On Tuesday, certain conservative activists spent much of the day enraged on Twitter, hashtagging boycotts, destroying sneakers, and otherwise defacing the Nike swoosh in protest of the company’s decision to feature Colin Kaepernick in its reboot of the “Just Do It” campaign. At the same time, certain liberal activists were doing the opposite: tweeting and retweeting support for the very same company, which had chosen to elevate one of the country’s most prominent (if strategically silent) voices on social injustice and police brutality.
The fury of the Kaepernick wildfire, which was ignited and burned through social media within 24 hours, was not the same as the relatively contained brush fire that had erupted (virtually) one day prior, when The New Yorker revealed the lineup of its annual festival. On Monday, the magazine’s editor, David Remnick, announced that the former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon would be a headliner for the event, featured in a one-on-one onstage interview with Remnick himself. “I have every intention of asking him difficult questions and engaging in a serious and even combative conversation,” Remnick told The New York Times.
This assurance was apparently not enough: Other festival speakers, including Jimmy Fallon, Judd Apatow, Jack Antonoff, Jim Carrey, and Patton Oswalt, announced that they would no longer attend if Bannon was appearing. The Donald Trump adviser’s presence, according to critics, either “normalized hate” (Apatow) or normalized “white supremacy” (Antonoff). Remnick rescinded his offer:
I’ve thought this through and talked to colleagues—and I’ve reconsidered. I’ve changed my mind. There is a better way to do this. Our writers have interviewed Steve Bannon for The New Yorker before, and if the opportunity presents itself I’ll interview him in a more traditionally journalistic setting as we first discussed, and not on stage.
Progressives had not actually taken blowtorches to their sneakers in protest, but the sentiment was the same: Not on my watch.