The Dignitatis Humanae Institute’s list of patrons includes the Duke of Castro, an obscure royal also titled Prince Charles of Bourbon-Two Sicilies; a one-time Grand Master of the Knights of Malta; and the last Crown Prince of Austria-Hungary.
- Steve Bannon says The Movement is urging Europe’s far-right leaders to “eviscerate” their roots to “ethno-nationalism”
- He is determined to make his presence felt in Europe, where his speaking tours generate outrage from protesters
- Some European conservative politicians have distanced themselves from Mr Bannon’s The Movement
It also features an American: Stephen Kevin Bannon.
In fact, the former Goldman Sachs banker is paying the rent, which can’t be cheap.
The institute, whose mission is the promotion of Christian values in public life, keeps a premises inside a 13th-century Carthusian monastery in the Hernici mountains outside Rome.
In addition to the word of God, its halls are about to ring out with the word of Bannon: the institute is setting up a college in his honour.
“Steve came up with [the] title,” Ben Harnwell, the institute’s director, said. The Academy for the Judeo-Christian West.
Students will fork over a bunch of euros for a room and for the “intuitions and the insights of Steve Bannon”, Mr Harnwell said.
“The major decisions on this project, I run past him. Professors, course titles, course content.”
On the institute’s website, there is a photograph of a grinning Mr Bannon etched beside a pull-quote in which he describes Mr Harnwell as “the smartest guy in Rome”.
The remark comes from an interview Mr Harnwell gave in 2016 to Mr Bannon’s own radio show that was, by any measure, pretty wild.
“I want to keep the tin foil hat on!” Mr Harnwell exclaimed at one point, before articulating, now no longer joking, his gravely-held belief that a “supranational” European group was working to drive down the world’s populace.
“I do believe there is an international movement led at organisations such as the European Union and the UN to reduce global population. That, I’m certain of that.”
The work of this group in the corridors and committee rooms of the European Parliament,
“I’ve never had a greater sensation in my life of being in a direct spiritual warfare against the devil,” he told Mr Bannon on-air.
“If that sensation that I and so many other people had of being directly in the middle of a storm, or a vortex of a spiritual warfare battle against the devil, if there is any truth to that, then that would explain the apparent elements of coordination at a supranational level.”
Mr Bannon was impressed at the time (on air, he called the spiritual warfare concept “absolutely brilliant”), but when asked about it, he seems embarrassed.
“I don’t think the EU is the work of the devil,” he says. “Okay? I think it’s the work of human agency.”
European cooperation is losing lustre
Even among the godless, the 60-year-long experiment in European cooperation is losing its lustre.
Exhibit 1: Brexit, and the implosion at No 10 Downing Street.
France’s far-right figurehead Marine Le Pen has pledged to carve France from the eurozone. Hungary’s prime minister Viktor Orban wants to “reconstruct European democracy”.
And the Italian Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini recently raged at Brussels over a budget dispute. Italy, whose debt-to-GDP ratio of 130 per cent is second only to Greece, would “no longer kneel down” before Europe’s fiscal commissars.
Sailing across this sea of disenchantment has come Mr Bannon, American carnage in his wake.
“I was approached by guys in Belgium and they said hey, we have a thing, let’s do a loose confederation or loose association, and have conferences, put economists in front of people, white papers, meetings, dinners that sort of thing,” Mr Bannon explained.
The Movement was incorporated on January 9, 2017 by a largely unknown politician from Brussels, Mischael Modrikamen; his People’s Party rarely polls beyond 6 per cent of the vote.
It’s now an invitation-only club. Mr Bannon describes it as nationalist, populist, sovereigntist. A “connective tissue”, he said.
So far Mr Salvini is the only major European figure to have been explicitly and publicly declared an out-and-proud member of Mr Bannon’s club. Below a photograph of the three of them he published on Twitter, Mr Modrikamen wrote: “He is in!”
Mr Modrikamen said one other group (the fringe-dwelling Fratelli d’Italia) had accepted an invitation.
“We are having a lot of contacts,” Mr Modrikamen assured me. “We have had some meetings, but we don’t propose to anyone [yet] and we’ll do that now that the [US] midterm elections are over and Steve is back.”
For his part, Mr Bannon won’t say who’s in. “I don’t have to publicly disclose it to you,” he declared.
“I am ecstatic right now of where this thing has gone.”
Bannon thriving on the outrage he has generated in Europe
Steve is definitely back. Across Europe, Mr Bannon’s speaking tours are generating the brand of outrage he seems to love. Protesters wrapped in scarves and coats outside his BBC event in Edinburgh last week chanted: “Arrest Steve Bannon! Arrest Steve Bannon!”
The first minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon quit the event for fear of “normalising far-right, racist views”.
In the White House, Mr Bannon was a major force behind Donald Trump’s notorious “Muslim ban” executive orders forbidding travel into the US from seven predominantly Muslim countries. At a far-right event with Ms Le Pen in March, Mr Bannon urged the crowd to “let them call you racists” and to “wear it as a badge of honour”.
He’s been tackled with the allegation more times than it’s worth counting.
Despite episodes in which Mr Bannon’s news platform, Breitbart, was accused of publishing anti-Semitic columns, and failing to moderate the racist comments they provoked, the closest Mr Bannon has come was when a decade-old affidavit from divorce proceedings surfaced in 2016.
His ex-wife claimed he didn’t want his children attending a particular high school in Los Angeles because Jewish parents were sending their children there, and “he doesn’t like Jews”. Mr Bannon has denied the allegation and his daughters did end up attending the school.
The Movement, he says, is urging Europe’s far-right leaders to “eviscerate” their roots to “ethno-nationalism”.
“Middle class people are not going to accept it.”
Ties to America raise hackles
Mr Bannon is determined to make his presence felt in Europe. As the elections in Brussels near, it appears the money is beginning to flow.
The Movement is raising funds, Mr Modrikamen tells me, but declines to nominate from whom.
Mr Bannon tells me he has “dozens” of people on the Movement’s payroll already, and that $US5-10 million is being spent on polling and analysis. He becomes animated about his plan for a “war room”.
“One of the things we did for President Trump when I was at the White House, and I did in the campaign, and I’m pretty good at, is having a rapid response war room, 24 hours a day, pulling news stories, putting talking points out, getting people up on TV.”
It’s difficult to discern the extent to which Mr Bannon’s club is a mere figment of the imagination or a reality. There are reservations about his being American, and about his being tied to Donald Trump.
Ms Le Pen is a case in point.
“Bannon is American and has no place in a European political party,” her international spokesman said in July. “We reject any supranational entity and are not participating in the creation of anything with Bannon.”
In an October press conference standing beside Mr Salvini, Ms Le Pen said she wanted to clarify much “conjecture” about The Movement. “Mr Bannon is not from any European country, he is American,” she said. While his organisation’s offer of studies and analysis was welcome, “the political force behind the EU elections is only us and us alone”.
Mr Bannon insists Ms Le Pen remains keen to work with him.
Sophie in ‘t Veld, a Dutch MEP and pro-European, said people “thought he was going to be the Pied Piper”, but maintains the enterprise is misguided.
“I see a much stronger movement of people who believe in the European Union, who believe in pluralism, who believe in equality, who believe in parliamentary democracy,” she said.
“They are looking at the Trump administration, and of course Bannon was one of the architects, one of the driving forces behind that, and many people think no, that’s not what we want.”