If you are a faithful reader of the ForeignCorrespondent blog, you know that I often post about the disgraceful state of America’s news media—specifically about its dishonesty, its one-sidedness in reporting and supporting leftist ideas and narratives, and the abandonment of its “watchdog of government” function when that government is run by Democrats.
I know I seem to be blowing a muffled trumpet in a howling leftist wind but I’m stubborn. During the 28 years I was a reporter and foreign correspondent for the Chicago Tribune I was also stubborn. I refused to be dissuaded when I was working a story—either on the grubby streets of Chicago or in war zones in places like Vietnam, El Salvador, or Afghanistan.
So, I soldier on here on my blog pointing out the good, the bad, and the ugly of American journalism whenever I can.
Today I am going to highlight the good for a change.
What I have posted here gives me renewed hope for the profession of which I was once proud to be a member. It’s about some brave young journalism students at the University of Chicago—a bastion of leftist ideology and orthodoxy if ever there was one.
A while back, these students founded a newspaper called the Chicago Thinker as a political counterweight to the Chicago Maroon—the University of Chicago’s left-leaning student newspaper.
Here is that newspaper’s mission statement:
“Some things are too sacred to surrender to the mob, and the free exchange of ideas is one of them. The Chicago Thinker challenges the mob’s crusade against free speech by publishing thoughtful conservative and libertarian commentary, in addition to fact-driven reporting.”
Now, to the reason for this post.
During the past week, the University of Chicago’s Institute of Politics (IOP) and The Atlantic magazine hosted a “Disinformation and the Erosion of Democracy” conference on campus.
Naturally, the Chicago Thinker and several of its reporters and editors were on hand to cover the conference and to ask excellent questions of the largely supercilious leftist panelists.
Here is the opinion piece that appeared in the Thinker after the conference. Please read on. I think you will find it illuminating and encouraging that there are journalism students who still believe in the traditional values of free and independent journalism.
The Chicago Thinker Staged a Media Regime Takedown This Week—Here’s How We Did It
By Audrey Unverferth & Evita Duffy
This week, the University of Chicago’s Institute of Politics (IOP) and The Atlantic magazine hosted a “Disinformation and the Erosion of Democracy” conference, and we have to hand it to IOP Director David Axelrod for bringing in true experts on the subject. The conference featured some of America’s greatest purveyors of disinformation, such as Barack Obama, Brian Stelter, Anne Applebaum, and a few token conservatives, including Jonah Goldberg and Adam Kinzinger.
The media, government, and academia elites speaking at the conference weren’t expecting to be challenged as they self-righteously spewed more lies—but our team at the Chicago Thinker was prepared to hold them accountable.
Student journalists from the Chicago Thinker respectfully listened, asked honest questions, and reported. Our efforts soon went viral, garnering millions of views on social media. We successfully turned the IOP’s “Disinformation Conference” on its head and sparked a national conversation about the corporate media’s disinformation.
If this week has taught us anything, it’s that the mainstream media is incredibly fragile. If a couple of hard-hitting questions from college students can rattle the elites to such a degree, just think what would happen if our peers at other universities follow our lead.
Here’s how we smoked some of America’s most corrupt, partisan liars.
We Recognized Them for Who They Are
Despite its stated objectives, this conference clearly wasn’t dedicated to rooting out disinformation or facilitating substantive debates. It was theater. When the partisan conference speakers referred to disinformation, they were really just referring to information they dislike.
Maria Ressa, a Filipino-American journalist and recent Nobel Prize recipient, suggested to her Wednesday audience that a destructive change to the “information ecosystem” occurred when information was democratized by social media. She lamented that, as a result, “journalists lost the gate-keeping powers.”
Ressa and her peers openly admitted that they want “elite” institutions of academia, government, and journalism to retake the powers they lost to social media.
Many of the conference speakers argued that the government should regulate the algorithms of social media platforms, which would effectively diminish the reach of people and ideas they don’t like. Meanwhile, none of them entertained the idea that a large portion of the country might just be justified in distrusting the narratives of woke academics, dishonest journalists, and criminal government officials and agencies.
Our team recognizes the stakes: if Ressa and her friends successfully entrench themselves as information gate-keepers, genuine truth-seeking will be forced underground or stopped completely. We can’t let them get away with this power grab.
We Respectfully Posed Tough Questions
Unlike our leftist peers at the University of Buffalo (who this week forced a conservative speaker to be escorted out by police from his campus lecture), Chicago Thinker student journalists respectfully posed hard-hitting but genuine questions.
On Wednesday, Senior Editor Daniel Schmidt asked The Atlantic’s Anne Applebaum about the corporate-media and Big-Tech suppression of the New York Post story on the contents of Hunter Biden’s laptop, zeroing in on Applebaum’s rejection of the laptop’s importance.
“Now, of course, we know a few weeks ago The New York Times confirmed that the [laptop] content is real. Do you think the media acted inappropriately when they instantly dismissed Hunter Biden’s laptop as Russian disinformation?” asked Schmidt. “And what can we learn from that in ensuring that what we label as disinformation is truly disinformation and not reality?”
Applebaum dismissed the laptop story, explaining, “My problem with Hunter Biden’s laptop is, I think, [it’s] totally irrelevant. I mean it’s not whether it’s disinformation — I don’t think Hunter Biden’s business relationships have anything to do with who should be president of the United States. So, I don’t find it to be interesting.”
Moderator David Axelrod quickly jumped in, ending the discussion.
On Thursday, staff writer Christopher Phillips asked CNN’s Brian Stelter a pointed question about his network’s journalistic ethics and its history of spreading disinformation. He began by highlighting several of CNN’s most notable fabrications, like the Russian collusion hoax, the Jussie Smollet hoax, and the Hunter Biden laptop cover-up. Phillips then slammed corporate media outlets, implying that the one-sided nature of these “mistakes” reflects their abandonment of journalistic ethics.
On Friday, Managing Editor (and co-author of this piece) Evita Duffy then pressed Sen. Amy Klobuchar on whether her “Health Misinformation” bill will ban saying “there are only two sexes.” The bill in question will punish platforms that use algorithms to promote “health misinformation.” Klobuchar responded by refusing to address the question. “I’m not going to get into what misinformation [should be censored],” Klobuchar said.
The Media Regime Had a Meltdown
Following Schmidt’s viral question, Jonah Goldberg, one of the conference’s token conservatives, said on Thursday that he “doesn’t buy” that the Hunter Biden laptop cover-up had any impact on the 2020 election. This is in spite of the fact that a poll found 16% of Joe Biden voters would not have voted for Biden had they known about the FBI investigation into his family.
When Goldberg received criticism for dismissing the gravity of the Hunter Biden laptop cover-up, which undeniably impacted the 2020 election, he whined on Twitter about being attacked.
He was so rattled that he even started arguing on Twitter with Thinker staff writer and college sophomore Arthur Long, labeling Schmidt’s sincere question about Hunter Biden’s laptop as “trollishness.”
For asking genuine questions, Applebaum blocked the Thinker and Long on Twitter.
In a fitting end to the conference, The Atlantic Editor-in-Chief Jeffrey Goldberg referred to the Thinker’s reporting as a “disinformation” campaign on social media.
In calling our reporting a disinformation campaign, Goldberg proved our point: To the elites, “disinformation” is simply information that the establishment in media and government find inconvenient (or embarrassing).
The Chicago Thinker Will Keep Fighting and So Should You
Throughout our reporting, we did not misinform about anything; we posted clips of Applebaum, Stelter, and Klobuchar’s full responses to our questions.
We highlighted Hunter Biden’s laptop scandal, a story that has been underreported by members of the establishment media, like Applebaum, and needs more attention.
We skewered the establishment media for laughably lecturing on disinformation when they themselves are the greatest purveyors of disinformation and supporters of algorithmic censorship in our country.
Finally, we demonstrated that our generation is not a lost cause. There are many of us, at U of Chicago and beyond, who see the liars for who they are and aren’t willing to surrender the digital public square.
The best way to combat real disinformation is not gate-keeping and algorithmic censorship. It’s asking tough questions and having real conversations.
We students have a lot of power. We are more tech-savvy than the likes of Stelter, Goldberg, and Applebaum. Thanks to the open internet, we’ve been able to expose the regime media and hold it accountable for its own words and actions. Our student-driven, viral reporting is exactly what the elites want to put a stop to, and that’s why we all need to keep fighting.
As we write in our mission statement, “Free discourse—which relies on the litigation of ideas through disagreement and the presentation of counterarguments—will die if conservatives and libertarians are denied a seat at the table or if we fail to speak when it matters most.
The Chicago Thinker refuses to allow that to happen.”
And to that, I say “good on ya, journalism mates.”