Exactly one year after his raucous departure from the White House, Steve Bannon released a movie trailer for his latest political gambit. Trump @ War is a propaganda film targeting Trump supporters ahead of close congressional races in the November midterm elections that threaten to wrest control of the House of Representatives away from Republicans.
“This is a cultural war,” Fox contributor Pete Hegseth announces, gesticulating toward the camera about halfway through the trailer before Bannon cuts to images of MAGA hats burning and presumed Antifa soldiers rallying in all-black uniforms. Playing underneath this series of images is a fatalistic drumbeat that sounds like a battlecry for war from a two-bit action hero movie.
Produced by Bannon’s longtime production company, Victory Films, Trump @ War should last approximately 75 minutes and should include interviews with Trump acolytes, such as his former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, probably best-known for his physically aggressive handling of reporters and protesters during his tenure.
Although the White House initially reported that Bannon had tendered his resignation two weeks before leaving his posts as chief strategist and a member of the National Security Council, sources close to the President Trump have since claimed that the president had grown weary of the white nationalist’s internecine tactics and fired the man. Reportedly, the last straw was Bannon’s appearance in Michael Wolff’s incendiary Fire and Fury book as the author’s key on-the-record source detailing the fracas of the administration’s electoral campaign and first year.
After his firing, sources close to Bannon reported that he was gearing up for war against the president. It’s therefore curious that the former strategist’s first major post-departure project is a film that ingratiates itself with Trump’s supporters. Even the inclusion of Hegseth is tailored to the president’s tastes. (The Fox contributor is a weekend co-host of Trump’s reputed favorite daytime talkshow, Fox & Friends.) Critics speculate that Bannon has resolved to support the president’s efforts despite mutual animosity because the policies of Trump’s administration ultimately benefit the white nationalist agenda. After all, Bannon told Axios that his film is aimed at stoking the “populist-nationalist movement.”
With roughly cut soundbites and lightning fast editing, Bannon’s propaganda film seems largely targeted at a younger, angrier internet crowd. It’s hard to believe that the traditional Republican base that carried Trump’s electoral win across the country would warm to this histrionic display of rhetorical fireworks.
Verging on fascist propaganda, the trailer recalls the doublespeak idiocies of conservative filmmaker Dinesh D’Souza whose latest film, Death of a Nation, dares to meld President Abraham Lincoln’s face with Trump in its movie poster. In his film, D’Souza brazenly attempts to pervert narratives of fascism and slavery into an argument against political correctness and liberal policies. (Perhaps in a Freudian slip, the title of the ultraconservative’s movie alludes to the infamous 1915 white nationalist movie, The Birth of a Nation, which galvanized support for the Ku Klux Klan in the early twentieth century.)
In 2014, D’Souza pled guilty in federal court to making illegal campaign contributions toward Wendy Long‘s 2012 United States Senate campaign in New York but was later pardoned by Donald Trump. Despite his legal troubles, D’Souza later released a film, titled Hillary’s America, which was Metacritic’s worst-received film of the year. Writing for The Guardian, Jordan Hoffmans said that it was “the cinematic equivalent of a drunk man at a sports bar sucking back whole jalapeño peppers hoping for applause without ever being dared.”
Bannon also produced his own anti-Clinton movie that same year, called Clinton Cash. But unlike D’Souza’s cinematic disaster (which actually grossed $13 million against a $5 million budget) Bannon’s movie was a complete flop. It performed so poorly that Breitbart News uploaded his film onto YouTube where it still only has about 115,000 views. With any luck, his latest venture will have even less.