A profile of the Trump ally on the eve of the January 6 Committee Hearings raises ominous questions about what's lurking on the rightward fringes of American politics
Well. That was depressing. I completely agree with your second-to-last paragraph and appreciate your restraint is using The F Word, but I think it's correct to identify Bannon and the like as potential or likely precursors.
Bannon is uniquely dangerous in that he's smart and charismatic. Should he partner with someone who is smarter than Trump (not hard to do as Trump is so profoundly ignorant), we will be in real trouble. I hope he is convicted for his refusal to comply with the congressional subpoena and put in jail for the longest possible time.
Bannon (and Trump, for that matter) personify Harry Frankfurt's observation "that the essence of bullshit" entails an utter "lack of connection to a concern with truth" and "indifference to how things really are." That is, the bullshitter is past caring whether what he or she says is true or not; it's an utter lack of regard for truth or falsity, let alone any sense of obligation or responsibility to speak or write truthfully to anyone. Whereas Trump has an intuitive talent for bullshit, Bannon is more the theorist of propaganda and virtuoso performer of bullshit.
'Flood[ing] the zone with shit is Bannon's approach to achieving the ends of mass propaganda that Hannah Arendt described. Unlike Arendt, however, Bannon appears to think that proceeding along those lines is a good idea. Wherever the hell it is he thinks we should be going, he sees his bullshit as the royal road to getting there.
Living in the age of bullshitters such as Bannon and Trump reminds me of how I felt when I took a course in absurdist drama in grad school. I could not read the assigned plays because they induced such a state of vertigo that I felt physically ill. Similarly, I cannot watch or listen to B/T - or even read/watch others discussing what B/T have said - without feeling that my brain is melting and seeping out of my ears.
Absurdism propagates the idea that we humans exist in a chaotic, meaningless universe. No truth or falsity. No right or wrong. No sense of continuity or progression from A to B. Just discrete moments that pile up to nothing. Because everything is discrete, A if B can be "true" in one moment and ~A if B. "true" in the next moment. Not because any of the underlying "facts" have changed, but because there are no "facts," only moments during which we serve our momentary purposes, which change from moment to moment. So it is, especially with Trump whose logical inconsistency is epic and juvenile, but also with Bannon who knows better but just doesn't give a shit.
What terrifies me is the number of my fellow citizens who fall for this crap. Whereas Greek mythology had lotus eaters who forgot purpose and sought only pleasure, we have bullshit eaters who place their faith in the bad-faith bullshit spewers and seek discord and violence. If only we could, like Odysseus, march them weeping to the ship of sense, tie them to the oars of reality, and set sail for some recognizable common ground based on evidence and goodwill.
Not gonna happen. So it goes. But we can't say we weren't warned:
A key factor with both Trump and Bannon is essential lack of concern for anything other than themselves. It has a nihilistic quality to it (or in the case of Bannon, an outright nihilism).
It is quite readily observable in Trump--and with him it centers primarily around his ego. How popular he is, how rich he is perceived to be how powerful he is thought to be, how much people talk about him (and thus keeping him in the public eye).
In order to be the things that he wants to be and be perceived the way he wants to be perceived, Trump will say pretty much anything and do things that "normal" people will not. His goals are far more important than some abstraction like truth or honesty.
Bannon seems different in that what is personal to him is the hatred of particular things--and getting rid of or doing something about those things. The hatred consumes him to the point that other than that hatred he doesn't have much. No plans, no ideas, no positive goals. He would burn everything to the ground and salt the earth to achieve the destruction of the hated things.
Another thang that unites them is that neither really expects to face any consequences for what they are doing. Trump, because he has never really faced consequences, he has always somehow skated by in life. Bannon, because he hasn't really faced consequences either--but with the added factor of being a fanatic and so, in a sense, unthinking about personal consequences.
At least that is my read of it.