News Brief: Bannon's Magazine Interview, 'Daily Stormer' Moves To Dark Web
RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
A member of the White House goes off in a candid interview that was maybe sort of on the record, which sounds all too familiar.
AILSA CHANG, HOST:
Yeah, right? So we're talking about Steve Bannon here. He's, of course, the president's adviser, who's been at the center of criticism on a lot of fronts but especially Charlottesville because of his connection to Breitbart News, which he claimed was a platform for the alt-right. Strangely enough, Bannon gave a Scaramucci-style interview to The American Prospect, which is a left-wing magazine.
You remember Anthony Scaramucci, right? Yeah, he lost his job as White House communications director after a profanity-laced interview went public. Bannon's interview lacks four letter words, but it still has plenty of jaw-dropping moments.
MARTIN: All right, let's get into some of those with NPR's White House correspondent Scott Horsley, who's on the line. Hey, Scott.
SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: Good morning.
MARTIN: This was a fascinating interview. Let's start with the stuff he said about Charlottesville. Bannon essentially revealed his political strategy to defeat Democrats in the next election.
HORSLEY: Yeah. I don't know how many Klansmen and neo-Nazis read The American Prospect, but that's not a flattering portrait that Bannon paints of them. He talks about ethno-nationalists as losers and a fringe element - a viewpoint that lots of people would agree with, but that's sort of surprising coming from Bannon, who so successfully harnessed ethno-nationalism, first at Breitbart and then later when he was running the Trump campaign.
But he says he's happy to have Democrats talk about racism. He feels like identity politics is a loser for Democrats. and that, by the way, is a point that some on the left, like Columbia historian Mark Lilla, have also made.
MARTIN: So the whole reason, I understand, that this interview even happened was because Bannon thought he'd found a friendly publication - a friendly editor who would help propagate his ideas on China, right?
HORSLEY: Bannon talks here about China in really apocalyptic terms. He says the U.S. needs to be maniacally focused on China and its rising economy. And he addresses the tension between the sort of economic nationalism agenda at the White House and the diplomatic agenda of trying to enlist China's help in dealing with North Korea and its nuclear and missile threat. Bannon comes down very much on the economic nationalism side. He, in fact, seems to concede North Korea's nuclear program. He says there's no military solution on North Korea. Again...
MARTIN: Which is totally different from what the president has been suggesting, we should point out.
HORSLEY: Right. Again, it's - it's, I think, a point that a lot of military leaders would at least quietly acknowledge. But it's very much at odds with what Trump has been saying about, you know, fire and fury and locked and loaded.
MARTIN: All right, I'm going to play a little bit of tape. This is some of what the president had to say about Steve Bannon this week.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I like him. He's a good man. He is not a racist - I can tell you that. He's a good person.
MARTIN: So, clearly, reporters asking about Steve Bannon's fate because it's been reported so long that he may be on the outs. Is he on the outs? I mean, is this Bannon's last stand?
HORSLEY: You know, it was not exactly a full-throated defense of Steve Bannon by the president there. It was a fairly tepid defense, actually. Trump has been bothered by the battling within the West Wing, and Bannon is at the center of that. He's also always jealous when another staffer sort of steals some of his limelight. And this is certainly Bannon doing that.
Robert Kuttner - the Prospect author of this piece - ends his story by saying Bannon invited him to the White House to talk about China after Labor Day and says, we'll see if he's still there.
MARTIN: All right. NPR White House correspondent Scott Horsley. Thanks so much, Scott.
HORSLEY: You're welcome.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
MARTIN: After the events in Charlottesville, Twitter and Facebook started banning accounts that were linked to white nationalists.
CHANG: That's right. Google and GoDaddy went even further with The Daily Stormer - that's a neo-Nazi website. They both terminated its domain name registration, which meant you couldn't get to the Daily Stormer on the web, at least for a short while. But then yesterday, The Daily Stormer briefly resurfaced with a Russian domain. And then, it migrated over to what's known as the dark web.
MARTIN: All right, sounds ominous. Let's talk dark web with Ken Schwencke. He's a reporter for ProPublica. Ken, thanks for being here.
KEN SCHWENCKE: Thanks for having me.
MARTIN: What's the dark web?
SCHWENCKE: So the dark web is the name given to a network called Tor, which is a series of encrypted relays you can access to make your web browsing more secure. It's like bouncing your internet connection through a bunch of VPNs, like the one you might connect to for work. And specifically, the dark web tends to refer to a thing called hidden services, which are like de-centralized websites that only exist on that network.
MARTIN: OK. So The Daily Stormer, obviously, I mean, it just - it operates there because then it's not under scrutiny from companies that might kick it off.
SCHWENCKE: Right, exactly. Except for right now, it's actually not on the dark web at all. When it tried to go back up on the .ru domain, that's when Cloudflare - one of the last companies sort of standing behind The Daily Stormer - decided to end its services with it. And now it sort of exists nowhere.
MARTIN: So even the dark web will not have The Daily Stormer?
SCHWENCKE: Well, it wasn't the dark web. They took their site off the dark web in order to put it back up on the real web because they wanted sort of the broad reach of being able to just say thedailystormer.com...
SCHWENCKE: ...Or thedailystormer.ru.
MARTIN: So then, there is something to this. If you go on the dark web, you're just not going to get as much traffic. They understand that. So they'd rather be in the light, so to speak.
SCHWENCKE: Right, exactly. I mean, a lot of their strategy - you know, we've looked into this a lot - a lot of their strategy is just in being able to have a very broad audience. And in that sense, they write a lot of sort of non-Nazi content to try to bring people into the fold, so to speak.
MARTIN: So is this where - is this the fate of other Nazi, far-right, alt-right propaganda? Does it live on the dark web? And then, what's the tipping point when it doesn't anymore?
SCHWENCKE: It's an interesting question. It's sort of yet to be seen. I mean, a lot of these services are banning access to white nationalist content. I mean, Richard Spencer's National Policy Institute website is getting taken down by Squarespace, which has been hosting it. So it's really yet to be seen. But there's sort of a whole far-right fringe series of companies that are being set up by these people in order to replace the companies that are banning them.
MARTIN: So they're just going to take things into their own hands and make their own hosting environments.
MARTIN: OK. Ken Schwencke, we have learned something here. He works for ProPublica. Thanks so much for making the time today.
SCHWENCKE: Yeah, thank you.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
MARTIN: All right, so it's not just Americans who are grappling with the aftermath of the violence that we saw unfold in Charlottesville, Va.
CHANG: No, people in Israel have also been following the story really closely. Let's remember Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Donald Trump are friends and close supporters of each other. And now, Netanyahu is being faulted by his critics for his reaction to Charlottesville.
MARTIN: OK. NPR's Daniel Estrin joins us now. He is NPR's correspondent based in Jerusalem. Hey, Daniel.
DANIEL ESTRIN, BYLINE: Hey.
MARTIN: What is Netanyahu saying about Charlottesville?
ESTRIN: Well, for three days he said nothing. Only after President Trump called out neo-Nazis and white supremacists, Netanyahu tweeted the following.
(Reading) Outraged by expressions of anti-Semitism, neo-Nazism and racism. Everyone should oppose this hatred.
And that's it. Two lines. And we're talking about a leader who is usually at the forefront of speaking out about anti-Semitism around the world. Now, Netanyahu's critics say this is all about his relationship with Trump. He's a close ally of Trump. He has said Trump is a great friend of the Jewish people, so he doesn't want to undermine Trump.
MARTIN: How has this been received just by Israelis in general? Is it something they're tracking? I mean, when we say critics, is this widespread criticism of Netanyahu, or is it just the tried and true people who always lambaste him?
ESTRIN: Well, I actually have today's Israeli newspapers here in my hands. I want to read you some of their coverage of Trump's comments that both sides in Charlottesville are to blame.
So these are all front-page headlines. I got this one that says bosheth, which is shame, in big yellow letters. We got one that says, a presidential embrace of the radical right. And this one says, Trump defends neo-Nazi march participants.
MARTIN: Look at you with the real newspapers, Daniel.
ESTRIN: Can you believe it? - not even online - real newspapers. So there is alarm here.
ESTRIN: But there also was this really interesting completely different reaction here by some people, like Netanyahu's 26-year-old son. He seemed to take Trump's viewpoint that there isn't just one side at fault. He said on Facebook, you know, neo-Nazis are a dying breed. And what's more worrisome is Black Lives Matter and other leftist activists that he says hate Israel.
MARTIN: So, I mean, there's a long relationship between Israel and the United States, a long relationship between American Jews and Israeli Jews. But, you know, when you look at the response among the majority of Jews in the U.S., they've been pretty strongly condemning the anti-Semitism and Donald Trump, for his response. I mean, is this likely to extend a rift or create a rift between American Jews and Israelis?
ESTRIN: Yeah. I spoke to one expert on the American Jewish community, Jonathan Sarna. He said, American Jews tend to expect Israeli leaders not to intervene in American affairs. But there is concern in Israel that, you know, the more Netanyahu allies with Trump, the more Israel will lose support of the American Jewish community.
MARTIN: NPR's Daniel Estrin reporting from Jerusalem on the fallout of Charlottesville, how that's being received in Israel and especially the remarks, or non-remarks, of the prime minister there, Benjamin Netanyahu. Hey, Daniel, thanks so much for making the time.
ESTRIN: No problem.
(SOUNDBITE OF GHOSTTOWN'S "HOTSAUCE HEAVEN") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.