The Munk Debates is inadvertently sanitizing Steve Bannon in inviting him to participate in a debate on “the rise of populist politics in Western societies.” This is a white washing of Bannon’s racist, misogynistic, and white nationalist agenda.
He deserves no platform.
Let us recall Bannon’s shameful list of credentials. He is the former executive chairman of Breitbart news, a platform for the “alt-right” by his own description. The Southern Law Poverty Centre describes this movement as “a set of far-right ideologies, groups and individuals whose core belief is that ‘white identity’ is under attack by multicultural forces using ‘political correctness’ and ‘social justice’ to undermine white people and ‘their’ civilization.”
The non-profit organization, which monitors hate activity in the United States, has carefully documented the frequent anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim narratives that have appeared on its site. As well, the centre has reported that in 2017, over 100 people were killed or injured by people influenced by this toxic ideology, including Heather Heyer during a rally and protest in Charlottesville, Va.
Breitbart news has also featured “violent, sexist, extremist and radical political content,” according to one corporation that joined over 2,000 other organizations and companies last year in pulling its ads off the platform.
Despite recent attempts to cleanse his record, there can be no mistaking what he stands for. Bannon remains a symbol of this odious movement, and continues to support far-right, white nationalist movements around the globe. He promotes fear and division with statements like this one describing refugees to Western nations as a “civilizational jihad personified by this migrant crisis.” His views on women and the GLBTQ communities are also well-known for being hateful.
Bannon was a key adviser during President Donald Trump’s election campaign and would go on to serve as a senior adviser for seven months in the administration before being unceremoniously dumped. It’s important to note that Trump’s own brand of fear mongering against immigrants, specifically Muslims, has fuelled a significant rise in hate crimes in the U.S.
We in Canada were not immune, either. One study showed a 600 per cent increase in the amount of intolerant hate speech on social media by Canadians between November 2015 and 2016. Common hashtags included #banmuslims, #siegheil, #whitegenocide and #whitepower.
Online hatred results in real world consequences, impacting various communities. Hate crimes are on the rise in Canada, though low reporting means that statistics only tell part of the story. Alexandre Bissonnette was so enraged by what he was reading online by a veritable who’s who of white supremacy that he went into a Quebec City mosque over a year ago murdered six people, and permanently injured many others.
Barbara Perry, one of Canada’s leading researchers on hate, estimates that far-right extremist groups have likely grown by 25 per cent since a 2015 national study of right-wing extremism she copublished with colleague Ryan Scrivens. They had then estimated the existence of approximately 100 neo-Nazi, white supremacist groups operating here.
The growth is visible, no longer hidden from view. In recent years, there have been increased anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim rallies and marches held by a coterie of emboldened white supremacist groups, including Soldiers of Odin, Northern Guard, and others.
Guardian journalist Lois Beckett has explored the consequences of providing platforms to the white supremacists in a recent episode of NPR’s On the Media. She interviews academic Felix Harcourt, author of Klu Klux Kulture, which links a rise of that group’s membership in part to their frequent appearance in the media during the 1920s.
There is no public service in providing such a lofty platform to those who seek to destroy our communities, harm our social cohesion and sense of well-being. David Remnick, editor of the New Yorker, realized this earlier this week and rescinded an invitation to Bannon to take part in the magazine’s upcoming festival in October following justifiable backlash.
It is frankly beyond belief that a respected academic endeavour like the Munk Debates would lend its authority and credibility to one of the most treacherous racists of the modern era.
None of this should be up for debate.