Another day, another stranger than fiction story about the extreme right-wing. Steve Bannon has put millions of his own money into a dying Monastery 100 km outside Rome, with the official aim of inviting young people from across Europe to ‘re-learn traditional Christian values’. Unofficially, what better way to indoctrinate the already susceptible young people into the grip of extremism than building an airlocked echo chamber in the Italian mountains?
Young people are extremely effective at appealing to their peers, and the extreme right-wing understands how to build a home, where young people may feel isolated and losing their identity. For example, ‘Vox’, an anti-women Spanish nationalist party, has a worrying amount of support in the form of University Societies. Are we so focused on online activity that we are missing the slow but ingrained emergence of extremist behaviour on the ground?
“Bannon is playing the long game here; invoking new power tactics. Train the campaign in one place, allow the base to innovate their own ideas and tactics, and then those ideas drive and evolve the dismantling of political structures over the next generation.”
Bannon, founder of Breitbart and ex-Trump advisor hasn’t exactly been quiet about his goals of stoking populist nationalism in Europe. After his spectacular exile from American politics, his consultancy to nationalist parties in Europe, ‘The Movement’ has yet to set the continent on self-destruct. This hasn’t stopped his attempts to secure a place in the nationalist right-wing European family. He’s given pep talks to Front National of France, and has been invited to the AfD conference in Berlin later this month.
Italy is the “perfect” place for Bannon’s propaganda camp. Whilst European nationalism has been gripping the continent, Matteo Salvini, the Italian Deputy Prime Minister, put out a call to the nationalist parties to organise comprehensive separatist policy ahead of the European elections in May.
But Bannon and his friends are playing the long game here, and invoking new power tactics. Train the campaign in one place, allow the base to innovate their own ideas and tactics, and then those ideas drive and evolve the dismantling of political structures over the next generation. Combine this with the competency the nationalist parties are showing at organising on, and spreading their message on social media, and we have a time bomb that is going to be ever-more difficult to dismantle from societal narrative over time.
Steve Bannon & his allies have leased a monastery in the Italian countryside for 19 years, where they plan to build a school for budding populists and "modern gladiators." But it's ignited protest from locals, who want Bannon to take his right-wing populist agenda elsewhere. pic.twitter.com/kHWhY86SQu— On Assignment with Richard Engel (@OARichardEngel) April 16, 2019
We need to be vigilant to the threats on the ground as well as online. Highlighting the problems of the right wing to an audience on the internet that is inevitably going to agree with you is only going to hide the problem and let it grow in the shadows. We must support and emulate the tactics of the village community by the monastery which has been protesting against this extremist school. Fight organised extremism, on the ground, where it grows and communicates, or it will further succeed in infiltrating the European vision.
No matter which side you take on the success of the European Union, we can all agree that a school for extremism has no place in our democratic community.