News Friday that Steven Bannon was convicted of refusing to comply with a congressional subpoena was a sweet surprise for many across social media. But in reality, Bannon’s conviction is less than a slap on the wrist.
According to Associated Press, the Washington, D.C. jury found Bannon guilty in less than three hours. He will be sentenced in late October on two counts, each carrying up to two years in jail. He will have a minimum of 30 days of jail time and possible fines.
But in reality, this is like putting a toddler in time out for two minutes, and they go back to doing the same thing that got them in trouble. Bannon’s conviction is also representative of how white supremacy inflicts harm but is rarely ever held to task.
The system “held him accountable,” and yet it feels empty. The joy people have at this moment is simply seeing a close Trump associate slapped with some form of consequence.
But symbolic victories feel empty when the person or entity doing harm will soon be back at it. And more than being team Trump, Bannon’s participation and leadership in establishing widespread disinformation networks home and abroad remain unchecked.
The former Breitbart News leader and one-time Trump strategist has been at the focal point of the mass disaster of election disinformation and systematically undermining democratic processes and systems. Mother Jones reported on Bannon’s “misinformation empire” built with a Chinese businessman called GTV. In 2020, Vox ran a story explaining how Bannon led the way to “flood the zone with shit,” making it difficult for individuals to discern truth from fiction.
“We live in a media ecosystem that overwhelms people with information,” read the article. “Some of that information is accurate, some of it is bogus, and much of it is intentionally misleading. The result is a polity that has increasingly given up on finding out the truth.”
Bannon’s not the only media figure who dabbled in the political sphere. But his level of power and fixation on creating and distributing chaos has been unparalleled.
Platforms that have allowed Steve Bannon to spread his filth also share in the blame. His podcast has been top-rated on Apple Podcast. Some will say they don’t believe in censorship.
But threats to democracy and actively engaging in the dissemination of false information should not be allowed to flow freely without recourse. At a bare minimum, if advertisers require a standard of truth, so should political figures like Steve Bannon. And his commentary and actively pushing of disinformation and unfounded conspiracy theories do not stand alone.
These things happened within the same atmosphere as Rudy Giuliani and the rest of Trump’s legal team lying to state elected officials and courts around the country. It happened in the same space as attacks on Wandrea Arshaye “Shaye” Moss and her mother Ruby Freeman, Georgia election workers terrorized for doing their job.
Nothing about this moment feels good. There are still dozens of candidates, some amplified and actively supported by Bannon, who continue to push the dangerous allegations around the validity of elections and double down on disproven claims around the 2020 election.
Unfortunately, the criminal legal system and the U.S. government will never bring real justice for the harm caused by Bannon, Trump and their network. White supremacy will always protect the likes of Bannon, ensuring he benefits from the bipartisan commitment to protecting institutions and the wealthy. And still, the damage he’s caused continues to flow through state legislatures and courts around the country.