Steve Bannon appears on Bill Maher’s show

I noticed that alongside Bill Maher’s trenchant anti-religious diatribe on his most recent show, there was also an appearance by Steve Bannon, the much-demonized and oft-deplatformed far-Rightist who was the erstwhile advisor to Donald Trump. As you may recall, the preening and arrogant invertebrate David Remnick, editor of The New Yorker, had importuned Bannon to be interviewed by him at the upcoming New Yorker Festival, and Bannon accepted.

But then Remnick, after pushback from offended snowflakes, and the threat of some participants to withdraw from the Festival, rescinded Bannon’s invitation. That was a lousy thing to do. As Malcolm Gladwell (a staff writer on the NYer) tweeted,


I know some readers have said, “We already know everything Bannon thinks; there’s no need to publicize this moron.” But not everyone—and the ignorant include me—knows what Bannon thinks, or have watched him at length. From what I know of his views and policies, I oppose all of them, vehemently. But even the reprehensible should be heard and given platforms, for reasons I’ve articulated at a post here (especially the video of Fareed Zakaria from CNN) and in an op-ed in the Chicago Tribune. The reasons are the familiar ones articulated by John Stuart Mill in On Liberty, and more recently by Christopher Hitchens.

So Maher interviewed Bannon for 13 minutes on his show, and the video is below. What you can glean from this is that Bannon is not Satan, but a deeply misguided man obsessed by a trade war with China, and deluded by Trump.

Maher is relatively polite to Bannon, but doesn’t throw him softballs. In fact, at one point he asks Bannon, “Steve, first you were crazy about Sarah Palin. And then you were crazy about Donald Trump. I think you look for morons who are empty vessels who you can put more ideas in. Steve, every single person in the administration has called him an idiot. That’s what you look for!”

Maher also asks Bannon a good question, “Who could the Democrats field in 2020 as a credible candidate?” I’ll let you listen to Bannon’s answer. I’ve heard stirrings that Elizabeth Warren may want to run.

My point here is that there’s no reason to be afraid of Bannon, especially, as was planned here in Chicago, he was to be questioned sharply and debated. Deplatforming him will, as Maher implies, only play into the hands of the Republicans, making them whine about being censored. And, in the case of the New Yorker, they were.


  1. Posted October 1, 2018 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

    It’s only through this website (WEIT) that I’ve ever heard Bannon’s voice. And it’s always instructive.

    Who else thinks more about defeating Democrats than Bannon? I don’t think Bannon is afraid of information, but many of his opponents are and that’s partly why he’s successful.

  2. Ken Kukec
    Posted October 1, 2018 at 1:56 pm | Permalink

    … deluded by Trump.

    I think it’s Bannon who’s the deluder and Trump the deludee — to the limited extent Trump actually believes any of the bullshit he spouts (as anything other than branding for his base).

    Gonna be a crowded Democratic field for 2020, and the sharp elbows gonna start flying on November 10th, the day after the midterms.

    • Posted October 1, 2018 at 8:57 pm | Permalink

      That’s what confuses me. I thought it was mentioned on the last post about Bannon that he was the one behind Trump, not the one being influenced by him.


  3. Posted October 1, 2018 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

    That was an interesting and entertaining interview. Steve said he quit after a year.

    Separate the noise from the signal. Was that what he said? Flash grenades every day.

    Agree that there is nothing to be afraid of from letting Bannon be interviewed.

  4. Giancarlo
    Posted October 1, 2018 at 2:13 pm | Permalink

    I think the problem with short interviews like this is that they always end up being shallow theater, which the extreme right is always good at. Maher did not challenge Bannon on the guts of his fantasy US manufacturing revival, say with the notion that Chinese manufacturing jobs are indeed leaving China, but are going elsewhere in developing Asia or Mexico, while the few manufacturing jobs that actually will be repatriated to the US will be snapped up by robots.

    • Posted October 1, 2018 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

      Agreed. The interview is so short that all we can get out of it are a few choice soundbites. Maher’s “empty vessel” comment was a direct hit. Bannon grinned without denying it.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted October 1, 2018 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

      Yeah I thought the robot thing too. If jobs return, they will be replaced by robots anyway so the whole thing is for nothing.

      • Simon Hayward
        Posted October 1, 2018 at 3:50 pm | Permalink

        That’s been one of the major issues that Trump, and other indeed politicians, never address. A factory used to be a place where people made things. Now it’s a place where machines make things. Unless you built, wired or programmed the place, or you are the security guy who lets the other three in and out, you are not needed. Far more jobs lost to automation than to cheap human labor.

        • Posted October 1, 2018 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

          So far the loss of jobs to automation has mostly been theoretical. It has always been easier to recognize job losses than job gains, even looking into the future. The ability for jobs to be automated, given the current level of technology, is often overestimated. Same for the future abilities of AI.

          Although 73 million jobs may be lost by 2030, full employment is still expected.

          • Giancarlo
            Posted October 1, 2018 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

            Perhaps full employment, but obviously not in manufacturing as hoped by Bannon. Workers will need to be retrained, but you’re not going to hear that from him or other right wingers, it’s just too wonky. The theatrical chest thumping trade war with China on the other hand makes for good ratings.

      • Posted October 2, 2018 at 5:09 am | Permalink

        When I first started work, every large company had a room called the “typing pool”. These were full of women (yes, always women, this was the 1980’s) who spent their entire day typing out stuff that the men (yes, mostly men, this was the 1980’s) had written out by hand.

        It took maybe five years for all of these typing pools to disappear and the streets were full of jobless, homeless typists…

        … except no, they were not.

        There have been many technological revolutions in the past, many of which eliminated entire classes of employment but the resulting unemployment has always been temporary. As a rule, technological advances create more opportunities than they destroy. People say the robot one will be different, but never come up with good arguments as to why.

        • Posted October 2, 2018 at 11:25 am | Permalink

          While I agree with you, I also understand some of those arguments. They think in terms of a single automatons being able to replace several workers. Of course, the normal response to that argument is that people will be needed to sell and service the automaton but there still seems to be a net loss. The flaw in those arguments is that they are made while implicitly holding all kinds of things constant. Instead, this level of automation will likely change many things. On the other hand, history repeats itself until it doesn’t.

          If I were running the country, I would invest huge amounts into helping the workers and companies get over the “job for life” mentality. People need to regard training for a new job as a good thing. Companies need to be given incentives for making that easier to do.

  5. Christopher
    Posted October 1, 2018 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

    I struggle to understand the zero-sum trade war mentality on display within the tRumpenstien republican cult. Even after reading the last chapters of Pinker’s Enlightenment Now, and listening to the party line about the trade war, I just don’t get it. I don’t understand the dissonance between the free market and their protectionist ideologies. But then I don’t understand how their “family values” can embrace stealing children from their parents in order to put them in prisons, serial infidelity, hookers, and porn stars either.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted October 1, 2018 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

      Jeez, sounds kinda bad when you put it that way. 🙂

      I remember the Republican Party of Everett Dirksen and his son-in-law Howard Baker — the party that believed in free trade, balanced budgets, strong international alliances, opposing Russian expansion, the rule of law, respect for norms and institutions and traditions, public virtue and personal rectitude, the “daddy” party of personal responsibility and family values and Pat Nixon’s cloth coat.

      That Party is muerte, fini, as dead as Scalia after Killary put the pillow over his face. Its remnants are all in the never-Trump camp now or clinging to their Republican Party registration by their fingernails.

    • Posted October 1, 2018 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

      I get why Trump treats trade as a zero-sum game. It’s because trade deficits are about the only measure that makes it to the evening news. Other aspects of trade are difficult for economists to measure and understand. It is not clear whether Trump thinks trade is really zero-sum or he’s merely taking advantage of everyone’s perception.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted October 1, 2018 at 2:53 pm | Permalink

        I think Trump sees everything as a zero sum game. I’ve known a few people like this (narcissists) & all they ever think about is defeating everyone, getting glory, and promoting themselves. If they share anything, it’s for the purpose of fulfilling those things.

        • Posted October 1, 2018 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

          Perhaps “everything” is a bit strong but he has a well-known liking for unilateral agreements of all kinds and an equivalent dislike of multilateral ones. I’m sure this comes partly from a view of negotiation as a zero-sum game. This came from a life of making real estate deals, many of which are mostly zero-sum. He feels that his strength is in bullying his opponent which is hard to do in a multilateral situation where it is assumed all parties are equal participants. It is also hard for his to claim a “win” in a multilateral deal where all participants are thinking they’ve won. It’s all about winners and losers with Trump. Making the world a better place is not part of it.

          • Randall Schenck
            Posted October 1, 2018 at 3:57 pm | Permalink

            But Trump’s history in the real estate business is not all good. His method was always to borrow lots of money or use the other guy’s money. Mostly he was selling his name that he promoted constantly, letting others build the building and he managed and collected fees. The general real estate business of buying and turning profit on the sale was not his thing. Then he crashed in the Casino business and could no longer borrow. Suddenly he was paying cash for everything – where did the money come from? Some think this is when Russian money came to him in buckets. He paid cash for several golf courses. Do they make money…no. Yet the money comes in. I think Mueller will have the answers. We know the Russians bought hundreds of the units in his buildings all over the world. Money laundering game.

            • Mark R.
              Posted October 1, 2018 at 8:24 pm | Permalink

              And ‘he’ knows it. Unindicted co-conspirator that ‘he’ is.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted October 1, 2018 at 6:24 pm | Permalink

        As Somerset Maugham said regarding the key to happiness, “it is not enough that I succeed; others must fail.”

        • Mark R.
          Posted October 1, 2018 at 8:25 pm | Permalink

          Schadenfreude is what I’m hoping for in 5 wks or so.

          • Diana MacPherson
            Posted October 1, 2018 at 9:38 pm | Permalink

            Ahhhh Schadenfreude. I think we all wish for it.

  6. Diana MacPherson
    Posted October 1, 2018 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

    Yes, the empty vessel comment was spot on. Having only read some of Fear, it is clear Bannon was the puppeteer.

    • Mark R.
      Posted October 1, 2018 at 8:41 pm | Permalink

      This tiny speck of an interview reveals Bannon to be the puppeteer in chief…I don’t think it will work in the long-run.

  7. Posted October 1, 2018 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

    America…land of the free and home of the brave.
    The New Yorker…land of the unfree and home of the coward.

  8. Robert
    Posted October 1, 2018 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

    What a great put down by M. Gladwell. A “dinner party”, so right.

  9. Torbjörn Larsson
    Posted October 1, 2018 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

    For once I don’t see anything wrong in the context.But personally I don’t think that, even if one should try to understand other groups, one has to grok extremists (by definition).

    In other news, Trump has done something constructive for the first time, replaced NAFTA with a less protective (I think) 3 nation trade agreement. Ouch, now he likely will sit another period.

    • Posted October 1, 2018 at 3:10 pm | Permalink

      Trump’s bullying was bound to give him a win sooner or later but I don’t believe the US throwing its weight around will be a winner in the long run. Even in the short run, the small gains for the US in NAFTA 2.0 are more than offset by the increase in distrust by our neighbors.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted October 1, 2018 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

      The new NAFTA deal keeps “Buy American” solidly in place as it didn’t change competition for government contracts. It’s also no easier to work across borders (that has stayed the same). So, no it’s not really less protectionist and Canada will be the one that gets the shittier deal. For example, it will make Canadian drug prices higher since the time you can make a generic goes up by 2 years (from 8 to 10 years).

    • CJColucci
      Posted October 1, 2018 at 5:41 pm | Permalink

      Just about everything Trump “won” in the NAFTA negotiations was sitting on his desk the first day he showed up for work. It was in the TPP, and we had won those concessions without giving up anything of our own because Mexico and Canada wanted the access to Asian markets badly enough to make the concessions without reciprocal concessions from us. This is standard Trump — don’t build anything; slap your name on it.

      • Giancarlo
        Posted October 1, 2018 at 6:11 pm | Permalink

        That’s as hilarious as it is true!

  10. Posted October 1, 2018 at 3:05 pm | Permalink

    I found it quite informative & revealing. Bannon’s a smart guy and a player. He’s worth listening to for his assessment of the political landscape.

    Maher asked some good questions that Bannon didn’t answer in words, but told all in his smirks.

    • Posted October 1, 2018 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

      Key takeaway: populist sentiment is on the rise. If the Left refuses to embrace it (and the Dems once were the populists), the Right will siphon it up.

      • Posted October 1, 2018 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

        The Left is in a much better position than the Right to take advantage of populism. With Trump and the GOP, their promise to look out for the little guy is always going to be false as they really only deliver to the 1% and corporations. Their only honest promise to the little guy is to pander to their fear of immigrants. The Left always wants to improve the lot of the little guy. Their mistake in recent years was to define “little guy” as minorities, immigrants, and women only. Hopefully, they now realize their mistake.

        • Posted October 1, 2018 at 5:24 pm | Permalink

          Exactly. The identity politics has been killing them. The globalist economics hasn’t helped, either.

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted October 1, 2018 at 6:35 pm | Permalink

          Populism comes in two varieties, cultural and economic. Trump ran on economic populism, promising during his campaign, among other things, to tax the rich and to provide universal healthcare for the poor. But he’s provided massive tax cuts to fat cats and tried to eliminate the Affordable Care Act.

          What Trump has delivered is “cultural populism,” which is merely a dangerous blend of resentment, anti-elitism, and know-nothingism.

          The Democrats need to run on a platform of true economic populism.

          • Posted October 1, 2018 at 7:00 pm | Permalink

            Agreed, though I would also like to see a little cultural populism in the Dems’ message. Something along the lines of human rights, fairness, and taking care of the people with health care, safety net, etc. Fixing immigration properly should be there too though that has both economic and cultural components.

          • Mark R.
            Posted October 1, 2018 at 9:01 pm | Permalink


            “I love the poorly educated!!!” -Trump

            This statement alone has so many red flags attached, I don’t want to start an 1,000 word essay on it’s fascist underpinnings. I thought the pussy-grabbing statement would have tempered many minds; now I know those who consider themselves “moral” have no consideration for the word. This is depressing, and I’m starting to distrust my fellow citizens. The worst disease for a democracy is wide-spread distrust; especially when one party exacerbates it, and the other can’t figure out how to become a solid defense.

        • Posted October 1, 2018 at 9:01 pm | Permalink

          Well said, Paul!


  11. tomh
    Posted October 1, 2018 at 4:02 pm | Permalink

    I thought this view of the show nailed it pretty well.

    Steve Bannon Embarrasses Bill Maher on ‘Real Time’

    • Posted October 1, 2018 at 4:15 pm | Permalink

      While it is true that Maher didn’t have many good comebacks to Bannon’s ideas, I put that down to the shortness of the interview. I suspect that Maher wanted to get through his bullet points before his allotted time was up. I certainly didn’t see any embarrassment on Maher’s part, nor should he felt any.

      Maher’s “empty vessel” comment was a direct hit, to which Bannon could only crow about how smart Trump is. I’m not sure many people believe that, not even Trump’s own staff.

  12. Curt Nelson
    Posted October 1, 2018 at 4:04 pm | Permalink

    Is it fear that he’ll say something terrible that will actually be seductive or that he’ll say things that are offensive?

    Probably both but being offended isn’t a crime and if he’s persuasive maybe his ideas are actually good.

    • Posted October 1, 2018 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

      Actually, I don’t think either of those things matter to the deplatformers. It is the protest impact of the deplatforming itself that they value. People don’t boycott Nike because they make bad shoes but because they want to signal their disagreement with their actions and want to hurt them.

  13. Martin X
    Posted October 1, 2018 at 4:14 pm | Permalink

    Many historians have pointed out that Gladwell was wrong about what led to McCarthy’s demise; he flamed out when he started attacking allies of the Republicans, such as the military. It had nothing to do with being confronted in public, which, of course, had happened before.

  14. Merilee
    Posted October 1, 2018 at 4:23 pm | Permalink


    • Diane G
      Posted October 1, 2018 at 11:25 pm | Permalink


  15. Posted October 1, 2018 at 5:08 pm | Permalink

    Reblogged this on The Logical Place and commented:
    Posted in the interests of free speech. For the record, I oppose almost all of Steve Bannon’s policies that I am aware of.

  16. Posted October 1, 2018 at 6:39 pm | Permalink

    Hilarious so now unless we platform EVERY idea we are against free-speech. No sensible person believes this of course. This is why creationists aren’t platformed at conferences on the evolution of language and flat earthers aren’t platformed at cosmology conferences. Some ideas aren’t coherent enough to be platformed. Coyne agrees with this 100% re evolutionary science and cosmology. But disagrees when it comes to racists like Bannon. I wonder why? O

    • Posted October 1, 2018 at 7:04 pm | Permalink

      This is mistaken. I doubt many here would suggest giving a platform to all. Those in the position of deciding who to invite to their platform (speaking engagement, debate, writing opportunity, book deal, podcast, etc.) still have to use good judgement.

      • Posted October 1, 2018 at 7:29 pm | Permalink

        I see no difference between racists and creationists and flat earthers. Why Coyne thinks Bannon deserves a political platform but creationists and flat-earthers shouldn’t be platformed is an interesting question. Maybe he agrees with Bannon on some things? It clearly isn’t a free speech issue. A few years ago David Albert (PhD in Philosophy and Physics) was due to speak with Krauss and NGT. But Albert published a negative review of Krauss’s ‘A Universe From Nothing’ so Albert was instantly de-platformed. Not a peep from Coyne…But as soon as a racist is de-platformed…Coyne is all over it. Speaking of being de-platformed. I sense a banning from this web-site coming.

        • Posted October 2, 2018 at 10:50 am | Permalink

          One difference between Bannon and flat-earthers/creationists is that the former can react to current events and, potentially, change his mind.

    • Giancarlo
      Posted October 1, 2018 at 9:12 pm | Permalink

      There is simply no common rational ground between creationist and evolutionists for a sensible debate to occur. As Turing said: “Science is a differential equation, religion is a boundary condition.”

      A debate between political opponents on the other hand does make sense since politics is their common ground, and becomes important if both parties to the debate have a significant following in the audience. Bannon’s populism got the Mango the Great elected, and this is sufficient reason to debate his ideas (though this should be done in long form.)

      On a related side note, we shouldn’t forget that de-platforming is routinely done even at the highest reaches of our political theater: presidential candidates get to participate in debates only if they achieve >= 15% approval averaged over 5 polls.

    • Posted October 1, 2018 at 9:22 pm | Permalink

      If I remember correctly, he has answered this question before. I’m fairly certain it was in the last post about Bannon.


      • Posted October 1, 2018 at 9:23 pm | Permalink

        And I’m pretty sure any ban would be due to violating Da Roolz.


      • Posted October 2, 2018 at 6:17 am | Permalink

        I will have a look for that thanks.

    • Posted October 2, 2018 at 8:43 am | Permalink

      I do think putting someone like Bannon on with Dave Rubin as a host and predictably watching the weakling ask soft questions is not the way to do it. The problem with giving them a platform is that conservatives don’t even watch liberal shows anymore. Maher’s best performances just preach to the choir of liberals. At best they will just be ignored or cut into minute segments that are criticized for unfairness/ liberal bias.

      • Posted October 2, 2018 at 11:40 am | Permalink

        While Maher’s audience is mostly liberal as you say, his successful arguments and jabs at his opposition guests are consumed and repeated in other conversations. Such is the power of memes. Most audiences are composed of people sympathetic to the host but that doesn’t mean there’s no impact on the opposition.

  17. Jimbo
    Posted October 1, 2018 at 8:37 pm | Permalink

    I’m not encouraged when the most hard-hitting, candid interviews are conducted by comedians rather than news outlets. I wish the reactionary left would watch this interview and promptly shut their yappers. Maher platformed Bannon and the world continued turning.

    • Harrison
      Posted October 2, 2018 at 2:20 am | Permalink

      The parts of the left that don’t like Maher will twist themselves into pretzels trying to justify their own behavior and continue to smear him as a secret conservative. I saw a gaggle of them respond to a recent video of his in which he excoriated Democrats for failing to push back against the “scary socialism” line of attack from Republicans. Somehow despite Maher attacking Republicans and standing up for social democratic institutions like Medicare, this equated to him secretly working for the Republicans in their eyes.

      • Posted October 2, 2018 at 8:36 am | Permalink

        I am to the left, and I personally don’t watch Maher’s show because of his stance as an antivaccer.

        • Harrison
          Posted October 2, 2018 at 11:29 am | Permalink

          I don’t think I’ve ever seen it spelt that way. However, while that’s actually a valid and specific criticism of Maher, it has no bearing whatsoever on the validity of his free speech positions, nor on the bat-excrement crazy conspiratorial belief among some liberals that he is a secret Republican operative whose millions of dollars in political donations to Democrats exclusively is mere subterfuge

          • Posted October 2, 2018 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

            I disagree with Maher on this also but it hardly ever comes up on his show and, whenever it does, virtually all his guests tell him he’s wrong. Obviously, you have the right to watch whatever you want but this seems a strange reason not to watch Maher’s show.

  18. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted October 9, 2018 at 10:26 am | Permalink

    One of the turns of phrase he used – follow the signal in the noise – struck me because I use it, and it is a very good expression.

    That shows he, in one way, thinks like I do.

    That is a discomfiting fact. But why? There’s nothing wrong with it. This led me to wonder if one reason he gets shut down and out is because there’s a chance that, as odious as his remarks can get, he will offer up one piece of his thinking that reasonable people will have to agree with, or acknowledge that they do the same thing.

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