Jay Rosen @jayrosen_nyu I teach journalism and direct the Studio 20 program at NYU, critique the press, direct @membershippzzle. 'Ambassador' for @decorrespondent's expansion. Sep. 03, 2018 2 min read

On the New Yorker having Steve Bannon at its festival, I disagree with friends and people I normally align with. We ought to debate it— and even fight about the wisdom of such invites. But I am cautiously in favor of this one. I will try to explain why.  https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/03/arts/steve-bannon-new-yorker-festival-haruki-murakami.html  1/

That Bannon is a dangerous operative with a racist agenda, an avatar of illiberal democracy, I do not doubt. I am just back from three months in Germany, where I had a lot of conversations with journalists about "giving platform" and media coverage to people like him. 2/

This experience made me think harder about when you invite, when you don't, and why you would. A thing I came to believe: setting matters a lot. Add a racist demagogue whose party depends on media stunts to a panel of four and you will lose. In that setting, you never invite. 3/

Another principle: the dangerous operative with a racist agenda cannot be allowed to pick and frame what is discussed. The interviewer must do that. If the interviewer is weak (but it's their show) or the format makes it impossible to exert that kind of control, don't invite. 4/

Third principle. We can't give up on the battle of ideas. True: the kind of war Bannon is fighting is not an intellectual exercise, not a discourse event. Something far more serious is afoot. But we have to show that white nationalism and right wing populism are phony answers. 5/

It's a risk to invite. You could lose, and wind up with a circus that benefits a cause you despise. This risk has to be weighed against another. That by refusing to meet the enemy, defenders of liberal democracy will lose track of where they are weak and where they are strong. 6/

I was influenced in this belief by Timothy Garton Ash @fromTGA and the arguments he makes in this piece from 2017 about the rise of Alternative for Germany (AfD).  https://www.nybooks.com/articles/2017/12/07/germany-alt-right-kultur-stupid/  Click and read if you want to know more about my view on the New Yorker's Bannon invite. 7/

David Remnick has made a decent bet that he can question Bannon and show that his answers are illusory, his facts suspect, his reputation as a heavy unearned, his aims destructive— and yes, racist. The setting — live, one on one, with time to get into it — is the proper one. 8/

I won't condemn the @NewYorker for doing this. Liberal democracy is in retreat across the globe. The Bannons are winning. Journalists have to rise to the moment and show their supporters and would-be destroyers that where there is a free press there will be a ferocious fight. 9/

You can follow @jayrosen_nyu.


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