Giving Bannon a Platform

Last night, Twitter exploded with opinions about Bannon being uninvited to talk at a New Yorker festival.

I have mixed feelings about all this.

On the one hand, I do blame the media for giving Trump too much of a platform before the election. He shouldn’t have been able to just call into the Today every morning and chat with Matt Lauer before the election.

On the other hand, I want to know what that Rasputin has to say, because I still can’t believe that Trump is president. Bannon is awful. I don’t want him to have a permanent stage to talk, but I want to know more, in order to hate him more effectively.

Semi-off topic… A disturbing number of teenage boys around here are supportive of Trump. These aren’t the kids of coal miners in West Virginia. They are the children of stock brokers attending fancy private schools. They have command-stripped “Don’t Tread on Me” flags over the dorm room beds. We can’t pretend this isn’t happening.

24 thoughts on “Giving Bannon a Platform

  1. I love the New Yorker but I’ve long detested the New Yorker festival. early on they had a free poetry reading in Bryant Park. That was nice and I notice they don’t have that any more. About 50% of it is ted talk level bullshit (Jim Carrey and Jud Apatow and Jimmy Fallon? Really? can we hear from a non-white male comedian? and literally they always have zadie smith, she’s great, but let’s branch out a bit). Remnick was trying to either get attention (Conde Nast would like that) or miscalculated in a weird baby boomer way. There are a zillion other useful ways to handle this and one of them would be an interview in the magazine if Remnick thinks he’s so great. But we all know what this guy thinks. I’d rather hear Mitch McConnell try to justify doing absolutely nothing for years. Or someone from the SPLC or a psychologist on exactly what we can do to make this less appealing to young people.


    1. Yes. Nobody doesn’t know what Trump stands for because he says it. It’s plain racism of the sort that had been driven out of politics for decades.


      1. That’s not what I asked. (Of course, this being neither a deposition nor a classroom, you are free to answer questions other than the one asked.) I asked, why do the boys say they like Trump?


      2. It is exactly an answer. The boys like Trump because Trump is openly racist. There’s all sorts of writing around that point because it’s uncomfortable to many.


      3. You are wrong about “openly racist” being the only reason or even the primary reason. I grew up in red America. I don’t share their thinking or fully understand it, that’s why I got out the second I graduated from high school. But I do know you can’t explain this away with a flippant “evil people.” You are dismissing them and othering them exactly the way Fox News others POC and immigrants.

        I worry that more and more, instead of doing the hard work of understanding what’s happening among those boys and a big chunk of the country, we on the left are just dismissing them as deplorable racists, shrugging and moving on, instead of figuring out how we can course correct to include the rest of the country (because guess what, even if you don’t like them, they are citizens and voters and they aren’t going away) and win elections (because if we don’t start winning them, the free world is screwed.)


      4. I grew up in the same kind of place. I don’t think my argument that racism is the reason is in any way flippant or writing people off. You have to meet people where they are, but you can’t forget that where they are is thinking black people are fundamentally less than them.


      5. I’d say the boys like Trump because he’s openly sexist (maybe more than openly racist) and supports their feelings that all those girls are constantly hectoring them to not be jerks.


  2. It’s not that difficult to find out Mr. Bannon’s viewpoints. There have been several articles written about him, interviews, etc. If someone wants to learn more about Mr. Bannon – there are copious resources; googling is everyone’s friend in this way. Giving him a platform at the New Yorker Festival isn’t required to ‘illuminate’ his views, or learn more about them.

    I, personally, have moral objections to Mr. Bannon and his viewpoints. I find him repugnant and would want nothing to do with him, and as someone who *has* read copiously about him, I am not in further need to examples of why I find him so objectionable. Freedom of association is a beautiful thing, one more people should appreciate, in my opinion.

    I believe Mr. Bannon should have all the 1st Amendment protections as any other citizen, and those don’t look to be under fire (it isn’t censorship for a private organization to rescind an invitation to be paid to speak). The other speakers, panel members and ticket-purchasing public who registered their disgust with the invitation to headline the New Yorker Festival have also made their thoughts and beliefs clear. It seems like Mr. Remnick has decided in this particular marketplace of ideas – Mr. Bannon’s don’t win. Seems like everything is in order with how many say they want ‘free speech’ to compete in the marketplace.

    There is also copious amounts of work and study into why the current President has support among white people, most definitely including wealthy white people. I would highly recommend reading about the 1930s Germany in understanding how privileged, educated people can happily choose to participate in moral repugnant political parties. And, I would also recommend reading (or re-reading) Dorothy Thompson’s “Who Goes Nazi?” published in 1941.


    1. ” I would highly recommend reading about the 1930s Germany in understanding how privileged, educated people can happily choose to participate in moral repugnant political parties.”

      I don’t know if it’s widely recalled here at the blog, but Laura’s husband did his PhD on German history, and his dissertation is on Ludendorff. I’d wager that Laura has absorbed a lot about interwar Germany over the years.


      1. I did not know that. I wonder what Steve thinks. For myself, I would say that: (i) the United States has not experienced a disastrous military defeat, with the loss of an entire generation of young men and widespread suffering on the home front during and after the war; (ii) the United States has not experienced hyperinflation; (iii) we are not in the midst of a global depression; (iv) no one in the ruling classes is worried about the threat of Bolshevik revolution; and (v) the United States has not transitioned to a democratic form of government recently. So the United States is not at all like 1930s Germany, that I can see. But there are certainly people who know more German history than I do.


      1. Dorothy Thompson is a fascinating journalist…highly recommend the rest of her writing as well. She was actually one of the first journalist to be expelled from Germany in the 30s.


  3. About the college boys who hang “Don’t Tread On Me” flags from their ceilings:

    When I was in college—many decades ago— the boys in the dorm room below had confederate army flags hanging from their ceiling. (they also played “Little Feat’s” “Dixie Chicken” incessantly—so I was always banging on the door to tell them to shut the damn stereo off)

    But—I was thinking that perhaps the “Don’t Tread On Me” flag could be viewed as some king of progress, being a symbol of independence? Or at least in sense that it was not a flag used in a war to preserve slavery?

    I guess, probably not, as the Tea Party and white supremacists, are now so fond of it that it’s meaning has changed to how they see it.



    I can’t imagine that Bannon being grilled by David Remnick in New York City, in Bryant Park would convert many people to his way of thinking. I get how people don’t want to legitimize someone like Bannon, but I would have paid good money to watch Remnick shred him up. I would have been far more interested in seeing that discussion than listening to something Jim Carrey has to say.

    I’ll never stop being curious about how we have this buffoon for president. I think it’s a little simplistic to chalk up the whole business to white supremacy. I mean that’s probably a factor, but there are other reasons as well. I want to know. Especially since the numbers geeks say that he has a far chance of getting reelected, I want to know.


    1. I don’t think it’s a question of Bannon converting people or whether or not he gets shredded. Accepting whether or not non-white people are equal as an open question for repeated public debate is effectively conceding to white supremacists.


      1. Yeah, I get that. Except I can’t imagine that Remnick would allow that statement to be debated. I assume that his questions would have been about elections and Trump supporters. Maybe he would have tried to get Bannon to admit that he has evil ideas on race, but Bannon would have tried to wiggle out of admitted it. I don’t know. And now I’ll never know. I have a lot of respect for Remnick, so I think — maybe mistakenly — that he wouldn’t let himself get played by Bannon.


      2. I feel like people to fall into the trap of debating “whether or not non-white people are equal” over and over again (even in this blog). I don’t believe that Remnick would have been able to let Bannon headline without allowing that statement to be debated.

        The real issue, though, is the phenomenon of rescinding invitations. Nothing good can ever come of that. The right decision would have been to not have invited him in the first place and I don’t see why that didn’t happen. There might be a few situations in which an invitation is rescinded on the basis of new information, but that’s not what happen here.


    2. I don’t think that Bannon being grilled by Remnick in NYC would result in him being “shredded” to anyone who doesn’t already find Bannon reprehensible. I also don’t think that interviewing Bannon would help us understand the Trump support, beyond the racism/bigotry/xenophobia/white supremacism.

      I do think there are additional factors in the support of Trump (populist economics, anti-immigration — which can be racist, but isn’t always, culture wars on gay rights, anti-abortion, consolidation of power, . . . .) but I don’t think that Bannon has anything to offer on those topics.

      I think that those of us who believe in understanding, debating, refining topics underestimate the effects of confirmation bias, celebrity, and publicity in demagoguery.

      I also cannot imagine why I would want to listen to Jim Carrey doing anything other than what he is actually an expert in (being funny). The conflation of celebrity with expertise is one of the problems with demagogues, and Carrey is less offensive because of his views, not because he is a more worthy expounder of ideas than Bannon.


    3. Well, I could summarize the views of the Trump supporters I know, but I think it would be more enlightening for anyone who wants to know why Trump was elected, and knows a Trump supporter, as Laura apparently does, to ask them why they are Trump supporters. Use the “speaker-listener technique” as long as necessary to be sure you understand what they are saying. Surely boys from UMC families who are going to college can, with prompting and sympathetic listening, give a coherent explanation of their views.


      1. Listening is great, but if you are going ask somebody why they are supporting a candidate whose main campaign points all involved racism, you aren’t listening if you rule out the reason being ”because of the racism” before you start. You’re just giving a racist a chance to do some propaganda.


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