‘Democracy is not a reality show’: CNN’s Brian Stelter dares to question media’s role in political circus

(Video: CNN)

Following the unwatchable absurdity of the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, CNN’s Brian Stelter decided to reflect on the media’s role in trivializing American “democracy” and turning it into what can only be called a “reality show.”

Naturally, this rare moment of introspection was not spontaneous but was instead prompted by another individual who is himself not widely noted for searching self-reflection. During the dinner, President Joe Biden implored the press to take its duties a little more seriously and to stop treating democracy as a spectacle.

“There was no laughing, no gawking, no selfie-taking when Biden said this to the press,” Stelter said during the opening of his program “Reliable Sources,” before playing a clip of Biden’s speech.

“The First Amendment grants the free press extraordinary protection. But with it comes, as many of you know, a very heavy obligation to seek the truth as best you can,” the president had said in his remarks.

“Not to inflame or entertain, but illuminate and educate. I know it’s tough, and I’m not being solicitous. The industry is changing immensely. There’s pressure on you all to deliver heat, instead of shed light, as technology changes so much. The system is changing, but it matters. No kidding, it matters. Truth matters. American democracy is not a reality show. It’s not a reality show.”

After the clip, Stelter weighed in.

“America’s democracy is not a reality show,” he said, “but is the media guilty of making it seem that way?”

“All the ‘reality show’ stuff kind of paused,” Stelter explained later on in the segment, “because there was such a serious conversation from both Biden and [host Trevor] Noah, about the state of democracy…To me it felt like this was President Biden trying to talk about democracy versus autocracy.”

At this point, CNN contributor David Zurawik chimed in.

“From the time he announced his candidacy,” Zurawik observed, “he’s been saying that, and it’s one of his keenest insights. And people kind of ignored it, now we see what’s going on.”

Indeed we do. We also see that Biden, the relentless champion of democracy versus autocracy, has recently instituted an Orwellian “Disinformation Governance Board,” and that it is on his watch that political opponents have been jailed in gulag-like prisons and sentenced without due process.

Zurawik continued: “[T]he key phrase was that you just had up there: ‘democracy is not a reality show.’ That’s what’s wrong with the culture.”

“But don’t we treat it like that?” Stelter interjected, “aren’t we part of the problem?”

“Uh, I try not to,” Zurawik responded, “and I think you try not to on this show. A lot of us do—but a lot of people don’t. That’s the problem…that’s the other problem with it.”

Unfortunately, the earnest nature of Stelter’s debate was belied by the fact that they were reporting on the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, which very much treats democracy like a reality show or Hollywood gala, and was highlighted by the attendance of such vacuous “celebrities” as Kim Kardashian and Pete Davidson.


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Todd Jaquith


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