The former strategist for the United States President Donald Trump, Steve Bannon is scheduled to visit Toronto to defend the idea of populism in a debate, this week. However, it looks like that he would have to face some unexpected denial this time too, as the critics calling for the event to be cancelled, in light of the Pittsburgh attack.
The controversial media figure was supposed to be a feature guest at The New Yorker, which scrapped the plan after facing intense backlash from the readers and threats of a boycott by other guests.
The editor David Remnick said that he did not want Bannon to “propel further the ideas of white nationalism, racism, anti-Semitism and illiberalism.”
Later, it was announced that Steve Bannon would be speaking about “The Rise of Populism” as a part of the Munk Debates, on November 2. Bannon would be arguing against conservative commentator David Frum about the role of populism in the future of politics, at the event.
The announcement of giving Bannon a platform to share his views drew immense criticism, where a number of people attacked its moderator and organizer, Rudyard Griffiths. Besides, community groups and some federal and provincial politicians raised concerns about the Friday event.
In consideration of the deadly Pittsburgh attack at a synagogue against the Jewish community, several organizations banded together on Tuesday to call for the event to be cancelled. They said that giving Bannon a platform for expressing extreme views will only contribute to a climate of hatred that can encourage violence against marginalized or racialized groups.
Maya Menezes, who is with the Toronto chapter of No One Is Illegal, said, “Steve Bannon is not just stopping by for a chat. This is part of his failing world tour to create a foundation called ‘The Movement’ aimed at supporting right-wing parties throughout the world.”
Rachel Epstein of the United Jewish People’s Order, said, “We’re at an important and terrifying moment as we watch right-wing governments come into power all over the world. The hate we are witnessing is serious — in fact, it is deadly.”
“Opposing this kind of hate and violence and the violence it fosters is not up for debate. And that is why we are asking that Bannon’s talk be cancelled, and if it is not … there would be large numbers of people there, to let him know he is not welcome,” she added.
New Democrats at the federal and provincial level have also enunciated their concerns about the planned appearance of Steve Bannon at the debate.
MP of the New Democratic Party (NDP) Nathan Cullen believes that there is a need to make efforts for ensuring that people aren’t given platforms to spread hate.
“I trust Canadians to be able to reject that but we’ve seen so tragically the effects of those in politics, in public discourse when they spread hate, that others pick up that language and turn it into actions,” he said.
The leader of Ontario’s NDP, Andrea Horwath echoed the similar sentiment in reference to the Pittsburgh Attack and said, “We have enough divisiveness, we have enough hate being spewed everywhere unfortunately here in Ontario, across Canada, through the United States, the last thing we need is another platform for more hate to be spewed.”
However, the debate organizers defended the event and said that it would provide valuable analysis on a pressing issue.
In a statement, Munk Debates chair Rudyard Griffiths said, “We believe we are providing a public service by allowing their ideas to be vigorously contested and letting the public draw their own conclusions from the debate.”
“In our increasingly polarized societies we often struggle to see across ideological and moral divides. Civil and substantive public debate of the big issues of our time helps all of us better understand the challenges we face as a society and what, if anything, can be done to resolve them,” he added.
David Frum, a senior editor at The Atlantic magazine, said that the planned debate would be an important discussion. He wrote on twitter, “Liberal democracy is founded on the belief that free people can be inspired to make wiser choices by words and ideas.”
He continued, “Mr. Steve Bannon comes to the prestigious Munk platform because he believes his words can persuade people to follow him. I will face him there because I believe democratic ideas can defeat him.”
The Pittsburgh attack has been the deadliest violence against the Jewish community in history of the United States. Several stated it as the result of hateful rhetoric from the Republicans. It is being considered that Bannon’s speech just days before the mid-terms could be a measure to clearing the ideology.