The Economist defends decision to invite Bannon to festival
© Greg Nash

The Economist’s editor-in-chief defended her decision to invite former White House chief strategist Steven Bannon to participate in the publication’s Open Future festival this fall amid growing criticism.

“The future of open societies will not be secured by like-minded people speaking to each other in an echo chamber, but by subjecting ideas and individuals from all sides to rigorous questioning and debate,” Zanny Minton Beddoes wrote in a statement Tuesday. “This will expose bigotry and prejudice, just as it will reaffirm and refresh liberalism. That is the premise The Economist was founded on.”

Beddoes quoted The Economist’s founder, James Wilson, who said the paper’s mission was to take part in “a severe contest between intelligence, which presses forward, and an unworthy, timid ignorance obstructing our progress.’”

“Those words have guided us for 175 years. They will guide our debates at the Open Future festival on September 15th,” Beddoes wrote. “That is why our invitation to Mr. Bannon will stand.”

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The Economist came under fire for keeping Bannon on for the fall event after The New Yorker disinvited Bannon from its own fall festival on Monday.

Chelsea Clinton tweeted at The Economist and New Yorker Monday, calling the decision to invite Bannon “normalization of bigotry.”

Stanley Pignal, a South Asia business and finance correspondent for The Economist, fired back at Clinton, saying that Bannon was already a prominent figure and that debating his viewpoint was necessary to gaining better understanding about the world.

Beddoes in her statement argued that Bannon's ideas and status pose a threat to the world order the publication supports, and for that reason he must be engaged.

“Mr. Bannon stands for a world view that is antithetical to the liberal values The Economist has always espoused. We asked him to take part because his populist nationalism is of grave consequence in today’s politics,” she added, pointing to Bannon’s role in President TrumpDonald John TrumpSunday shows preview: Trump sells U.N. reorganizing and Kavanaugh allegations dominate Ex-Trump staffer out at CNN amid “false and defamatory accusations” Democrats opposed to Pelosi lack challenger to topple her MORE’s rise and his discourse with populist far-right movements in Europe.

“Worryingly large numbers of people are drawn to nativist nationalism,” Beddoes wrote. “And Mr. Bannon is one of its chief proponents.”