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As a Toronto Mob Brays, David Frum and Steve Bannon Joust over Populism’s Split Soul

It’s always gratifying when real life actors conspire to validate claims that an author makes in the abstract realm. Thus did I experience a blush of pundit’s pride upon observing the protestors who assembled in downtown Toronto in advance of Steve Bannon’s Munk Debate with David Frum on Friday night. Just days before, I had noted progressives’ now-epidemic habit of labeling everyone they dislike as a—real, not figurative—Nazi. And now, just days later, here I was, in a security line outside Roy Thomson Hall, surrounded by hundreds of protestors declaring Bannon to be a Nazi, and we audience members to be on moral par with Hitler’s followers. Some of the placards betrayed signs of haste—including signs held up by a couple that read, “Fuck You Nazis,” and “Nazis, Get Fucked,” on matching sides of a grease-stained pizza box. But the sentiment came through loud and clear: It’s 1933. Which side are you on?

Protestors used recycled pizza boxes as signs

Fortunately, the scene inside the debate hall—where 2,800 audience members had assembled to see Frum and Bannon debate the resolution, “The future of western politics is populist not liberal”—did not quite align with the Nazi Party Congress. The Nazis took a decidedly uncharitable view toward dissidents and hecklers. But when two protestors interrupted the debate by unfurling banners from balconies and (in one case) loudly denouncing us as racists, they received polite applause for their moxie. Indeed, moderator Rudyard Griffiths informed the first that she was welcome to stay, banner and all, if she would simply stop yelling. It was only when she kept on jabbering that two officers escorted her out with all the gentleness of an elderly relative being walked to her pew at a wedding. Clearly, these officers would never have cut it as brownshirts.

Had these interlopers stuck around, they’d have seen a good debate (entirely free of Nazi propaganda). While Frum and Bannon debated each other to a draw, they managed to shine considerable light on the nature of modern populism. And in so doing, they said many things about the state of North American society that, I dare say, the protestors themselves would have found surprisingly persuasive.

* * *

Bannon is, by now, an open book, having operated in a variety of public capacities within the alt-right movement—including campaign manager and chief of staff for Donald Trump. I’ve been following him on and off since 2010, when I reported on his appearance at a Tea Party convention in Nashville. His message then, like his message now, was that the common American yeoman is oppressed by bankers, establishment politicians, bureaucrats and multiculturalists. Like many populists, he thinks his country has gone off the rails, and needs to return to the (semi-mythical) character enshrined by its founders. He also harbors a strangely intense hatred for his own generation: In a movie he wrote and directed eight years ago, Bannon called baby boomers, the “most spoiled, most self-centered, most narcissistic generation the country’s ever produced.”

His politics often seem conspiratorial—the mirror image of the Nazi-obsessed activists who come to protest his events. (In that 2010 speech I saw him give, he casually linked the liberal politics of Barack Obama to the menace of Soviet communism and even German fascism.) As Frum would point out on Friday night, Bannon is affiliated with creepy (often Russian-supported) groups and figures in various countries. Earlier this month, Bannon told France’s National Front party that its members should let critics “call you racists. Let them call you xenophobes. Let them call you nativists. Wear it as a badge of honor.”

Protestor unfurling a banner

As for Frum, he is a more complicated case. From his perch at Atlantic magazine he has become one of the leading conservative voices denouncing the Trump presidency. On the other hand, Frum also became infamous among liberals and pacifists worldwide thanks to his cheerleading for the 2003 campaign against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and his work as speechwriter in George W. Bush’s White House. Yet he doesn’t quite fit in as central-casting Republican “establishment” figure in the mould of, say, Reince Priebus or Bill Kristol. Indeed, Frum—who is Jewish, and a native Canadian—was cast into a sort of conservative purdah back in 2010 when his principled instinct to speak his mind about the GOP may have cost him his job at the right-leaning American Enterprise Institute.

As a result, Frum’s involvement presented the protestors with an awkward diversion from the idea that Friday’s event was going to be one big Nazi jamboree. At one point, the protest leader interrupted the repeated slogans of “Shame!” to deliver a miniature dissertation about Frum’s alleged historical crimes—including his creation of the phrase “Axis of evil.” Alas, given that the 20-something protestors in attendance were small children when all this unfolded, the oration had the predictable effect of deflating the protest somewhat, and the ringleader quickly changed the subject.

But for his own part, Frum paid the protestors the compliment of leading off his opening remarks with a nod to their concerns—and, in particular, the question that they’d been asking lined up audience members out on the street: Why are you here?

By way of answer, Frum pointed to the poppy on his lapel—worn to mark Canada’s upcoming Remembrance Day—and declared dramatically: “This is not the first time democracy has faced thugs and crooks and bullies and would-be dictators who seek to build themselves up by tearing others down. This is not the first time that people have [declared] themselves to be ‘the way of the future.’ They were wrong then. They are wrong now.” He even noted the upcoming 80th anniversary of Kristallnacht, explicitly summoning the specter of Nazism. The crowd reacted with strong applause, cutting down any suspicion that tonight would mainly be a celebration of Bannonism.

Populist movements, Frum declared, always begin with people who claim to speak on behalf of “the people.” But in all cases, it turns out their definition of “the people” always excludes certain groups—Jews, blacks, Muslims, immigrants. He pointed to Trump’s claim that he got 52 percent of the vote among “women.” But that statistic is only true if you read in certain assumptions, Frum noted archly. When Trump says women, he means white women.

Frum didn’t call Bannon a Nazi. Far from it. The two debaters were unfailingly respectful in the way they addressed one another. (To my surprise, Frum even called the alt-right Breitbart News, on whose corporate board Bannon once sat, an “urgent force” in American politics.) Nevertheless, he scathingly echoed the protestors’ claim that Bannon headed up the back office for xenophobes and haters who truly were on the wrong side of history. That brand of populism, Frum said, “does not care about you. It does not respect you…It is anger and fear.”

Protestors outside the venue

Bannon’s view was that Frum had completely misunderstood the nature of “populism” (a word that Bannon did not disdain, despite—or, perhaps, because of—its stigma among intellectuals). By Bannon’s definition, populism is all about the little guy taking back power from political and financial elites—”the party of Davos,” he called it—which was putting the U.S. through a process of “managed decline,” and which looked down on the “deplorables” (another term Bannon loves to use) as “racist, nativist xenophobes.” Trump’s economic nationalism, he said, “doesn’t care about your race, your religion, your skin color”—and here he had to pause while the audience rained skeptical boos upon him—”your gender, your sexual preference”—more boos—”It cares if you’re a citizen. And look at the results: the lowest black unemployment in history, and the lowest Hispanic unemployment in history.”

And as he would do repeatedly throughout the evening, Bannon threw the issue back on his opponent, noting (accurately) that the Bush White House in which Frum served, a den of Ivy League elites and former Wall Street barons, bore much of the responsibility for the “crony capitalism” that followers of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders (whom Bannon name-checked positively at several points) seek to overthrow.

Bannon got rough treatment from the crowd at many points. He told some ridiculous howlers, such as his claim that Trump’s decision to visit Saudi Arabia on his first presidential trip abroad showed that he harboured no animus toward Muslims. But he never became prickly or sour (qualities that undid Michael Eric Dyson and, at times, even Jordan Peterson, in the last Munk Debate), and offered smiles and self-deprecating one-liners at his lowest moments. Like all good, confident debaters, Bannon gave the outward impression that the outcome of the proceedings did not particularly matter to him so long as he was given a fair chance to explain his ideas.

He also surprised his audience by channeling several “populist” themes that could just as easily be embraced by the Sanders left. Referring specifically to J.D. Vance’s 2016 book Hillbilly Elegy, Bannon lamented how free trade had caused the rusting out of broad swathes of the American interior—and noted that these same areas are an almost perfect overlay on the regions where unemployment and opioid addiction are most acute.

I couldn’t say what the protestors would have said to this last point. (I suspect that some of them might have lumped it all in with Bannon’s allegedly white supremacist agenda, since most hillbillies are Caucasians.) But it’s incontestable that Mr. and Mrs. Pizza Box would have agreed with Bannon that America had suffered greatly thanks to the thousands dead and $7-trillion that Washington had spent prosecuting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan—wars that Bannon, not without reason, laid at the feet of Frum’s former White House colleagues.

It is common at debates of this type for both sides to completely talk past one another. And there was some of that here. Bannon, for instance, absolutely refused to take the bait when Frum accused the Trump family and its courtiers of mixing business with politics in all sorts of unwholesome and ethically questionable ways (presumably for the simple reason that such charges are simply unanswerable). Nor could Bannon coherently address the point that populist regimes (such as, say, modern-day Venezuela) tend to run up massive debt and inflation by pursuing short-sighted policies that no responsible economist would countenance. And Bannon just stood there grinning when Frum skewered his populist pretensions by telling a story about the time the two of them worked together on a movie—after which Frum rode home in Bannon’s private limo.

But there was enough real cut and thrust to make it feel like a debate, not just an exchange of slogans and anecdotes. When Bannon claimed that Trump appeals to many black and Hispanic voters, Frum cut him down by asking why, if this were so, do the Republicans try so hard to keep them away from the ballot box. For his part, Bannon parried effectively when Frum took him to task for the dog-whistle anti-semitism that infects low-end conservative media. “They don’t target [George] Soros because he’s Jewish, but because he’s effective,” Bannon countered—adding that he had modeled his own N.G.O.s on Soros’ organization because he admired Soros’ success so much. It’s impossible to know whether this is true, but he certainly didn’t sound like an anti-Semite.

There also was a substantive discussion of trade and military policy, as well as a (somewhat confusing) exchange in regard to who deserves the credit for the economic recovery of the last few years. And Frum showed humility by freely admitting that the Bush and Obama administrations had, like every administration known to history, made all sorts of mistakes—including mistakes that populists had seized upon to bring Trump to power.

But the key difference between principled politicians and rank populists, Frum added—winning over much of the crowd, including me, in the process—is that the former seeks to fix the system, while the latter seeks to destroy it. Trump, he told us, represents those who “are excited by the joy of destruction, wrecking things they could never build, smashing things they do not understand.” And while this was a debate between two conservatives, Frum was there to fight for ideas that principled liberals and conservatives alike treat as sacrosanct—a “state that does not steal, a media that does not lie, courts that respect the rights of all, and voting rights for everybody.”

*  *  *

Anti-Bannon protestors

Munk Debate organizers use an electronic system that allows attendees to register their impression of the debaters’ performance, with this data being used to determine whether one side or the other had moved the needle on audience opinion. On Friday night, a gasp went up when it was revealed by Griffiths, at the end of the night, that Bannon had won by a huge margin. Hours later, it was learned that this had been a technical glitch, and in fact the result had been a dead draw. This result was not only expected (these debates rarely change anyone’s mind); but perhaps also quite apt, given the inherently split moral character of populism.

Is populism a polite synonym for xenophobia—or a righteous movement to wrest power from elites? At least since the age of the Gracchi brothers in ancient Rome, it’s always been a mixture of both. Wealth and power accrete to elites in all societies, a phenomenon that naturally catalyzes the creation of needed and well-intentioned political movements that cater to ordinary folk. On the other hand, human beings are tribal creatures, and so it is sadly inevitable that these same movements become contaminated, or even dominated, by demagogues who blame the problems of the poor on conspiracies hatched by outsiders.

This duality is an aspect of populism I had not fully appreciated until watching Bannon and Frum go at it. And I can think of no better rebuke to the protestors who wanted to shut this debate down than to say that I came out of Roy Thomson Hall a better-informed person than when I’d walked in.

Jonathan Kay is Canadian editor of Quillette. Follow him at @jonkay 

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  1. curri says

    “As a result, Frum’s involvement presented the protestors with an awkward diversion from the idea that Friday’s event was going to be one big Nazi jamboree. ”

    Not if you’re using the old-fashioned equation (1940s, 1950s) of Nazi=warmonger.

    • Dry Rye says

      Watched the debate. WOWWWWWW ………………

      I went in with a fairly open and undecided mind. I came away with the distinct impression that I have severely misunderstood and underestimated populism.

      That was no draw from where I sat. Bannon buggered Frum up the A. Bannon made an ARGUMENT. He wasn’t as polished, but he was persuasive. I don’t buy everything he said, but there was power in his thought.

      Frum sounded good, until I realized he wasn’t arguing a damned thing. All Frum was doing was adroitly calling names; making silly assertions about a future that neither he nor anyone else can possibly predict; making dubious associations to incite fear; and fist pumping. “They are liars and thieves and have nothing for you! They don’t always bend over backwards to include everybody, and you know what that means! Their children in the future will look back on the present, which will be their past, and be ashamed of them! We will win! Kristallnacht! Home team! Let’s all clap!” Frum’s poverty of ideas was embarrassing.

      Listening to the crowd and Frum’s vacuous haughtiness, I thought, “This crowd is acutely uncomfortable because they are up to their eyeballs in denial, and a part of them knows it. They are trying to destroy Bannon ad hominem so they don’t have to confront his ideas. That’s not a good sign….”

      I don’t know what the future will hold, but populism in the present is far more complex and powerful than I had grasped. Suddenly, the US midterms tomorrow are very much in doubt. Holy crap….

  2. Nicolas says

    Protesters are mobs now—necessarily? That’s the new Quillette’s take on free speech? Call it a mob to justify squelching it?

      • Nicolas says

        But does it look and act like a mob, really? That’s the question. The author generalizes over a large population from an arguably small sample of protesters who, like at every protest, cause trouble. The officers suffered minor injuries, as probably many cops do routinely at every sort of protest. People get arrested. Yeah. Calling it a mob while Trump, Sessions and other despicable GOP fanatics use this rhetoric to attack liberals and legitimate campus dialogue, is at best a suspicious tactic.

        Where’s the article on the mobs of Trump fanatics?

        • Greg Maxwell says

          There are no “Trump fanatics”. YOU are a leftist bigot and don’t get to decide what is and what is not a mob. Troll.

        • Daniel says

          “other despicable GOP fanatics”? “attack… legitimate campus dialogue”?

          I see how this objective and reasonable debate is going…
          #Nicolas, what legitimate dialogs are they attacking? Are you suggesting that Trump, Sessions et al. are shutting down discussion panels at universities? If that is what you are suggesting, why would your comment not be mere gaslighting? If that’s not what you are suggesting, why did you suggest it?

          • Nicolas says

            Thanks for engaging. I’m so sorry, there seems to be a misunderstanding. I did not mean to say all GOP members were fanatics. Some are, and they’re despicable. If you’re not one of them, then we’re all good. Much appreciated. But yes, I’m suggesting Sessions and Trump are trying to squelch dialogue on campus.

    • 12 people were arrested and 2 officers were injured. This was a mob. That’s not any sort of antagonism against “free speech”. To repeat what someone else here has said, if it looks like a mob and it walks like a mob and it quacks like a mob it is a mob.

    • RB Glennie says

      No not `necessarily’, but when you have hundreds gathering to harass and intimidate people who want to attend – remember, a *debate* – yes they are a mob.

    • If the aim of a group of people is to silence someone, then it’s fair to call them a mob. There are left wing mobs and right wing mobs, but they all share the same disrespect for freedom.

      Jorge Espinha

  3. ” Bannon, for instance, absolutely refused to take the bait when Frum accused the Trump family and its courtiers of mixing business with politics in all sorts of unwholesome and ethically questionable ways (presumably for the simple reason that such charges are simply unanswerable).”

    Its also a complete bullshit question. Its ok for the Clintons and Obamas to be multi millionaires despite as far as I know producing literally nothing of value ever outside of speeches. There is no proof that Trump has used political ties to line his families pockets. Zero.

    • Thylacine says

      Yes. It is most likely that the Trump family is poorer than it otherwise would have been since entering the political arena. The time taken away from managing his business alone must have cost Donald plenty – not to mention all of the boycotts and divestments the Trump brand has suffered from globally. Frum’s calumny, repeated uncritically and without a shred of evidence by Kay, is disappointing.

  4. Articles like this make me go on my knees and thank God that I can study Physics/Engineering. The lack of intellectual rigour among even the best journalists drive me nuts. If Physicists were this sloppy, we would still be stuck at Pythagoras. Engineerings would routinely blow up nuclear reactors.

    I spend maybe half an hour a day on politics/news and I spotted at least 3 cringing errors. I mean the author is a professional, she should have more facts than what I collect in my spare time

    The Bannon quote to National Front is the worst. The quote is 100% accurate and 100% out of context. It part of a bigger speech that says to paraphrase “them calling you a racist, is a cynical smear , for they don’t have arguments”. So bannon was saying “let them call you bad names, take pride in it because it means your enemies have run out of good arguments”. But you won’t know unless you watch the whole thing

    Did our esteemed editor of Quillette watch the speech,no she just got the quote from the NYT.

    I mean this is your job, take some pride.

    The journalists are either stupid, not paying attention or cynically distorting facts. I don’t know which is worse.

    This is merely one more exhibit in the methods of fake news. Never totally false, but never true.

    • Evander says

      The author of this piece is a man – Jonathan Kay – whom you might have mixed up with the founding editor of Quillette, Claire Lehmann.

      I’m finding it hard to see why you’re so angry. If you want to rebut a point, i.e. quotation out of context, do so without straightaway suggesting that Kay is a crap journalist. Have you read a representative sample of his work that leads you to that conclusion? ‘esteemed editor’ – Why the sarcasm?

      In my view, this piece is laudable not least for the measured tone. And fancy a journalist owning his political bias on an issue so openly – “my own sympathies [were] firmly with Frum”. We need more of that, rather than the mischievous positioning of oneself as ‘neutral’ and ipso facto more credible.

      In my opinion this isn’t fake news, simply because it’s more comment than reportage. Kay is giving his very personal view of the debate, which is a contest whose winner is subjectively determined, rather than a phenomenon of discernible fact, e.g. ‘In 2001, terrorists flew two planes into the World Trade Center buildings.’ In any case, as I’ve pointed out, the slant is obvious: he’s sceptical of populism, even as he acknowledges the validity of points made by advocates like Bannon. And the piece strikes me as written in good-faith with concern for accuracy.

      Food for thought.

      • I can swear the byline changed. But if I have misgendered and misidentified the reporter, my sincere apologies to the person involved and to the Ontario Human Rights Commission.

        The point of my comment is that there is a twisting of the intention of a Bannon quote. Its the fact that I don’t spend a lot of time on things like this, but I can spot the distortion, so surely someone that does this 8 hours a day must be aware that they are misrepresenting the facts.

        The Editorial, Op-Ed and the Commentary is the easiest avenue for fake news. Remember Paul Krugman: “The economy will collapse if Trump is elected”. You can spin a distortion of bullsh*t and call it commentary.

        I am angry because I was shoveled this shite for so long and I believed it. I thought the news was accurate, I thought Bannon was the devil for Reuters and AP reported it. Imagine my surprise when I watched an entire Bannon speech for the first time. It became clear to me that even AP/Reuters either didn’t hear the speech or understand the speech or distorted the speech. Apparently I agreed with the devil. Was I now a demon or were the journalists merely modern day inquisitors.

        Somehow you hold me to a higher standard than the author. I am an irrelevant anonymous ignoramus. The author (an editor of a media establishment) can imply that Bannon is “proud of being called a Racist”, which is either a distortion or ignorance of Bannon’s work. But ME, I have to read and weigh the Author’s entire body of work to call him “stupid or lazy or duplicit”?

        Scratch that the author is probably a very capable “journalist” of the highest order, however I require my distortions a lot stronger in order to swallow it.

        Also my comment was merely my very personal view of the article. I am skeptical of journalist as I made quite clear, we need such honesty from commentators . And I wrote my commentary of the commentary with a good faith concern for Accuracy.

        On a personal note, I am sorry for my sarcasm, it is the putrefaction of my soul leaving me.

        • Evander says

          Koos, thanks for your response. And no – I don’t think you’re an ignoramus. I just think that you hastened to judgement on Kay’s integrity as a journalist based on this one piece. Yes, like you, too, I thought that some aspects of the article – Bannon as operating within the ‘alt-right’; Bannon tells the FN to wear pejorative nouns with pride – might have been unfair. Equally, they might mean i) Bannon is alt-right in as much as he isn’t a traditional Republican operator and ii) that it was more Bannon’s association with Le Pen’s Front Nationale that was highlighted there. Maybe, maybe not.

          I understand your frustration with being, in your words, ‘shovel[l]ed… shite’.

          My concern – and I’m prone to this – is that we don’t see the non-shite points for the shite points. Then we zoom in on the shite and call fake news. Everything is black and white; grey is obliterated. Fake news is thus a concept potentially lethal to open-mindedness. When we suspect we’re hearing or reading something approximate to fake news, we go instantly cynical on it, and ironically endanger a critical response to it.

          Are you a Canadian national and a resident of Ontario? If you’re not, I can’t lodge a complaint about your gendered thoughtcrime to the entity you mentioned. Please advise.

          • Sydney says

            @Koos @Evander

            I haven’t had a chance to watch the debate yet, so my comment just speaks to this ‘discussion’ and not to the debate or even the article.

            I’ll just throw a little snapshot at you for colour. In the 1990s I was in the (southern France) streets demonstrating against Jean-Marie Le Pen’s FN. In the most recent French election I voted for Marine Le Pen’s FN. If you had told me in the 90s that I would one day vote FN I would have said you were psychotic. France changed, the FN changed, the world changed, and I changed.

            The media isn’t capable of keeping up with, or sorting through, these sorts (or any sorts!) of complexities, and especially when journalism schools are taught by neoMarxist intersectionalists and MSM and left-identified media are filled with these little robots.

        • Grant says

          While enjoyed the article your point is well taken. This is, after all, one of the main reasons people are extremely skeptical of the press. You caught something that none of us did and wouldn’t known otherwise.
          It’s why Trump’s populist rhetoric sticks. The press is often lazy and partisan and I don’t take any of it necessarily as truth, so when Trump first uttered the words ‘fake news’ we all knew what he was talking about.
          So across the country, where people have stood by and watched Democrat and Republican politicians had out trillions to banks who’s executives were already rich despite their malpractices to seemingly no avail, they see the results of Trump’s tax cuts within the year and wonder, what took so long?

          • “You caught something that none of us did and wouldn’t known otherwise.”

            I actually assumed that Bannon’s meaning was that the left (broadly speaking) uses these slurs without any true meaning/thought behind them, simply to tarnish people who disagree on policies, so people should wear the slur as a badge of honor. But I may have only assumed that because I *have* actually listened to Bannon speak in more than carefully selected soundbites before.

        • “It is now impossible to have intellectual integrity and a conscience while remaining a Republican in good standing……The addiction to lies has also — let’s be blunt — turned it into a party of bad people.”
          Paul Krugman – Nov 1 NYT

          Yup, we’re all evil now, those who support President Trump. Irretrievably, unredeemably deplorables all.

          Take a look at the folk streaming to his rallies – how cleverly they disguise their evilness, their Naziism. They MUST be REALLY evil to be able to disguise themselves so effectively as cheerful, happy and helpful people who want to MAGA.

          Sorry, but if a sweating, stuttering, frenetic Never-Trumper like Frum is the best you got…… got nothing.

          You tell us that there was a technical glitch in the initial results. Sure there was. We believe you……

        • martti_s says

          Bannon’s tactics put Trump in the White House so he is beyond forgiveness now.
          It does not matter what he says or what his plans are, he is the Evil One whose human rights should be cancelled. He played the game and he won against all ‘analytics’ and ‘statistics’.
          Simple as that. The Dems are bad losers but they’ve gotten a lot of practice lately.

        • Mr. John F Stodalka says

          You are a very good writer Koos. And you are right about Kay’s distortion of the Bannon quote. Bannon certainly wasn’t revelling being in the company of other racists, as Kay seems to imply. Bannon was saying, ignore the insult, and let it roll off your back, cause that’s all they got baby. I normally like Mr. Kay, but he was way out of bounds with that part of his article. Which I otherwise enjoyed.

    • I’m no expert on Bannon, but I have watched and read a few interviews and he disavowed white nationalism in all of them.

      Yet the author of this piece casually refers to him (and the Trump campaign) as existing within the alt-right orbit.

      “Bannon is, by now, an open book, having operated in a variety of public capacities within the alt-right movement—including campaign manager and chief of staff for Donald Trump.”

      Whatever alt-right meant in the past, in 2018 it typically means “racist” and often “white supremacist” (add as many other -ists and -phobes as you wish). If the author means to use a label that has become a slur, it would be nice to see supporting evidence, in my opinion. Perhaps I read the piece too quickly and missed it. Or maybe the author is simply using an alternative definition, and one that I don’t commonly see employed.

      • D-Rex says

        Nope, I got exactly the same impression. I’ve also watched a couple of long form interviews with Bannon (although not this one yet) and seem to have seen a somewhat different person than what was portrayed in this piece.

      • The problem is that “alt-right” was a term that did not necessarily refer to white supremacists, before it became popularized as a reference to white supremacists in the mainstream media. Breitbart actually published (I think while Bannon was still an editor) an early and informative article on the “alt right” phenomenon explicitly distinguishing between racist and non-racist factions.

        So, you’re right, that (just as the author notes w/r/t “populism”), it is important to define vague terms, especially potentially pejorative terms, before lobbing them at someone.

    • Although I hadn’t heard this quote before, it was obvious from the article it was out of context. You are just missing the point, which is that Bannon isn’t willing to take the bait – if they call you racist, just say sure, whatever.

    • Circuses and Bread says

      @ Koos

      Politics and a lack of intellectual rigor go together like, oh I don’t know, peanut butter and jelly. The fact that people even seriously debate politics with an eye towards winning something from it is just stacking the delusion one level higher. But isn’t delusion what we expect from cults? So ladies and gentlemen, I present you with the biggest, most entrenched cults of our times: the Cults of Partisan Politics.

      Taken from purely an entertainment standpoint, it’s (darkly) hilarious. And this next week is going to be a veritable laugh riot. Pull up a chair and prepare to be entertained.

      • Heike says

        I think the following exchange between a legitimate, accredited mainstream media journalists and Elon Musk to be very informative on this topic. Let’s watch as the action is already underway:

        Kara: “You pick fights with the press over Twitter, and then you have all your fans, of which there are many. Are you aware of what they do once you start them off?”

        Elon: “Well, I have to say, my regard for the press has dropped quite dramatically.”

        Kara: “Explain that, please.”

        Elon: “The amount of untruthful stuff that is written is unbelievable. Take that Wall Street Journal front-page article about, like, “The FBI is closing in.” That is utterly false. That’s absurd. To print such a falsehood on the front page of a major newspaper is outrageous. Like, why are they even journalists? They’re terrible. Terrible people.”

        Kara: “I get that, but do you understand the mood in this country around the press and the dangers of attacking, especially when the president is doing that? In quite an aggressive, “enemy of the state” and everything else. It’s disturbing when someone like you as a leader does that, too, or goes along with it.”

        Elon: “The answer is for the press to be honest and truthful, and research their articles and correct things properly when they are false. Which they don’t do.”

        Kara: “Okay. But I’m asking if you understand where it goes to.”

        Elon: “Yes, of course I do.”

        Kara: “What do you think of that? Are you worried about unleashing a dangerous cycle that a lot of the press are worried about? Justifiably.”

        Elon: “I suggest the press take it to heart and do better.”

        Kara: “What about what Donald Trump does, about “enemy of the people”? Do you look at it that way?”

        Elon: “No.”

        Kara: “Just that you don’t like falsehoods.”

        Elon: “Yeah. There are good journalists and there are bad ones, and unfortunately the feedback loop for good versus bad is inverted, so the more salacious that an article is, the more salacious the headline is, the more clicks it’s gonna get. Then somebody is not a journalist, they are an ad salesman.”

        Kara: “What about things that are just critical of you that you don’t like? Do you think you’re particularly sensitive?”

        Elon: “No. Of course not. Count how many negative articles there are and how many I respond to. One percent, maybe. But the common rebuttal of journalists is, “Oh. My article’s fine. He’s just thin-skinned.” No, your article is false and you don’t want to admit it.”

        It’s breathtakingly bad how the journalist cannot see how it is bad for him to lie in print. All that’s bad is Trump. He just keeps parroting the same themes. TRUMP BAD. It’s like talking to an NPC in a role-playing game. It’s so bad for our Republic that our journalists have failed like this.

        Maybe if press people stopped their constant lies and abuse of their protected position in society and learned their lesson about twisting stories and flat out lying, then the other sociopaths in society would stop riling people up about what sheer low lifes they are. The trivial non-violent attention the thin skinned press has received should be taken as fair warning.

  5. Adjunct-Filth says

    The author believes that President “Trump … represents those who ‘are excited by the joy of destruction, wrecking things they could never build, smashing things they do not understand.’”

    On the other hand, the author denies that President Trump represents those who relish the thought of enslaving or exterminating whole populations.

    How even-handed, how open-minded, of the author.

    It’s odd that such an even-handed, open-minded author is so completely unaware of the character of those who take themselves to be represented by President Trump — who see Trump as excited by the joy of construction, of rebuilding things that Progressivism had wrecked, things that Progressivism had smashed because it could not understand such things.

    I’m not as optimistic as those who take themselves to be represented by President Trump. I see President Trump as offering the West a few more decades of quasi-life while some fetal successor-civilization develops toward viability — toward the moment at which it is capable of replacing the civilization that Progressivism has destroyed.

    • Farris says

      “It’s odd that such an even-handed, open-minded author is so completely unaware of the character of those who take themselves to be represented by President Trump — who see Trump as excited by the joy of construction, of rebuilding things that Progressivism had wrecked, things that Progressivism had smashed because it could not understand such things.”

      Astute well stated point! +1

    • “The author believes that President “Trump … represents those who ‘are excited by the joy of destruction, wrecking things they could never build, smashing things they do not understand.’”

      Yes I agree how in hell does the author come up with that opinion? I just can’t understand this. When did Trump talk about destruction of anything, except maybe draining the political swamp? Sounds like Hillary talking about the “deplorable’s”.

      • Evander says

        I’m guessing Kay meant things like consensus politics, the media establishment, Hilary Clinton (“Lock her up!”), Hollywood propaganda, i.e. liberal messaging through film, judicial activism, a soft stance towards illegal immigrants. I agree with Farris that there definitely was positive politics. But I think he has some reason for saying that within Trump’s base there was an appetite for destruction – and, unlike Jay Z, they didn’t want to wipe the plate.

    • Morgan says

      The destruction rant is over the top, absolutely. There were a couple other red flags that prevent me from taking the article and author seriously. A somewhat amusing account, otherwise.

      • Rick Phillips says

        My sense is that Johnathon (and he is in a position to correct me) was taking his cue on destruction from Frum’s somewhat emotional arguments during the debate. Bannon does call for “destruction of the administrative state” (see full quote below in comments). I do not know with surety but I took it to mean reducing the powers of bureaucracies to regulate (well almost everything) in the absence of meaningful political input from the “deplorables”.

        @Adjunct-Filth may have a point when he refers to “re-building things that Progressivism had wrecked”. Correct me if I misinterpret but is not a major objective of activist progressives the destruction of the “white patriarchy” and its supporting institutions and concepts (marriage? Concepts of gender? Scientific method?)

        @Morgan raises a “red flag”. I couldn’t help but notice in some of the b-roll of protesters at this function and others another red banner appears that bears not the nazi swastika but the hammer and sickle. I don’t really understand how symbols of the political belief system underlying the atrocities that have been reported in the USSR, China (I am thinking cultural revolution mostly… but Uyghurs currently?) and Pol Pot’s Cambodia seem to consistently get a pass from “progressives”.

        • Morgan says

          @Rick Phillips

          Those red flags you mention are indeed a monstrosity, a cheering for a tragedy of unimaginable scope. The subject is so ghastly and despicable, so profoundly reprehensible and macabre in its detail, I do not think people in general have sufficient depth as human beings to full comprehend it. Case and point, for all the scorn and disdain Nazism rightly receives, most people speak of it as a caricature rather than as the hideous abomination it factually was.

          Note: I am unaware of connection between the idiom I used and the communist flag. Please advise.

    • Bannon has explicitly stated how he wants to destroy the existing system (maybe even in this debate?), and Trump has explicitly stated and shown his disdain for the pre-existing norms/structures of domestic and international politics, so I don’t think it is a big stretch.

      Having said that, you are absolutely right that many and the progressive left (and the mainstream center-left) are positively eager to do away with cultural and political institutions as well, often do to a lack of understanding of those institutions.

  6. Circuses and Bread ❤️🇺🇸 says

    Thanks for the informative report. I didn’t find it at all surprising that the debate ended as a draw. Politics is about power and usually descends into tribalism in short order. Political debate then isn’t about coming to better solutions, it’s about virtue signaling and cheering on your own team and booing the opposition. Its a form of entertainment, kind of like MMA for the intellectual set. Speaking for myself, I prefer soccer.

  7. Populism can’t be anything other than the precursor to fascism because it doesn’t aspire to universal harmony and equality of citizens.

    It demands a hated outgroup to fear and moblize against in a perpetual state of war, where the individual surrenders all power to the government for protection.

    • Evander says

      Chip, I’m wondering if i) you think Trump, Orban, Salvini, Kurz, Brexit, etc. all more or less conform to what you call ‘populism’ (fascism-in-waiting), and ii) if you have any ideas about how they could have presented a non-populist rightwing platform to their electorates as an alternative to the progressive status-quo.

      • All those figures are exactly the proto-fascists who rose on the strength of identifying hated outgroups.

        Economic populist rhetoric shouldn’t be confused with egalitarianism.
        Because inevitably the hated outgroup, even if they are poor and powerless, are identified as members of the elite.

        Notice how the people who rage against “crony capitalism” turn a blind eye to the plutocrats who hire immigrants, and instead rage at the immigrants themselves.

        And no, there is no non-populist rightwing platform because the right wing by its definition is about preserving the old hierarchy of power.

        • Evander says

          Thanks for your reply, Chip.

          Are you suggesting that all conservative politics inexorably drifts towards fascism?

          Outgrouping of people and practices isn’t always bad. FGM is a repugnant social practice; every society should outgroup that. Nor is it fascistic to say that people aren’t allowed to enter a country legally (which is the outgrouping of trespassing).

          I’m sympathetic to your concern about dehumanising discourse. Every human has dignity. But don’t you think by delegitimising the right side of politics, you’re outgrouping the people who hold and represent conservative views, and encouraging hatred towards them?

    • @Chip

      You wrote: Populism “demands a hated outgroup to fear and moblize against in a perpetual state of war, where the individual surrenders all power to the government for protection.”

      Are you referring to elite Hyperliberals who hate white straight males, who wish for the government to control all the guns, and who believe that the government has the wisdom and should be given the power to correct for all social inequalities (similar to the beautiful Communist visions of China, Russia, Cambodia, Venezuela, etc)?

      I never before thought of elite Western Hyperliberals as populists, but what do I know.

    • John McCormick says

      @Chip, please read up on populism.
      A one idea of populism you’re not considering:
      What Does a True Populism Look Like? It Looks Like the New Deal, By Dani Rodrik, Feb. 21, 2018, New York Times

    • John McCormick says

      @Chip. Here’s a possibility of populism you’re not considering: What Does a True Populism Look Like? It Looks Like the New Deal, By Dani Rodrik, Feb. 21, 2018

    • Morgan says


      “universal harmony and equality of citizens”… has already massacred tens of millions of people.

    • Peter from Oz says

      Like so many people these days you mistake a loathing of the activists as a loathing for the people the activists claim to represent.

    • Heike says

      Hated outgroups? You mean like how the Left has successfully Otherized the American Right? Please see here for the best explanation I have ever heard of this concept:

      It is convincing and authentic.

      On the other hand, “U R FASCIST” is such a tired and busted meme by now. “Nazi” and “fascist” have no reference to historical persons or ideas or states from the mid-20th century. They are simply words that mean, “people I don’t like” or “people that want to stop me from doing whatever it is I want to do”.

  8. Every civilized society needs some form of taboo, a civil creed which must not be violated. In America this creed is the equality and dignity of all persons.

    Bannon and his fans delight in violating this and championing an aristocracy of race and culture.
    As has been noted, fascism demands drama and suffering to justify its rage. Bannon needs the protestors to validate his belligerent victimhood.

    • Morgan says


      The only one raging is you. Provide evidence instead to support your claims.

    • Defenstrator says

      So the far left are in fact fascist populists who created the idea of white supremacy and toxic masculinity in order to have out groups they could fight and blame? I wholly support that view.

    • ADM64 says

      The basic American creed is that we are all equally human and from that common humanity possess inalienable individual rights that no government may violate and which the government is obliged to protect equally. Those rights represent legal recognition and protection of our innate freedom to think, and to act non-violently on our thoughts in pursuit of our own, self-defined interest, without prior approval or permission from anyone else. Rights are not claims on anyone else’s time, labor, property or good opinion. The progressive left rejects all of this arguing that some existential equality or dignity – beyond the equal protection of the laws – trumps all of that. And that is the real fault line in American politics.

      As regards Bannon et al wanting an aristocracy of race and culture, I’d call BS. The purveyors of racialism are overwhelmingly on the left via identity politics and they most definitely do have a hierarchy based on race. As to culture, those of us on the right, broadly defined, do indeed hold tat the Anglo-American political culture (aka classical liberalism) is both right and superior to all alternatives. It cannot be reconciled with progressivism so it will either destroy or be destroyed by it.

  9. Farris says

    “…it is sadly inevitable that populist movements become contaminated, or even dominated, by demagogues who blame the problems of the poor on conspiracies or parasitism among this or that group.”

    If this quote is true (and I’m not saying it isn’t), why aren’t members of the Left ever labeled “populists”? The quote above describes the Left’s playbook for the last 40 years.

    • Rick Phillips says

      @Farris “why are members of the Left ever labeled “populists”

      Populism seems to have been ascribed to both the right and the left historically… for example a quote from the Canadian Encyclopedia describing the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation the forerunner to the current New Democratic Party.

      “Canada’s classic expression of social-democratic populism was the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF), formed in 1932. The CCF brought together farmer and labour movement activists from the Prairies and other regions. … Successful social democracy in Canada has always incorporated cross-class populist appeals”. (Emphasis added by search engine) Populism/The Canadian Encyclopedia.

      Indeed Bannon during the debate on at least two occasions suggested the there is potential for both a “rightest” and a “leftist” populism in his vision of the future of populism.

      “We are at the beginning of a new political revolution and that is populism…. the only question before us … is (whether) it going to be a populist nationalism that believes in capitalism and the deconstruction of the administrative state and giving the little guy a piece of the action and break up this crony capitalism of big corporations and big government… or is it going to be a Jeremy Corbin and Bernie Saunders type populist socialism” Bannon/Munk Debate

      • Rick Phillips says

        Sorry in my haste I seem to have dropped the “n” in never but somehow thought that would be fixed by adding a “(whether)” where none is needed!

        • Farris says


          Thank you for the debate quote. To whom is it attributable? I know Bannon does not eschew the populism label. However, I get the distinct impression that some use the term populism as a synonym for uneducated or ill informed opinion.

          • Rick Phillips says

            FYI The quote is directly from Bannon and made during his 1st intervention during the Munk debate.

            I think your assessment of the current use of the word “populist” by those who don’t like the things Bannon is saying is correct.

            The other word Bannon used during the debate is “deplorables” in the context of describing those behind the populist movement in the States. The origin for this word in this context is of course Hillary and I suspect Bannon uses it to remind Trump voters about what US Democrats think they are. I seem to recall him being called out for seeming to use deplorables as a derogatory term but my sense is that this is likely a misinterpretation of the context in which he uses it…. in the same category of error that @Koos Kleurvol noted in his comment above. I note however, that I am not that familiar with Bannon so I am assuming this based on what I sensed from the context of the debate.

  10. I’m not sure the title of the debate -“Is the future of western politics populist or liberal” – has much meaning. While there certainly is such things as a populist uprisings, they are capable of taking all kinds of political forms. And those who praise or denounce our current uprising as this or that may simply be projecting their own ideological fantasies onto what always begins as a kind of intuitive unformed energy.

    It seems to me populist revolts are a kind of alarm system which always signifies that the ruling elites are not doing their job. In every kind of society of any size there exist certain ruling classes and their job is to account for, or at least convincingly appear to account for, the interests of the majority. A populist uprising always signifies a failure of leadership

    What has been astounding for the last 30 years or so has been the obliviousness of our ruling classes. This growing contempt and resentment for our ruling elites has been clearly obvious for anyone who chose to look. Christopher Lasch’s great prophetic essay of 1994 “The Revolt of the Elites” could have been written last week - And amazingly, to this day, this discontent is dismissed and maligned by a smug, insulated elite and a let-them-eat-facts news media.

    Now, was it Tallyrand who said of the Bourbon’s: “They remember everything, but learn nothing” ?

    • I like these phrases:

      1: “a let-them-eat-facts news media.”

      2: Talleyrand “They remember everything, but learn nothing” ?”

  11. The author pins the “alt-right” label on Bannon rather than the typical “far-right” smear. I’m not sure if Bannon self-identifies as “alt-right.” I’m pretty sure he doesn’t care what you call him. I don’t think anyone even knows what the term “alt-right” means anymore, largely because it gets so predictably thrown at anybody who expresses pride in their country and disapproval of the 22 million (Yale’s latest estimate) uninvited in our midst.

    But Bannon’s not “far-right” anymore than, say, Marine Le Pen is “far-right.” Le Pen is farther to the left of the Obama-era Democratic Party on some social and a lot of economic issues. Her views on immigration — which I suppose are why the media thinks she deserves the “far-right” label — are edging closer to the mainstream in France for the simple reason that the mainstream is finally and sensibly moving toward her position.

    Similarly, Bannon gets the “far-right” label here in the US because of his views on immigration, even though they are probably closer to the mainstream than those of the open-borders enthusiasts in the Democratic Party. Of course no one ever calls Keith Ellison or Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez “far-left” in the mainstream media, do they?

    For someone who is so relentlessly demonized, Steve Bannon actually seems fairly reasonable and decidedly not extreme to me. For example, here are Steve Bannon’s positions on some issues:

    (1) He wants to stop illegal immigration. (Bannon 1, Frum 0.)

    (2) He wants to raise taxes on the very wealthy, and cut taxes on everybody else, especially the working and middle classes. (Bannon 1, Frum 0.)

    (3) He is against huge corporate mergers and “crony capitalism.” (Bannon 1, Frum 0.)

    (4) He is generally skeptical of foreign military intervention. (Bannon 1, Frum 0.)

    (5) He is pro-Israel. (Tie.)

    (6) He thinks the US has been screwed on trade deals. (Bannon 1, Frum 0.)

    (I’ve got Bannon up by five points over Frum.)

    Of course, a majority of Americans hold most of these views.

    So, why is Bannon such a lightning rod? That’s easy. He is absolutely clear in his fury at the treatment of the native-born American working class (especially that “white” part which lives in the most forgotten sections of flyover country) -– an increasingly-powerless group that is invisible to and deplored by the decision-makers and opinion-shapers in the bi-coastal bubbles and college towns -– and he is absolutely unapologetic about pointing his finger at the millions of wage-depressing illegal (mostly Mexican) immigrants in America.

    It’s that part about the illegal immigrants that gets all the barely-literate Hollywood actors and trust fund SJWs all worked up. A firm and unmitigated rejection of illegal immigration from an old fat white guy –- that is simply more than they — or any right-thinking person! — can possibly bear. And so he is a “racist” and a “white nationalist.” And of course it doesn’t matter that, when he is asked, he calls white nationalists “losers”, “a collection of clowns,” and “goobers.”

    As far as David Frum and his ilk go: They are why Trump won the GOP nomination. They are every bit as detached from the struggles of ordinary Americans as the most unhinged SJW nutcases living in the Antifa compounds of Oakland and Portland.

    My understanding is that the debate organizers polled attendees before the debate about which of the two men they felt they probably agreed with, and then asked them at the end of the debate for their opinion about who won, and apparently Bannon won over more people to his side than did Frum — a result that doesn’t surprise me in the least.

    • Morgan says

      “…he is absolutely unapologetic about pointing his finger at the millions of wage-depressing illegal (mostly Mexican) immigrants in America.”

      American farmers, for example, are hiring those illegal Mexicans.

      Do you reckon they would turn away American workers… if they showed up?

      Unless, of course, your claim is that American employers are breaking the law deliberately.

      Unless, of course, your claim is that those ‘forgotten’ Americans that could take those farm jobs, don’t want to (or have to).

      The fact is that those illegal Mexicans are getting screwed, even if they are paid (relatively) well in exchange for hard labor… labor that most Americans would never consider. Opiates or latte, your pick.

      Victor Davis Hanson likes to go on about it. Look him up on YouTube.

      Undocumented immigrants make up more more than half of the hired labor on farms, according to the USDA, while Pew data show their share in construction is about 15 percent. Overall, they make up 5 percent of the U.S. workforce.

      Hired farmers 53%
      Construction 15%
      Production 9%
      Services 9%
      Transportation 6%
      Overall workforce 5%

      • If no american workers showed up and there were no illegal workers, farmers would have to increase the pay for hired labour until americans showed up (or mechanize and hire skilled operators for machines).

        If american farmers are offering $8/hour no american will show up. If they were offering more than Starbucks, say $25/hour, there can be no doubt even american college kids on summer break would show up. Therefore the willingness of illegal immigrants to work bad jobs for low wages is “wage depressing” . If American farm owners still need cheap labour they should consider moving to Africa or Latin America, lots of quasi-slave labour available.

      • Jeff Ray says

        Could you provide sources for your percentages? The 53% of farm workers as undocumented immigrants seems high compared to other estimates I’ve seen including Pew:

        which says “Although unauthorized immigrants made up 5% of the nation’s civilian workforce in 2014, they accounted for a much higher share (26%) of the workers in farming occupations.”

        Interesting that the percentages you show for the other categories match (exactly) the above referenced Pew report. I think your 53% should be 26% assuming you are referencing unauthorized immigrants as are (apparently) the values for the other categories you cite.

        • Louis A says

          @Jeff Ray,

          Thank you for bringing this up. I too was already aware of the Pew study and the 26% finding. Even if one adds the undocumented and documented together, it only makes 46%. So I would appreciate knowing where the 53% comes from. 26% is still a high number, but when one is discussing/debating these issues, accurate reporting of what stats we have is paramount to any efforts to minimize the emotional argument far outweighing the rational one.

          ( I do not mean to infer that the emotional has no place, but rather that when there are the radical extremes seeking to twist the situation by using fear or guilt, it is always helpful for me to step back and try to understand the actual data available before finally figuring out where I choose to stand on the continuum.)

          • Heike says

            “What the commission is concerned about are the unskilled workers in our society in an age in which unskilled workers have far too few opportunities open to them. When immigrants are less well-educated and less-skilled, they may pose economic hardships to the most vulnerable of Americans, particularly those who are unemployed or under-employed.”

            — Barbara Jordan, civil rights icon and first black woman elected to Congress from the South.

            In his 1995 State of the Union address, President Bill Clinton said:

            “We are a nation of immigrants.. but we are a nation of laws. Our nation is rightly disturbed by the large numbers of illegal aliens entering our country…

            “Illegal immigrants take jobs from citizens or legal immigrants, they impose burdens on our taxpayers…

            “That is why we are doubling the number of border guards, deporting more illegal immigrants than ever before, cracking down on illegal hiring, barring benefits to illegal aliens, and we will do more to speed the deportation of illegal immigrants arrested for crimes…

            “It is wrong and ultimately self-defeating for a nation of immigrants to permit the kind of abuse of our immigration laws that has occurred in the last few years.. .and we must do more to stop it.”

            He received a standing ovation in Congress for saying this.

      • James Lee says


        You repeat the common talking point from the mouthpieces of the plutocrats and globalists that we “need” increased immigration (and indeed, illegal immigration) because Americans (or Western nationality X) won’t work these jobs.

        It is a misunderstanding of economics. If we don’t have mass legal and illegal immigration then employers have to pay fair *market* rates to labor. It will mean a higher cost of food and significantly lower profit margins for agribusiness and other huge corporations that rely on mass migration and the offshoring of manufacturing to cut labor costs. It will also likely mean a higher standard of living for our low-skilled low-educated workers, and hence would disproportionately increase the standard of living for blacks and latinos, whom the left claims to support.

        After the black death in europe, the fair market price for labor rose to such a level that the aristocratic elites passed laws to cap wages. Never before had the peasants so much power. That same aristocracy today simply imports poorer peasants from other countries and outsources whatever jobs they can to poorer nations, all to ensure they maintain and grow their incredible wealth and power gap relative to the peasantry.

        The billionaire class and our corporate oligarchs made a deal with “progressives” — they fund leftist causes including the diversity lobby (aka pay indulgences), they parrot the diversity dogma, and in exchange the left has stopped talking about their extreme and dangerous concentration of wealth and power. The same left who used to warn us about corporate power now has no problem with it, as long as corporate power repeats the correct liturgies and keeps that sweet indulgence money flowing.

        • Morgan says

          @Koos Kleurvol

          Indeed, who is employing these illegals? Going off on illegals is disingenuous when they are, after all, working and are only doing so because the locals are hiring them.

          An increase in wages, btw, would lead to an increase in prices. Salaries are the lion share of production costs in many industries and the trend has done nothing but accelerate for decades.

          @Jeff Ray

          Your numbers are fine if you prefer them. It is irrelevant… even if interesting that you think a ‘discussion’ about percentages will distract from the point being made. Guess you are not in a field picking olives.

          The point clearly being made is that to simply charge against illegals is to pretend there is only one side to the problem. And this is often malicious. As I said to Koos, someone is hiring them. The system, from farm to consumer, is built around this mess.

          This does not imply a pro or against immigration stance. It simply means that the ones often being blamed are the ones that can do less about the situation.

          @James Lee

          I have never said any of the things you claim I said. The rest of your comment is equally fantastical.

          • James Lee says


            I read your comment too quickly, I apologize for poor reading comprehension.

            If you are arguing that employers bear responsibility for hiring illegal immigrants, I agree.

            If you are arguing that illegal immigrants don’t deserve blame for simply wanting to improve the lives of their families, I agree. (However, they obviously remain subject to a nation’s laws, just as I would be if I wanted to emigrate to, say, Japan.)

            You say that illegal immigrants are “getting screwed”. Relative to what? Bannon (and union organizer Cesar Chavez) argued that American workers are getting screwed by illegal immigration.

            The point stands that in general corporations favor increased immigration in order to enhance profits by depressing wages. I’m not claiming that is the only reason, but it is a significant one.

            As others have pointed out, if agribusiness paid a high enough wage, then yes, Americans would sign up for those jobs. Of course it would increase the cost of food.

            If that’s fantasy in your mind, so be it.

            As to the rise in real wages for peasants following the Black Death, not to mention what could be called a revolution in relationships between lords and peasants (despised customary free labor obligations ended as a feudal practice), see:


        • Gilles St-Gilles says

          Absolutely agree with you Mr Lee about corporate executives striking deals with progressives. As in: “I’ll make you Diversity VP, hire your friends for a mandatory employee diversity training, heck I will throw in a Pride parade sponsorship but you don’t say a word if we move the jobs to Mexico” “(Enthusiastic) Deal!” “(I’m not a stone-hearted businessman, I am actually an enlightened virtuous citizen)” “(I’m not a long-haired hippy freak, I am a highly-paid free-market-rewarded professional)”

  12. Stado Pędzących Imadeł says

    Jonathan Kay knows nothing.

    In Venezuela socialists are in power, technically socialism is populism, because socialists do not tell the truth, but rather what people wants to hear – but lets call socialism socialism, OK?
    In Case of Venezuela, socialism is much more precise term then populism.

    Alt-Right is obsessed with saving white race, hence they are against mixed race sex and children, hence they want geographical separation of races, hence ethnostate
    – this is the core believe of Alt-Right.
    Most popular ideologues/leaders are Jared Taylor and Millennial Woes, Richard Spencer is painted by media as leader of Alt-Right, but in fact he is less popular among them.

    Steve Bannon is not Alt-Right, he is against mass immigration, because immigration undermines wages of employes.

    Breitbart is not Alt-Right.
    Breitbart is very wide platform for everyone who is against Neo-Marxism and postmodernism, people who write for Breitbart are nationalists, liberals, libertarians, and even some soc-liberals.

  13. WonderBeagle says

    Imprecise definitions used by the author are like very large, blunt weapons, swung wildly in the hope of hitting something – anything, to make an impact. Their use is a frequent tactic of the left and a deep-rooted symptom of intellectual laziness and dishonesty.

    In describing his early exposure to Bannon, the author says, “In that 2010 speech I saw him give, he casually linked the liberal politics of Barack Obama to the menace of Soviet communism and even German fascism.” As if the inclusion of German fascism was in some way a non-sequitur and it wasn’t in fact a form of socialism with almost identical inhumane affects (a redefinition leftists still would have us swallow whole).

    A former commentator has noted the improper application of “populist” to the totally inept failed socialist experiment of Venezuela.

    “Dog whistle anti-semitism” that “infects low end conservative media”?…Before I’d even try to parse that one out, I’d like the author to do some work actually trying to find anything like that out there, unless by “low end” he means some nut job’s twitter rant last night. I suppose if you have a big box of those peel and stick “conservative media” labels you’re trying to use…

    To call Trump a “rank” populist, doesn’t clarify anything other than the author’s bias against the man. To say Trump is attempting to “destroy the system” as just such a populist, merely reveals a staggering ignorance of what the man has accomplished to restore that very system against incredible odds.

    And in the “our actions define us” department, did it ever occur to the author that President Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia might possibly indicate that he holds no animus toward Muslims who are peacefully living in their own country (and not trying to screw up someone else’s?)

  14. I do wonder what Mr May made or would have made of the McKenzie brothers or John Candy on the old SCTV series. Now they were populists. What about upper class twits skits on Monty Python.

    To be accurate, the banner for the debate should have been populits vs upper class twits.

  15. “Frum was there to fight for ideas that principled liberals and conservatives alike treat as sacrosanct—a “state that does not steal, a media that does not lie, courts that respect the rights of all, and voting rights for everybody.”

    One point that Frum, and IMHO most of the never-Trumpers, miss, is that the “populism” that Bannon and Trump represent believes that politicians that fight for those ideals are few and far between. Most of them are more interested in keeping their position than in doing their job, i.e., fighting for those ideas.

    • That quote from Frum was quite amusing – we know that only the right respects the courts and voting rights, and when last did the media (aka Inner Party) NOT lie?

      Frum, taking his cue from the left, is quite tiresome in his use of dog-whistleisms. When everything is a dog-whistle, nothing is. Then again, we should’t be surprised – Frum is a member-in-good-standing of the Outer Party (as opposed to the Inner Party), which is simply the junior partner in the larger UniParty.

      Trump OTOH, is a member of none of these. He’s a member of the Common Sense Party.

    • Event Horizon says

      “a “state that does not steal, a media that does not lie, courts that respect the rights of all, and voting rights for everybody.””

      Intergalactic voids have more substance to them than this statement. The lawlessness at Wells Fargo alone could have supplied enough inmates to fill the largest penitentiary. Congress and the media had lower approval ratings than herpes long before trump even began a thing. Frum doesn’t miss this. He ignores it. If he didn’t, he would be hiding in shame for the disaster he helped create. But alas, accountability is entirely nonexistent with these people. They must believe it’s all trump’s fault. In Frum’s view, the society was healthy until we caught this nasty virus called trump. For an average joe like me, however, trump was a mild cold that wrecked a weak, already HIV infested society.

  16. Event Horizon says

    Either intentionally or by sheer ignorance, Mr. Frum – like many others – automatically lump any form of populism with twenty century totalitarianism. A secular form of the original sin if you like. The problem is that this treatment is the modern version of “let them eat cake”. This is what Mr. Bannon seems to grasp and Mr. Frum doesn’t. Here are my two cents.

    There are significant, justifiable and growing grievances in the lower classes in the Western world. For 30-40 years, at the planetary scale, there is no doubt globalism has been beneficial. Only in China, hundreds of millions have escaped abject poverty and as Pinker pointed out, by historic standards the world has never been more peaceful. But all these came at a cost: rising inequality in the Western world. Western globalists have done a great job worldwide but have left a rather large disaster behind at home. Asia is modernizing rapidly, while the Midwest is rusting away.

    Mr. Frum is also spectacularly wrong when he claims that all populist revolts (whose abhorrent nature must not be challenged apparently) die out and the virtuous establishment prevails. Perhaps someone should have pointed out to Mr. Frum the French Revolution, which was exactly what we’re talking here: when the lower classes have nothing to lose, they’re ready to flip the social order on its head and start from scratch. Are we there yet? Very likely not, but I do agree with Mr. Bannon that unless the current trend reverses, populist convulsions will become the norm, not the exception.

    Finally, how about a Munk debate taking place in the main square of Gary, Indiana or Youngstown, Ohio and swap the audience formed by Mr. Frum’s demographic with Mr. Bannon’s? Perhaps Mr. Frum and the moderators will learn a thing or two about the 70% of the electorate that is not college educated and makes $40k/year. Perhaps not.

  17. @ Event Horizon

    You wrote: “Finally, how about a Munk debate taking place in the main square of Gary, Indiana or Youngstown, Ohio and swap the audience formed by Mr. Frum’s demographic with Mr. Bannon’s? Perhaps Mr. Frum and the moderators will learn a thing or two about the 70% of the electorate that is not college educated and makes $40k/year.”

    I’d pay good money to see that. But I can’t imagine that Frum would ever consider sullying the soft leather on the soles of his Gucci Ravelo oxfords on the uneven pavement of some Midwestern hellhole, or want to get a good close look at all the Iraqi vets in wheelchairs seated in the handicapped section near the front of the debate hall. It’s so much more pleasant to read about the dregs and deplorables of American civilization in the soft chairs of the Yale Club in Midtown.

    • Yes, certainly lets put Mr. Bannon in a room of farmworkers in the San Joaquin Valley.

      See, thats the thing. This “working class hero” stuff rings hollow, since it doesn’t include the real, actual working class. It only includes a small sliver of it, defined by its whiteness.

      • @ Chip

        Why would Bannon want to be in a room full of farmworkers in the San Joaquin Valley? If you’ve read anything about the guy you’d know that he’s only interested in protecting the interests of US citizens. How many US citizens do you think will be in that room? Any? How many of them would even be able to understand a single word he is saying? Any? (I doubt Bannon would debase himself by trying to communicate with them in their own language.) How many of the farmworkers in that room will have shown respect for this country by complying with our immigration laws when they came here? Any? So, why would Bannon –- or any self-respecting politician, for that matter — want to be in that room?

        Bannon has never called himself a “working class hero” probably because he knows that such an assertion would be laughable. He’s not a sentimentalist. Tears don’t well up in his eyes when he imagines an unemployed opioid-addicted prole. He’s also not a moral philosopher. No -– he’s a very smart and fairly cynical political operative who got into the game because of his hatred of cultural elites -– global corporations, academia, the mainstream media –- not because of any special affinity for the working class. The fact that most of the Davos crowd doesn’t seem to want to do anything about income inequality or the manufacturing jobs being lost to other countries, or –- in the case of academia –- promotes and celebrates explicitly anti-white identity politics and mouths banal and useless “diversity is our strength”-type platitudes -– none of which will do anything at all for the average unemployed factory worker in Youngstown — is a fortunate accident for Bannon, and one he has exploited with skill.

        • ” got into the game because of his hatred of cultural elites”

          Thats exactly my point.

          Steve Bannon has no intention of making anyone’s life better. he’s entirely interested in punishing the outgroup, the Non-People.

          If you gathered together a bunch of real working class American citizens- those who earn minimum wage or temp gigs and asked them what would make their lives better, wouldn’t they likely come up with ideas like a better minimum wage, expanded EITC, health care support, and better public transportation?

          None of these things interest Steve Bannon, because he isn’t interested in helping anyone, but hurting someone.

          • @ Chip

            You wrote: “If you gathered together a bunch of real working class American citizens… and asked them what would make their lives better, wouldn’t they likely come up with ideas like a better minimum wage, expanded EITC, health care support, and better public transportation?

            One would hope that those would be exactly the kinds of specifics that working-class Americans would want to discuss. And Bannon isn’t an advocate for any of them (except perhaps a higher minimum wage?). But then neither is Frum (as far as I know). The biggest difference between the two men — and it’s a significant one — is that Bannon would steeply hike tax rates for the richest Americans and lower them for those at or near the bottom, and Frum would not. Frum supported Bush’s outrageously regressive tax legislation — huge tax rate cuts for the richest Americans, and little or no relief at the bottom.

            Sure, Bannon isn’t a working class hero, but he’s also not an enemy of the working class. I’m not sure you can say the same thing about Frum.

          • Defenstrator says

            So you’re saying he is a right wing version of the left wing identitarians that just want to hurt people based on their gender and skin colour?

          • Chip, by using better public transport as an example of what the “real” working class wants, you have clearly identified yourself as a card carrying member of the urban (cultural) elite. No wonder you hate Bannon.

            Public transport. Hilarious.

      • And yet there are record levels of unemployment for every single non-white category.

        But don’t worry, this is a mere accident and Trump will soon fire these non-whites and install whites in their place.

        Don’t look now, but your utterly racist and despicable point of view is showing.

  18. codadmin says

    The bit about leftists using greased pizza box lids as placards was genuinely hilarious.

    The rest of the article was A bland, minstream media style analysis that completely misrepresented Bannon.

  19. Koos-

    I believe there are various versions or translations to the Talleyrand quote – it was off the top of my head, so let the fact checkers go at it.

    I found your comments on the intellectual integrity of journalists quite accurate. I do think Jonathan Kay to be a very good journalist but his apparent distortion of Bannon was possibly driven by a personal need to distance himself from “rabble” like Bannon and Trump – unfortunately at the expense of his journalistic integrity.

    I too am generally shocked by the mediocrity of journalism – I’m not talking about me agreeing or not agreeing with a particular position, I’m talking about clarity of thought and a proper use of language. It astounds me that people who make a living using words pay so little attention to how they are used.

    Ironically, it is the serial bulshitter Donald Trump who is highly precise and calculated in his use of language. Everyday he bets that the self absorbed and mediocre press will gobble his latest wormtweets . . . hook, line and sinker. Seems to me Trump has exceed the legal limit.

  20. It was amusing to watch Frum argue as if he were a leftist. He claimed attacking George Soros means one is against Jews, in the Left’s typical dog whistling nonsense. He claimed this made him feel “unsafe”.

    Then Frum claimed Trump is responsible for the recent bomb scare. That was amusing.

  21. Dan Mitchell says

    If any contemporary political figures fit the claims that they represent something similar to Nazism, Bannon would be that figure.

    The actual Nazis of pre-WWII Germany would applaud your critique of those making the valid point about Bannon today.

    • Martti O. Suomivuori says

      That’s just so totally false.
      Nazism is all about the nation, the individual has no value.
      Bannon is for the individual.

    • Mellowcanadian says

      Nazis were/ are non-Marxist socialists….they nationalized industries and collectivized farms….everything for the state……Bannon has never espoused anything along those lines

  22. Mellowcanadian says

    I can appreciate the authors lens on the debate but for me Bannon zeroed in on the failure of Liberalism in the US with his opener “we have socialism in the United States for the very wealthy and the very poor and a brutal form of Darwinian capitalism for everyone else”. Bannon talked about the trillions of dollars in the form of quantitative easing which basically propped up the financial elites on Wall Street and accelerated the inequality in the USA. And the drift of manufacturing and well paying jobs offshore which the “elites” have said is inevitable. He did make the distinction between the populism of Bernie Sanders and his brand of populism. It was a very good discussion

    • martti_s says

      That’s how I read him, too. You have the Republicans with the old money and the Democrats with the new money whereas the blue collars whose jobs were exported to China are left with no money at all. Globalists, those who have the means to adapt to modern economy, are doing fine in one America. Those with high-school only have no perspectives in the other one

      To call Bannon a Nazi for describing the situation as it is, is just a strategy to avoid the discussion.
      Would his prescription work is another question. Globalists say that you cannot turn back the clock, it is too late. They are the ones who have pocketed the economical growth for the last 20 years, so they have a very selfish reason to say so.

      Or maybe it is the Deplorables’ turn to have some cake.

      Charles Murray’s ‘Coming Apart’ is in agreement with Bannon’s analysis, if not with his program.

  23. Nearly Normal Frederick says

    Humankind is now in a state of collective psychosis. Always has been in fact except that now the outcome of this psychosis could very well turn out to be fatal for all of Earthkind.

    The craziness that may be observed in the world is the manifestation of a universal and, therefore, dangerous collective insanity that is becoming more and more profoundly destructive day by day. there is a profound conflict in the heart and mind of humanity in the present epoch – a conflict resulting from its own false separative doctrines, its own ignorant dissociation from Reality or The Divine Condition.
    The paradigms promoted by scientific or secular realism and conventional “religious” anti-materialism are equally false, and for the same basic reason, because they both reinforce the defensive and separative ego-efforts of human beings.

    Steve Bannon pretends to be a proponent of traditional “religion”, but look at the kind of “religion” that he proposes. Look at the “religious” company that he keeps, and his very dark movie The Torch, which to me provides very much in-your-face proof the Bannon is a leading-edge vector of this “religious” psychosis.

    How does one assess the authenticity of anyones religion? By looking at both what they say, and, more importantly what they do, and by extension the company that they keep, and the politics that they propose.
    What is the quality of their existence?
    What do they do?
    If you see people practicing some religious path and they look happy, and they look healthy, and they are SANE, and they are also intelligent, and their experience is both real and extraordinary, then naturally they are attractive and there is value in listening to them and talking to them. They must be doing something appropriate at some level if they are in such a good state.

    But if you see a group of obviously crazy fanatical people, who call themselves “true believers” but who have no clarity, no humanity, no love, no ability to inspect and transcend themselves, then you can know that there is obviously nothing life-positive about them. Such people are also quite often full of murderously “reasonable” intentions.

    in which category does Steve Bannon fit – like a glove?

  24. DontTakeMeSeriously says

    Found the debate to be relatively benign, the resolution barely tackled directly.

    Bannon asserted that populism is inevitable, the only question is whether is will be a left wing or right wing brand.
    Perhaps I find this unconvincing since dialectical liberal politics is seemingly alive and well in Canada (despite some narratives to the contrary).

  25. RB Glennie says

    As someone who was ready to be persuaded by David Frum, I did instead lose pretty much any respect that I had for him up to now – the `Trump is a crypto-Nazi’ intro, the approval of the `collusion’ McCarthyism, the touting without evidence of the `voter suppression’ propaganda as explanator of the difference in African-American support for John Kerry and Hillary Rodham, ludicrous statements about `Antifah being police informants’, suborning the smear that criticizing George Soros is inherently `anti-semitic’, the invocation twice of the Remembrance Day poppy that they don’t even wear too much in Frum’s adopted country … it is clear now that Frum values his perch at the `Atlantic’ more than any principles he might have had previously… I understand in a way, journalism is a tough game now and I’m sure the gig pays well. What is the alternative for Frum but embrace his increasingly hysterical views or else be faced with the loss of his job for being some secret Trump supporter?

  26. X. Citoyen says

    I wouldn’t cross the street to hear either of them, and your report hasn’t changed my mind. Most of your highlights belong to political theatre. Frum scored points, you said, in asking how Bannon could support Trump’s corruption and his “tearing things down.” I can see thinking Clinton was the lesser evil. But voting for a corrupt incompetent like Clinton was no act of virtue. Frum was merely pandering to the sentiments of his audience. Bannon could’ve scored the same point with a sympathetic audience. “Tearing down versus building up” belongs in stump speeches with other clichés like “moving forward versus turning back” and empty marketing-speak like “sunny ways” and “Canada is back.”

    As for populism versus liberalism, I fail to see any principled political distinction between Trump and Sanders, on the one hand, and Clinton and Obama on the other. The latter are no less platitude-spouting celebrities following the feelings of the moment than the former. Contrary to the pundit narrative, Clinton is not a principled establishment insider but an opportunistic social insider; she’s never written anything political or done anything positive that anyone can identify–she was a disaster in State. Obama’s only time in the real world before becoming a professional politician was a few months spent as a community organizer, which is a euphemism for activist, the only job where success is measured by intentions and not performance. Even his hagiographers can’t seem to identify anything he’d achieved in that role beyond speechifying and writing autobiographies.

    If Michael Ignatieff were PM, you’d probably have something like a contrast between principled liberalism and populism in comparing him with Trump. But Iggy is long gone. Instead we have a trust fund celebrity whose previous experience includes snowboarding, pot-smoking, and substitute drama teaching. His actions appear to be informed by his feelings and progressive fashion, not by liberal principles.

    As for all this newfound concern over demagoguery, fake news, and conspiracism, well, it’s a little late to be clutching your pearls. Canada’s supposedly serious-minded journalists have dutifully lent credence to the “secret agenda” conspiracy theory about the Conservative Party for the last five elections. Even the two old dogs of Canadian politics, Bob Fife and Craig Oliver, entertain it each cycle. In an early use of the dog-whistle-politics slander, Jack Ganatstein asserted without being challenged in an interview in the early 1990s that Preston Manning spoke in “code words” to his supporters to hide his malign intentions from the public. The demagogic “soldiers in our streets” series of campaign ads were deflated by the satirical versions going viral, not by the derision of journalists concerned with the civility of public discourse and with debunking conspiracy theories.

    Not much has changed either. Talking about the malign influence of Soros is an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory, but talking about the malign influence of the Koch bros and Russia colluding with Trump in “hacking the election” is to relate the true facts. You get this result when your criterion for conspiracy theory is partisan and not epistemological. Journalists only see bad men and bad words when they come from people they disagree with.

  27. peanut gallery says

    Populism seems like a meaningless buzzword that people use to bash their opponents. I don’t see how Bernie Sanders is any less one than Bannon. This Munk debate, like the Peterson/Dyson (and others) one has a topic that itself seems crafting in favor of the left-leaning nature of the people running it. I give them credit for being willing to talk to the other side at all at least.

  28. James Lee says


    Exactly. The fact that illegal immigration and mass immigration in general negatively impacts the wages of one’s own citizens (at the same strata of skills and education) was commonly accepted on the left a mere 15 years ago.

    Glenn Greenwald in 2005: “Illegal immigration wreaks havoc economically, socially, and culturally; makes a mockery of the rule of law; and is disgraceful just on basic fairness grounds alone.”

    Paul Krugman in 2006: “immigration reduces the wages of domestic workers who compete with immigrants” and that “the fiscal burden of low-wage immigrants is also pretty clear.” His conclusion: “We’ll need to reduce the inflow of low-skill immigrants.”

    Bernie Sanders in 2015, during an interview with Ezra Klein, who asked whether the U.S. should consider “sharply raising the level of immigration we permit, even up to a level of open borders.” Sanders reacted with horror. “That’s a Koch brothers proposal,” he scoffed. He went on to insist that “right-wing people in this country would love … an open-border policy. Bring in all kinds of people, work for $2 or $3 an hour, that would be great for them. I don’t believe in that. I think we have to raise wages in this country.”

    So what happened?

    The democratic party sees illegal immigrants (and naturalized immigrants) as their future voters.

    Corporations favor increased immigration to drive down labor costs.

    Currently, the far left essentially advocates for something very close to an open borders policy, and they have increasing influence within the democratic party.

    In general, the new left stopped complaining about corporate abuses and the increasing concentration of corporate power as long as they speak the new left dogma and fund the diversity lobby and other leftist causes.

    Look at any LGBT march or major event and see the wide range of corporate sponsors. I’m old enough to remember when the left complained about sweatshop conditions in Nike factories. Now, Nike gives millions to leftist causes including Black Lives Matter, hires Colin Kapernick as a spokesman, and in return is praised for their Social Justice bonafides.

    I thought my point in an earlier comment about the bubonic plagues in feudal Europe was obvious, but maybe it’s not obvious. When the supply of labor is increased, wages decrease, and vice versa. (And of course significant changes in the supply of labor has other complex economic effects).

  29. Steersman says

    [Since Quillette seems not to like links or at least more than two, a reposting of my earlier comment (STILL “awaiting moderation”)]:

    Quite a good essay by Jonathan Kay – and with a few amusing anecdotes for some leavening: “Clearly, these officers would never have cut it as brownshirts.”

    However, I might point to an aphorism by J.F. Kennedy who said, “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.” And to an article by Douglas Murray at The Spectator titled The left is to blame for the creation of Donald Trump. Although one might reasonably lay some of that blame at the doorstep of the right as well – hence the criticism of David Frum and thence populism. And in the same vein “opened” by Kennedy, consider this salient and relevant quote from Murray’s article, although some of the bracketing ones are equally relevant and trenchant:

    But what people seem slow to realise is that suppressing legitimate concerns and decent discussion inevitably leads to people addressing the same things indecently. We can thank the American left for the creation of Donald Trump and we can thank them for his comments last night. For years the left made the cost of entering this discussion too high, so too few people were left willing to discuss the finer points of immigration, asylum or counter-terrorism policy and eventually the only release valve for peoples’ legitimate concerns is someone saying – wrongly in my view – ‘keep them all out.’

    Indeed. And relative to “keep them all out” – maybe a bridge too far as Murray suggests, and to Kay’s own “always excludes certain groups—Jews, blacks, Muslims, immigrants”, one might reasonably suggest that there is frequently some very sound reasons to exclude “certain groups”, particularly when the “baggage” and “illiberal values” they espouse are “flatly incompatible with democracy and human rights” – as the late British philosopher Anthony Flew said in his review of Ibn Warraq’s “Why I’m Not a Muslim”.

    But, more particularly relative to those illiberal values, Kay and others may wish to consider the testimony of one “Salim Mansur (Professor of Political Science, University of Western Ontario” speaking to Canada’s “Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration” some six years ago:

    We should not allow bureaucratic inertia to determine not only the policy but the existing level of immigrant numbers and source origin that Canada brings in annually. We have the precedent of how we selectively closed immigration from the Soviet bloc countries during the Cold War years, and we need to consider doing the same in terms of immigration from Muslim countries for a period of time given how disruptive is the cultural baggage of illiberal values that is brought in as a result.

    We are, in other words, stoking the fuel of much unrest in our country, as we have witnessed of late in Europe.

    Lest any member wants to instruct me that my views are in any way politically incorrect, or worse, I would like members to note that I come before you as a practising Muslim who knows out of experience, from the inside, how volatile, how disruptive, how violent, how misogynistic is the culture of Islam today and has been during my lifetime, and how it greatly threatens our liberal democracy that I cherish, since I know what is its opposite.

    Indeed – some very sound reasons why populism may not exactly be a flash in the pan, why it is frequently a very necessary corrective.

    But – en passant, changing gears, and in the interests of killing two birds with one stone – I might suggest that Kay, and his partner in crime on the transgender front, Debra Soh, may wish to consider a somewhat flawed post (Sex in humans may not be binary, but it’s surely bimodal) by Jerry Coyne, retired professor emeritus of biology at the University of Chicago, in which he takes “Anne Fausto-Sterling, an emeritus professor of biology and gender studies at Brown university” to task for conflating “the issues of sex and gender in her op-ed piece in the New York Times”. Some very good reasons to argue that “sex” and “gender” are two entirely different categories, two entirely different kettles of fish.

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