How Two Questions From College Kids Derailed A Big Liberal Disinformation Conference

[Screenshot/Twitter/Nicholas Fondacaro]

Brianna Lyman News and Commentary Writer
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Some of the biggest names in left-wing politics headlined a recent conference at the University of Chicago centered on “disinformation,” but it was two college freshmen who ended up stealing the show.

The university hosted a “Disinformation and the Erosion of Democracy” conference featuring big names like CNN’s Brian Stelter, The Atlantic’s Anne Applebaum and Jeffrey Goldberg, and former President Barack Obama. The conference was largely partisan with the exception of the token conservative, Jonah Goldberg.

Freshman Daniel Schmidt questioned The Atlantic’s Anne Applebaum about Hunter Biden’s laptop, to which the left-leaning journalist quickly dismissed the question.

“So, in 2020, you wrote ‘those outside the Fox News bubble do not, of course, need to learn any of the stuff about Hunter Biden,’ referring to his laptop, of course,” Schmidt began. “A poll later found out that if voters knew about the contents of the laptop, 16% of Joe Biden voters would’ve acted differently. Of course, we know a few weeks ago The New York Times confirmed that the content is real.”

“Do you think the media acted inappropriately when they instantly dismissed Hunter Biden’s laptop as Russian disinformation and what can we learn from that in ensuring that what we label as disinformation is truly disinformation and not reality?” he continued.

Applebaum quickly moved to dismiss the legitimate question.

“My problem with Hunter Biden’s laptop I think is totally irrelevant,” she said. “I mean, it’s not whether it’s disinformation or, I mean, I didn’t think that 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, that would be my problem with that as a main news story.”

Applebaum published a piece in 2020 that a cache of emails purportedly belonging to Hunter’s business partner, Bevan Cooney, was, “on the grand scale of misdeeds committed by politicians and their relatives,” the “kind of thing [that] barely registers.” She alleged the email story was a Republican effort to “undermine Joe Biden’s most important electoral asset: the impression, shared by even those who don’t like the former Vice President, that he is a fundamentally decent person.”

Applebaum also claimed Fox News and other “right-wing conspiracy bubble” members will “dip into the email caches to keep their followers focused on an alternate reality in which Joe Biden is a secret oligarch, his son is an important figure in the Chinese mafia, and LOL nothing matters.”

A clip of Applebaum’s interaction has garnered more than five million views, while Stelter’s segment has almost three million.

Freshman Christopher Phillips then asked CNN’s Stelter about his outlet’s role in pushing disinformation, saying “you’ve all spoken extensively about Fox News being a purveyor of disinformation, but CNN is right up there with them.”

Phillips then noted how CNN “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 as pure Russian disinformation.”

Stelter claimed Phillips was “describing a different channel than the one I watch” but he understands “it is a popular right-wing narrative about CNN.”

The questions took the internet by storm, with the students receiving widespread praise from conservative individuals, such as Cernovich who said “you won’t see stuff like this elsewhere.”

Federalist Editor-in-Chief Mollie Hemingway said she discussed the “brave and important work done this week by the student journalists at @ThinkerChicago, who eviscerated the regime’s current ‘disinformation’ narrative and corrupt propagandists pushing it. KUDOS.”

Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton praised Phillips as a “smart young man” for confronting Stelter.

Corporate media outlets largely avoided the conference despite its overwhelming presence on social media. CBS News published a piece Wednesday focused on Obama’s speech, which focused on the dangers of the “loss of local journalism.” The Chicago Sun-Times published a fairly similar piece.

Both sets of questions took the internet by storm, which begs the following question: how does a conference hosting individuals, like Obama, become defined by two conservative leaning students asking simple questions?

Americans appear to be interested in confronting sheer hypocrisy head on rather than being lectured by those who bear responsibility for the same problems they wish to eradicate.

Eroding democracy may take on several definitions, so perhaps it’s ironic that Obama, who was awarded PolitiFact‘s “lie of the year” in 2013 with his “you can keep it” claim in regards to health insurance, was a keynote speaker discussing eroding trust in democracy.

The Atlantic editor Jeffrey Goldberg, who Rolling Stone described as “one of a number of WMD hawks who failed up after the [Iraq] war case fell apart” also spoke at the conference.

But Goldberg isn’t just known for pushing the Iraq war, this is the same man who claimed former President Donald Trump called Americans who “died in war” “suckers” and “losers.” Goldberg used anonymous sources because he said he was scared of mean tweets. Following severe backlash, Goldberg later admitted using anonymous sources is “not good enough.”

Nobel laureate Maria Ressa posed the audience the question, “what are you willing to sacrifice for the truth?” “Without facts, truth and trust, we have no shared space, and democracy is just a dream,” she continued.

Panelists like Applebaum and Obama, and outlets like CNN (represented by Stelter), all engaged in the push of disinformation of what they deemed to be disinformation — that is, the Hunter Biden laptop story.

When confronted by young students over their involvement, they feign ignorance or pretend as if the repercussions of their blatant lies has no bearing on eroding trust in democracy nor in the quest for truth.