Malcolm Gladwell criticizes his own editor’s de-platforming of Bannon

Well cut off my legs and call me Shorty! Malcolm Gladwell, whom I’ve never much admired, has just done something truly admirable. After the invertebrate New Yorker editor David Remnick, following a barrage of social-media criticism, disinvited Steve Bannon from their upcoming one-on-one conversation at the New Yorker Festival, and after other New Yorker staffers defended Remnick’s cowardly and self-serving decision, Malcolm Gladwell dissented:

Have a look at this!

Gladwell said what needed to be said and in plain words—not New Yorker style! Good for him!  And raspberries to the pompous and pusillanimous Remnick, whose picture you can find beside the dictionary definition of “hauteur.”

And there’s this:

h/t: cesar



  1. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted September 4, 2018 at 9:38 pm | Permalink

    That’s good – it’s funny but he came up on a Hili Dialogue “notables born” that I commented on. I’m trying to make that mean something… not working…

  2. ploubere
    Posted September 4, 2018 at 9:59 pm | Permalink

    I find Gladwell’s Revisionist History podcasts interesting.

    • Tor G. Bertin
      Posted September 5, 2018 at 9:46 am | Permalink

      The episode on Winston Churchill and the India famine blew me away.

  3. Posted September 4, 2018 at 10:02 pm | Permalink

    Reblogged this on The Logical Place.

  4. Chris
    Posted September 4, 2018 at 10:02 pm | Permalink

    We might have to agree to disagree on all the Remnick/Bannon/New Yorker business, but I’d suggest caution with the history stuff (re that second tweet about McCarthy), especially in the hands of someone like Gladwell, who is not a professional historian. For a thorough rebuttal of this common misunderstanding of McCarthy’s fall, see this thread from a history Ph.D. student at Princeton:

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted September 5, 2018 at 6:16 am | Permalink

      I’ve got no truck with Malcolm Gladwell, but that thread seems a bit of an overreaction to what Gladwell actually said.

      Gladwell’s tweet on McCarthy strikes me as a throw-away line, and as far as it went it’s accurate — public exposure in the then-nascent medium of television was one of the contributing factors to McCarthy’s eventual downfall (you might even call it a “tipping point” in Gladwell-speak). I don’t think Gladwell meant it as a one-sentence précis on Joseph McCarthy: his decline and fall.

    • Historian
      Posted September 5, 2018 at 7:25 am | Permalink

      Wikipedia notes:

      “Joseph Nye Welch (October 22, 1890 – October 6, 1960) was an American lawyer who served as the chief counsel for the United States Army while it was under investigation for Communist activities by Senator Joseph McCarthy’s Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, an investigation known as the Army–McCarthy hearings. His confrontation with McCarthy during the hearings, in which he famously asked McCarthy “At long last, have you left no sense of decency?” is seen as a turning point in the history of McCarthyism.”

      Welch made this statement to McCarthy on June 9, 1954. It was televised nationally, which was a big thing for the early days of television, and had quite an impact on the public consciousness. So, Welch did not bring down McCarthy, but he played a role. Interestingly, McCarthy’s aide was the odious Roy Cohn, future mentor to Donald Trump.

  5. Diana MacPherson
    Posted September 4, 2018 at 10:02 pm | Permalink

    “Dinner Party” was a nice burn.

    • Robert
      Posted September 5, 2018 at 9:12 am | Permalink

      Agreed. “Dinner Party”, perfect.

  6. Martin X
    Posted September 4, 2018 at 10:08 pm | Permalink

    The historians in my Twitter feed shake their heads at Gladwell’s McCarthy comment and say “amateurs”. They point out that McCarthy wasn’t stopped by Joseph Welch’s comment about having no sense of decency, he was stopped because he began attacking Republicans and their allies and was thus no longer useful.

    And the reporters in my feed say the personal attacks on Remnick are undeserved, because he’s a ferocious, courageous journalist; he disinvited Bannon because he was persuaded that the interview was a mistake.

    I’m inclined to agree. Bannon’s ideas have been exposed and destroyed over and over and over again; what is there left to examine and destroy? Any further exposure is just free publicity to an audience that loves him for his horribleness, not in spite of it. Let’s put them away and let them fade away into oblivion.

    • Posted September 4, 2018 at 10:37 pm | Permalink

      I agree wholeheartedly, the extension of the invitation was the mistake. This is not deplatforming, it’s mercy; let him moulder in his own filth.

      • Posted September 5, 2018 at 6:41 am | Permalink

        Once he was invited, he should not have been deplatformed, especially according to Remnick’s lame “excuse”.

        • CJColucci
          Posted September 5, 2018 at 11:29 am | Permalink

          A mistake, once made and recognized, can’t be corrected? Was Remnick supposed to allow his event to implode, driving away the paying customers, in order to let someone who has nothing to say that we haven’t heard before, but will surely hear again, and who hasn’t earned the right to a prestigious platform, say the same old thing yet again? To what end?

          • Michael Waterhouse
            Posted September 7, 2018 at 2:41 am | Permalink

            To have the debate, in public.
            If you want to stop Trump and his ilk you must listen to what his side says, under scrutiny.

            If you worry that his ideas may spread, in opposition to other ideas, maybe those other ideas need refining, refined by listening in detail to the other side. \

            Bannon has obviously earned the right to a platform and the public have a right to hear a discussion or argument with him.

            Shouting down all those they disagree with has been one of the most erroneous, illiberal, unpleasant things ‘the left’ has been up to these past few years.

    • Posted September 5, 2018 at 2:05 am | Permalink

      Let’s put them away and let them fade away into oblivion.

      You seem to think that just ignoring Trump and his cronies and supporters will lead to them fading away.

      Don’t you have a fight on your hands for the next election?

    • Posted September 5, 2018 at 3:46 am | Permalink

      what is there left to examine and destroy?

      We’ll never know because people like you don’t want us to find out.

      Any further exposure is just free publicity to an audience that loves him for his horribleness, not in spite of it.

      Steve Bannon doesn’t need The New Yorker to get all the publicity he wants. In fact, if anything, by stopping this, we have just confirmed to the audience that loves him that the left are a censorious mob that need to be stopped. Vote Trump!

    • Posted September 5, 2018 at 6:43 am | Permalink

      I disagree with your comments about Remnick. He’s ferocious, but he’s not courageous; it takes NO courage to attack Trump these days. He’s a preening martinet, and, frankly, I don’t care what the reporters in your feed say. I read the New Yorker weekly and I see neither courage nor real ferocity. He’s just a garden variety Authoritarian Leftist.

      In his apologia, he even justifies why interviewing Bannon was a good thing to have done.

    • Posted September 5, 2018 at 10:10 am | Permalink

      Bannon is still here. He’s hardly changed his immoral stance since he’s been in the public eye and he has millions of supporters.

      To not let him speak in front of people who disagree with him is plainly cowardice.

    • Marta
      Posted September 5, 2018 at 10:30 am | Permalink

      “Bannon’s ideas have been exposed and destroyed over and over and over again; what is there left to examine and destroy?”


      Giving Bannon an opportunity to unload his white supremacist rubbish isn’t thoughtful, hip or edgy and is no more useful than entertaining the idea that the earth is flat.

      He should have been invited, and the invitation set off a stampede from several notable attendees who did not want to help the New Yorker legitimize Bannon’s fuckwittery by sharing the venue with him.

      The New Yorker gets to correct its “mistake”, especially one it perceives will affect the event’s financial success and reputation (not to mention the loss of threatened subscriber revenue–I don’t have a profile of the New Yorker’s typical subscriber at hand, but I’d bet my ass that readership skews liberal and not conservative.)

      • Marta
        Posted September 5, 2018 at 10:31 am | Permalink


        He should “NOT” have been invited.

      • Michael Waterhouse
        Posted September 7, 2018 at 2:44 am | Permalink

        An example of white ‘white supremacist rubbish’ please?

  7. Jenny Haniver
    Posted September 4, 2018 at 10:35 pm | Permalink

    Malcolm Gladwell has too much questionable baggage (plagiarism, playing fast and loose with facts, unwarranted conclusions, etc.,) for me to give him props for his statement on freedom of expression.

    If Roz Chast, another New Yorker contributor, had Chastised Remnick, I’d prick up my ears.

    • rickflick
      Posted September 4, 2018 at 11:20 pm | Permalink

      I can see why you don’t admire the guy, but shouldn’t we, shouldn’t you, give credit when he makes a good call?

      • Jenny Haniver
        Posted September 5, 2018 at 12:49 am | Permalink


    • Posted September 5, 2018 at 6:44 am | Permalink

      I see; Gladwell has done some bad stuff and so we have to ignore everything he says. Isn’t that what the Authoritarian Left does? Is he to be written off completely from now on because of his past, and nothing he said should be applauded?

      • Jenny Haniver
        Posted September 5, 2018 at 8:00 am | Permalink

        Is this a response to my comment? If so, to imply that I think that he’s “to be written off completely” that’s a great overreach. I write that he has too much questionable baggage for me to give him props for his statement I certainly didn’t condemn the man across the board and I don’t understand how that conclusion can be leapt to from what I wrote.

      • Marta
        Posted September 5, 2018 at 10:40 am | Permalink

        I don’t think she said he should be written off completely. She’s saying “consider the source”, and considering that Gladwell has a propensity for bending his source material to fit his conclusions, it’s completely relevant to examine what Gladwell says against the context he’s provided himself.

        It’s not that “Gladwell has done some bad stuff”. It’s that Gladwell is bent, and he’s bent in the direction that matters.

      • max blancke
        Posted September 5, 2018 at 3:14 pm | Permalink

        Gladwell did a very even handed piece on “The Foot Solider of Birmingham”, which can be a very polarizing subject.

  8. Achrachno
    Posted September 4, 2018 at 11:55 pm | Permalink

    See the post by Scott Lemieux at Lawyers, Guns and Money: White supremacy is not an “idea” that needs to be given prestigious forums

    Bannon has earned de-platorming and should not be supported by major publications like the New Yorker. They should never have invited an authoritarian racist to participate. Gladwell is wrong again.

    • Posted September 5, 2018 at 3:55 am | Permalink

      How can I judge for myself how white supremacist Bannon’s ideas are, if I can’t hear them?

      • Achrachno
        Posted September 5, 2018 at 9:25 am | Permalink

        Bannon’s opinions, and actions, are not hard to find out about, despite his sometimes trying to hide them himself. The NYer is no more required to give him a platform than they are to give one to anyone else. IMO, Bannon can build his own platform using money from Putin & the Russian mob.

        • GBJames
          Posted September 5, 2018 at 10:00 am | Permalink

          Your view and that of right-wingers like Bannon are remarkably similar. You both think that public discussion is nothing but propaganda… that these matters are all about the ability of this or that person to broadcast their views. That’s wrong-headed, IMO. Public discussions like this have the primary purpose of allowing people to criticize bad ideas.

          Your view of things is exactly the logic at the root of Fox News. They “built their own platform”. Happy with the result?

        • Posted September 5, 2018 at 6:27 pm | Permalink

          What if I want to hear his opinions direct from the man himself in an environment in which they would have been severely tested? I would like to know who appointed you gatekeeper.

          The NYer is no more required to give him a platform than they are to give one to anyone else

          Nobody was requiring the New Yorker to do a live interview with Bannon. They chose to do it themselves.

  9. Posted September 5, 2018 at 1:58 am | Permalink

    Just because someone has formed an opinion it’s not that someone’s right to form it for someone else.
    That is the work of free speech.

    Bannon and with him free speech has been

  10. Posted September 5, 2018 at 2:52 am | Permalink

    By the way, as a non-American I’m interested. Could someone give me some quotes from Bannon, in his own words, of policies or ideas so heinous that he shouldn’t be invited to participate in mainstream events?

    • Dave
      Posted September 5, 2018 at 3:33 am | Permalink

      As another non-American, I concur. I don’t follow all the finer details of US politics so I have only a vague idea of who Bannon is or what he believes or advocates. I know he’s constantly dismissed on this site and others as a “fascist”, a “racist” and a “white supremacist”, but those labels are thrown around so copiously now that they’ve lost virtually all meaning, and for that reason I’m not inclined to take them seriously without further evidence. However, this latest kerfuffle has made me curious to know what Bannon actually stands for (from his own words, not those of his detractors). I think I’ll do some research and find out. Who knows, maybe he has some worthwhile ideas?

      • russellblackford
        Posted September 5, 2018 at 6:47 am | Permalink

        Go for here for a comment on Bannon by me, then follow the links.

        • Posted September 5, 2018 at 11:49 am | Permalink

          I’ve now read those links and a few other things.

          It seems to me that Bannon is a typical right-wing American (in favour of capitalism, though critical of its excesses; pro Christianity; against Islam; against large-scale or illegal immigration, et cetera).

          I can well see why any left winger would be strongly opposed to Bannon, but so far I’ve seen nothing that justifies the now-near-meaningless insults (“fascist”, “white supremecist”, “neo-Nazi”), nor anything that would place him outside the mainstream political envelope.

          A refusal to engage with Bannon thus seems to be a refusal to engage in the political process.

          Which doesn’t seem an optimal strategy for winning future elections.

          • Posted September 9, 2018 at 12:50 am | Permalink

            It seems to me that Bannon is a typical right-wing American (in favour of capitalism, though critical of its excesses; pro Christianity; against Islam; against large-scale or illegal immigration….)

            None of those positions are exclusively right-wing, however.

    • darrelle
      Posted September 5, 2018 at 9:25 am | Permalink

      Given Bannon’s influence on Trump era politics it seems to me that the more heinous his policies and ideas are the more important it becomes for responsible journalists to interrogate him on the public’s behalf. The deplatformers keep framing this as giving Bannon a platform and giving him legitimacy. That is certainly a thing that happens in journalism but at least as often journalists are intent on, as Gladwell put it, erecting a gallows. And that does seem to have been Remnick’s intent.

      The deplatformers don’t address that, or perhaps simply deny it. Even though journalism has a long history of doing just that and is even considered to be vital to a decent society for just that reason. They would have people like Bannon offered no resistance in fear that they might, what? Convince more people to support them? Show me some evidence that this concern is warranted and outweighs the possible benefits. Seems bogus to me, and worth the risk.

      They often talk about how people might be offended and hurt by what Bannon says. This is supposed to be a negative? Granted, negative feelings aren’t pleasant but they sure as hell are an appropriate response to a shit like Bannon and are very likely to motivate people to oppose him. People’s concern for other’s hurt feelings makes them decent human beings but hurt feelings are not a valid reason to deplatform nasty people like Bannon as a matter of course. Especially from an event where the intent was to interrogate him antagonistically.

  11. Posted September 5, 2018 at 3:54 am | Permalink

    Sorry, but his ideas are so heinous that they can’t be aired on prestigious forums. You’ll have to remain ignorant of what they are and take the regressive left’s word for it that they are too dangerous for publication.

  12. Posted September 5, 2018 at 6:46 am | Permalink

    I am disturbed that so many readers here seem to think that Bannon’s ideas should not be given a forum because we all know them (we don’t) or they are reprehensible (in which case we should make laws against hate speech). You can disagree about whether Bannon should have been invited, but once he was it’s really bad form to disinvite him.

    • russellblackford
      Posted September 5, 2018 at 6:49 am | Permalink

      Yeah, agreed.

      • Chris
        Posted September 5, 2018 at 10:29 am | Permalink

        I speak only for myself (of course), and I’m really not as interested in the so-called de-platforming. (In my view, Bannon shouldn’t have been invited in the first place. Once he was, well, it was a mistake, and one that was going to cost the event (with many participants threatening to pull out); I agree it’s bad form to rescind an invitation, but is there no one whose views are so harmful/reprehensible that it’d be wrong to rescind an invitation? I don’t know.)

        The issue isn’t necessarily that we all know Bannon’s views (as you say, not everyone does). Without Bannon’s participation in this event, how hard would it be to learn more about Bannon’s views and his worldview? Not very. This isn’t about information sharing or learning.

        I don’t think Bannon’s views ought to be banned, but the question is how much further thought do they deserve? Once one has encountered, say, a particular idea, like banning Muslims, how much time and energy ought one devote to said bad idea? How many days? How many philosophical articles and policy papers? I’m not saying we shouldn’t take the moment to understand our own views (we should), but the idea that Bannon’s ideas somehow warrant more stage time in order that we can better understand them makes no sense to me. Am I truly being unfair to his ideas? Have I not spent enough time at least considering what I otherwise consider to be heinous ideas? No, I think I’m fine. And I think as a country we’ve been plenty exposed to Bannon and his worldview. He’s had more than his fair share of airtime, and he’s still free (as he ought to be) to say and think what he wants.

        • darrelle
          Posted September 5, 2018 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

          You keep describing the same point. I doubt anyone really disagrees, though of course they may disagree about avoiding discussions of any type with him because of it. But you never talk about some of the counter points that have been made. A major one, in my opinion, is the role journalism plays in identifying threats such as Bannon, someone recently and currently shaping our politics at the highest levels, to the public for all to see. I guarantee that most people don’t know the details of Bannon’s past associations, influences, behaviors, ideas and goals. All they know are the sound bites each side throws around. But they should know more because they need to appreciate the seriousness of the threat. The free press is supposed to keep the public informed in just this way as a duty to the public.

          This is not in the slightest about testing the ideas of people like Bannon to see if perhaps they have some merit. Frankly it seems ridiculous to suggest that that is what the New Yorker intended in this instance or that this is the only kind of discourse that occurs in journalism. This is about openingly and directly opposing people like Bannon.

  13. GBJames
    Posted September 5, 2018 at 7:06 am | Permalink

    I sure as hell wouldn’t invite Bannon to a forum. But Remnick apparently had some motive for doing so and chose different. Backing out after the fact shows cowardice on Remnick’s part.

    • Historian
      Posted September 5, 2018 at 7:54 am | Permalink

      Josephine Livingstone at the New Republic notes that these “festivals” are held by magazines as fund raisers. Remnick may have thought that by inviting Bannon attendance would increase. After the backlash, he may have realized that his idea had backfired and that Bannon’s appearance could destroy the festival and hence eliminate revenue for the magazine. This is speculation, but it is a possibility.

      As Livingstone puts it:

      Fundraising is a necessary part of the magazine publishing machine, and nobody could blame The New Yorker for wanting to generate cash. But it also means that the invitation to Bannon didn’t come from a place of editorial purity—from a desire simply to interrogate him. This is not to say that Remnick solicited Bannon with the cynical intention of extracting cash from curious punters. But it does mean that the reverberations of Bannon’s appearance would have been felt in the magazine’s coffers.”

      • GBJames
        Posted September 5, 2018 at 8:47 am | Permalink

        You’re saying his motives were pecuniary instead of journalistic. (False choice.) I don’t see how this changes the calculus. Remnick (or his bosses at The New Yorker) show a lack of courage here.

  14. darrelle
    Posted September 5, 2018 at 7:25 am | Permalink

    That 2nd tweet Jerry posted is a bull’s-eye and quite well said.

  15. Posted September 5, 2018 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

    Now it remains to be seen how this dissension will be treated. I think that will be interesting to see.

  16. Taz
    Posted September 5, 2018 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

    Does anyone have any direct evidence of Bannon being a white supremacist? I’ve done some googling and haven’t found any smoking gun.

    Here’s an article on Snopes that looks at the charge:
    Steve Bannon Accused of Having White Supremacist Views

    Here’s one in the LA Times:
    I’m a Jewish American who worked with Steve Bannon. He is not a racist or an anti-Semite.

    I’m not trying to defend Bannon – I have no use for any of Trump’s cronies – but it bothers me that so many commenters here just seem to “know” he’s a white supremacist.

    • Posted September 5, 2018 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

      … many commenters here just seem to “know” he’s a white supremacist.

      That’s because, these days, “white supremacist” means “right of Bernie Sanders”.

  17. Torbjörn Larsson
    Posted September 5, 2018 at 1:24 pm | Permalink

    Oy! That de-platforming really fired the WEIT-opshere up – now Remnick is an hauteur for listening to his public. Or at least to the other speakers.

    It would have been a Bannon or a non-Bannon idea meeting, I don’t blame Resnick for caving. Though his stated motivation mentions all the blow back, so that looks spinless FWIW.

    • Torbjörn Larsson
      Posted September 5, 2018 at 1:25 pm | Permalink

      “spinless” = spineless.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted September 5, 2018 at 10:34 pm | Permalink

        You must’ve been thinking quantum.

%d bloggers like this: