There is a lot to mock regarding University of Chicago’s “Conference on Disinformation and Erosion of Democracy,” dominated by Democrats, who are determined to continue eroding democracy in ways that will increase and guarantee the party’s power, and their allies in the mainstream media, or “the mainstream media” for short. The Federalist has one of many deft take-downs here, though it is a bit like shooting genetically-altered fish born with targets on their sides in a barrel.
To the event’s credit however, it has permitted University of Chicago students to ask questions that exposed the hypocrisy of the partisan exercise, as in the Anne Applebaum video clip I embedded here. This exchange was even better, as another student took aim at CNN’s fake media watchdog, the revolting and incompetent Brian Stelter.
Stelter has as much business as a featured authority in a conference on fighting “disinformation” as China has on the U.N. Human Rights Committee, The setting was a panel on “How Media Platforms Shape Consumer Realities,” , featuring moderator Jim Rutenberg of the New York Times (This tells you all you need to know about his perspective), The Dispatch’s Stephen Hayes, Lauren Williams of Capital B, and Stelter. His perambulations to avoid dealing with the substance of the question were the stuff of “Monty Python” satire:
U of C FRESHMAN CHRISTOPHER PHILLIPS: Hi, thank you for coming. My name is Christopher Phillips, I’m a first-year at the college. My question is for Mr. Stelter.
You’ve all spoken extensively about Fox News being a purveyor of disinformation. But CNN is right up there with them. They pushed the Russian collusion hoax, they pushed the Jussie Smollett hoax, they smeared Justice Kavanaugh as a rapist, and they also smeared Nick Sandmann as a white supremacist, and yes, they dismissed the Hunter Biden laptop affair as pure Russian disinformation.
With mainstream corporate journalists becoming little more than apologists and cheerleaders for the regime, is it time to finally declare that the canon of journalistic ethics is dead or no longer operative?
All of the mistakes of the mainstream media, and CNN in particular, seem to magically all go in one direction. Are we expected to believe that this is all just some sort of random coincidence or is there something else behind it?
BRIAN STELTER: Too bad, it’s time for lunch.
JIM RUTENBERG: You have 30 seconds, Brian.
STELTER: There’s a clock that says 30 seconds.
But I think my honest answer to you – and I’ll come over and talk in more detail after this – is that I think you’re describing a different channel than the one that I watch. But I understand that is a popular right-wing narrative about CNN.
I think it’s important when we talk about shared reality and democracy – all these networks, all these news outlets have to defend democracy and when they screw up, admit it.
But, when Benjamin Hall, the Fox News correspondent, was wounded in Ukraine, the news crews at CNN and The New York Times stopped what they were doing and they tried to help. They tried to help him get out of the country, they tried to find the dead crew members. That’s what news outlets do. That’s how they actually do work together – to your question about sharing those kind of connections and trust.
We don’t talk about it enough though. We don’t share that reality about how that happens. And with regard to “the regime,” I think you mean the President Biden. The last time I spoke with a Biden aide, we yelled at each other. So, that’s the reality of the news business that people don’t see, that people don’t hear. They imagine that it’s a situation that simply is not.
But I think your question, it speaks to the failure of journalism to show our works and show the reality of how of profession operates. We have a lot of work to do, I think.
RUTENBERG: Okay, well, I’ve got a blinking red light.
STELTER: I know, we can keep going but there’s lunch right out in the hallway!
RUTENBERG: It’s lunchtime.
Isn’t that perfect?
Stelter began by joking about ducking the question using lunch as an excuse, and then he ducked the question using lunch as an excuse! His subsequent evasions and deflections in sequence:
- He said that he’d respond to the question in private.
- He denied the student’s accurate claims without providing any facts that rebutted them.
- He played the cheap and insulting “right-wing narrative” card.
- He implies that CNN admits when it “screws up” (meaning “gets caught in fake news in biased reporting”) when he refuses to admit the examples the student cited.
- He ran out the clock with a 100% irrelevant account of how CNN helped a wounded Fox News correspondent, as if that had anything to do with the network’s reporting.
- He insulted the intelligence of the audience by claiming that an argument with a Biden official (about an unrevealed topic) disproved CNN’s partisan bias.
- He concluded with the absurd lie that the public gets the wrong impression about how objective, honest and fair journalists like him are because they don’t do a good enough job explaining to the ignorant public how they do their jobs.
Then he allowed the moderator to cut off the discussion before the student could follow-up or get a genuine answer. “Oops! Lunchtime! Too bad we don’t have more time! Well, gotta chow down!”
I run participatory seminars as a profession. When an important issue is raised before a scheduled break, I delay the break. That’s what you do when you care about honest and open discourse instead of being afraid of what it will reveal.