The View from Anderson Cooper’s Vanderbilt Privilege, Mansions and Money

According to a new poll released by YouGov, CNN, MSNBC and The New York Times rank among the most polarizing media outlets between the two parties. … Of these … the most polarizing outlet was CNN. 

                                                                                  –  Yahoo News, May 9, 2023

After the sudden resignation of CNN president Jeff Zucker in February 2022, Chris Licht was named his replacement. On his first day, Licht sent a memo to CNN employees announcing his desire to regain the public’s “lost trust” in the “news” media, writing that:

Sadly, too many people have lost trust in the news media. I think we can be a beacon in regaining that trust by being an organization that exemplifies the best characteristics in journalism: fearlessly speaking truth to power, challenging the status quo, questioning ‘group-think’ and educating viewers and readers with straight-forward facts and insightful commentary, while always being respectful of differing viewpoints. First and foremost, … we will be advocates for truth.

Licht also expressed a desire to change negative perceptions of CNN among Republicans. Whereas Democrats’ net trust in [CNN] was +55, Republican was -37, a 92-point difference between the two Parties.

In late 2022, Licht received criticism after CNN terminated the contracts of several long-time correspondents, Brian Stelter, John Harwood, and Jeffrey Toobin.  The Washington Post described this “as evidence of a shift to a less politically charged tone.”   However, Licht only lasted about a year because many CNN employees were unhappy with his actions.  One of these was anchor Anderson Cooper, son of the American artist, author, actress, fashion designer, socialite and extremely wealthy heiress (some reports estimate her worth as 200 million dollars), Gloria Vanderbilt, and the American author, screenwriter, actor and editor Wyatt Emory Cooper.

When questioned about Licht’s diagnosis of CNN as too “liberal,” Cooper, sanctimonously, stated: “I don’t know what Licht’s analysis was.  I don’t have much confidence that I know what he was thinking. … I’m not sure what the point of it all was.”  

Well, that’s obvious, but that is Cooper’s statement about his own cognitive limitations.   It is not often one finds people sanctimoniously admitting their own cluelessness so clearly. 

Since Licht’s points were quite straightforward, the problem must lie very deep but let us try to explain it, slowly, to Cooper again.  Licht thought that CNN had become too “liberal” and lost the trust of many Americans by being disrespectful of “Republicans” and “conservatives” who make up half of the population.  One assumes that having been raised with the privilege of his mommy’s money, and having built on his Vanderbilt privilege to amass his own fortune, Cooper can count, and, therefore, calculate that half of the country doesn’t trust him.   Further, Licht thought one needed to challenge the “liberal” status quo and “group-think” of CNN employees (which tends to emerge when privileged elites only talk to each other and spend too much time looking in the mirror). 

Now that wasn’t that hard, was it?

Philosophers and psychologists are well aware of people unable to see things that are, so to speak, directly in front of their noses.  Psychologists call this confirmation bias, people’s tendency to see what they expect to see and ignore contrary evidence.  For example, people who accepted the ancient Ptolemaic Earth-centred view of the universe literally could not understand the Copernican view that Earth moves around the sun.  After all, Ptolemaic’s could “see” (or thought they could) that Earth stands still while the Sun moves across the sky.

Philosophers might invoke Kuhn’s notion of a paradigm, roughly, a set of universally accepted principles, methods and concepts that determine at a fundamental level how they see the world.  It is extremely hard to dislodge someone’s paradigms because a paradigm even structures the way one sees objections to one’s paradigms.  People who accepted Ptolemy’s earth-centered view of the universe literally could not understand the evidence for Copernicus’ Sun-centred universe because the two theories are, as Kuhn says, “incommensurable”:  One literally cannot translate the words of the one into the words of the other.  Someone who is, in a sense, full of themselves, i.e., full of their own privilege and paradigms, literally cannot see their own biases.  No matter where they look, they see confirmation of their own prejudices because their paradigms automatically filter out contrary information.

Hegel, in his Phenomenology of Spirit (para. 163), describes a certain kind of illusory “explanation”, and puts the point well.  The reason why a certain kind of mindset “affords so much self-satisfaction is just because [it] is, so to speak, enjoying only itself; although it seems to be busy with [reality], it is occupied only with itself.”  When reciting Trump’s alleged evils, Cooper can be so self-satisfied because he is not actually occupied with Trump but is “enjoying” only himself (his own prejudices).  Navel gazing is so much fun … and so easy.  One’s prejudices are so much easier to deal with than a reality that can be quite troublesome. 

            Cooper, given his sense of privilege fed by his elitist confirmation and paradigm biases, after initially having defended Kaitlan Collins CNN’s Townhall with Trump, stated that he personally would not have Trump on his show because “It was disturbing to hear him speak so highly of … insurrectionists who assaulted police officers and our democracy on January 6 [and] spread ridiculous lies about the [2020] election.” This is comical given CNN’s role, along with much of what passes for our “news” media, in promoting a plethora of anti-Trump hoaxes, including the ridiculous multi-year Trump-Russian collusion hoax for which they never had any evidence whatsoever and did much damage to our nation.  When one cannot defend one’s own sins one does not try – they act sanctimoniously and accuse others instead.

Unfortunately, Cooper’s exclusion of Trump conflicts with the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics that enjoins “journalists” to “allow subjects of news cover to respond criticisms and allegations of wrongdoing” and to support open and civil exchange of views, even views [one] find[s] repugnant.” Apparently, that does not apply to Cooper because he grew up with his mommy on the cover of all the fashion magazines.

Further, what “insurrection” is Coope and other media activists talking about?  Jack Smith, who would surely love to charge Trump with insurrection, did not do so:  “It evidently never occurred to the victims of Trump Derangement Syndrome that ‘insurrection’ is a legal term with an actual definition in the U.S. Code.”  If Cooper actually has any real evidence of any Trump-led insurrection, as opposed to a script he recites to the peasants, he should certainly give it to Smith immediately.

There have long been claims that Cooper is associated with the CIA (the same CIA whose former operatives promoted the false idea that the Hunter Biden laptop is Russian disinformation to damage Trump’s presidential campaign right before the 2020 election).  When asked about his links with the CIA Cooper refused to answer.  What does that say?

Cooper can ask the peasants questions, and cavalierly, without evidence, accuse them (and Trump) of insurrection, but when he is asked about his own biases, his Vanderbilt privilege, mansions and money, and perhaps CIA-privilege, exempt him from any need to answer.  Given his (self-assumed) greatness, the rules for the peasants don’t apply to him.

Cooper may have taken Walt Whitman’s remark, “I celebrate myself and sing myself,” a tad to personally.  That sentiment may be fine in a poem but it does not make for a journalist.

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Richard McDonough

Richard Michael McDonough, American philosophy educator. Achievements include production of original interpretation of Wittgenstein’s logical-metaphysical system, original application Kantian Copernican Revolution to philosophy of language; significant interdisciplinary work logic, linguistics, psychology & philosophy. Member Australasian Debating Federation (honorary life, adjudicator since 1991), Phi Kappa Phi.

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