Steve Bannon declares "war" on Hollywood

The Breitbart chief, and former movie producer, is targeting unfairness toward conservatives in entertainment

By Matthew Sheffield

Published October 27, 2017 12:08PM (EDT)

Steve Bannon (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
Steve Bannon (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

The stunningly rapid collapse of film producer Harvey Weinstein's career is giving Breitbart News chief Steve Bannon hope that the entertainment industry as a whole is "blowing itself up" and he'd like to help the process along.

In an interview with the Hollywood Reporter, Bannon says he's going to renew his website's focus on attacking the entertainment industry in addition to frequently criticizing news journalists.

"They've ignored half the country's values for far too long and now these Hollywood elitists' values are publicly on display, and bankrupt," Bannon tells THR's conservative watcher Paul Bond.

"Hollywood turned a blind eye to Weinstein's horrible behavior, now it's turning a blind eye to the conservatives who work there and who make up half its audience," Alex Marlow, the site's editor-in-chief, adds.

Conservatives have long complained about bias against them in the entertainment industry. And to some degree, those complaints have a limited validity. Still, they rarely acknowledge the actual history of the industry which was originally dominated by conservatives. All of that began to change, however, as the GOP became more focused on blending religion, race and politics and made opposing homosexuality a frequent rhetorical theme.

The fact that conservatives have long sought to end the federal government's subsidies for the National Endowments for the Arts — even though they are a less-than-miniscule portion of the federal budget — has also made them pariahs within Tinseltown. For all their claims to love history and the past, post-Goldwater conservatives seem to be utterly unaware of the thousands of years of human history during which the arts have been supported by pharaohs, presidents, khans and kings.

The right's hatred of arts subsidies isn't about the money, however, it is actually about their desire to force all media to be subservient to conservative politicians, the way that Hollywood was during the 1940s and 50s as it submitted to government efforts to go after accused Soviet agents.

To be clear, people working for the USSR actually were interested in utilizing American entertainment media for their own propagandistic ends, a precursor of today's Russian love of internet trolling. Nonetheless, the manner in which people were hauled before Congress and threatened with jail time or career exile was rightfully horrifying to many within the industry.

Ironically, almost immediately after the federal government stopped trying to root out communists was when Hollywood became by and large liberal. The sexual revolution and women's liberation was a big part of that, but another factor was the transformation that the Republican party had underwent during the 1960s to become far more reactionary than it had been during the presidency of Dwight Eisenhower.

The right's desire to make Hollywood once again bend the knee is one of several ways in which today's conservatives have a lot in common with the Soviets of yesteryear. In his THR interview, Bannon explicitly talks of his desire to stop attacks on "our president."

It's no coincidence that he goes around calling himself a "Leninist."

Despite conservatives' frequent harrangues against "liberal Hollywood elitists," they are actually even more willing to promote and encourage political opinions from celebrities who agree with them. Trump himself, the former host of "The Apprentice," is the most prominent current example of this but there are many others, including Clint Eastwood speaking at the 2012 Republican national convention. And of course, there's former president Ronald Reagan.

In Bannon's case, there's also an extra personal motivation, his failure to be embraced by the creative side of the entertainment industry, even as he was, for a time, able to thrive on the financial side of things.

“The business runs on talent relationships. He had this real will-to-power vibe that was so off-putting," one former Bannon Hollywood associate told The New Yorker in May. "He came on so strong, and in a way that I couldn’t imagine he would be successful with creative people.”

Actor George Clooney was much more blunt last month, calling Bannon a "failed fucking screenwriter" as he mocked the Trump loyalist for penning a hip-hop musical about the 1992 Rodney King riots that was based on Shakespeare's Coriolanus.

"If he’d somehow managed miraculously to get that thing produced, he’d still be in Hollywood, still making movies and licking my ass to get me to do one of his stupid-ass screenplays,” Clooney said at the Toronto Film Festival.

Matthew Sheffield

A writer, web developer, and former tv producer, Matthew Sheffield covers politics, media, and technology for Salon. You can email him via or follow him on Twitter.

MORE FROM Matthew Sheffield