I am sad to be pulling out of the Economist Open Future festival next weekend in Hong Kong, after finding out that Steve Bannon is speaking in New York, and reading the editor's letter about why he was invited (apologies for my lateness).
I understand the paper has its approach and we’ve all got to try different approaches, but I know I can't share a stage with him, no matter how many thousands of miles apart they are.
The team in HK were unbelievably accommodating and I was looking forward to advocating for better rights for domestic workers in the city. It was one of the things I was most excited about in recent weeks. When I read his name, all that happiness just dissipated. I don’t feel I need any more explanation of his views. He’s been interviewed often, and we’ve been living in the shadow of his ideology for almost two years now. It’s all around - it’s reached Asia too. If anything, he’s old news.
I disagree with the term ‘echo chamber’, used in the editor's letter, for an event like this - it assumes that you need to go to extremes for the sake of balance. I highly doubt that the speakers would have agreed on everything, there is always debate. I feel as though I am surrounded by extremes, and was looking forward to a modicum of optimism.
As well as this, I don’t feel comfortable with participating in Bannon’s waft around the speaking circuit. The fact that two institutions booked him around the same time shows how close he is to respectability, while people still suffer as a direct result of his politics. It also shows that a decision to interview him is neither daring or original.
I fully understand that I am not John Mulaney, and the festival will go on fine without me. But on a human, personal level, I can’t do it.
I’m so thankful to the Economist for including me in the first place.