Tuesday, September 04, 2018


The headline of the new Bret Stephens column is provocative:
Now Twitter Edits The New Yorker
We haven't even gotten to the column itself and there are already two errors of fact.

Stephens, of course, is upset because David Remnick, the editor of The New Yorker, invited Steve Bannon to appear at the New Yorker Festival and then withdrew the invitation under pressure. But Twitter (or that other favorite villain, "the digital mob," which is blamed in the subheading) didn't force this decision all by itself. Moreover, the decision affects no content of the magazine.

As Stephens himself makes clear, outrage at the Bannon invitation started with other people scheduled to appear at the festival:
Following news of the invitation, other high-profile festival invitees, including producer Judd Apatow and actor Jim Carrey, tweeted that they would pull out if Bannon remained on the program. That helped start an online wave that crested with Remnick’s abrupt sounding of the retreat....
Yes, but Stephens writes as if the threatened withdrawals by high-profile invitees were utterly irrelevant to Remnick's decision. Do you think it meant nothing to Remnick that he was going to have to sell tickets to the presumably profit-making (or at least brand-enhancing) festival without boldface names such as Apatow, Carrey, and Jimmy Fallon? They're big draws -- but it's so much easier to blame Remnick's decision on the peasants who dared to rise above their station and complain on social media.

And it wasn't just big-name invitees. It was also Remnick's own staffers, as Stephens notes:
As Remnick acknowledged, members of his own staff also revolted at the invitation. One of his writers, Kathryn Schulz, took to Twitter to say she was “beyond appalled” and invited readers to write Remnick in order to add their voices to the pressure.
So why do we rabble get all the blame?

And why are we now sneeringly referred to as editors of the magazine? This interview wasn't scheduled to appear in print. It was supposed to be an ancillary spectacle meant for a live audience. As I said earlier today, Bannon has been interviewed repeatedly and at great length by many American media outlets in the past few months, to few complaints. The difference is that he wasn't interviewed as an honored, paid guest. Remnick could have interviewed Bannon, written up the conversation, and put the result in the pages of The New Yorker. There'd have been little outrage. Instead, he made Bannon the star of an infotainment spectacle bearing the New Yorker brand. It's not the magazine. And the anger didn't come just from us sans-culottes.

No comments: