Steve Bannon will still appear at Economist Festival despite New Yorker backlash

Photo: Tom Brenner / New York Times


The Economist is standing by their man. Just days after the New Yorker rescinded its invitation to Steve Bannon to speak at its annual festival, the editor-in-chief of The Economist said that her publication is still happy to have the former White House strategist.

“Mr. Bannon stands for a world view that is antithetical to the liberal values The Economist has always espoused. We asked him to take part because his populist nationalism is of grave consequence in today’s politics,” Zanny Minton Beddoes said in a statement. “He helped propel Donald Trump to the White House and he is advising the populist far-right in several European countries where they are close to power or in government. Worryingly large numbers of people are drawn to nativist nationalism. And Mr. Bannon is one of its chief proponents.”

Beddoes’ double-down follows backlash against the New Yorker, which announced Monday that Bannon would be part of its 19th annual festival. After other speakers, including John Mulaney, Patton Oswalt, Judd Apatow, Jim Carrey and Jack Antonoff, threatened to drop out, New Yorker editor David Remnick rescinded the invite. But Bannon is still invited to The Economist’s Open Future festival on September 15.

“The future of open societies will not be secured by like-minded people speaking to each other in an echo chamber, but by subjecting ideas and individuals from all sides to rigorous questioning and debate. This will expose bigotry and prejudice, just as it will reaffirm and refresh liberalism. That is the premise The Economist was founded on,” Beddoes said. “When James Wilson launched this newspaper in 1843, he said its mission was to take part in “a severe contest between intelligence, which presses forward, and an unworthy, timid ignorance obstructing our progress.” Those words have guided us for 175 years. They will guide our debates at the Open Future festival on September 15th. That is why our invitation to Mr. Bannon will stand.”

Laurie Penny, a columnist and author, said she would drop out of the festival if Bannon attends. “I was honored to be invited by @theeconomist to speak as part of their prestigious #openfuture convention – but I cannot in good conscience appear at an event which chooses to dignify a neo-nationalist like Steve Bannon. Unless this decision is reversed, I will not be attending. It looks like an otherwise wonderful event, and everyone needs to make their own decision, but I strongly encourage other attendees and speakers to consider doing the same,” she tweeted.

“Freedom of speech does not require us to dignify bigots with the honor of a keynote. I apologize to the hard-working team at @TheEconomist -I know how carefully you’ve put the panels together and it gives me no pleasure to make extra work for you like this. I hope you can understand why I felt it was necessary.”

Chelsea Clinton also spoke out, calling the invitation “normalization of bigotry.”


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