Svengali, Rasputin, Darth Vader. These are all nicknames that people gave to the recently deposed Chief Strategist of the Trump White House. But as we now watch the fallen Anakin Skywalker Steve Bannon retreat to his lair in the fiery depths of the lava plant Mustafar Breitbart, I’d like to lend him another moniker – Amlici.
For those not familiar with Mormon scripture, Amlici was a member of a people called the Nephites. Described as a “very cunning man,” he gathered a following with the aim of becoming king. However, before he could establish a monarchy, he had to prevail in a referendum – the Nephites practiced a sort of hybrid democracy. Unfortunately for Amlici, he failed to triumph in the vote, but this didn’t stop him from trying to establish a kingdom by force. According to The Book of Mormon, he “did stir up those who were in his favor to anger against those who were not in his favor.” These enraged followers then proclaimed him their king and took up arms to force those who hadn’t voted for him to submit to this rule.
Of course, the anti-Amlici partisans were having none of this, and they also took up arms to defend themselves. Eventually, they squared off against the newly minted “Amlicites” in a pitched battle, one in which they soon gained the upper hand and sent the Amlicites packing. After chasing the fleeing monarchists for a stretch, the Nephites stopped for the night, only to be surprised the next morning when their spies informed them that the Amlicites had joined with an army of Lamanites, the Nephites’ sworn enemies, to pillage the countryside and threaten the Nephite capital of Zarahemla. Naturally, this prompted the Nephite army to rush to intercept the Amlicite-Lamanite force, which they eventually encountered on the shores of a river.
The battle that followed was intense, with high casualties on both sides, but in the end the Nephites prevailed, Amlici was slain, and his followers and the Lamanites were expelled from Nephite territory. But though the Nephites had apparently rid themselves of the Amlicites, the band of traitors would return to vex them and cause trouble in the future.
So what does any of this have to do with Bannon? Let’s look at the parallels. Besides being likened to a Dark Lord of the Sith, Bannon has often been described as a cunning operator, a puppeteer who manipulates events behind the scenes. Amlici was likewise notorious for his Machiavellian cunning.
Bannon has also made it clear that he is more than comfortable with playing up racial and group resentments to achieve his ends. He said as much in an interview he gave to The American Prospect’s Robert Kuttner just prior to his ouster, and his willingness to embrace Islamphobic rhetoric and policies shows that his hate-mongering isn’t just talk. Similarly, Amlici exacerbated inter-group tensions, exhorting his monarchist followers to demonize their republican compatriots.
Beyond his divisive speech and actions, Bannon has aligned himself with America’s enemies. Or “enemy” to be precise – Bannon has expressed admiration for Russian President Vladimir Putin. Never mind that Russian intelligence services interfered in the U.S. presidential election, Russian troops threaten our European allies, and Russian “volunteers” seized territory by force in Ukraine. Bannon seems to see in Putin’s Russia a model of values that the West should embrace. You don’t have to think too hard to realize that Bannon’s embrace of Putin has striking parallels to Amlici’s embrace of the Lamanites.
Finally, just like the Amlicites, Bannon seems to have been vanquished for the time being – he was unceremoniously expelled from the White House yesterday, with not even a job elsewhere in the Executive Branch to cushion his fall. However, just as the Amlicites would reemerge to once again afflict the Nephites, Bannon appears to be gearing up to continue his poisoning of the American polity – he is reportedly returning to his infamous propaganda outlet news site Breitbart, where acquaintances say he will be “unchained” to let fly his vile rhetoric.
Bannon is a hateful human being whose nefarious scheming has been an albatross around the neck of American society. But unfortunately, just as the Nephites had to wrestle with Amlicite attacks over a period of years, there’s no sign that America will stop having to endure the plague of Bannon’s insidious machinations.