“I Thought He Was A Little Crazy”

It takes a village to create tyranny. It takes all kinds. 

One type is Thomas Williams, a former Catholic priest defrocked after fathering a child, who proselytizes for Breitbart in Europe despite having major reservations about Steve Bannon, a gutter-level bigot who’s soon to be White House Chief Strategist. Somehow the former holy man talked himself into accepting and keeping the job despite disagreeing with border walls and Brexit. The story is a little Thorn Birds with a generous helping of The Turner Diaries.

What allowed Williams such latitude in his moral judgement that he could aid Bannon and his disgraceful worldview? Well, he doesn’t appear to be a financial opportunist nor a hatemonger (despite some unfortunate opinions about Muslims). Perhaps his brain is just programmed to accept missions? Or maybe he fell prey to the same blind spot that allowed him in his earlier incarnation to steadfastly defend the innocence of a Catholic leader ultimately proven to have sexually abused children. 

Either way or some other way, Williams is on board and in Rome, using his skills to promote a platform that spreads the word of white nationalists and anti-Semites, while fully understanding the destructive nature of Bannon. As he says of his boss in Jason Horowitz’s excellent New York Times profile: “I think he prefers tearing down to building up, honestly.”

An excerpt:

Mr. Williams, amiable and soft-spoken, seems a discordantly gentle voice in the strident Breitbart chorus.

He said his time in the public eye had made him extra sensitive to inflicting harm and he lamented the “horrible” Breitbart commenters. Referring to the laptop computer on his dining room table, he noted, with a hint of sarcasm, that his home office — where he keeps a reliquary of bone chips of Dominican saints and framed photographs of Pope Benedict XVI smiling with his mother-in-law, a former United States ambassador to the Holy See — was “pretty nondescript for a subversive, alt-right, world-changing organization.”

From the beginning of his talks with Mr. Bannon, he said, Mr. Williams had expressed wariness about the website’s tone.

“Breitbart seemed like the exact opposite of everything I had been trained for and naturally tended towards,” the former priest said. “Which was help people understand each other, smooth over differences, show maybe you are not as far apart as you think.”

Mr. Williams had first met Mr. Bannon in 2003 through a mutual friend who was producing Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ,” on which Mr. Williams worked as the theological consultant. (“Mostly just to say things like, ‘You can’t do that,’” Mr. Williams said.)

“I thought he was a little crazy,” Mr. Williams said of Mr. Bannon. “I knew he was in this media stuff and he had all these theories about everything.”•

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