Informing 50 students at a town hall on Monday evening that Steve Bannon has a valuable perspective on Donald Trump’s rise to power, Professor Luigi Zingales defended his decision to plan a debate.
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According to a Chicago Sun-Times report, it has caused a major riff between students and alumni.
“In spite of the character of the guy, I think he was able to interpret and understand a feature of the American people that we, academics, missed,” he said. “Everybody at the University of Chicago was shocked on November 7 when the results came in.”
Zingales, according to the news outlet, says Bannon has succeeded at selling a “pretty explosive combination of nationalism and a lack of democracy against globalization.” And as a researcher whose interests include populism and as the director of an academic center — the Stigler Center, which hosts a variety of speakers — Zingales said he decided it would be beneficial to hear Bannon’s side of the story.
The professor at the University’s Booth School of Business clarified that he is a believer in attempting to understand foreign ideologies when he was asked if he would have supported giving Hitler a platform, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.
“I think I would distinguish early Hitler from later Hitler. I think it would have been very useful to know ahead of time what he was about,” he said. “If the world had known earlier what Hitler was standing for, I think there would have been a better fate, no?”
The former chief strategist to President Donald Trump and former Breitbart executive chairman, Steve Bannon, is an economic nationalist who has a long history of advocating for increased restrictions on immigration, according to the news outlet.
Zingales said he understands that Bannon toyed with racism to help forward his “propaganda” at Breitbart but views Bannon as different than someone like Milo Yiannopoulos – who Zingales sees as more of a provocateur.
“The question is: Is this [racism] all that he is, or is there something else?”
After the invitation was announced last month, the idea of Bannon’s presence at the school has ruffled many, many feathers, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.
Last week, multiple University of Chicago graduates attempted to deliver a letter signed by more than 1,000 alumni to University President Robert Zimmer and Provost Daniel Diermeier calling on the school to revoke its invitation, according to the news outlet.
After several dozen students protested, the alumni acted accordingly – separately signing an open letter protesting the invitation. That open letter consists of over 20 faculty members, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.