[WSMDiscuss] Steve Bannon's new school for populism, snuggled inside Italy's Certosa di Trisulti monastery ascendant

Larry Swetman rswetman at gmail.com
Mon Apr 29 00:22:57 CEST 2019

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On Sun, Apr 28, 2019 at 3:37 PM <chip.berlet at researchforprogress.org> wrote:

> Hello folks,
> Bannon is not fighting a rearguard action, he is building a global
> movement for nations with mono-cultural mono-"racial" populations. It was
> called "Integralism" when Franco installed it in Spain. A more recent
> theorist is Alain de Benoist. Have a book coming out from Routledge  that
> discusses it, but also a forthcoming article with Spencer Sunshine in the
> Journal of Peasant studies. On the road. More later.
> -Chip Berlet
> ----- Original Message -----
> From:
> "Discussion list about emerging world social movement" <
> wsm-discuss at lists.openspaceforum.net>
> To:
> "WSM_Discuss" <wsm-discuss at lists.openspaceforum.net>
> Cc:
> Sent:
> Sun, 28 Apr 2019 12:02:00 -0400
> Subject:
> [WSMDiscuss] Steve Bannon's new school for populism, snuggled inside
> Italy's Certosa di Trisulti monastery ascendant
> *Movement activists will want to keep tabs on this competing
> movement-builder, and his friends in the (ascendant)arch-conservative (to
> put it politely) Roman Catholic rearguard…. *
> ~ Brian
> ******************
> https://www.theglobeandmail.com/world/article-what-does-steve-bannon-want-with-this-italian-monastery-inside-his/
> ERIC REGULY <https://www.theglobeandmail.com/authors/eric-reguly/>EUROPEAN
> What does Steve Bannon want with this Italian monastery? Inside his
> fledgling school for populism*The propagandist who helped bring Donald
> Trump to power wants disciples who can spread his brand of nationalism
> across Europe – and they’re starting in a remote mountain redoubt in Italy.
> The Globe went to take a look*
> <https://www.theglobeandmail.com/resizer/pUi8F8jMd-EKEcPUc7Q9b7EOpWY=/1240x0/filters:quality(80)/arc-anglerfish-tgam-prod-tgam.s3.amazonaws.com/public/RO5XCF53TFDCTC4IYYSZJKWW44.JPG>
> *The Certosa di Trisulti monastery, southeast of Rome, is the home for a
> new school of political populism founded by Steve Bannon, U.S. President
> Donald Trump's former campaign strategist.*
> *Liana Miuccio/The Globe and Mail*
> In the early 13th century, when the reclusive Carthusian monks chose to
> build a monastery on the Italian peninsula, they went big and they went
> remote.
> Their Certosa di Trisulti monastery, as it’s called, is in the middle of
> nowhere by jam-packed Italian standards. It’s plastered on a high slope –
> 825 metres above sea level – in central Italy’s Ernici mountains, about two
> hours by car southeast of Rome. The nearest town, Collepardo, is a
> 15-minute grind down the mountain. From the monastery itself, all I could
> see was forest and snow-capped mountaintops.
> The enormous structure, whose construction was sponsored by the formidable
> Pope Innocent III, was once home to about 100 monks and workers. Today, its
> last full-time residents are a chef-gardener, an 83-year-old priest who
> still says a mass every day and a couple of dozen feral cats.
> Welcome to the site for Steve Bannon’s new school of populism, formally
> called the Academy for the Judeo-Christian West. It is here that Mr.
> Bannon, who was Donald Trump’s campaign manager and chief strategist, is
> building his next populist, nationalist, anti-establishment,
> Judeo-Christian propaganda machine.
> While the school’s launch was planned before populist parties formed the
> Italian government last year, their victory has convinced Mr. Bannon that
> his concept is arriving at the right place at the right time. The school
> will be a key component in spreading his hoped-for populist revolution
> across Europe, not just now, but for decades. His effort already includes
> The Movement, his Brussels group that provides data and advice to populist
> parties ahead the European Union’s parliamentary elections in May.
> Mr. Bannon has found inspiration in the success of Italy’s populist
> parties, which operate both cheaply and efficiently while garnering votes.
> He is hoping the Italian example can spread itself across Europe, boosting
> the number of staunchly conservative thinkers there.
> In an interview in Rome a couple of weeks after my visit to the monastery,
> Mr. Bannon said the project will try to replicate what the left has done in
> creating institutions to promote the liberal economic and social agenda.
> “It’s one of the reasons I so admire what the Left has done,” he says.
> “This is the stuff that [liberal democrat billionaire] George Soros has
> done in his training academies. They have done a much better job than
> people on the Right. People of the Right are so focused on immediate
> returns that they don’t make these long-term investments.”
> Mr. Bannon is a regular visitor to the monastery, which is being leased
> from the Italian government. He spends a lot of time in Rome, is the main
> funder of the project and will be teaching a course when the school opens,
> probably in the early fall. No doubt his course will draw a crowd, just as
> every one of his appearances in Europe does in the run-up to the elections,
> where populist parties from Poland to Italy are expected to make strong
> gains.
> At a standing-room-only Bannon lovefest sponsored by a conservative
> Italian association in Rome not long after my Trisulti visit, Mr. Bannon
> said in his presentation that “the populist nationalist movement has great
> momentum” in Europe. He predicted the movement would have a “stunning
> victory” in late May’s EU elections, with the populist and nationalist
> parties – such as Matteo Salvini’s League in Italy, Marine Le Pen’s
> National Rally in France and Viktor Orban’s Fidesz in Hungary – taking as
> much as 50 per cent of the vote, far better than the 30 per cent or so
> predicted in recent polls (in the previous EU election, in 2014, the
> populist and nationalist tally was 22 per cent).
> A strong showing by the populist parties in the elections – a showing
> greater than 30 per cent would give them blocking stakes in key votes –
> could change the very shape of the EU, which is still the world’s biggest
> trading bloc, and send its integration efforts into reverse.
> Generally speaking, Europe’s populist parties are right-wing,
> anti-migrant, euroskeptic and nationalistic. Some have been accused of
> blatant racism. They believe the EU and its institutions are power-mad and
> undemocratic. They asset the power of “the people” over the entrenched
> “power of the elites.” They are convinced that open borders would trigger a
> migrant “invasion” that would threaten traditional western values. They are
> not convinced that free trade benefits anyone but the wealthy and their
> corporations. The populists want a “Europe of Nations”: that is, a loosely
> associated group of sovereign countries that are wary of multilateralism.
> Ms. Le Pen has said “I don’t want this European Soviet Union.”
> Mr. Bannon told me that populism is here to stay – never mind the
> arguments, backed by recent liberal and social democratic gains in
> Slovakia, that populism has peaked – and that the Trisulti school is
> designed to nurture a new generation of populist, nationalist, anti-elite
> thinkers and leaders.
> He and his main associate in Italy, Benjamin Harnwell, founder and
> president of the conservative Catholic think tank Dignitatis Humanae
> Institute (DHI, or Institute for Human) in Rome and the school’s man on the
> ground, agree that the vast, desolate monastery is an unlikely breeding
> ground for budding Bannonites.
> Many of the locals in this rather poor region of Italy, which has
> traditionally supported the liberal Democratic Party, want to ensure it’s
> forever unlikely; bearing “Stop Bannon” placards, they have been holding
> small though fairly regular protests outside the monastery. They are
> alarmed that the medieval pile, once famous throughout Europe as a centre
> of learning, tolerance and spirituality, will be turned over to a gaggle of
> right-wing, anti-migrant Bannon worshippers bent on destroying the EU’s
> liberal agenda.
> “Citizens are having a hard time understanding that the [monastery] is
> going to be a place where future politicians are going to be trained,”
> Mauro Bussiglieri, the mayor of Collepardo (population 950), told Italy’s
> La Stampa newspaper recently. “They keep looking at is as a religious
> place, and that’s it.”
> But Mr. Bannon says he expected protests and predicts the locals will
> ultimately accept his school of populism.
> “I believe that once the school is up and going, people will understand
> that it’s not a bunch of cloven-hooved devils up there,” he says, arguing
> that the school’s secluded location should not prove a disadvantage. “We do
> think it’s important to get people away from the daily buzz of life, where
> people can come and totally focus on themselves. … This is so unique, it’s
> original. It’s a special place.”
> He’s right about that. The monastery is a faded wonder, a hidden treasure.
> Or will be until Mr. Bannon’s classroom inevitably turns into a mob scene.
> He is, after all, the man who was instrumental in getting Mr. Trump elected
> – he brags that Mr. Trump owes his victory to him. He is mobbed by the
> media everywhere he goes in Europe as he promotes his break-the-elite
> crusade.
> On a cool sunny Friday in March, I arrive at the monastery with a
> freelance photographer and videographer after a serpentine ride up the
> mountain in a banged-up Fiat. The first view of the monastery leaves us
> amazed.
> Unlike the nearby and even bigger Monte Cassino monastery, which was
> utterly destroyed during one of the longest battles of the Second World
> War, the Certosa di Trisulti is in remarkably good shape. The monastery,
> surrounded by massive walls, is like a medieval city in miniature. The maze
> of pleasant courtyards, fountains, gardens and statues has a calming effect
> on visitors. Pope Innocent and his successors over the centuries spared no
> expense in its construction and decoration.
> The highlights include a Renaissance pharmacy where the monks, who were
> considered the European masters in the cultivation and study of herbs, sold
> their herb-inspired creations. Sambuca, the famous Italian anise-flavoured
> liqueur, is reputed to have been invented at the monastery in the early
> 1800s. The pharmacy’s ornate ceiling frescoes were inspired by the
> excavations at Pompeii.
> The expansive, overgrown courtyard behind the church is bordered by the
> sparse monks’ rooms, which will be turned into student dormitories once Mr.
> Bannon and Mr. Harnwell figure out how to heat the place and connect it to
> the Internet. The monastery also houses a state library with 36,000 volumes
> and a similar number of exceedingly rare and valuable ecclesiastical
> documents, including some of Innocent’s papal bulls (the popes’ public
> decrees).
> Mr. Harnwell greets us with a bit of weariness – he had done dozens of
> interviews in recent weeks as the Italian and international press became
> captivated by the idea of Mr. Bannon setting up shop in a forgotten
> monastery. What was Donald Trump’s chief promoter, and the former executive
> chairman of Breitbart News – the conservative site that liberals routinely
> dismiss as racist, xenophobic, misogynist and prone to conspiracy theories
> – doing in Italy, let alone at an ancient monastery?
> Mr. Harnwell, is 43, British, single and a former political operative in
> Brussels, where he worked for Nirj Deva, a conservative British member of
> the European parliament (MEP), is a total Bannon disciple. He has even
> adopted Mr. Bannon’s slicked-back hairstyle and his casual
> jeans-and-outdoorsy-jacket fashion sense.
> “Steve Bannon is a genius,” he tells me. “He has developed a new
> [political] paradigm. His paradigm isn’t between left and right. It’s
> between the little guy and the global elites, the rulers and ruled.”
> Before he even met Mr. Bannon, Mr. Harnwell was moving into Mr. Bannon’s
> political camp. During his five years in Brussels, until 2010, he went from
> staunchly pro-EU to staunchly anti-EU. In short, he thinks the EU is an
> anti-democratic racket and that the member states should cut themselves
> free, as Brexit Britain is so painfully trying to do. “The whole EU project
> exists for the people who work there, at the expense of the ordinary
> citizens who couldn’t even dream of having that quality of life, the
> regulated working hours, the salaries, the pensions, the health benefits,”
> he says. “It’s disgraceful.”
> After Brussels, he moved to Rome, and concentrated on his think tank, the
> DHI, which, its website says, “is to protect and promote human dignity
> based on the anthropological truth that man is made in the image and
> likeness of God” and espouses the most conservative Judeo-Christian values.
> The DHI is no fan of Pope Francis, who both Mr. Harnell and Mr. Bannon
> consider a traitor to these values because, among other things, he is
> trying to relax church attitudes toward LGBT people and divorced Catholics
> who remarry outside the church. As if to prove the point, the honorary
> president of the DHI is Raymond Burke, the American cardinal who has
> emerged as the Vatican’s voice of orthodoxy and Francis’s main internal
> critic.
> Mr. Harnwell met Mr. Bannon in 2013, when Breitbart was opening its Rome
> bureau. They hit it off – Mr. Bannon would later praise Mr. Harnwell as
> “the smartest guy in Rome” in a Breitbart interview – and Mr. Bannon gave
> the keynote address at the DHI’s Vatican conference in 2014, where he
> outlined his populist agenda, including his belief that secularization and
> Islamic extremism were grave threats to Western civilization. “It was the
> best political speech I have ever heard,” Mr. Harnwell says. “I have
> listened to it a dozen times. About 85 per cent of the blueprint for
> Trump’s campaign is there, a full year before Trump even declared his
> candidacy."
> After Mr. Bannon was ousted both from the White House and Breitbart, he
> spent more time in Europe, where he was attracted to the rising populist
> parties, especially in Italy, which, in 2018, elected the first populist
> government in Western Europe. Mr. Bannon was dazzled by the coalition
> partners – Mr. Salvini’s hard-right, anti-migrant League party and the
> upstart, anti-establishment Five Star Movement (M5S) – which overthrew the
> corrupt centre-left and centre-right parties that had dominated Italian
> politics since the late 1940s.
> Political consultant Francesco Galietti, CEO of Rome’s Policy Sonar, says
> Mr. Bannon is as much a populism student as preacher in Italy. “The reason
> he is in Rome is that Italy is ahead of the populism curve in many
> respects,” he says. “He knows that if it has worked in Italy, maybe it can
> be replicated elsewhere.”
> Indeed, Mr. Bannon thinks Italy in general and Mr. Salvini in particular
> are on the leading edge of the populism surge. He is impressed by the
> efficiency and speed of the movement, which relies a lot on the technology
> of polling and social media to get its message across and does so at
> bargain-basement prices. He notes that the far-right populist Jair
> Bolsonaro, Brazil’s President since January, studied the Italian populists’
> victory and spent less than a US$1-million on his campaign. “Italy has
> taught people a lot about mobilization,” he says. “What has been
> accomplished by the League and Five Star on limited resources is
> mind-boggling.”
> In 2014, Mr. Bannon and Mr. Harnwell seized upon the idea of launching a
> school of populism. At first, it was to be called the Breitbart Academy.
> But the title had to be ditched when Mr. Bannon left Breitbart in early
> 2018 amid rumours that he had lost the support of the site’s financial
> patron, Rebekah Mercer.
> About the same time, Mr. Harnwell learned about the Trisulti monastery
> through a Cistercian monk who he knew (Trisulti went to the Cistercians
> after the Second World War). Early last year, Mr. Harnwell, with Mr.
> Bannon’s support, agreed to lease the monastery from the Italian government
> for 19 years at €100,000 a year. The lease excludes the state library. “The
> rest is Bannon land,” Mr. Harnwell says.
> Mr. Bannon said the curriculum will include courses on the foundations,
> philosophy and economics of the Judeo-Christian West; personal motivation
> courses; and “the nuts and bolts of modern politics – what you need to
> actually mobilize people.” To become a functioning school, Mr. Bannon says
> the monastery will require an investment of €2-million “at least to set the
> place up.” But Mr. Harnwell isn’t rich, so where will the money come from?
> Mr. Bannon is coy and refuses to tell me how much of the investment for
> their shining city on the hill will come from him – he’s almost certainly
> the biggest donor so far – and how much will come from his circle of
> populist benefactors in the United States and Europe. “I’m not going to
> play 20 questions,” he says. “The donors are all private.”
> Mr. Bannon has been associated in European press with several powerful
> conservative figures; he will neither confirm nor deny they have written
> cheques. They include Tito Tettamanti, a wealthy Swiss lawyer and
> politician; Christoph Blocher, a Swiss billionaire and former politician
> who pushes a euroskeptic, anti-migrant agenda; Federico Arata, an Italian
> former Credit Suisse banker who runs a Swiss-based fund that focuses on
> Pakistan; and Armando Siri, the Italian League party senator who is an
> adviser to Mr. Salvini and who recently became embroiled in a high-profile
> corruption investigation (Mr. Siri denies the allegations).
> Mr. Bannon says the course he will be teaching at the monastery is still a
> secret, but you can bet it will be about political mobilization, drawing
> heavily on how he helped to propel Mr. Trump into the White House and how
> the Italian populist triumph is just the start of the populist surge. The
> monastery school is a sign that Mr. Bannon’s presence in Europe will not be
> fleeting. He seems to have found populist heaven in Europe and vows that
> the school will produce a “big payoff, even it’s 20 years down the road.”
> ________________________________________
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Larry Swetman

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