To Steve Bannon, Concerning Hobbits

Sir --

Twice now you have publicly referred to your alt-right constituency as 'hobbits'. In December you told the Daily Mail that your following of 'hobbits' should continue to keep you and Trump honest after you take power. More recently, in your epic blowup at the New York Times, you referred to your candidate's rise to victory as a revolt of 'working-class hobbits.'

I'm assuming that in your referencing of that fair and humble folk you are attempting to paint a picture of simple, rural people who like good-tilled earth, are slow to anger, but when called upon are a force to be reckoned with.

Presumably you've actually read the Lord of the Rings -- though from my experience, those who share your political affiliations aren't overly fond of books, except, perhaps, when throwing them on bonfires, or waving them in front of frenzied television crowds as examples of intellectual elitism.

But if you have read it, then you know where the real analogy lies. No, I'm not going to compare you to the Dark Lord Sauron. That would be insulting to that formidable Maiar, who -- though evil to the core -- was the holder of some actual power worth speaking of.

Rather, may I direct your attention to chapter 18 of Return of the King -- The Scouring of the Shire. When Sam and Frodo return from their epic quest to Mordor -- which they are only able to accomplish through humility, love, and reliance upon one another -- they find that their beloved Shire has been taken over by xenophobic thugs. A huge wall has been put up to unnecessarily keep foreigners out, and childish shire-dwellers who have no experience or knowledge of the world have formed vigilante bands, guarding the realm against a trumped up 'enemy' who doesn't actually exist. The defining characteristics of this new, scoured, Shire -- it is an unfriendly place for foreigners, it is built upon lies told by a worm-tongued henchman, it is run by people with no experience, it is surrounded by a big and utterly unnecessary wall, and it is an environmental wasteland. As Tolkien said -- "trees had been wantonly felled, the old mill had been replaced by a great brick building straddling the stream, which it fouled with a steaming and stinking outflow."

In Sam's words -- it was worse than Mordor.

Sound familiar? Stinking outflow? Worse than Mordor?

So if in labeling your constituency hobbits you really intend to say that they have been duped into following Grima Wormtongue into a dystopian thug state, then perhaps you have a point. If you're trying to paint your hobbits as the 'good guys...' Not so much, Mr. Bannon. Not so much.

Such analogies would not have sat well with J.R.R. Tolkien, who loved most and despised few, and the few he despised were mostly Nazis.

Perhaps you know, that in 1938, before the outbreak of the great war, the German publisher of the Hobbit requested that Tolkien provide evidence of his Aryan heritage, so that they could ascertain if he had any Jewish blood. Here is a part of his response --

"Thank you for your letter. I regret that I am not clear as to what you intend by arisch [Aryan]. I am not of Aryan extraction: that is Indo-Iranian; as far as I am aware none of my ancestors spoke Hindustani, Persian, Gypsy, or any related dialects. But if I am to understand that you are enquiring whether I am of Jewish origin, I can only reply that I regret that I appear to have no ancestors of that gifted people. My great-great-grandfather came to England in the eighteenth century from Germany: the main part of my descent is therefore purely English, and I am an English subject - which should be sufficient. I have been accustomed, nonetheless, to regard my German name with pride, and continued to do so throughout the period of the late regrettable war, in which I served in the English army. I cannot, however, forbear to comment that if impertinent and irrelevant inquiries of this sort are to become the rule in matters of literature, then the time is not far distant when a German name will no longer be a source of pride.

Tolkien certainly would have made no bones about correcting your misplaced fantasy novel analogies, your misplaced emphasis on national heritage as indicator of criminal intent, and your history, which -- as is all too common among fascist movements-- imagines an illusory white homeland that needs to be 'made great again.'

There's only one problem -- the great white America of which you speak doesn't exist and never did. And if history is any indicator, the pipe dream you're selling has an extremely rapid expiration date.