The Failure of the Ideas Festival

I’ve thought for a long time that our Thought Leader Idea Model Marketplace Week Festival Symposium was bullshit and broken, and not just when some whackjob promoting an all-meat diet and talking about lobsters became what passed for an intellectual. However, its bullshit-itude and broken-ness certainly reached an apotheosis with the 24-Hour Bannon Fiasco that is now how the New Yorker Festival will be known. 

(There were 600 different ways to NOT FUCK THIS CHICKEN, but there you were, New Yorker, lubing up and heading for the henhouse.)

Workshopping a society by having a bunch of rich assholes talk to each other for hours is a bad way to do things. For starters, until very recently these kinds of setups left out of the conversation the people affected by politics and policies, allowing us all to airily “debate” whether members of marginalized populations are really people, in air-conditioned conference rooms with catered lunch.

You are “engaging” “ideas” instead of “feeding” “people” and I’m sorry but we have a limited amount of time on this planet. I’m a writer, I would never say that telling stories doesn’t matter, but at a certain point that’s all we’re doing. Once you’ve “engaged” with the idea, where are the action items?

Or are those not as attractive as conversations sponsored by major corporations under the guise of “improving society” at which a bunch of lifelong learners nod sagely while being told things they can safely bring up at their next book club? Jesus Christ, this is no way to have civics.

The entire industrial complex of this thing gives me hives, and that’s during normal times, not when we’re at war with goddamn Nazis banning Muslims and deporting law-abiding immigrants and ripping passports from the hands of American citizens at the border. At times like this, do we really want to even throw the party, much less invite Steve Bannon TO IT?

Remnick’s statement, full of sober disappointment at the way “social media” got all het up over silly little things, is just so par-for-the-course. We need active, engaged media leadership asking every single day what people NEED, not what fits in the mold that should have been broken years ago.


One thought on “The Failure of the Ideas Festival

  1. Politics and policy are how we solve our problems, not focusing all of our time on ignoring all of the problems we have. We need to discuss various options before we act, sure, but act, we must. We – on our side – agree that there are problems that need to be fixed, and some actions will solve those problems. The roof leaks. The outlets spark when I plug in the space heater. Timmy is pale, shivering and underweight.

    Or maybe its our cities are drowning, our forests are burning, our glaciers melting, our old suffering indignity and our young saddled with punishing debt. The police shooting down our sons on the street, our daughters crying on the witness stand pointing at the bespoke-suited accused. We believe that solutions are possible, but we are not in a position to solve them. Or even meaningfully work on them.

    The roofer can fix the leaks. The electrician can fix the circuit. The Doc can prescribe antibiotics and a higher-calorie diet with lots of fluids.

    We rely on our politicians to solve our problems. And we rely on our media to point those problems out; to hold the politicians to account when they fail us.

    Horse races and ballgames are how we entertain ourselves. The ponies do not solve problems. The Yankees winning another World Series, or not, changes nothing. Watching the New Yorker masturbate on stage for a week – I guess I have higher standards for entertainment and porn.

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