Everyone gave the most obvious reasons for refusing to sup with The Man Who Created Trump.
Imagine if David Remnick, editor of the New Yorker, had over-ridden all the objections by other celebrities (Judd Apatow, Jimmy Fallon and Jim Carrey, etc.) also coming to the New Yorker festival of ideas on October 4-5, as well as his staff, and refused to disinvite the 21st century version of Voldemort, aka Steve Bannon.
Imagine if no one came to the event. The pasty-faced Bannon would have fulminated, declaimed, denounced and tried to intimidate Remnick. But what if no one was there to hear? Or those who were there put his voice on mute? (That’s what you do, don’t you, when you don’t have control of the TV remote and someone else is forcing you to watch Goswami?)
Now that would have been a victory. (Gandhi called it civil disobedience, in the good, ol’ days. Let the guy say what he likes. Turn the other cheek, or face. Embrace your enemy. Keep him close. That way you know what he is thinking.)
An empty auditorium at the New Yorker festival of ideas, two chairs with two men on stage and on one of them David Remnick, who is probably thinking, Vladimir Zhirinovsky would have been more interesting. At least he would have stoked a real riot or two, along with the Reds.
But this pasty-faced Stephen, he won’t even win a panchayat poll. No wonder no one’s come to the event. (Oh well. They bought the tickets, though.)
In the beginning, Remnick had all the right ideas. Having lived in New Jersey and in Moscow and in a few other places in between, he understood that there’s nothing worse than talking to a man who bores you to death. (It’s probably why he never lived in Canada, although one of his best friends was the poet-singer, Leonard Cohen.)
“The main argument for not engaging with someone like Bannon is that we are giving him a platform and that he will use it, unfiltered, to propel further the ‘ideas’ of white nationalism, racism, anti-Semitism, and illiberalism. But to interview Bannon is not to endorse him,” Remnick said in the beginning.
But of course, the New York libs won the day. Everyone gave the most obvious reasons for refusing to sup with The Man Who Created Trump. Even Jimmy Fallon. Imagine, he has Donald Trump for breakfast, tea, dinner and makes money out of ripping him apart on TV on a daily basis.
Then there was Judd Apatow, the guy who produced the ‘Charlie Rose’ show (yeah, the same guy who was accused of being harassed by eight women. Does that mean that you would now say no to being interviewed by him?)
To be sure, Bannon hasn’t particularly endeared himself. In fact, he has revelled in the nastiness of being. He told a far right-wing rally in France in March: “Let them call you racists. Let them call you xenophobes. Let them call you nativists. Wear it as a badge of honour.”
Only Malcolm Gladwell, the author of ‘What the Dog Saw,’ and other books, saw the point about there being a free flow of ideas at a festival of ideas. “Call me old-fashioned,” Gladwell said, “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.”
Seems the editor of the Economist, that conservative magazine on the other side of the pond from New York, Zanny Minton Beddoes, is sticking to his decision to invite Bannon to the Open Future Festival come 15 September.
“The Open Future festival is the culmination of an initiative to mark this newspaper’s 175th anniversary. Our goal is to remake the case for liberal values in the 21st century by engaging in a global conversation about our worldview with our supporters and, crucially, our critics,” Beddoes said.
It’s a damn pity that Remnick capitulated. He must have read his Dostoyevsky and watched his Boris Godunov. In which part of the world is the soul not stained with overweening ambition, where the hand is not raised by the intent to murder, where the heart isn’t compromised by hypocrisy? Not in 1984 in Delhi, not in 2002 in Ahmedabad.
Even Stalin refused to exchange his son when the Germans offered a deal for the young boy’s life in Stalingrad.
Would a self-respecting reporter or writer or anyone else who believes there’s no beginning or end to the story of life, ever turn down the opportunity to interview Stalin?
At the end of the day, as he grows old, Bannon will read his Eliot and wear the bottom of his trousers rolled.
It’s a sad day when we turn down the opportunity to hear evil, speak evil and see evil. How would we learn to compare, otherwise?
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