Steve Bannon in College: Grateful Dead Fan, ‘Jerry Brown Liberal,’ and History Nerd

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The Stephen K. Bannon the world knows today is a hard-right nationalist and a former ringleader of far-right, race-baiting media. He’s President Donald Trump’s anti-immigration and incredibly powerful right-hand man in the White House, and the liberals’ go-to boogeyman—a Republican “Leninist,” even.

It’s a Steve Bannon who the Steve Bannon of his formative college years would likely see as barely recognizable.

Old friends, acquaintances, and roommates who spoke to The Daily Beast described Bannon in his Virginia Tech undergraduate days as a “Jerry Brown liberal” who was a devotee of rock artists and jam-bands such as the Grateful Dead and Bruce Springsteen. He was a book-wormy-y “history nerd,” an idiosyncratic football player, and a charismatic “ladies man,” say his college peers. ...

Three people who knew Bannon well in college who spoke to The Daily Beast all remembered him as a “history nerd” who was constantly reading large books by different authors and historians. But the only historian any of them could remember who Bannon gushed about regularly by name was Arnold Toynbee. Toynbee, a philosopher of history and a hugely influential academic and professor in his field, was featured on the cover of Time magazine in early 1947—almost 70 years to the day that Bannon himself would grace the cover of Time.

Also like Bannon, Toynbee was not without his share of political controversy and charges of anti-Semitism. For instance, in 1934, the noted historian labeled Jews as an “extinct society” and a “fossilized” civilization, and he would later describe Zionism as “demonic.” Toynbee also met with Adolf Hitler in 1936, then reported back to the British Foreign Office that he was convinced that the Nazi dictator was “sincere” when he said he had no wish to violently conquer Europe. (Toynbee was wrong.) ...





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