David Remnick, the editor of The New Yorker, was going to interview former Trump adviser and Alt-right leader Steve Bannon at the magazine’s annual festival. When other guests at the festival said they would drop-out unless Bannon was disinvited, Remnick folded and Bannon was dumped. Learn more here.
Not everyone–even those who are not part of the Alt-right–were happy with Remnick’s decision.
Matt Taibbi at Rolling Stone called Remnick’s decision “a journalistic embarrassment.”
Malcolm Gladwell tweeted:
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
Jack Shafer of Politico described Remnick decision as a “screwup” and said:
The primary objection to the invitation coalesced around the idea that the New Yorkershould never present a bigot or a fascist or a xenophobe like Bannon to such a distinguished audience, thereby normalizing hate. Exactly how a hardball Remnick interview with Bannon would normalize anything has yet to be explained. How many New Yorkerreaders—you know who you are—attending the festival were likely to start thinking of Bannon as “normal” after Remnick cross-examined him? Too few to count, I reckon. So the Bannon ban wasn’t designed to protect New Yorker fans….
Is Bannonism so contagious and corrosive that it must be suppressed? If you really fear Bannon’s thoughts, isn’t it better to allow a mind like Remnick’s to dissect and refute them rather than trying to no-platform them into oblivion? Talking to a monster is not necessarily an endorsement of a monster’s ideas. The whole episode is enough to make you wonder whether the celebrities who bailed from the festival even read the magazine, which routinely steers its way into conflict and controversy.
I lean toward Gladwell and Shafer here. A fair case can be made that Steve Bannon was influential in the election of a President of the United States. Bannon does have ideas. And those ideas have been pretty influential among a certain sector of the American population. They need to be confronted by talented interviewers like Remnick.
Now that Bannon will not be at The New Yorker festival, author, radio host, and court evangelical Eric Metaxas has decided to enter the fray. According to a piece by Michael Gryboski at the Christian Post, Metaxas will interview Bannon “at a future event.”
Here is a taste of Gryboski’s article:
In an episode of his podcast “The Eric Metaxas Show” that aired Tuesday, the conservative Christian author announced that he was going to interview Bannon at a future event.
Metaxas explained that he reached out to Bannon’s representatives and they agreed, though a specific date had not yet been chosen. Driving his decision, explained Metaxas, was the New Yorker’s cancellation.
“It’s very important in this country, folks, I just want to say this, that we keep our mind open and that we allow people to have their say,” stated Metaxas.
Metaxas bemoaned Remnick’s decision to cancel Bannon’s interview, noting that he “could have asked him anything,” including critical questions. This led Metaxas to believe that “I need to do something.”
I am guessing that Remnick invited Bannon because he thought it might be important to have some intellectual diversity at the New Yorker Festival. I commend him for this decision and, like Shafer, I think he folded under pressure when his liberal friends got mad about Bannon’s appearance.
But what is Metaxas’s motive? This seems like little more than a publicity stunt. It is yet another attempt by a court evangelical to rally the Trump base.
And Warren Throckmorton also makes a good point in this tweet:
The New Yorker plans to interview Steve Bannon and chaos ensues. A Christian celebrity agrees to interview him and Christian Twitter yawns. Has Metaxas been written off or is the alt-right okay with the evangelical establishment? https://t.co/gb0m64P1vF
— Warren Throckmorton (@wthrockmorton) September 7, 2018