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You Cannot “Win” Debates on High-Profile Platforms With Bigots And Liars

Rachel Weisz stars as acclaimed writer and historian Deborah E. Lipstadt in DENIAL, a Bleecker Street release.
Credit: Laurie Sparham / Bleecker Street

I’ve discussed the superb film Denial before, and apparently we need the lesson again:

The New Yorker incited anger on Monday after it was announced that Steve Bannon would be headlining the magazine’s October festival.

The New Yorker Festival, in its 19th year, is known for giving a platform to prominent figures across the political, literary and art worlds. This year’s event will feature an appearance by former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, The New York Times reported Monday.

The magazine’s editor, David Remnick, defended the choice to add Bannon to the festival lineup by saying the event wouldn’t allow Bannon to “jump on and off the record.”

“I have every intention of asking him difficult questions and engaging in a serious and even combative conversation,” Remnick told the Times in a phone interview. “The audience itself, by its presence, puts a certain pressure on a conversation that an interview alone doesn’t do.”

Bannon left the White House in August 2017, not long after white nationalists incited violent protests in Charlottesville, Virginia. After his work for President Donald Trump, Bannon focused his attention on getting Europe’s far-right parties more power in government positions.

During a speech in March at a party congress of France’s far-right National Front in Lille, he told attendees to consider being called racist “a badge of honor.”

Remnick’s marketplace of ideas justifications are incredibly naive. Bannon is very good at his job as a white nationalist propagandist, and there’s no magic rhetorical bullet you can use to defeat his ideas. Debates are a forum that rewards rhetorical cleverness and extemporaneous speaking ability, not a forum for producing truth. He wins the second he’s given the platform.

Read this thread by Roxane Gay.

UPDATE: good. Although rescinding the offer also hands Bannon a propaganda victory, it’s better than the alternative:

I’m dreading the inevitable Bari Weiss column. Also:

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