Less than one day after announcing their lineup, the New Yorker Festival dropped Steve Bannon, and conservatives couldn’t be happier. By uninviting Bannon, the New Yorker undoubtedly affirmed what the right has been so loudly arguing since President Donald Trump’s been in office: Conservative views have no place in mainstream media.
Whether people like it or not, Bannon is news and it’s important to hear what he has to say.
The annual festival, an event offering interviews and performances from participants in industries such as comedy, music and politics, has been praised for being a celebration of ideas and creativity, making Bannon’s axing all the more ironic.
The decision to cut him from the festival came quickly after David Remnick, an editor for the New Yorker, received backlash on Twitter from countless members and celebrities like Judd Apatow and Roxane Gay expressing their frustrations and threatening to cancel their plans to attend.
Remnick said in his statement to the New Yorker, “To interview Bannon is not to endorse him.” He adds, “Ahead of the mid-term elections and with 2020 in sight, we’d be taking the opportunity to question someone who helped assemble Trumpism.”
So why back out?
Remnick is right. Bannon’s actions, exemplary of white nationalism, are abhorrent. An article about him does not have to be positive.
Bannon was Trump’s chief strategist and spent the first seven months of his presidency in the White House. Before his firing, Bannon was executive chairman to Breitbart News, a website in which our president gets most of his “news.”
He claims to have played a vital role in getting Trump elected and has dangerously been spreading his ideals of “national populist revolt” all throughout Europe, according to an article from the Guardian.
Of course, it’s completely understandable to see the danger in offering a platform to someone like Bannon. He is unpredictable, hateful and spent most of his time perpetuating fake news during Trump’s campaign and especially at Breitbart News.
But it’s also important to realize that the best way to counter fake news is by facing it head on. Interviewing Bannon is a chance to get some answers to tough questions, hold him accountable for his lies, and continue to expose the bigotry of his political agenda.
That’s what journalists do. Their job is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. It’s cowardly to avoid getting the truth merely because others oppose.
Shortly after Bannon was dropped Malcolm Gladwell, author and staff writer for the New Yorker, was added to the line-up with a panel called, “Malcolm Gladwell Talks: The Strange Allure of the Predictable Conversation.
Gladwell, opposing Bannon’s dropping, wrote on Twitter, “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.”
Divisiveness is not new, it’s just louder now. As much as it is someone’s right to boycott, it’s also someone’s right to speak no matter how unfavorable their words may be. And it’s those rights that need protection, not the people.