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The New Yorker, Steve Bannon And Why We're Mad At Malcolm Gladwell

By Kristy Puchko | Politics | September 4, 2018 |

By Kristy Puchko | Politics | September 4, 2018 |


Former Trump strategist and ongoing white supremacist Steve Bannon was the center of controversy this weekend, when it was announced he’d be the headliner of this year’s New Yorker Festival. Bannon was to be interviewed onstage by the magazine’s editor David Remnick, who The New York Times notes is a “frequent critic” of the administration. But to the shock of The New Yorker, people were offended by the idea of handing over such a coveted platform to a Trump ally and outspoken bigot. Within an hour of the announcement, a string of celebrities meant to appear at the New Yorker Festival publically bailed in protest. This included Judd Apatow, John Mulaney, Jack Antonoff, Jim Carrey, Patton Oswalt, and Jimmy Fallon.

Even the literal platform for Bannon’s appearance protested publicly.

As you might imagine, The New Yorker kicked into damage control and booted Bannon to save their sinking festival. Here’s the statement from Remnick.

In the statement, Remnick admits that members of The New Yorker staff also objected to Bannon’s inclusion in their annual festival. He also writes:

The main argument for not engaging someone like Bannon is that we are giving him a platform and that he will use it, unfiltered, to propel further the ‘ideas’ of white nationalism, racism, anti-Semitism, and illiberalism. But to interview Bannon is not to endorse him. By conducting an interview with one of Trumpism’s leading creators and organizers, we are hardly pulling him out of obscurity. Ahead of the mid-term elections and with 2020 in sight, we’d be taking the opportunity to question someone who helped assemble Trumpism.

The statement goes on. But what Remnick overlooks is, he isn’t talking about a critical interview in a magazine, where he’d have control over the narrative. He was literally giving Bannon a stage, where he could command the narrative with his own soundbites and bluster. Remnick was holding up Bannon and promoting his ideas by making him the headliner of a festival meant to celebrate discussion. That is a place of honor that suggests Bannon’s virulent propaganda is worthy of intellectual debate. Remnick may have imagined this as a gladiatorial battle of ideology. But he ignores that by his giving Bannon the headliner role, that repellant man already wins. Even if he loses it. Because now, Bannon has a new battle cry against snowflakes. Here’s Bannon’s response to being fired from the festival, which was a paid gig that included an honorarium as well as travel and lodging costs:

In what I would call a defining moment, David Remnick showed he was gutless when confronted by the howling online mob.

New York Times film critic AO Scott nicely summarizes how Remnick’s complete mishandling of all of the above will play out:

Then in came Malcolm Gladwell, acclaimed author of The Tipping Point, Blink and Outliers as well as a member of the New Yorker staff since 1996.

Before long, Gladwell had joined Bannon in Twitter’s trending section.

Header Image Source: Getty