Steve Bannon and the sanitisation of public life

Steve Bannon and the sanitisation of public life, by Brendan O’Neill.

Well done, New Yorker, you have just empowered the mob. You have boosted the moral standing and arrogance of those 21st-century offence-takers who believe certain people should not be allowed to speak in public.

In disinviting Steve Bannon from your ideas festival at the behest of irate tweeters and arrogant celebs, you have sent a depressing message to society: that it is always worth agitating for censorship because eventually you will succeed. Eventually the targets of your censorious ire will cave in and give you what you want: a sanitised public sphere in which there won’t be so much as a peep from people whose ideas we find difficult or disturbing.

The New Yorker Festival is set to take place next month. Writers, filmmakers, actors, artist and politicians will descend on Manhattan to discuss pretty much everything. One of the invitees was Bannon, Breitbart bigwig, chief strategist of Trump’s election campaign, and the bete noire of liberal society. The New Yorker, which is implacably anti-Trump and a fully-signed up Bannon-basher, promised that its interview of Bannon at the festival would be ‘rigorous’ — that is, it would have been a grilling.

But that wasn’t good enough for the Bannonphobic celebrity set. They would prefer that Bannon and his ideas were simply scrubbed from public view rather than questioned and tested and held up to scrutiny. One by one, people who had been invited to speak or perform at the festival dropped out. ‘I’m out’, tweeted actor Patton Oswalt. ‘I’m out’, tweeted John Mulaney. It was the same showy, pseudo-virtuous statement every time: if this personification of evil appears anywhere at this festival, then I, decent, correct-thinking, non-redneck citizen, am out. Film director Judd Apatow followed suit. As did Jack Antonoff, lead singer of one-hit wonders The Bleachers. What a great loss to cultural and political debate in New York City. …

And the worst thing is, they succeeded. The New Yorker capitulated to their censorious demands. Editor David Remnick issued a statement saying the mag was wrong to think it was acceptable to grill Bannon in a public forum. He says his critics have a point when they say the New Yorker was effectively ‘giving [Bannon] a platform’ and that he would use it to ‘propel further the “ideas” of white nationalism’. What happened to grilling him? What happened to putting him and his ideas on the spot? Remnick puts ‘ideas’ in quote marks in reference to Bannon and his white nationalism, implying they are not real, substantial ideas, and yet he is unwilling to confront these ‘ideas’. It doesn’t add up. It smacks of moral cowardice.

Censorship and intolerance — where would the PC fantasy world be without them? The media is the problem — the left could never get away with this nonsense if they didn’t own the media.

hat-tip Stephen Neil