An anti-fascist group is organising a demonstration in November to protest against the appearance in Scotland of a former Trump advisor accused of being a white supremacist.
After we revealed that Bannon was due to talk at News Xchange 2018, an international media event co-hosted by the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) and the BBC, Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, pulled out.
The First Minister was due to open the conference at a reception at the National Museum of Scotland on 13 November, the evening before Bannon is scheduled to speak in the conference centre.
Bannon is a former White House adviser whose far right political views have been widely condemned. Earlier this year he told a crowd of far-right French politicians to let people label them as “racist” and to consider it “a badge of honour.”
Stand Up To Racism Scotland is using Facebook to organise a protest outside the EICC on the 14 November and asking people to complain to the BBC.
They have also asked the organisers to withdraw Bannon’s invitation to speak.
He is attempting to build an islamophobic international of far-right groups and is looking to fascist Tommy Robinson here in Britain as a key figure for his movement. Stand up to Racism
A statement by the group on Facebook page says: “Stand up to Racism condemns the invitation of the European Broadcasting Union’s News Xchange committee to alt-right guru Steve Bannon to speak on 14 November at its event in Edinburgh.
“Organisers describe Bannon as a “political strategist”. He is attempting to build an islamophobic international of far-right groups and is looking to fascist Tommy Robinson here in Britain as a key figure for his movement.
“Bannon was the white supremacists’ link to Donald Trump’s White House until August 2017. He is due to speak from 11.25-11.45am on 14 November at Edinburgh International Conference Centre.”
At time of writing nearly one thousand people had indicated interest in attending the protest.
Bannon was the driving force behind the right-wing Breitbart News website before emerging as one of the key players in Donald Trump’s rise to power.
He served as chief strategist at the White House, a role that gave him a direct line to President Trump, before he left his post in August 2017.
Since leaving the White House, Bannon has visited Europe, offering support to far right parties such as France’s National Front, Alternative for Germany, Austria’s Freedom Party and the Italian League.
After we revealed Bannon was coming to Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon said she would not attend News Xchange 2018.
She tweeted: “I believe passionately in free speech but as @ScotGovFM I have to make balanced judgments – and I will not be part of any process that risks legitimising or normalising far right, racist views. I regret that the BBC has put me and others in this position.”
I believe passionately in free speech but as @ScotGovFM I have to make balanced judgments – and I will not be part of any process that risks legitimising or normalising far right, racist views. I regret that the BBC has put me and others in this position. https://t.co/5x1rHZkaR9
— Nicola Sturgeon (@NicolaSturgeon) October 20, 2018
Ash Sarkar, of Novaramedia, was due to be a participant on a Question Time panel but said she would also withdraw from the event. But other invited speakers told The Ferret that they will attend the event.
They include author Chessy Prout, who wrote a book about being sexually assaulted. Her agent said: “Chessy has been willing to go to many places in hopes that her story informs and educates. Her appearance at any event is not an endorsement of the organisers and certainly not of the other speakers.”
ITV News commented on behalf of newsreader, Julie Etchingham, who is also due to attend. “Julie has been invited to moderate a panel session at the annual News Xchange conference, which will focus on the crucial issue of diversity and engagement in broadcast media,” said a spokesperson.
“This panel will feature a number of guest broadcasters from around the world. She agreed to chair this discussion months before any speakers at the conference had been announced.”
Michaela Kuefner, chief political editor of Deutsch Welle, also confirmed she would attend. “Ms Sturgeon is a politician. I am a journalist. I don’t take a political stance – it is my role to report on and analyse politics,” she said.
“My benchmark values as chief political editor of Deutsche Welle are democratic and human rights standards as described by law and upheld by courts. As a journalist it is my duty to listen to voices I may not agree with as well as challenge and call out those who use populism to undermine our democratic structures.”
“Excluding voices like Steve Bannon who have become key voices to the populist right is ducking away from that challenge. It is now up to the BBC’s interviewer Sarah Smith and all of us attending to live up to standards of impartiality and critical analysis,” Kuefner added.
“Good impartial journalism is needed more than ever in times where pushing a political agenda masked as journalistic reporting threatens to become so commonplace.”
Radio host and journalist, Iman Rapetti, said: “I’m going. 600 journos in the room. Not a drop of Kool Aid in sight. Makes for a provocative engagement. We’re in SA, dealing with the worst kinds of racism, we live with its toxic effects. To quote Shrek, ‘better out than in’.”
Journalism is about asking tough questions and understanding what is happening in the world and why. BBC
The event organiser EBU has posted a statement on its website. “Steve Bannon is a key influencer in the rise of populism – one of the dominant political trends of our times. He has been invited to speak at News Xchange this year because his views are relevant to today’s society at large and therefore to the media industry,” it said.
“We also consider it our journalistic responsibility to share and scrutinise a range of relevant viewpoints within the framework of a balanced debate. He will be interviewed about his views by a BBC journalist, followed by an open Q&A with delegates.”
The BBC said: “News Xchange is an annual EBU journalism conference which the BBC and other broadcasters support to make happen. Steve Bannon was invited on behalf of the EBU’s News Xchange committee.
“Good journalism in a world of fake news and disinformation is more vital that ever. Journalism is about asking tough questions and understanding what is happening in the world and why. A conference designed to analyse the big issues impacting that world isn’t an endorsement of anyone or anything – it is a function of what journalism is.”
Additional reporting by Jamie Mann.
Photo thanks to Gage Skidmore, CC BY-SA 2.0.