People with shit for brains have invited Stephen Bannon–the loathsome, racist, nitwit—to ‘debate’ David Frum in Toronto, at a regular public gig called the ‘Munk Debates’: a spectacle supported by the legacy of Hungarian-Jewish mogul Peter Munk, whose charitable ventures include a very distinguished cardiac centre in a Toronto hospital, and the less distinguished Munk School of Global Affairs at one of Toronto’s universities.
I’ve no idea what the Munk family thinks of this warm welcome to the nativist and anti-Semitic Bannon, coming as it does on the heels of the massacre of Jews in a Pittsburgh synagogue by a Trumpite-Bannonesque Neo-fascist. Maybe nothing. In a way, I get that. Ordinarily, we want the rich to endow good causes and then back off. So maybe the Munks are all cool with this. Still, I find it hard to believe that there isn’t a Munk or two vomiting in his bathroom, or locked in her bedroom, having panic attacks. I mean, we aren’t fooling around here: look at Brazil, Poland, and Hungary. Or, if you can bear it, glance at the reflection in the mirror, at the United States. These are evil people.
I am known (still, I think), as a kind of free speech fundamentalist. I’ve defended all sorts of ‘bad speech’, including wicked pornography; and I continue to do so. So as to avoid any doubt let me affirm: it would be wrong–though also unnecessary– for the Ontario or Canadian governments to ‘ban’ Bannon. But this remark comes far too late in the discussion. What on earth were people–one of them an academic–doing inviting Bannon in the first place? Are Canadians unfamiliar with his line of attack on minorities? Has Bannon been cheated out of every platform? Is he silenced? Is he the best, most intelligent, spokesperson for racial-nationalist-pseudopopulism? And what of Frum, the smarter, articulate, reformed defender of war criminals? Is Frum the best, most intelligent, spokesperson for a moderate, ‘liberal’, conservatism? This is incredible, in a cosmopolitan city whose residents include Joe Carens, Arthur Ripstein, Allen Hutchinson– even the tragi-comic Jordan Peterson. This was all wrong, from the get-go. Someone should be fired.
It is tempting to say that none of this matters now: few real people can afford the absurd ticket prices for the Munk Spectacles, and every else can predict, line for line, the ‘debate’. But that would be hasty. In the past, these have been broadcast on CBC and repeated elsewhere. That gives the debates–and is intended to give the debates–a kind of legitimacy. It is the time for that to stop. If the vile spew is regurgitated once again by Canadian media, it will sink not only the Debates, but also the CBC. And if that doesn’t matter to you, at least have some sympathy for hapless students (and faculty) at the ‘Munk School’–the ‘Bannon School’ as it may well become. Sure, it’s only a homonym; but don’t believe for five minutes that these Munk ‘Debates’ will not leak their stain on reputation of students and staff of the Munk ‘School’. After all, it was one of the Munk faculty who helped made this happen,
Freedom of speech is the freedom to speak (short of incitement, fraud, and hatred), when one is otherwise entitled to speak. Bannon and Frum are not otherwise entitled to this platform. The appalling invitation was, and is, an utter disgrace. It shames the Munk foundation; it also shames the city of Toronto.