Steve Bannon, gaming and “these rootless white males”

“Bannon made another decision that wasn’t immediately obvious but that would have a significant effect on the size and nature of Breitbart’s audience and eventually on the 2016 presidential campaign. He wanted to attract the online legions of mostly young men he’d run up against several years earlier, believing that the Internet masses could be harnessed to stoke a political revolution. Back in 2007, when he’d taken over Internet Gaming Entertainment, the Hong Kong company that systemized gold farming in World of War craft and other massively multiplayer online games, Bannon had become fascinated by the size and agency of the audiences congregating on MMO message boards such as Wowhead, Allakhazam, and (his favorite) Thottbot. ‘In 2006, 2007, they were doing 1.5 billion page views a month,’ he recalled. ‘Just insane traffic. I thought we could monetize it, but it turned out I couldn’t give the advertising away.’ Instead, the gamers ended up wrecking IGE’s business model by organizing themselves on the message boards and forcing the companies behind World of Warcraft and other MMO games to curb the disruptive practice of gold farming.

IGE’s investors lost millions of dollars. But Bannon gained a perverse appreciation for the gamers who’d done him in. ‘These guys, these rootless white males, had monster power,’ he said. ‘It was the pre-reddit. It’s the same guys on Thottbot who were [later] on reddit’ and 4chan-the message boards that became the birth place of the alt-right.

When Bannon took over Breitbart, he wanted to capture this audience. Andrew Breitbart had drawn a portion of it enchanted by his aggressive provocations on issues such as race and political correctness. Bannon took it further. He envisioned a great fusion between the masses of alienated gamers, so powerful in the online world, and the right-wing outsiders drawn to Breitbart by its radical politics and fuck-you attitude. ‘The reality is, Fox News’ audience was geriatric and no one was connecting with this younger group,’ Bannon said. But he needed a way to connect. He found it in Milo Yiannopoulos, a gay British tech blogger and Internet troll nonpareil.

The purpose of all this incitement, at least in Bannon’s mind, was to entice the online legions into the Breitbart fold. ‘I realized Milo could connect with these kids right away,’ he said. ‘You can activate that army. They come in through Gamergate or whatever and then get turned onto politics and Trump.’ In this way, Breitbart became an incubator of alt-right political energy. Although Yiannopoulos was most interested in cultivating his own celebrity -Bannon thought he looked like ‘a gay hooker’- he was more than willing to do his part and make the political connection explicit. ‘How Donald Trump Can Win: With Guns, Cars, Tech Visas, Ethanol… And 4Chan’ read the headline of an October 2015 article he wrote.”

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