What's this all about?
The New Yorker announced that it had invited white supremacist and former Trump White House adviser Steve Bannon to appear at its upcoming (Oct. 5-7) New Yorker Festival. And then some people who were also participating in the event—slated to do interviews (or "conversations") on stage—started noticing and objecting. Key among them: Director Judd Apatow ("The 40-Year-Old Virgin," "Knocked Up," "Funny People," "This Is 40," "Trainwreck"), who on Monday tweeted:
If Steve Bannon is at the New Yorker festival I am out. I will not take part in an event that normalizes hate. I hope the @NewYorker will do the right thing and cancel the Steve Bannon event. Maybe they should read their own reporting about his ideology.— Judd Apatow (@JuddApatow) September 3, 2018
Losing Apatow would obviously be a blow. How did The New Yorker react?
In-house they probably started freaking out—because Apatow's tweet unleashed the floodgates and other New Yorker Festival participants started pulling out, causing the event to basically collapse. Comedian John Mulaney was next:
I'm out. I genuinely support public intellectual debate, and have paid to see people speak with whom I strongly disagree. But this isn't James Baldwin vs William F Buckley. This is PT Barnum level horseshit. And it was announced on a weekend just before tix went on sale. https://t.co/oYk1llNgvV— John Mulaney (@mulaney) September 3, 2018
I apologize to Susan Morrison as I was really looking forward to our conversation. And I look forward to future @NewYorker Fests & other public, even heated, debates between different voices. But hard pass on this amateur-night sonofabitch.— John Mulaney (@mulaney) September 3, 2018
And then actor-comedian Jim Carrey:
Bannon? And me? On the same program?— Jim Carrey (@JimCarrey) September 3, 2018
Could never happen.
And then actor-comedian Patton Oswalt:
And then director-comedian Bo Burnham (whose "Eighth Grade," side note, is one of the best films of the year):
I was scheduled to appear at The New Yorker Festival in a conversation with @MJSchulman whom I love dearly. After learning of the inclusion of Steve Bannon, I am respectfully saying fuck that. Peace and love!— Bo Burnham (@boburnham) September 3, 2018
And then, 19 minutes after Burnham's tweet, The New Yorker issued a statement from its editor:
A statement from David Remnick, editor of The New Yorker, explaining his decision to no longer include Steve Bannon in the 2018 New Yorker Festival. pic.twitter.com/opayiw5GQ2— The New Yorker (@NewYorker) September 3, 2018
By the way, some news outlets have reported that Jimmy Fallon's exit from The New Yorker Festival also factored into Remnick's reversal. But Fallon actually tweeted "I'm out" a few minutes after Remnick's statement was released on Twitter:
I'm out. https://t.co/JkIOGqCxaM— jimmy fallon (@jimmyfallon) September 3, 2018
Got it. Anyway, controversy over?
Not quite. As of this writing, we haven't seen any "I'm back in" tweets—and people are still pissed Bannon was invited in the first place. Also, City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism Professor Jeff Jarvis and others noticed something jarring in the last paragraph of Remnick's statement:
Worse yet, Remnick admits they were going to pay Bannon. Money would have gone to a white nationist instead of to journalism. Shameful.— Jeff Jarvis (@jeffjarvis) September 3, 2018
Remnick had written that "we pay an honorarium" and "for travel and lodging" for The New Yorker Festival participants—as opposed to interview subjects for the magazine or its radio program—and closed his statement by saying that "if the opportunity presents itself I'll interview him [Bannon] in a more traditionally journalistic setting, as we first discussed, and not on stage."
Oh dear. What are the chances that Bannon will now tell Remnick, "Sure, I'll talk to you for free."
Slim to none. Bannon gave this statement to The New York Times:
The reason for my acceptance was simple: I would be facing one of the most fearless journalists of his generation. In what I would call a defining moment, David Remnick showed he was gutless when confronted by the howling online mob.
Any backlash to the backlash from anyone other than Bannon?
A bit—most notably from The New Yorker writer Malcolm Gladwell, who last night tweeted:
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. https://t.co/VwkL4zOrbX— Malcolm Gladwell (@Gladwell) September 4, 2018
UPDATE: Gladwell elaborated on his point with another tweet this morning:
Joe McCarthy was done in when he was confronted by someone with intelligence and guts, before a live audience. Sometimes a platform is actually a gallows.— Malcolm Gladwell (@Gladwell) September 4, 2018