Have you ever wondered what it would feel like to attend a fire prevention speech delivered by an arsonist? Or perhaps a child safety seminar led by a pedophile? Well, that’s exactly what it felt like Wednesday during the University of Chicago’s “Conference on Disinformation and Erosion of Democracy,” featuring some of the greatest promulgators of disinformation and illiberalism in American history.
Former President Barack Obama had the nerve to help open the event, although his administration famously spied on the Donald Trump campaign with a secret court warrant backed by the Hillary Clinton campaign-funded Christopher Steele dossier which, in an ironic twist, was the product of Russian disinformation. Democrats used this disinformation to repeatedly smear President Trump and undermine the integrity of the 2016 election.
Former chief advisor to the Obama administration David Axelrod moderated two of Wednesday’s discussions. To this day, Axelrod still has the gall to repeat the debunked Russian collusion hoax. He even repeated it Wednesday.
To make matters worse, The Atlantic’s Anne Applebaum joined the stage to share her “expert knowledge” on Russian disinformation. When asked pointedly by my Chicago Thinker colleague Daniel Schmidt about whether she thought the media acted inappropriately by dismissing the Hunter Biden story, Applebaum condescendingly responded that she didn’t “find it to be interesting.”
What did she really mean? The Hunter Biden scandal (now even reluctantly acknowledged by the partisan New York Times) didn’t fit Applebaum’s narrative. So it was better left censored and unreported.
And just in case UChicago’s “disinformation” conference couldn’t get more laughably hypocritical, this Thursday and Friday will feature a swath of dishonest left-wing hacks like Brian Stelter, Christopher Krebs, and Amy Klobuchar. There will also be a few non-leftists deemed useful by leftists, like Jonah Goldberg and Adam Kinzinger.
The speaker lineup makes things clear: the conference seeking to combat “disinformation” does just the opposite. It celebrates some of America’s biggest liars as they spread more lies.
Who Are the Arbiters of Truth?
During his Wednesday address, Obama self-righteously claimed that “You have to fight to provide people [with] the information they need to be free and self-governing.” The catch is, who gets to decide which information is good and which information is bad? Obama does. Or, at least, he thinks he and his partisan peers are the special “chosen ones” who should decide what is “disinformation.”
Let’s take a look at the specific “disinformation” Obama is concerned about.
“In our society, you have currently roughly 40% of the country that appears convinced that the current president was elected fraudulently and that the election was rigged,” Obama told his audience, making no mention of the fact that larger percentages of Democrats believed the same thing after 2016.
Americans are entirely justified in questioning the results of the 2020 election. Tech oligarch Mark Zuckerberg spent $419 million to interfere in key states’ election processes. At the same time, Big Tech consistently censored conservative thought leaders. The corporate media, Democrats, and Big Tech all conspired to suppress the Hunter Biden laptop scandal. And we now know that 16% of Biden voters say they would not have voted for Biden had they learned about Hunter’s laptop before election day.
Obama proceeded to lament that “You have 30% to 40, 35% of the country that has chosen not to avail itself of a medical miracle. The development of a vaccine faster than anything we’ve ever seen before, which by the way now has been clinically tested by about a billion people and yet, are still refusing to take it despite extraordinary risks to themselves and their families.”
Once again, Obama used his powerful platform to mock Americans’ genuine concerns. Americans‘ legitimate reasons for questioning Covid injections include vaccine-induced heart issues, the questionable federal approval of the Pfizer vaccine, and rapidly declining vaccine efficacy.
The leftist disinformation police fail to address the concerns of those who distrust the results of the 2020 election and make the personal health decision to reject Covid vaccines. This “disinformation” is simply information they don’t like, so perhaps a better phrase for disinformation is simply inconvenient information. Leftist elites like Obama don’t want to thoughtfully consider ideas they disagree with.
An Elite Power Grab
If the “Disinformation” conference speakers aren’t actually interested in combating disinformation, then you’re probably wondering what their true aims are. Combating “disinformation” is actually code for America’s elite recapturing the gate-keeping powers it lost during the advent of social media.
Maria Ressa, a Filipino-American journalist and recent Nobel Prize recipient, told her Wednesday audience that a destructive change to the “information ecosystem” happened when information started being distributed via social media, resulting in “journalists los[ing] the gatekeeping powers.”
In a similar vein, Applebaum contended that today’s disinformation problem is rooted in Americans’ diminished trust in elite institutions like academia, government, and journalism. According to Applebaum, something needs to be done about this. Namely, she wants average Americans to stop disputing elite narratives:
There’s a whole ecosystem, here at universities, you know, there’s a scientific method. And there are peer-reviewed papers and there are arguments among colleagues. And there is a conversation that leads people to conclude that something is true and you arrive at it through a series of institutions. And that’s true in journalism, it’s true in academia, it’s true in government… and you reach conclusions based on these networks. If you disrupt those networks and make people feel no sense of faith in those networks, they hate universities, they hate journalists, they hate the government, they hate bureaucrats, then you suddenly find that what is true and what is not true is disputed.
Applebaum goes on to claim that these elite institutions need to “recreat[e] communities of trust.”
Many of the regular, “distrustful” Americans Applebaum is describing wouldn’t dispute that they are skeptical of elite institutions. The problem is that Applebaum is not interested in genuinely considering Americans’ reasons for that distrust. Academia is overrun with woke crazies. Journalists repeatedly lie to the American people. And our government agencies and bureaucrats have spied on and abused Americans.
Yet Applebaum somehow can’t even imagine these are valid reasons Americans distrust our institutions. Instead, she wants the government to regulate the algorithms of social media platforms to diminish those inconvenient voices.
One might ask: how is controlling the narrative, as suggested by Applebaum, not a suppression of free speech? Well that’s exactly what it is, but Ressa wants you to believe otherwise.
According to Ressa, “This is not a free speech issue. Don’t believe the lie,” she said (while lying). “This is actually [about] algorithm[s] and the data. This is tech and data. That’s what we need to look at. Look, I can turn to my neighbor and tell a lie, right? You can tell your neighbor a lie, but it won’t get amplified to 10 million people. Right? It’s the distribution that’s the problem… It’s a freedom of reach issue, not a freedom of speech issue.”
Silicon Valley leftists already wield a frightening amount of control, but Ressa doesn’t think it’s enough. Our elites already ban content, people, and even entire platforms. Can you imagine how much the censorship will skyrocket if our government amplifies algorithmic control over our speech? This is undeniably a freedom of speech issue.
Ultimately, Obama perfectly summarized the problem with this entire “disinformation” conference. “It is difficult for me to see how we win the contest of ideas if, in fact, we are not able to agree on a baseline of facts that allow the marketplace of ideas to work,” he said.
Allowing one side to decide what is and isn’t true will turn the digital world into a deceptive mouthpiece for today’s leftist elites. But of course, Obama, Applebaum, Axelrod, and their colleagues aren’t interested in creating a free public square of ideas. What they want, as Obama said, is to win.
*The views expressed in this article solely represent the views of the author, not the views of the Chicago Thinker.
Excellent article backed by facts and both perspectives. It would be really nice if Anne at least acknowledged the misinformation by her side.
That’ll never happen. Not in a million years. Any success the marxest left has, is DUE to misinformation and lies, crossed with enforcement by the unelected administrative state. If they possessed any level of honesty and humility, their faulty narrative would evaporate in seconds.
I might like to add here that there’s another Philipino-American Journalist regularly bumped off AND deplatformed and censored, kinda odd the one mentioned here never brings up Michelle Malkin, an outstanding Reporter who undoubtedly would support YOUR efforts! Good Job, Carry On! Gives a 68 year old Geezer hope the Republic may yet survive the onslaught.
Great article, and outstanding performance by U Chicago students.
Now I wish your administration hadn’t gone woke crazy, but that’s another story.
Ironic how much a daughter of a Congressman-turned-lobbyist and Fox News host, who goes to the most expensive university in the country, just loves whinging about America’s elites. Look in the mirror. You are the elite. You have absolutely nothing in common with the “regular Americans” you claim to speak for.
Your ad hominem attack is ridiculous.
She has as much right as you, a silly progressive, to challenge the orthodoxy of the elites.
In fact, those who have grown up in elite institutions are the best at calling out the hypocrisy.
What orthodoxy? You mean the orthodoxy of claiming that the 2020 election was rigged, or that the covid vaccines are more dangerous than they are? I certainly don’t see her challenging that. She’s no braver than any of the liberal journalists you love to hate on. If anything, her pathetic acquiescence to false Republican narratives about these things, narratives that are perfectly in line with the views of her employer, her colleagues, her friends, and of course, her elite family members, demonstrates that her tired claims about standing up to elites are nothing more than rhetorical sleight of hand. Rather than making any sort of substantive argument or honestly engaging with opposing opinions, she simply insists that any idea that she disagrees with is the opinion of “the elites,” while ignoring the elites funding and supporting her every move.
Notice she didn’t express any agreement with any of the anti-vaccine or 2020 election positions she listed, she simply honestly acknowledged why many conservatives believe those things. This is because the leftist media will not honestly discuss those concerns. Rather they build strawmen of their conservative opposition and beat that to death instead. An honest media would actually explain why people believe the things they do, even if they disagree with their conclusions. Our dishonest media instead pretend that all evidence and logic are on one side of the political isle, and the only reason anyone could disagree is that they are backwards, ignorant troglodytes, or gullible rubes mislead by “disinformation”.
A poor diversion for those of us with reading comprehension. Spare us the disgust at the author’s hypocrisy. Keep that for the environmentalists with beach front homes (BHO) or the liberals who use their positions to line their pockets while preaching the evils of the wealthy (Pelosi, Waters, Biden). The author’s point is sound so she’ll be dismissed by the monopoly.
Whataboutism at its finest. Who cares about people undermining democracy and personally benefiting from outrage when there are environmentalists with beachfront homes?
Of course, she isn’t some gulible brainwashed lefty college student who just swallows whatever comes her way and never bothers to think outside the lefty narrative….so that of course places her well outside the Obama bubble. The elitist lable applies more to the progressive establishment clones — possibly folks like yourself.
Aided and abetted by the democrat media, Obama and leftist democrats became the William Shakespeare of disinformation.
Chicago Thinker Mr Schmidt, Great Worker calling out media organizations!!
It is refreshing to. See young people push back on the “News” Media. Keep up the great work in your attempt to reintroduce American Values!
I can’t think of the words to say I am grateful for the TRUTH!!
Great article!! So encouraging to see a student publication like the Chicago Thinker. Keep up the fantastic work you are doing. In spite of appearances, there are a lot of thinkers in the universities, and your example and your model will spread to a wider audience.
for decadesWhat saddens me is that people such as Obama and Applebaum decry a loss of faith in institutions when they have gone to work each day intending to manufacture and sustain a “narrative” that describes a non-existent world that can easily be unmasked and disproven. What extraordinary hubris to try to foist that narrative on a free citizenry! I won’t question their motives any further, but I marvel at how little they trust their fellow citizens with relevant information.
President Obama and his fan base of over-credentialed but uniquely unqualified sycophantic followers all suffer from the same tragic flaw. As a group, they are seldom right but almost never in doubt, and thus, any discussion of public policy that does not comport with their mostly limited point of view is then easily discarded as misinformation.
I loved this @evitaduffy_1. I will follow you for more! Please keep writing, speaking and never stop!
Thank you for clearly articulating why I was so dismayed and upset reading President Obama’s patronizing remarks yesterday. His complete dismissal of the questions and deep concerns people have over the big Pharma vaccine “ emergency rollout”, and the complete lack of transparency , is shocking to me. He obviously supports mandates and all the forms of coercion that our “ liberal” government has imposed on our country.
Never thought I would vote Republican….
I live in Florida and have never met a woke individual. The vast majority of Americans don’t know any as they are concentrated in cities. Honestly, I can’t comprehend their thought processes.. My ten year old daughter overheard my family discussing “proper pronouns” in the car. She asked us what the pronouns would be for chocolate. Before I could explain she interjected with “Her and She”, making Hersheys. Like her adult family members we think proper pronouns are a joke. We (not her) are concerned with inflation, negative GDP growth, rampant illegal immigration and the high cost of goods and services. Perhaps the Pronoun Proponents should get real jobs.
Maybe the reason you don’t know any “woke” individuals is because this concept of wokeness is a strawman set up by a political party whose success in elections hinges on paranoia and manufactured threats? Just a thought. The crazy college liberals who attempt to cancel people for using the wrong pronouns or whatever are the tiniest of tiny minorities–I certainly haven’t met one either, and I’m a college student. The very few exchanges regarding pronouns that I have actually witnessed were as simple as a “sorry–I prefer (he/she/they),” and that was the end of that.
“Y’all be careful, and don’t trust anyone’s misinformation but ours!”
– Ex President Barack Hussein Obama
AppleBAUM, Rosen, Cohen, Stein, Gold, Silver, Diamond, Berg… Oy vey, better not start engaging in any pattern recognition with the names of these people in media, academia, finance, and government actively destroying western civilization and engaging in genocidal immigration practices.
When are you people going to put two and two together?
You people??? What do you mean, “You people”???
J/k. I agree, but God forbid anyone make any sort of connections with the names you listed and the country that almost intentionally sunk the U.S.S. Liberty when they were supposed to be an ally of the U.S., bcs they didn’t want any witnesses to their dirty war… Smh..
A finer collection of BS artists anywhere would not be possible. The Zero is still an empty suit. The potato Stelter is still a stuffed shirt. Appelbaum is married to a Polish politician, so she’s learned non-answers by osmosis. The rest of the collection are embarrassingly funny. I’m surprised they agreed to be roasted. Good job Thinker!
Her Husband, Radoslaw Sikorski, is not much respected in Poland. Used to be a Minister of Foreign Affairs, then he was a Speaker of Parliament.. He does not respect his own country, speaks about Poland in grossest language (privately), and in public (EU forum) asks for sanctions against democratically elected Polish government.
Judith, I’m sure you’re from a liberal Jewish family, as am I. It’s not easy to rethink the assumptions you grew up with and are shared by everyone you know, such as that “our” side is the smart, compassionate side, and “their” side is the side of ignorance, intolerance, etc. But when you look objectively and are willing to consider the arguments for both sides, it’s amazing what you can see. Take Trump for example — he’s so easy to caricature, but consider what he actually did, especially in contrast with the current President. Who has been a better friend to Israel (for me, a big issue)? Who has been a bigger opponent of tyrants in Russia, China, Iran? Whose policies have proved better for the economy, for jobs, for small businesses? You can answer those for yourself, but to me, the answers are obvious. I’ll just say, narratives are comfortable when they fit your preconceptions, but we need to seek the truth, even when it may not be comfortable.
Just FYI, the economy has been doing much better under Biden . Statistically anyway. In the far right imagination where the statistics are not facts, maybe not. Look it up.
Goodness, you need to go back to school. The economy grew under Biden because it came from ZERO due to the lockdowns. Of course, productivity was going to increase, and unemployment was going to come down drastically. Trump had 3 great years of economic activity until the pandemic hit. No wars. No high crime. No Inflation. No high gas prices. Middle east peace agreements. Instead of insulting a nuclear country like Russia and North Korea he TALKED to them in spite of the LIES from the Liberal Media and RINOs about him being in bed with Russia. IF Trump was corrupt, Biden is the Godfather.
Great and well informed questions by University of Chicago students. As a retired AP High School teacher it gives me hope. evitapduffy please keep writing. We need you. Our young people need you.
This is the best thing I’ve read in a very long time. I marvel daily at the ease in which those on your lecture panel twist the truth and lay the outright lies they spew back onto the very people trying to have a voice in the matters they are now dictating to us. Obama’s phrase “contest of ideas” certainly demonstrates he has no interest at all in allowing the “narrative” to be questioned. Thank you for this Evita Duffy. I will be checking in regularly to read more from you. I would follow you on twitter but I have chosen not to be a part of that fiasco.
Anne Applebaum is extremely wrong and needs to keep her opinion to herself! Young Mr. Daniel just put a nail in her journalistic coffin. Bye bye you old crow (I can say that, I’m older than she is). We want a return of the fresh, honest, unbiased, journalist. I don’t want you or anyone to tell me what to think or how to think. I believe I have that handled all on my own. Daniels question was relevant and investigative. It was clearly articulated. Well done Mr. Daniel Schmidt. Never let them tell you what to think. Stand your ground and you’ll have a great career! Daniel, your time is now. I look forward to seeing more of your work.
I used to be under the impression that the university of Chicago was a solid institution. Sure everyone has the right to express their opinions, but comon your are ridiculously incongruous with proven, verifiable reality. I can only conclude that this newsletter is all about getting the attention of the right wing nuts so you can run for office or get some of that propaganda money to help indoctrinate America’s youth into the follow the leaders bc it’s cleaner that way. No need to get into this crazy liberal elite world of facts and complicated realities.
It also seems that you have misunderstood what Obama said in your quote at the end of this piece. If I might offer clarification on this. Without a basis of what is factual there cannot be any meaningful discussion about the country. A basis is, for example, the dictionary definition of terms. The sources of information that everyone can agree is not biased as the information is produced in the same way no matter what political group is in power. For example the gdp numbers, the unemployment rate or recorded words of people played back. This is the kind of basis that the Republicans no longer accept if it doesn’t help them or hurt the democrats. Like you wrote that somehow the facts are an elite plot of some sort.
If it makes you feel better, your opinion is the majority opinion of actual UChicago students. No one here takes it seriously because they’re pretty transparent about being, well, exactly what you said.
And one more thing about a basis of factual information as a prerequisite of meaningful debate. Here are the facts about the indictments, confessions and convictions of all the players involved in the Russian ‘hoax’
Regarding facts as a basis for discussion: if you were interested in an honest debate about the Russian collusion hoax, you would not cite a four year old article. Since then, the Horowitz report came out, citing seventeen significant errors and omissions in the Crossfire Hurricane investigation. FBI lawyer Kevin Clinesmith pled guilty to forgery. Steele’s bs artist “primary source” has been indicted for lying to the FBI. Clinton campaign lawyer Sussmann will be tried next month for lying to the FBI about his role in the Alfa Bank “secret server.”
I can make a strong case that the Clinton campaign ran two disinformation operations against the FBI, then “leaked” the FBI’s investigations to the press. Do you want to debate that?
This is a breadth of fresh air to see our institutions have not taken over all of our young minds. My wife and I are retired and on a regular basis ask ourselves what is happening to our country. Why so much hate? Civility and open discussion will most often keep us in the middle. Please keep challenging the status quo. If we all conform to one side creativity, love and most important freedom will be lost.
Excellent article and well articulated views.
I wonder though why this platform picked UChicago for these brainwashing and scolding efforts!
The ironic thing is that you’re proving their claims right. The Chicago Thinker has, since the beginning, been a huge spreader of misinformation, whether that be about vaccines, abortion, the 2020 election/January 6 riots, etc. Dismissing accusations of being disinformation as disinformation just doesn’t work when the facts aren’t on your side. The only thing that’ll really change thing is if you stick to fact-based reporting and reasoned analysis, as you claimed when you first founded this website.
Well done – I review many articles each day. Your work is excellent. Saw some video of Thinkers questioning the elite – also excellent. Keep up the good work.
I’m new to this site and very impressed with all of you. I’m not near as smart as all of you are but I do know how to discern the truth. Thank you for calling them out on their condescending attitudes and answers and unrelentless barrage of misinformation.
Was this “conference” an Axelrod concoction? There was a time when UC faculty were hired for their gravitas instead of their gravel. No more, apparently.
As for Obama’s – Obummer to me – appearance, is this in fulfillment of the thirty million UC is giving to the Obama Foundation, a discovery coming from the Protect Our Parks’ lawsuit against the destruction of historic Jackson Park by the 200+ foot selfie glorifying the “one we’ve all been waiting for”? Speaking fees are really getting out of hand, aren’t they?
Build this monstrosity and during the spring and fall migrations along the Mississippi Flyway, of which the Chicago lakefront is an integral part, the dead birds will stack up at the base.
By the way, isn’t The Atlantic now funded in part by the Gates Foundation?
More than ever, it’s vital to check who’s financing whom. Or, if you’re criticizing someone, whose ox have you gored? Dishonesty reigns.
Is this the same Democratic consultant, David Axelrod who lived in the same building as Sharon Bialek, the woman who accused Presidential Candidate Herman Cain of Sexual Misconduct? Hmmmm?
Well thought and articulated article! Keep up your good work!
Our country needs people like you.
I’ve subscribed and I look forward to reading many more pieces! Brava 👏
Don’t forget, Obama spied on the Chancellor of Germany as well as pretty much everyone else on the planet!
We both grateful for and proud of you! You are brave, brilliant, honest and very timely in our nation. Fire it up!
Well done! Keep up the great work! Makes my heart smile that there are bright and articulate thinkers in the younger generations. Keep asking questions, if they are too tough for the subject matter experts even better!
Congrats and welcome to the fight! Well done! Keep up the great work! Thank you for calling them out on their barrage of misinformation.
I heard Evita Duffy on the Federalist podcast. Happily, she said that she and her colleagues don’t bother with the sniping dissent that surrounds them. They have their work ahead and they are straight at it. “Outthink the Mob”. I love it.
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