ICYMI, there was a brief but intense brouhaha yesterday when it was announced that former Trump strategist Steve Bannon would be a headlining guest at The New Yorker Festival, which takes place in NYC in early October. The annual "festival of ideas," now in its 19th year, is known for attracting A-list participants from show business, literature, politics and journalism. But Bannon remains a pariah in many of these circles, and the backlash was swift, with other famous festival participants dropping out within hours of the announcement.
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
Bannon? And me? On the same program?
Could never happen.
— Jim Carrey (@JimCarrey) September 3, 2018
— Patton Oswalt (@pattonoswalt) September 3, 2018
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
New Yorker editor David Remnick was to have conducted the Bannon interview; Remnick argued that "The audience itself, by its presence, puts a certain pressure on a conversation that an interview alone doesn’t do. You can’t jump on and off the record." But as the outrage reached a fever pitch on Monday, Remnick announced that Bannon would be dropped from the lineup.
"I’ve thought this through and talked to colleagues — and I’ve reconsidered,” Remnick wrote in a letter to staff that was made public. “I’ve changed my mind. There is a better way to do this. Our writers have interviewed Steve Bannon for The New Yorker before, and if the opportunity presents itself I’ll interview him in a more traditionally journalistic setting as we first discussed, and not on stage."
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
Bannon's response to the reversal was, essentially, 'cuck.'
In a statement to CNBC, Bannon slammed The New Yorker’s decision: “In what I would call a defining moment, David Remnick showed he was gutless when confronted by the howling online mob." https://t.co/TDSrIw8fId pic.twitter.com/FfXBjMxER4
— CNBC (@CNBC) September 4, 2018
It's unclear if the A listers who pulled out of the festival are now back in, but none of them have been removed from The New Yorker festival website. Remnick took a lot of heat during yesterday's controversy rollercoaster, with some wondering if his privileged straight white male perspective prevented him from fully appreciating why Bannon remains such a deeply divisive, offensive figure.
When you're a straight man, you can dig in to Steve Bannon's views on the lesbians without feeling attacked. pic.twitter.com/kYlm2a87Sn
— Nell Scovell (@NellSco) September 3, 2018
Giving Bannon a platform like this, with the imprimatur of The New Yorker, provides him with further legitimacy. It emboldens him and his ilk. And those of us who object are told we're just angry instead of wide awake. Bravo to everyone involved.
— roxane gay (@rgay) September 3, 2018
The Remmick statement is a fine example that political positions which threaten the lives of society's most vulnerable--women, people of color, immigrants, the poor--can be viewed as "valuable" information to rich white men.
— Nell Scovell (@NellSco) September 3, 2018
But Bannon was, reflecting an implicit judgement that what Bannon believes lies on the acceptable side of some unspecified but clearly real moral boundary.
— Osita Nwanevu (@OsitaNwanevu) September 4, 2018
“Online mob” isn’t quite right. Remnick was facing an insurrection from his own employees, as well as his festival guests. A little collective action that unfolded on this Labor Day. https://t.co/up7uNoushw
— Matt Pearce 🦅 (@mattdpearce) September 4, 2018
Hi Malcolm, we were exposed to this set of ideas in 1933 and they were in German. They aren't new or particularly well-hidden today. How about not exposing an audience to poorly-intellectualized hatred. How about not giving these "ideas" even an inch of room to metastasize again. https://t.co/617NSAJMUK
— STEVE HUFF (@SteveHuff) September 4, 2018
Malcolm Gladwell begrudgingly respecting Steve Bannon spending 10,000 hours perfecting being racist
— dana bell (@danacbell) September 4, 2018
But New Yorker writers like Jelani Cobb and Adam Davidson defended Remnick after he announced that Bannon was disinvited:
Finally, one thing that has long disturbed me is the binary morality of this era. I’ve tried very hard to write as a means of provoking positive change. But one mistake and I’ll be discarded just as quickly. We can’t win like this. We need all the hands we can get. https://t.co/umHk1oXfYk
— jelani cobb (@jelani9) September 4, 2018
In short, David has more than earned the right to fuck up once in a while.
Also, I've never had a boss who is so open to criticism. He spent all day today on the phone with writers and staffers telling him he's wrong. He listened, he heard.
— Adam Davidson (@adamdavidson) September 3, 2018
And this is also true:
The New Yorker editor's excuse for inviting Steve Bannon to headline its festival works for every new yorker cartoon caption pic.twitter.com/OgUKOp5mZw
— Rob Beschizza (@Beschizza) September 3, 2018
Finally, Trump-Russia expert Seth Ambramson argued that Remnick should have interviewed Bannon to talk about collusion on the record:
4/ Right now we have the *greatest crime in U.S. political history*—a presidential campaign simultaneously colluding with three nations at least: Russia, the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia—and zero effective *public* investigation of that crime because Congress won't act.
— Seth Abramson (@SethAbramson) September 3, 2018
Bannon, who is also the subject of a new documentary by Errol Morris, is still scheduled to appear for a fireside chat with the editor-in-chief of The Economist, as part of that magazine's Open Future festival.