Service of Changing Your Mind III

September 6th, 2018

Categories: Changing Your Mind, Decisions, Invitation, Magazines, Politics

Photo: limpingintotruth.com

I respect people who change their minds for good reasons. It takes guts especially if they are in the public eye. However in some cases when intelligent people know they are slamming a stick on a beehive, why do they chicken out when they must have anticipated they’d be stung?

This is what happened when David Remnick, whom I admire, The New Yorker Magazine’s editor in chief, invited and then disinvited Steve Bannon to speak at the magazine’s October festival which for 19 years has included political, art and literary figures.

Photo: newyorker.com

Doha Madani with the Huffington Post, covered the reactions. He wrote that a New York Times article disclosed that the former White House chief strategist was to be a headliner. “The New Yorker’s readers and staffers accused Remnick of giving a platform to Bannon’s racism and white nationalist agenda after the Times article.” One columnist tweeted that she was “beyond appalled,” Madani wrote. Some of the speakers also protested.

Madani shared Bannon’s response to the withdrawn invitation, which he’d made in a statement to CNBC: “The reason for my acceptance was simple: I would be facing one of the most fearless journalists of his generation. In what I would call a defining moment, David Remnick showed he was gutless when confronted by the howling online mob.”

Madani continued “‘I don’t want well-meaning readers and staff members to think I’ve ignored their concerns,’ Remnick said in a statement Monday evening. ‘I’ve thought this through and talked to colleagues — and I’ve re-considered. I’ve changed my mind.’ 

David Remnick. Photo: newyorker.com

“Remnick said he ultimately decided that, while he would still interview Bannon for a journalistic piece, a festival was not the best forum for speaking to him. An additional reason for canceling Bannon’s appearance, Remnick said, was that the magazine would have paid him an honorarium, as well as for lodging and travel if Bannon spoke at the event, rather than for an article, which would be done without payment.”

I’ve produced countless industry events but the speakers were noncontroversial–and most approved by others–so I’ve not run into a situation like this. However I think that Remnick, who is used to looking controversy in the eye, should have kept Bannon on the lineup–though moved him to a lower position rather than that of headliner, if there was such a spot.

Do you think that Remnick should have stuck to his guns and not withdraw the  invitation to Bannon; thought twice before inviting Bannon to participate in his festival in any capacity or tested the water before doing so? Have you had to similarly backtrack due to pressure by others?

Photo: kompastiana.com

 

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6 Responses to “Service of Changing Your Mind III”

  1. Anonymous Said:

    I once worked for an executive who said: “it’s never too late to make a better decision.”
    In this instance I think Mr. Remnick made the right decision as I assume there were many tentacles connected to his “headliner” for the festival. When reading your post, my first thought was security. I can’t imagine what might have been involved in terms of police presence, private security venue safety, Sweeping of the area, screening of attendees and more before his arrival and more. On that alone I would give Remnick a pass to have changed his mind. If I had any problem at all it would be at inviting the headliner in the first place: to give him a platform to proselytize his anti-democratic, hateful rhetoric. Perhaps you pose a question that has no right or wrong answer but is in the beholder of the decision-maker to take ownership and defend.

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Anon,

    I once worked for an executive who said “if you didn’t have time to do it right the first time how come you have time to do it again?” While your quote is more apt, this one also fits.

    It’s so easy to look at something like this and think “I’d have done this or that,” but as you imply, we weren’t there when the decisions were made and reversed. I doubt I’d have thought of inviting Bannon to begin with but then, who knows what pressure Remnick was under to even the playing field as flawed and criminal as half that field might be.

    Too bad Remnick didn’t think of your observations about security–brilliant. Instead, he said he was saving the honorarium which didn’t have anywhere near the weight.

  3. Protius Said:

    I’m inclined to go with your judgment on this one and not renege on my offer to Bannon to attend. However, before making a final decision, I’d like to know why Remnick asked him in the first place. If Bannon originally had agreed to participate “gratis” had now changed his mind and wanted to be paid an honorarium that could affect how I might ultimately decide.

    One thing for sure, I would certainly keep my readers informed openly and honestly about what I was doing. The story sounds like an even better read than the magazine itself, and should make for great publicity in itself regardless of whether or not Bannon ever actually showed up.

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Protius,

    I don’t subscribe to the philosophy that Barnum of circus fame was said to have penned: “There’s no such thing as bad publicity,” though for those who do, kudos to the New Yorker. Remnick doesn’t need to play games to get publicity and I think this back and forth invitation was a mistake.

    However inviting Bannon in the first place clearly generated publicity and may have been one reason to do so. It worked at first while backfiring in the end.

  5. Martha Takayama Said:

    I think that David Remnick exercised incredibly bad judgment in inviting Steve Bannon to his event. I think he should have immediately skipped over him when the name came to his mind. It seems impossible to me that anything positive could come from giving any thought, time or even print to such a twisted, decadent, violent creature. He should be considered an unfortunate ulcer on our political body and essentially be ignored. Let him seek approbation wherever he wishes, but do not voluntarily give him any importance!

  6. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Martha,

    I think David Remnick may have been trying to generate buzz for the event and it backfired. Or maybe he sought to balance the program. He’s such a smart man, there had to be a valid reason. Or, perhaps he delegated the program to a well-meaning staffer and he didn’t keep a tight grip on the project. We may never know.

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