How to Avoid Becoming a Fascist
Why I turned down an appearance on Steve Bannon’s podcast
This week, while I was watching the U.S. House committee debate contempt charges against former Trump aide Steve Bannon, a surprising email popped into my inbox: an invitation to appear as a guest on Bannon’s podcast The War Room: Pandemic, to talk about transhumanism. His people said he admired my work, my book Team Human in particular, and that I would be indispensable to any discussion of excessive uses of technology.
Cut to the chase: No, I did not accept. But I have to admit, I thought long and hard about the opportunity, what my choice would mean to my understanding of public discourse, what common ground I may have with Steve Bannon, and — perhaps most of all — what this invitation said about my work.
Of course, and kind of sadly, my immediate thought was that going on Bannon would get me “canceled” by my peers, readers, and the wider public. I understand why. Going on the show amounts to a tacit endorsement of the program and its host. It legitimizes and normalizes a dangerous propaganda platform — especially since most people wouldn’t actually hear the episode. All they’d ever know is that I went on it, alongside guests like Marjorie Taylor Greene and Rudy Giuliani.
I guess in the back of my head I was thinking I could maybe pull off a coup like when Jon Stewart went on CNN’s Crossfire and deconstructed the farce in real time, explaining how the show was “hurting America,” and telling them to stop. What if I could start with transhumanism and the way technologists are auto-tuning humanity to the needs of capitalism, and then pivot to Bannon’s similar media manipulation of humanity toward what I believe can only end in violence and catastrophe? What if I could deconstruct the way his The War Room was exploiting the pandemic, conflating the fear of technology, vaccines, viruses, people of color, immigrants, and intellectuals — all in the name of bringing about his vision of a Great Awakening?
First off, I’m a good conversant but I’m not as bold, skillful, or clever as Jon Stewart. Plus, he was appearing on live mainstream television, not a niche, prerecorded, and potentially edited podcast. The second I ventured beyond…