Author: Nicholas Phillips

Steve Bannon Is Wrong, But Not for the Reasons You Think

If you consume prestige media, then it is likely that you believe a number of things about Steve Bannon on faith. For instance, you might believe that Steve Bannon is a white nationalist and an Islamophobe. And you may well believe that he’s a fascist—perhaps even a Nazi. Each of these propositions has been logged repeatedly in influential outlets, and each has self-replicated its way into received wisdom, greeted by little more than eager nodding if said aloud at a book launch party. Zack Beauchamp at Vox called Bannon “a leading light of America’s white nationalist movement.” Omer Aziz in the New Republic said that Bannon believes “a war between the West and the Muslims is inevitable.” Kira Lerner at ThinkProgress reported that Bannon “direct[ed] white supremacist and Nazi beliefs into the mainstream.” So naturally, when the Oxford Union announced that it would be hosting Bannon for a speaking event on November 16, they were accused of “legitimizing racism and fascism” by hosting a man who was “build[ing] an Islamophobic international” and served as “the …

Should the New York Times Hire a Radical?

If you find yourself in a room full of politically minded people and want to get everyone shouting quickly, start talking about the state of prestige-media opinion writing. Progressives and conservatives are both sure that their team is being systematically excluded from the op-ed pages of gatekeeper institutions like the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Atlantic. Each side thinks the other is grossly over-represented. They can’t both be right—so who is? Lately, a new argument has emerged from the progressive side of this debate: if these publications want political diversity, they should get it by hiring opinion writers from the far-Left, not the Right. The far-Left’s story goes like this: after the Trump election, men like New York Times opinion editor James Bennet and Atlantic editor-in-chief Jeffrey Goldberg concluded that coastal media elites lived in an echo-chamber that blinded them to the views of many Americans. Seeking to correct this, they hired conservative opinion writers like Bret Stephens and Kevin Williamson—despite the fact that these Never Trumpers don’t actually represent the views …

Does Paul Krugman Understand Intellectual Diversity?

Earlier this month, New York Times opinion columnist and Nobel-winning economist Paul Krugman wrote a striking column that criticized left-leaning publications that hire conservatives in the name of intellectual diversity. Krugman’s argument is simple: these efforts will fail because there aren’t any conservatives worth hiring. Kevin Williamson isn’t merely one bad apple, and the Atlantic wasn’t merely unlucky. The whole conservative barrel is rotten, and every publication that goes bobbing in it will come up with a mouthful of worms. Is this because there aren’t any smart, talented conservatives? No, Krugman assures us—in his own field of economics, there are plenty of conservative economists with appointments at top universities and publications in top journals. The trouble is they have no influence on the modern GOP, and this state of affairs makes many of the smart, talented ones contort their positions in a bid for influence. He writes: Am I saying that there are no conservative economists who have maintained their principles? Not at all. But they have no influence, zero, on GOP thinking. So in …

Is Political Diversity on the Op-Ed Page Worth Defending?

The Atlantic’s decision to fire the conservative columnist Kevin D. Williamson has occasioned an avalanche of think pieces, the latest of which is a Wall Street Journal article from Williamson in his own defence. All these commentaries swirl around the same question: Exactly how important is political diversity in media? For some, Williamson’s firing is proof that the mainstream media practices something like institutional discrimination against conservatives. For others, Williamson’s views were so beyond the pale that hiring him in the name of ‘diversity’ would be no more justifiable than a university astronomy department hiring a flat-earther. Diverse, yes, but also disqualifyingly wrong. Of the latter group—those who are skeptical of the need for media outlets to pursue political diversity—the ablest pen currently belongs to Osita Nwanevu, who laid out his argument in a piece for Slate entitled “It’s Time to Stop Yammering About Liberal Bias.” There are two layers to his critique: firstly, the media actually has plenty of political diversity, but secondly, this diversity isn’t a particularly important value for publications like the Atlantic …