ZÜRICH — Stephen K. Bannon took Zürich by storm Tuesday, addressing a sell-out crowd on the future of international populist nationalism, calling the movement “unstoppable” and “only at its beginning stages.”
Citing recent examples from Italy, Poland, Hungary, Austria and France, Mr. Bannon—former executive chairman for Breitbart News and chief strategist for U.S. President Donald Trump—painted a phenomenon that is fueled by a desire to retake national sovereignty at the grass roots level.
Bannon drew hearty applause and whoops of enthusiastic agreement from the ordinarily staid Swiss when he praised Swiss politician Christoph Blocher for his foresight in keeping Switzerland out of the European Union with its common currency (euro).
“Blocher,” Bannon said, “was Trump before Trump.”
Invited to Zürich by the conservative weekly magazine Weltwoche, which sponsored and hosted the event, Bannon was the talk of the town, trending number one on Swiss Twitter and even sparking a socialist-organized protest that required the deployment of 200 police in riot gear.
Organizers said that the 1,500-person arena was sold out within 48 hours of the announcement of the event, with attendees shelling out $35 each for the privilege of hearing Bannon in person. “We could have sold out a place three times that big,” Weltwoche’s Urs Gehriger told Breitbart News.
Populists around the world have an uphill battle in store for them in overcoming establishment elites, Bannon said, and it may require election after election before the people are able to take back their countries.
Moreover, he said, even winning a vote is not enough because the old guard won’t just hand over the keys to the kingdom. As evidence of this, Bannon cited the examples of Brexit—which a year and half after the referendum has made no real headway—and the election of Donald Trump to the White House—who faces daily resistance to his leadership not only from the Democrats but even from those within his own party.
Control over the people is not only political, Bannon insisted, but also takes the form of data collection as well as economic control exercised by central banks. This explains the immense popularity of crypto-currencies like Bitcoin, he said, because they allow people to escape from pervasive financial controls.
In his first public appearance since leaving Breitbart News, Bannon praised the actions of Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary in resisting European meddling into national sovereignty on the immigration question, going so far as to proclaim Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orbán “a great patriot and a great hero.”
During an extended Q & A session following his speech, Bannon fielded a number of questions from host Roger Köppel as well as from the audience, ranging from his take on Trump’s recent steel tariffs to accusations from mainstream media of anti-Semitism and racism.
Regarding the latter, Bannon reminded his hearers that he “came from a blue collar family and we lived in an integrated neighborhood, because my parents were convinced it was better for us.” The former Breitbart chairman also brushed aside accusations of anti-Semitism, inviting people to pore over the Breitbart News site and listen to the hundreds of hours of radio, challenging them to find a single example of anti-Semitism.
“I am proud to be a Christian Zionist,” Bannon said, recalling how he instigated the founding of the Breitbart News Jerusalem bureau, headed up by seasoned journalist Aaron Klein.
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