opinion

Wrong Way/Right Way

Why the Left Shouldn’t Boycott SiriusXM Over Steve Bannon

Bannon is vile. But SiriusXM’s Progress Radio, where I have a show, is the only national progressive radio outlet out there. Losing it would be self-defeating.

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Photo Illustration by Elizabeth Brockway/The Daily Beast

Steve Bannon is truly a “special” guy. Not only does he make Keith Richards look like an aerobics instructor, few people cause such an instant visceral reaction of disgust by simply invoking their name. Well, that’s not entirely fair. Some do love Bannon, like Donald Trump, Roy Moore, former Klan leader David Duke, and Rocky Suhayda, chairman of the American Nazi Party who have been vocal supporters of the Breitbart.com head.  

So it should come as no surprise to anyone with access to Google that when SiriusXM radio, a place where I host a nightly show on the network’s progressive political channel,  announced last week that Bannon was returning to host a show on the platform there would be outrage.  

After all, this is the same Bannon who, in the midst of the #MeToo revolution, was down in Alabama campaigning on Moore’s behalf by in essence calling the women who came forward to report Moore’s sexual misconduct liars. As Bannon told the a cheering crowd at a recent Moore campaign rally about these brave women, “The whole thing was a setup, right?”

And Bannon has proudly  declared that Breitbart is “the platform for the alt-right” —which as we have all learned is the politically correct way to say white nationalism. But wait, there’s more. Under Bannon’s leadership, Breitbart.com has welcomed with open arms the nation’s most vile anti-Muslim bigots. I’m talking the who’s who list of anti-Muslim hatemongers, who have been rightfully slammed by the Anti-Defamation League and the Southern Poverty Law Center.  

The backlash to Bannon’s return was swift and passionate as some subscribers made it clear they were dropping their subscriptions or would if Bannon remained. And it grew from there.

On Friday, comedic actor Seth Rogan tweeted: “I was supposed to do a press tour on @SIRIUSXM on Tuesday but I'm no longer doing it because I can't bring myself to appear on the same service that has decided to support Steve Bannon. Apologies to the shows I had to cancel. And fuck Steve Bannon.”

Former DNC head Howard Dean tweeted Thursday about hiring Bannon back: “You should be ashamed of yourselves. I will not renew my subscription.”

On Sunday, John Leguizamo, who was just at SiriusXM a few weeks ago promoting his new Broadway show, announced on Twitter: “Just canceled my #SiriusXM because they hired #Bannon ! No hate mongers! #BoycottSiriusXM

And then trailblazing musician Melissa Etheridge took it to the next level by quitting her own SiriusXM show in protest: “After news that @SIRIUSXM has given #SteveBannon a show, I can no longer in good conscience be a part of my show @siriusxmvolume #speaktrue”  (However, on Wednesday the singer announced she would remain with the network after an agreement was reached with SiriusXM that offers her a “new political platform for progressive ideas.”)

And in speaking to listeners on my show I can tell you that many, many are disgusted by Bannon’s return as are other SiriusXM hosts, including Mark Thompson, Michelangelo Signorile and Pete Dominick, to name a few.

I share that disgust--deeply.  Bannon is vile. Not only am I a progressive who finds Bannon’s views both an insult and a threat to American values, but add to that I’m Muslim, and Bannon’s Breitbart has ginned up fears and hate of my own community.

So what is the best response to defeat Bannon? Quit my show in protest? Organize a boycott of SiriusXM subscribers to pressure the executives to dump Bannon? Leave a bag of animal feces on Bannon’s chair every day?

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All worthy ideas. But being the only Muslim American hosting a national radio show, I won’t let Bannon have the satisfaction of getting me to quit a show where I slam him and his views nightly.

Regarding the boycott, if subscribers who detest Bannon leave SiriusXM, I can assure you that only one person will be happy: Steve Bannon.  While there are countless well-known conservative national radio platforms, the SiriusXM progress channel where I host is just about the only national progressive radio network in the country.  The fewer people listening to progressive talk shows the better it is for Bannon.

Add to that I’m a passionate believer that the best way to counter speech you don’t like is with more speech--not less. Even “hate speech” is protected by our First Amendment, as the Supreme Court has noted many times in the past. That is the price of freedom and it must be defended--even for voices we loathe.

While I can’t rule out that I might be periodically dropping off bags of German Shepherd poop in Bannon’s studio or offering him a chocolate pie inspired by the movie The Help in the hopes Bannon eats it, there’s actually a more effective approach.

If you, too, find Bannon’s views despicable, the best way to crush him is to defeat the politicians he’s championing--just like we saw in Alabama with his beloved Moore. They are the ones who will have the power to turn Bannon’s “alt-right” philosophy into policy. And the more of these politicians we defeat the less likely future GOP politicians will want to embrace Bannon’s losing set of ideas.

That is why the number one priority of my SiriusXM progress show is to defeat Bannon, Trump and all who espouse their white nationalist, divisive and un-American views. This is truly a battle for the soul of America. There will only be one winner in this fight. And the way to win is by electing more Democrats.

My sincere plea to all those who share my disgust for Bannon and Trump is to not leave. Instead, join our crusade and bring friends. We must win Congress back in 2018—our nation’s future depends on it. And if we do, that will be a huge step to driving Bannon, Trump and their kind out of the mainstream and back to the fringes of society where they can wallow together in a stew of hate.