So many odd things have happened in 2020 that it’s easy to feel numb. A monkey stole COVID-19 blood samples and chewed on them. The US military released 3 UFO videos. Poland accidentally invaded the Czech Republic at one point. But even the most grizzled of us will be shocked by a recent announcement involving Steve Bannon, an Islamophobic Australian politician famous for being egged, and a robot sex expert.
Earlier this month, a barely-noticed media release heralded the launch of the Institute for Populist Economic Nationalism.
The Institute’s website outlines a extremely socially conservative and economically protectionist manifesto: they’re anti-free trade, anti-gay marriage, anti-abortion, low taxing and for small government. They also promote “social cohesion by an immigration program that gives preference to those best able to integrate and assimilate”, a racist dogwhistle that echoes some of the founders’ anti-immigration views.
Steve Bannon, out on bail, has spent his month productively, launching yet another think-tank! Now we also know what the "populist hair" stands for pic.twitter.com/nsRJSIVN8C— Evgeny Morozov (@evgenymorozov) September 26, 2020
But the names attached to the “think-tank and action group” were perhaps the most noteworthy part of it: Steven Kevin Bannon, Senator Fraser Anning and Professor Adrian David Cheok.
Steve Bannon, of course, is the former Trump White House Chief Strategist who is currently on bail after being indicted for his role in a crowdfunding ‘Build The Wall’ scheme which US federal prosecutors claim was fraudulent.
Anning is the far-right, Islamophobic Australian senator who went viral after being filmed being egged the day after he blamed New Zealand’s Muslim community for the Christchurch terrorist attack. Following an unsuccessful bid for re-election, Anning’s associates claim he moved to Venezuela, but is reportedly in the US.
And perhaps the least known but equally remarkable Choek. Choek is an academic whose research in artificial intelligence saw him awarded an Order Of Australia. But the award drew criticism as critics of Choek denounced his “sexist and racist” views and his publicly aggressive behaviour towards other academics.
Despite advocating for a return to “traditional values”, Choek is also an advocate of ‘human-robot love’. But hey, who are we to yuck someone’s yum?
While there’s scant details on what the Institute will do and what many resources are behind it (especially considering the legal troubles of Steve Bannon), let’s not put it past these three to create something truly awful.
Although if their website is anything to go by — given the stock images are being used to ‘show’ their members as spotted by Twitter user @sexenheimer — the Institute has yet to prove that it has any real world support.