Trump — it was out of a pathetic desire to hitch his wagon to the next rising star.
And it got worse: Bannon decided that he would make common cause with the execrable alt-right in order to maximize his influence. To that end, he elevated Milo Yiannopoulos, bragged about making a site founded by a proud anti-racist into a “platform for the alt-right,” and used the site as his personal vendetta machine.
Bannon rode Trump’s star all the way to the White House — all the while, bragging that he was the real brains behind the operation. In reality, he had little to do with Trump’s success: he was only on the Trump campaign at all because the Mercers placed him there, along with Kellyanne Conway. Then, in the White House, he spent his days botching policy (see the original travel ban rollout) and pushing Trump to ally with awful people (see his reported advice on Charlottesville) and posturing as the Great Thinker of Trumpism — meanwhile leaking to the press as much as he could about his enemies inside the administration and the supposed dunderhead he had to shepherd through basic tasks.
Finally, in August, Trump dumped him. And Bannon went right back to the “machine” he had built, ready to maximize his own profile. He launched a doomed campaign on behalf of Alabama’s Roy Moore, and somehow suckered Trump into endorsing Moore; he even deployed reporters to Alabama to try to debunk Moore’s alleged molestation victims, knowing full well that they were credible. He lost.
And then, finally, the chickens came home to roost: all of that backbiting and self-promoting blew him up when Wolff’s book came out. Trump can abide anything but disloyalty. And Bannon, it turns out — as all of us who knew him knew — is a deeply disloyal human being.
Thus he had to go.
Steve Bannon has never built anything; he is a creature of destruction. He rides more powerful hosts until they drop beneath him, whispering sweet nothings in their ears. He tried to glom onto Sarah Palin’s celebrity. He did the same with Michele Bachmann, Andrew Breitbart, and Trump. All of those people built things. Bannon built nothing. He just stood atop the foundations they had erected, shouting his own name.
Now, he has nothing. He built a monument to himself, and it collapsed. He has no money; the Mercers are out. He has no power; the White House is out. He has no bullhorn: Breitbart is out. He’s back to what he had originally: his cunning and his nastiness and his shameless sycophancy-for-hire. Good luck to him.
So, where does Breitbart go from here? The great tragedy in all of this is that Breitbart’s name has been smeared with Bannon’s toxicity. Now they’ll have to rebuild. They can do so by either returning to Andrew’s original mission, which would require some humility, some decency — or they can become a shadow of their former Bannon.com glory, trying to pander to political patrons rather than standing for truth. That’s their choice.
But at least for today, it’s a good day for Andrew Breitbart. May they all be good days from now on.