Weekend Ethics Loose Ends, 8/21-22/2022: Brian Stelter Does A Cheney

Now THAT was an insurrection! On August 22 in 1831, Nat Turner, an educated slave, killed his owner and escaped withe seven followers, planning on recruiting a slave army and capturing Virginia’s Southampton county armory. His strategy was then to march 30 miles to Virginia’s Great Dismal Swamp, where his army could hide out and strike at will. Turner and his recruits attacked homes throughout Southampton County, killing about 60 white men, women and children. The Virginia state militia, with greatly larger numbers, ended the rebellion while killing many of those who had joined him. The episode resulted in vengeful lynching of many slaves, even those who were not involved in Turner’s revolt

Nat Turner eluded capture until the end of October. Unrepentant, he  was tried, convicted, sentenced to death, and hanged on November 11.

I noticed, in researching this story, that apparently the word “slave” is now taboo, and the politically correct term is “enslaved people.

They were slaves. That is what I will continue to call them. Next we will be commanded to refer to them as “non-volunteer unpaid employees.” The only way to stop creeping Orwellian linguistics is to refuse to tolerate it.

1. Careful…whatever it is that Liz Cheney has might be contagious. Cheney’ s vainglorious self-celebration and presumption of martyrdom after being justly crunched by Republican primary voters in Wyoming was quickly followed by an even more outrageous display of imagined virtue by the ridiculous Brian Stelter, now looking for some other news organization to help pervert. Among a myriad of other flaws, Stelter’s fake journalism watchdog show, “Reliable Sources,” had finally tanked in the ratings (along with CNN in general), perhaps because it no longer even pretended to report informatively on how well (and ethically) the news media was doing its job, and was only repeating anti-Trump, anti-conservative talking points and attacking Fox News.

In his final show, instead of leaving in an ethical and dignified manner, Stelter decided to perform a Cheney on steroids. Among his gagworthy declarations was that “teachers use segments from this show all the time in classrooms, in lessons, guiding and teaching the next generation.”

That’s one more bit of evidence of how American education had deteriorated into propaganda and indoctrination—if you believe anything Stelter says, which is…unwise. Before making a mega-ass of himself on his last CNN show, Stelter wrote that it was“a rare privilege to lead a weekly show focused on the press at a time when it has never been more consequential.” But he did not focus on the press at all. He covered for the progressive/Democratic Party allied news media and supplemented its efforts.

Ludicrously, Stelter said that “CNN must stay strong.” CNN has been rotting at a prodigious rate, which is one reason it was sold off. Stelter’s assignment from his previous boss was to maintain the illusion that the network was doing a superlative job, as he ignore one scandal there after another—its full-bore acceptance and promotion of the Russian collusion hoax; Don Lemon’s on-air drunkeness; its defaming of a teenage student because he dared to wear a MAGA cap, the media’s embrago of the Hunter Biden story and the accusation of sexual harassment by a Joe Biden staffer; the multiple journalism ethics breaches of Chris Cuomo, and more.

Stelter’s proclamation that “I believe America needs CNN to be strong. I believe the free world needs CNN to be strong. And it will continue to be. Because all of us are going to help make that happen. The free world needs a reliable source” was a self-indictment. CNN has been a disgrace, and what it desperately needed was targeted criticism when it did its job unethically. Stelter, despite his alleged mission, never provided that, instead becoming one more agent of rot.

He ended his nauseating performance by endorsing media bias:

I know it is not partisan to stand up for decency and democracy and dialogue. It’s not partisan to stand up to demagogues. It’s required! It’s patriotic.

But it’s not journalism, you idiot. “The truth is not neutral” Stelter said elsewhere in the show. He also said that mounting criticism of journalism is a “poisonous cloud”—and this from a man whose job was supposedly to be a media critic.

I must apologize for regularly referring to Stelter as a hack, most recently here.  That’s an insult to hacks. He disgraced the field of journalism ethics, and actively scarred the profession he was supposed to elevate. He is an Ethics Villain.

2. A conflict of interest I did not know about…Stelter’s guest on his final show was the radical leftist half of the Woodward and Bernstein team, Carl Bernstein. Though the two Washington Post reporters unquestionably performed a national service by tracking down the metaphorical bread crumbs that revealed Nixon’s cover-up of Watergate, their success and resulting accolades greatly fueled the journalism ethics crash that Stelter advanced and encouraged.

For Woodward and Bernstein, the ends justified the means. “ [Bernstein and Woodward] apparently believed the government was so corrupted by the President’s power that the press could justify morally dubious means to right the balance,” wrote [my former professor] historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, hardly a conservative. Samuel Dash, the Democratic Counsel to the Senate Select Committee chaired by Senator Sam Ervin that investigated Watergate, wrote that Bernstein’s and Woodward’s reporting degenerated into what he called “hit and run” journalism based on committee leaks that jeopardized the legal system’s ability to convict and punish the guilty. [Sam was my legal ethics professor!]

But I digress. What I did not know was that both of Bernstein’s parents were Communists. Bernstein has said that growing up under the influence of his parents’ Communist values “informed my beliefs about what is important.” Nixon, of course, built his career on being a vigorous opponent of Communism, and Bernstein detested him as his parents did. New York media consultant Sidney Goldberg wrote in 2003. that “a case can be made that [Bernstein] should have disclosed the conflict of interest he brought to his Watergate exposés. After all, he was brought up as a Nixon hater and readers might have been told that his family regarded Nixon as vile, as an enemy.” Yes, they should have been told. However, that information would have allowed Nixon’s defenders to discredit the Post’s motives and trustworthiness in its investigation….and justly so.


11 thoughts on “Weekend Ethics Loose Ends, 8/21-22/2022: Brian Stelter Does A Cheney

  1. All the red diaper babies active since the ’50s need to identify themselves? Just in the media? In politics? In academia? This is going to be a cattle call. Bernie Sanders? Katrina Vanden Heuvel? Steven Cohen? Bill DeBlasio? Noam Chomsky? Come on down!

  2. 1, I think we’re seeing a new condition we’ll have to call “Long Trump Derangement Syndrome.” Sufferers become delusional.

  3. Another consequence of Nat Turner’s Rebellion was the overhauling of the citizen militia system in the slaveholding states. State militias had frequently been sorely neglected after the War of 1812 and the subjugation (or “civilization”) of the eastern American Indian tribes by 1830. Turner’s actions, and the possibility of other similar slave uprisings, prompted the slaveholding states to reinvigorate the militias and reinstate required service and training for militia members. This in turn aided the southern states who seceded in the 1860s, by providing a foundation for mobilization rather than their having to start from scratch to build a military response to Mr. Lincon’s invasion.

  4. Yes, they should have been told. However, that information would have allowed Nixon’s defenders to discredit the Post’s motives and trustworthiness in its investigation….and justly so.

    It is almost as if Nixon was hounded out of office.

    • Nah, he was facing a legitimate bi-partisan impeachment triggered by genuine crimes and misdemeanors. He might have skated if he were popular, like other Presidents who engaged in clearly impeachable offenses—Jackson, FDR, Reagan, Clinton—but even though he had won re-election in a landslide, Nixon was never a popular figure. He had negative charisma. His power was based entirely on his competence, and he was very smart and competent. (Unlike, say, Obama, who was smart but incompetent).

      • I’m not sure we know Obama is smart. He’s certainly our first affirmative action president. (But clearly not our first ‘legacy’ president, the most recent one being George W. of course.)

      • He might have held the line until 1976, when he would have had to leave anyway, but it would not have been good for the nation. It was wise, if costly, for Ford to pardon him, thereby closing the book on that chapter and enabling the nation to move one. I think we’re about to find out what it’s actually like for a nation when a former president is actually charged with a crime and tried.

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