Breitbart News, an online hub of the "alt-right" run until recently by incoming White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon, is expanding its offices into France and Germany, two countries where the recent rise of far right nationalist parties has created an opening for the white supremacist, sexist, and anti-Semitic views proudly espoused by Bannon's old home.
Breitbart News, the former editorial home of incoming White House Chief Strategist and senior counselor Steve Bannon, has been mainstreaming white supremacy and reshaping politics in the United States in dangerous ways under the euphemism “alt-right” for many years.
Under Bannon, who left the site in the summer of 2016 to first become CEO of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, and later accepted a White House role, Breitbart became a premier voice of the white nationalist movement in the U.S. As my colleague Matthew Chapman has previously noted, Bannon “spent years using Breitbart News to promote the idea that Black people and nonwhite immigrants are congenital criminals.”
Now, the organization is reportedly expanding its operations into France and Germany, where far right political movements have gained stronger footholds.
This is not their first foray into European politics: In 2014, Breitbart News expanded into the United Kingdom to gin up support for Nigel Farage, the UK Independence Party (UKIP) leader. UKIP is well known for anti-immigrant stances, which Farage parlayed into a “Brexit” victory in June of 2016, when the UK voted to leave the European Union.
Farage is also a columnist at Breitbart, where he has written articles such as “[UK Prime Minister] Theresa May’s So Cold She Might Be Alabaster” and “Pan-European Migrant Rape Story Response Highlights The Continent’s Unconditional Surrender.”
Turning his attention from the U.K. to the continent, last July, just before leaving Breitbart for the Trump campaign, Bannon told France’s Radio Londres that “France is the place to be” (article is in French).
Indeed, ahead of this spring’s election, Marine Le Pen, leader of the far-right, fascist political party Front National, has been gaining ground in the polls. Le Pen has expressed support for Vladimir Putin and used terrorist attacks in her country as political footballs to justify her anti-Islam views. Le Pen’s party is also looking to potentially further disrupt the European Union with a promised “Frexit” referendum.
Similarly in Germany, current Prime Minister Angela Merkel faces fierce opposition from the Alternativ Für Deutschland party, a neo-Nazi, anti-immigrant party that has gained ground from its criticisms of Merkel’s immigration and refugee policies. Anti-immigrant tensions have been rising after the Christmas market attack in Berlin in December, and a New Year’s mass sexual assault in Cologne in 2016 that was blamed on refugees, despite the lack of evidence that those committing the assault had sought political asylum.
Breitbart is already stepping into the anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim fray in Germany, spinning a tale about a mob of 1,000 Muslims setting a church on fire in Dortmund, when in fact the New Year’s Eve fire was an accident caused by stray fireworks. The daily newspaper in nearby Frankfurt warned that such malicious rumors will become much more common ahead of September’s elections.
If Breitbart gains traction in Europe, mainstream media on the continent will have their hands full combating the propaganda machine that has already been worryingly effective in the United States and United Kingdom.