The New Yorker, Steve Bannon And Why We're Mad At Malcolm Gladwell
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.
If Steve Bannon is at the New Yorker festival I am out. I will not take part in an event that normalizes hate. I hope the @NewYorker will do the right thing and cancel the Steve Bannon event. Maybe they should read their own reporting about his ideology.— Judd Apatow (@JuddApatow) September 3, 2018
i’m no longer going to be speaking/performing at the new yorker festival as long as steve bannon is there— jackantonoff (@jackantonoff) September 3, 2018
Bannon? And me? On the same program?— Jim Carrey (@JimCarrey) September 3, 2018
Could never happen.
I’m out. I genuinely support public intellectual debate, and have paid to see people speak with whom I strongly disagree. But this isn’t James Baldwin vs William F Buckley. This is PT Barnum level horseshit. And it was announced on a weekend just before tix went on sale. https://t.co/oYk1llNgvV— John Mulaney (@mulaney) September 3, 2018
I apologize to Susan Morrison as I was really looking forward to our conversation. And I look forward to future @NewYorker Fests & other public, even heated, debates between different voices. But hard pass on this amateur-night sonofabitch.— John Mulaney (@mulaney) September 3, 2018
I’m out. https://t.co/JkIOGqCxaM— jimmy fallon (@jimmyfallon) September 3, 2018
Even the literal platform for Bannon’s appearance protested publicly.
Our auditorium was rented for this outside event, and we’re just learning about the lineup ourselves. Rest assured we stand against everything Steve Bannon represents, and will issue a statement shortly. https://t.co/BnAM5Q0ECf— NY Ethical Society (@EthicalNYC) September 3, 2018
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.
A statement from David Remnick, editor of The New Yorker, explaining his decision to no longer include Steve Bannon in the 2018 New Yorker Festival. pic.twitter.com/opayiw5GQ2— The New Yorker (@NewYorker) September 3, 2018
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:
is everyone else as excited as I am for another round of takes about liberal intolerance and how the elite media undermines free speech and how conservatives are victimized and silenced? thanks @NewYorker!— 32 across (@aoscott) September 3, 2018
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.
Huh. Call me old-fashioned. But I would have thought that the point of a festival of ideas was to expose the audience to ideas. If you only invite your friends over, it’s called a dinner party. https://t.co/VwkL4zOrbX— Malcolm Gladwell (@Gladwell) September 4, 2018
Before long, Gladwell had joined Bannon in Twitter’s trending section.
“Let’s just hear them out, debate their ideas and have a civil discourse” isn’t an option when their ‘ideas’ mean ethnic cleansing, racial discrimination, gender restrictions, genocidal views and bigoted, ignorant hatred — ‘hearing’ those views out only grants them legitimacy.— amanda batty (@theamandabatty) September 4, 2018
Some ideas NEED to be marginalized, always, & white supremacy is one of them. You don’t give a platform to Bannon, David Duke, or Richard Spencer. You don’t legitimize them, period. When a group thinks you can debate whether some people are even human, they deal themselves out.— B.L. Purdom, host of Quantum Harry, the Podcast (@QHPodcast) September 4, 2018
Why do people insist on pretending that white nationalism is a new idea? It’s not. It’s been around for a minute. It’s not new and different now that Bannon wears two shirts while he talks about it.— Ashley Nicole Black (@ashleyn1cole) September 4, 2018
I was thinking that you could have people hear about ideas related to, say, terrorism without inviting a terrorist to speak and ideas related to serial killers without inviting a serial killer.— JRehling (@JRehling) September 4, 2018
Do university courses on volcanic geology need to bury students in lava?
Everyone’s been exposed to Steve Bannon’s ideas. They’re covered quite extensively in history books about Germany in the ’30s & ’40s.— David Slack (@slack2thefuture) September 4, 2018
Malcolm Gladwell defending a pig's invitation to an annual cash-grab perfectly sums up the part of wealth culture that most needs to die— Owen Ellickson (@onlxn) September 4, 2018
I stopped listening to the podcast when you referenced Jordan Peterson without acknowledging that he is a toxic misogynist & have occasionally wondered if I've been missing anything good. Guess not.— Emilia (@amelieanomaly) September 4, 2018
Moderator: Welcome to the FESTIVAL OF IDEAS. For our first discussion: Is genocide chill?— Robin Roemer (@robinshoots) September 4, 2018
You should probably think on this for another 9,999 hours.— Justin Morissette (@JustinMoris) September 4, 2018
Malcolm Gladbad— Richard Lawson (@rilaws) September 4, 2018
Glalcom Madwell— Jason Bailey (@jasondashbailey) September 4, 2018
Malcolm Gladwellactually— Bilge Ebiri (@BilgeEbiri) September 4, 2018
Header Image Source: Getty
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