The Corner

Culture

The Disinvitation Game, or, Against Weenification

Steve Bannon at the Values Voter Summit in Washington, D.C., October 2017 (Reuters / Mary F. Calvert)

David Remnick, the editor of The New Yorker, invited Steve Bannon to have a sitdown with him at the magazine’s festival in October. A lot of people objected to this, hotly. Remnick then withdrew the invitation.

There’s a whole lot of this goin’ on. To read about what happened in this particular case, consult the New York Times, in an excellent report, here.

The Remnick-Bannon show — or Bannon-Remnick — would have been a damn good one, I think. I might have paid to see it (and cheap journos like me don’t pay for anything). Steve Bannon represents an extremely important strain of thought and mode of politics. What he represents is advancing in Europe and elsewhere. Bannon is a fellow combatant of Orbán, Salvini, the Le Pens, and many others. They are not to be ignored. (Indeed, they are to be engaged.)

How about Remnick? There is much to say, but I’ll confine myself to this: In the summer of 1994, I read his book Lenin’s Tomb: The Last Days of the Soviet Empire. It stands as one of the best reading experiences of my entire life. Truly.

Inviting Bannon to the festival, Remnick said, “We would be honored to have you.” When Remnick yanked the invitation, Bannon said, “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.”

Yesterday on Twitter, I wrote, “I don’t know why people have to be such weenies. My gosh, the country is crawling with mice, apparently outnumbering men. I know and write about journalists in dictatorships. They risk EVERYTHING. And we risk practically nothing. And still, weeniedom.”

One man — an academic — responded to me,

Jay, the UCLA College Republicans disinvited Milo from an event last year, in part due to the importuning of Gabriel Rossman. They realized that the invitation was a mistake, Milo would damage their campus outreach, and add little to the conversation.

Were they wrong to do so?

A very good question. In early ’18, the Bruin Republicans invited Milo Yiannopoulos to give a talk entitled “10 Things I Hate about Mexico.” In The Weekly Standard, Gabriel Rossman, a sterling sociology prof at UCLA, published an open letter to these students, explaining why, in his view, their invitation was a mistake. They agreed, withdrawing the invitation.

On our podcast, Need to Know, Mona Charen and I had Professor Rossman as our guest. (Listen here.)

The above-quoted academic and tweeter asked me a question, and I must give an answer. I do not think the Bruin Republicans were wrong to withdraw their invitation. I think they were right to do so. They are students and they were misguided, in my view, and then guided rightly. At the same time, I am not altogether comfortable with disinvitation — even when the disinvitation is justified, if you know what I mean.

And The New Yorker knew exactly what they were doing when they invited Steve Bannon to their festival. They knew all about Bannon, and all about today’s politics — for heaven’s sake.

May I indulge in a little autobiography? This’ll be the most boring part of the post. I’ll keep it short (maybe). A year or two ago, I was invited to give a talk to a Republican group in California. I was going to talk about a book I had written about dictators’ families. The group found out I was no longer a Republican — I wrote about my departure here — and withdrew the invitation. Their rule is, Every speaker before the group must be a Republican, period.

Well, it’s their rule. But may I say that I was a Republican — and a red-hot Republican! — for some 35 years, a lot longer than the current leader of the Republican party has been? In Nevada, a brothel-owner, the author of The Art of the Pimp, has just switched to the Republican party. He had run for office as a Libertarian, unsuccessfully. But now he is running, and winning, as a Republican.

He could be a speaker before this group — but not square conservative me. Anyway . . .

If you don’t want Steve Bannon at your festival, don’t invite him in the first place. And the entire country should man up. We are drowning in weenification and snowflakiness. Shall we grow a national pair?

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