Worst Take of the Week: I Set My Trainers on Fire vs Let Bannon Speak!
A USA special!
Welcome to Angus Take House – a weekly column in which I pit two of the wildest takes the world's great thinkers have rustled up against each other. This is your one-stop shop for the meatiest verdicts and saltiest angles on the world's happenings. Go and grab a napkin – these juicy hot takes are fresh from the griddle.
What’s the story? Colin Kaepernick, the NFL player whose profile rose when he protested police brutality by kneeling as the American national anthem was played before games, was announced as the face of Nike’s new Just Do It campaign.
Reasonable Take: Not sure about the Jamie Oliver one to be honest.
Burnin’ Rubber: I love the smell of recycled polyurethane in the morning!
This week a series of artful black-and-white images of athletes have been boomeranging around the internet, alongside the slogan: “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.” The art collective behind the project – sportswear corporation Nike – have caused a particular splash thanks to their inclusion of former NFL player Colin Kaepernick. Outside of American football, Kaepernick has become something of an icon for his protests against police brutality in the US, most famously taking a knee while the national anthem was played before a game – a move that has made him, unsurprisingly, pretty unpopular with both the MAGA crowd and wilfully ignorant patriots.
Never the types to take an insult lying down, America’s most passionate fans of America set about teaching Nike a serious lesson by... burning their own shoes. And yes before you ask, this counts as a take. Burning your trainers is absolutely a hot take. Do not question the format of this column ever again.
A few classics of the genre have emerged this week. I’m very into the work of country music star John Rich, whose sound engineer was so appalled by the advert he cut the Nike logos off his own socks, (presumably meaning they slowly rolled down and he had to spend the rest of the day with his socks doing that annoying thing loose socks do where they’re slowly eaten by your shoes and slide past your heels, collecting under your feet as you walk around). John Rich goes on to say, “Get ready @Nike multiply that by millions,” alluding to the frankly outrageous number of pairs of socks his sound engineer owns.
Another highlight comes in the form of this video. More than anything, I’m thrilled to discover that the stock bully from every Spielberg/John Hughes film made in the 1980s is real and supports Trump:
It would be short-sighted not to acknowledge how sinister this is as well. Many people have pointed out that the practice of white men burning symbols on lawns to protest civil rights, has a history in America. That said hopefully this time the threat is slightly lessened as none of the white supremacists will have any shoes.
It is valid to say: wait a minute. Why are we siding with Nike? How did we arrive at a point where we let global corporations behave as arbiters of moral virtue? Especially corporations with historic ties to the words "sweatshop labour" which still refuse to be transparent about many of their environmental and business practices. Yes, they are a monolith, and it’s good that a monolith is pulling in the right direction with its colossal strength. Still, it’s a strange sort of place we’ve ended up in.
But you know what’s stranger? Placing so much stock in the character of a corporation, being such a bigoted monomaniac, you go postal and burn your shoes when they make an advert you don’t like! I mean, really! Imagine being so racist you set your own trainers on fire! Must be genuinely debilitating!
What’s the story? Steve Bannon has been removed from the lineup of the New Yorker’s “festival of ideas”, after readers (and a lot of other people) said that was a stupid, pointless idea.
Reasonable Take: I guess, perhaps, we don’t need to hear anymore from ethnonationalist Stevie B.
Very Liberal Sensible Take: If you really want to defeat fascism, pay it a fee to speak at a festival of ideas and promote it across a multitude of platforms both online and in print!
More fun white supremacy news from America: Steve Bannon has been removed from the lineup of the New Yorker’s festival of ideas, where he was scheduled to speak in October. The New Yorker’s editor, David Remnick, has since said “I thought this through and talked to colleagues — and I’ve reconsidered… 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.” Bannon has criticised Remnick as “gutless when confronted by the howling mob”.
Typically far-right types are performatively up in arms about this decision, but what really stinks is the return of one of modern politics’ most frustrating myths: that the best way to defeat racists and fascists is to debate them in public. The logic goes that given a chance to speak, they’ll expose themselves, thus making anyone who took them seriously see reason, in the arena of rational, sensible thought. It is, in my opinion, as you might have worked out by my tone, a load of old bollocks. Of course, debate and discussion is integral to a democracy of ideas, but there are some ideas which are not up for debate – people’s right to exist being one of them.
The point being: what exactly is there to debate with Steve Bannon? What is the best-case scenario here? That he’s is going to be flummoxed by a double-rebuttal parry at the hands of a New Yorker staff writer, leaving him running from the theatre in floods of tears while the audience erupts into uproarious applause and breaks into a spontaneous dance party ending? That isn’t how he works. This is someone who openly endorses the fear-based logic of the far-right, reportedly helped write Trump’s travel ban and encourages nativism and xenophobia as a badge of honour. Someone who also uses platforms just like this in order to outrage liberals and thus further enliven his base.
Those concerns haven’t stopped plenty of people from indulging in high-minded ideas of fighting fascism with panel talks though. The theme was summed up best by writer and very-pleasant-if-you’re-cooking-and-need-something-to-listen-to podcast producer Malcolm Gladwell, who tweeted that the point of the a festival of ideas was to “expose the audience to ideas”. Well yeah, in the same way the point of a beer festival is to expose the audience to music, but you don’t see many “Three-Day-Old Lukewarm Bud Light with Fag Ends” stalls, do you?!
In another tweet Gladwell referenced Joe McCarthy, the American senator, who was apparently “done in when he was confronted by someone with intelligence and guts, before a live audience.” Which is a pretty wild stretch. In fact, his influence after his censure dwindled when the press stopped reporting on him, not because he was given an even bigger platform! Also, McCarty was involved in a hearing, not a 'get a free tote bag at the exit' panel talk. And this is consistent wherever you look. Take another classic from recent UK history: Nick Griffin’s appearance on Question Time in 2009. People love to reminisce about that as the moment when the British National Party finally lost their influence, having finally been exposed in all their stupidity! Nah. The BNP increased their vote share at the next election. How’s that for a bit of revisionist history?!
PRIME CUT: Tolerate everything except intolerance. If you want to defeat fascism, don’t give them Ted Talks! I’m sure they’ll find someone decent to replace Bannon though.
This article originally appeared on VICE UK.