The New Yorker’s top editor David Remnick took a stand on principle, then decided instead to stand on his liberal guilt, after banning Steven K. Bannon from its fall festival, only to waiver and schedule him for a “private interview” sometime “in the future.”
Although Bannon won’t be featured like previous years at the magazine’s New Yorker Festival, Remnick said he would interview the alt-right political operative in a separate “private” interview.
“I have every intention of asking him difficult questions and engaging in a serious and even combative conversation,” Remnick told The New York Times.
“The audience itself, by its presence, puts a certain pressure on a conversation that an interview alone doesn’t do,” he added. “You can’t jump on and off the record.”
The first to react were long-time magazine readers and some New Yorker staff members.
“Don’t rule out a Steve Bannon comeback — thanks in part to a media that indulges white supremacists, ex-Trump staffers get endless second chances,” said one critic on Twitter.
“This just raises a fascist’s reputation in the eyes of his followers, and lowers The New Yorker’s reputation in the eyes of everyone else. Bannon will use this as a credential, and critics will use it, rightfully, to shame a once-important magazine that sold out its principles,” wrote another social media critic.
When celebrity speakers began pulling out of the festival, Remnick told staffers that the Bannon panel would not go on. Then, he reversed himself.
The upshot is, the interview will go one but not on stage in front of a likely braying audience.
But half a loaf, in this case, isn’t better than none.
Bannon is a polarizing figure who has championed alt-right and white supremacist views through Breitbart, a far-right Web site. He was discredited and forced to resign from Trump’s White House.
Bannon drove the president’s outreach to radical, far-right elements during the 2016 election. But Trump’s outrageous comments after the neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville, Va. eventually did him in.
Trump equated white supremacists and neo-Nazis with the protesters who opposed them, calling some of them “fine folks.” White House Chief of Staff John Kelly pushed out Bannon shortly afterward
Bannon gins up divisiveness just this side of alt-right fabulist Alex Jones. Their screeds are more like shouting fire in a crowded theater than protected speech under the First Amendment.
Bannon dropped out of sight after his White House sacking, but re-emerged first at Brietbart and then in Europe, where he said he planned to start right-wing populist movements.
The fact is, Bannon can add nothing to the national discourse, at this point, that wouldn’t be divisive and inflammatory.
This is a major failing of the mainstream media. It feels compelled to re-validate a disgraced ideologue over guilt that someone might question its “fairness” and “balance.”
Nothing could be further from the truth.
Or as one Twitter critic said: “There is *nothing* to be gained from interviewing a has-been fascist, David Remnick. Nothing.”