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The Trump Riots, One Year Later; Some Rioters Say They Were Misled By Pro-Trump Media; David Frum: Trumpism Is Becoming More Like Fascism; Debunking Dishonest Critiques Of The Media; How The Facebook Reckoning Could Shape 2022. Aired 11a-12p ET

Aired January 02, 2022 - 11:00   ET



BRIAN STELTER, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, happy 2022! Let's make this a great year.

I'm Brian Stelter and this is RELIABLE SOURCES, where we examine the story behind the story, and we figure out what is reliable.

This hour, New Year's resolutions for the news business and how you can be a part of them.

Plus, the disinformation economy and how some experts are trying to disrupt it. David Frum is here with insights.

And later, Kara Swisher is here. She's talking about what's coming down the pike from the tech platforms, from the streaming wars, to the metaverse.

All of that and more in the hour ahead.

But, first, the New Year brings an anniversary that some want to forget, that some are actively denying and that others are determined to remember. The one-year anniversary of the Trump riot is coming up on Thursday.

In the words of CNN's analyst Steve Vladeck, there are still a stunningly large number of people who don't appreciate how close we came to a cataclysmic, constitutional and democratic crisis on January 6th. Or he said how alarming it is that a number of states are trying to make such a coup that much easier to pull off next time.

Yeah, the story of January 6th just keeps getting bigger and bigger, even though it keeps shrinking and shrinking at pro-Trump media outlets. Their line started right away, the minimizing, the denying, the blame shifting. And their fictions have made it harder to stay focused on the facts.

So we're going to devote a good time of time this morning to the facts, to remembering, to the role of the media and to making sense of aftermath. 1/6 is part of an anti-democratic movement in the U.S. but only part.

As political reporter Kyle Cheney observed recently, there's a five- alarm fire happening in real time. But far from ignoring, the political press has covered it with urgency. The facts we are uncovering are alarming and deserve focus and prioritization by reporters covering our small D, democratic government. This is, as he said, one of the defining stories of our era.

January 6th was a physical manifestation of virtual radicalization, online rage showed up at the steps of the U.S. Capitol -- and some state capitols, too. Let's not forget about that.

So let's go back to that day and look at how it was shown on your TV in real time.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Throngs of protesters climbing the steps on the western side of the Capitol.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A couple moments ago, with Donald Trump saying let's go to the Capitol.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Trump rally goers continue to make their way up to the Capitol in this protest. The president said something big was going to happen.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: This is a moment I never saw in my life. These individuals just rushed through security.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump could stop this with one tweet, but instead he's on Twitter attacking Vice President Pence for refusing to go along with his attempt at a coup.

We're only seeing some of the violence on the outside of the Capitol building. You have more information about what's going on inside in this armed insurrection and this attempted coup.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: I do not believe the people who instigated this crime are going to be the solution today. The solution today is the rest of us.

NORAH O'DONNELL, CBS NEWS ANCHOR: We are witnessing history and what can only be described as national disgrace.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Chaos and lawlessness striking at the heart of American democracy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Improvised explosive devices found, several people injured, offices vandalized, windows smashed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was an insurrection. It was domestic terrorism. It was violence. It was illegal and the president of the United States said he loved it.


BLITZER: So let's begin with two reporters who were there that day and are still processing it one year later. Grace Segers was a reporter for CBS News on Capitol Hill. She's now a

staff writer for "The New Republic". Hunter Walker was working for Yahoo at the time. He's now the author of a Substack newsletter "The Uprising" and contributor to "Rolling Stone."

Welcome to you both.

Grace, does the existence of this anniversary bring back some unwelcomed, unwanted thoughts and feelings?

GRACE SEGERS, STAFF WRITER, THE NEW REPUBLIC: I think it does. It's hard to realize it was a year ago already. On one hand, it feels like it wasn't that long ago at all but it also feels like it's been a million years. So it's definitely offering an opportunity to look back at that time, see how I was feeling at the moment, sort of interact with other people who were there and knowing we were all feeling the same thing right now, this sort of disbelief already a year has gone by and here we are.

STELTER: And we're still learning more about the attack and still processing what it meant to the country and to our lives.


So, Hunter, is there a disconnect between the people who were there that day in D.C. and the people who were not? You know, someone like who only watched it TV, will I ever really get it?

HUNTER WALKER, CONTRIBUTOR, ROLLING STONE: You know, I think this was a really unique incident in part because when it happened during the pandemic. This was a pre-vaccination moment. A lot of the press corps was working from home, remotely and unless they were Capitol Hill press corps like Grace or someone like myself who went out to cover the protests, they didn't see this firsthand.

And while, you know, we were there on scenes, due to the crowds and due to the law enforcement response, cell phones were jammed. So there was a bit of delay also in that footage getting out.

STELTER: That's a great point.

WALKER: And I think that distance, coupled with the fact we see active attempts to deny the reality of what occurred sort of prevented people from realizing what happened that day. And what I found, and I know this from myself and in talking, there's a formidable group of reporters who were there that day and lean on each other and talk to each other, I also talk to members of the capitol staff and law enforcement and members of the capitol police and we're all still dealing with that and feeling like we need to convey to others how serious it was.

I mean, just one example, there are still members of the U.S. Capitol Police out with injuries that they suffered that day.

STELTER: From a year ago?

WALKER: Uh-huh.


And some journalists had been candid about PTSD and trauma, we're going to get into that.

But on top of that day, and the cell service, and the lack of full awareness, I think it's important to remember it didn't look on TV as bad as it actually was. And that's not the fault of any television network or any producer or anything. It's just -- most of the live shots were far from away. We didn't see from inside the Capitol the attacks on police.

There were only a few videos that came out on the day. It took several days to reckon with just how violent this was and several weeks to learn about the security failures and all of the rest.

So, in other words, it was worst than it looked on live TV and that's why people like you have been telling people what really happened.

WALKER: I mean, what hallmark of posttraumatic stress disorder is having flashbacks and clear memories. For one moment that haunts me is the moment I was on the phone with my editor and I was a White House correspondent. So, I started that morning covering Trump. I was there at the ellipse.

You know, in the final 120 words of his speech, that's when over an hour, he told the crowd to march to the Capitol. I just kind of went with them. When I got to the buildings, the barricades had already been breached. I saw everyone crawling over the inaugural stand, but it took a moment for me to realize people were inside.

I got a call to the my editor and the moment I hung up from that call, and it's a simple, stupid thought, the thing that rang in my head as I looked in one of the windows was this is bad, because it was immediately apparent to me that shooting could break out from either side at any moment, just because people had breached such a secure building and those of us who work as a reporter in D.C. know how seriously law enforcement takes that.

So, I was so aware of the possibility of gunfire and trampling in addition to the violence that went out around me, and frankly, I mean, the police officers talked about this in the July hearing with the select committee, they held back from shooting because they knew how dangerous that was. And that's among, including the bombs not going off, a series of small miracles that prevented this from being as deadly as it could have been.

STELTER: To become even worse.

Grace, do you have some of the same memories of fearing of -- you know, of fearing for your life during that day?

SEGERS: You know, it's interesting because I was actually inside the building. I was one of those people who was inside the building as Hunter just mentioned, and so for me, I was in the Senate chamber. We're not allowed to have electronics inside the chamber, so even after we had been locked into the chamber after the breach at the Capitol and after Vice President Pence had been evacuated, I was told off for having my laptop out. So there were a few minutes I wasn't on my phone, I wasn't on my laptop. None of us were in the reporters' gallery, and we just really didn't know what was going on.

Now every time I go into the Senate chamber, into the press gallery overlooking the floor of the Senate, looking over where the senators conduct their daily business, I do think about that, every single time I go in. I notice the seat I had been sitting in and just for a flash of a moment, I remember being there on January 6th when we were locked in before we were evacuated.

And it was very different for us on the inside because we just really didn't know how bad it was until afterwards. It's interesting because a lot of the worst of it is really in hindsight that we realize how bad it was and how much worse it really could have been.


STELTER: Which is why there has to continue to be reporting and information about this.

Grace, you wrote for "Poynter" at the end of January last year, you said, sometimes I'm fine. Sometimes I want to sob for hours. Sometimes I just want to sleep.

So, that sounds to me like trauma. That sounds like PTSD.

Do you feel like you still experience that?

SEGERS: I do think so to a certain extent. There's definitely still reactions that I feel and I go to the Capitol on an almost daily basis and every time I go to the Capitol, I think about that experience that I had on January 6th. Not only that I had, but that my colleagues had, my fellow reporters, lawmakers, Capitol police, justify staffers.

It can be difficult sometimes to come to terms with that, and as time goes on, it gets a bit easier to move forward from it. But I do feel as if it is something that's always going to stay with me, no matter how long it is.

STELTER: Hunter, is that true for you as well?

WALKER: You know, well, I had an experience in my life with a really bad car accident where I was diagnosed with PTSD. This was as a 21- year-old in 2005, and I have been really grateful for this as I've been dealing with January 6th.

STELTER: To know the signs of PTSD.

WALKER: Exactly. Because I had been through treatment, you know, I knew what it is, and, frankly, one of the things I learned is that one of the most important things is being aware of your PTSD, and you have these unnatural mood swings, flashbacks and other feelings, sort of saying, okay, this is my PTSD. But what great is touching on is really, really important. I'm from

Brooklyn and I'm very proud of that but for the past five years I live in D.C. as a reporter and Washington ins my home. This is a place that can be an unreal boogieman for much of the country.

STELTER: Right, right. Washington, they pretend to hate it, yeah.

WALKER: Exactly. But it's our city, you know? So, for example, this morning when I got on the train to come down here to see you, Brian, I was looking at the Capitol belt. My parents recently came down to visit me and we were near it and I remember thinking to myself, man, I can't wait until I can look at this and not feel sad, because for me, every time I see that building that I was once so happy to live near and proud of it, it just brings back my thoughts to the moment I called my wife while I was in that crowd just to tell her I love her, because I didn't know if I was coming back home.

And I think, you know, for those of us in D.C., this hits home on multiple levels. Yes, there were -- the people who were there but also this was our city, this was our home that was under attack.

STELTER: So, then how do you feel when you hear the denialism, when you read the lies to try to whitewash that day?

WALKER: I mean, it's just been stunning to me, because for me, being in that crowd, it was so clear what I was seeing, a violent attack on the U.S. government, an act of terrorism, an anti-democratic attempt to overturn a free and fair election.

And I expected that there would be immediate outrage in coverage. Instead, we've seen silence. I mean, what's the ribbon for January 6th? You know, what is the hashtag?

STELTER: Well, that's interesting, what's the ribbon? What's the hashtag? You're saying when there is a terror attack in this country, there are certain things that happen and they didn't happen after the riot.

WALKER: And we've been inured to violence slowly over the past couple of years. I mean, I'm 37, I remember Columbine, the nation almost stopped. In the steady stream of mass shootings and other incidents including political violence like the 2016 congressional baseball shooting, like what happened to Gabby Giffords, we haven't stopped and really taken stock in these moments in a way that we're used to but even by those short attention spans standards.

You know, we didn't have the three days of thinking about the Capitol. We never had the ribbon, the normal morning we might associate with something like that.

STELTER: Well, this is why --

WALKER: And then as you point out, we had active attempts to deny it occurred at all. For me what that's done, you know, seeing this, knowing how serious it is and watching it be denied has almost made me want to stick to the story and even more and made me mission-driven in my approach to showing everyone everything I can about what happened that day.

STELTER: Right. Grace, is this why accountability is so important?

SEGERS: Oh, for sure. I think it's really important to continue looking at this problem, not letting it go, looking at the larger causes of what happened on January 6th and not just what happened on the day itself, although that's really important, it's really important to look at the failures that led to these specific moments of violences that led to the breaches.


It's important to look at all of these small things but it's also very important to look at the larger causes and then look at the relationships between members in Congress itself. I remember as Hunter was talking, thinking about how we really had no time to process what was going on. As soon as the Capitol building was cleared on January 6th that evening, we just went right back to work.

And that's understandable, that's what had to happen because the electoral votes needed to be counted. It needed to happen for our democracy, for our country. But it also is just incredible that all of us, reporters, lawmakers, staffers alike, all of us just went back to work as if nothing happened.

I think it's important for all of us to have personal accountability as well to look at what happened to us, what happened between these relationships between members of Congress and to look at it on a personal level as well as a professional level.

STELTER: Ahead, the conspiracies, the prosecutions and the cover-ups.

Ryan Reilly, Nicole Hemmer, David Frum are all coming up in a moment.


STELTER: Welcome back to RELIABLE SOURCES, where we are analyzing 1/6 one year later and the role of the media in it all.

With us now is Ryan Reilly, senior justice reporter covering the DOJ for "HuffPost". He's writing a book on the FBI January 6th manhunt. The working title is "Sedition Hunters".

And also with me, Nicole Hemmer, associate research scholar at Columbia University and author of "Messengers of the Right."

Ryan, you're tracking the prosecutions day by day. What are the rioters say? What they are admitting in court? How are they blaming pro-Trump media for riling them up?

RYAN REILLY, SENIOR JUSTICE REPORTER, HUFFPOST: A lot of them. Recently, we saw this letter from Robert Scott Palmer (ph) that sort of went through how he realized he was lied to by and called them tyrannical and was trying to hold on to power unlawfully when now he realizes he was misled, he was lied to.


And we've seen that in the case of Danny Rodriguez, the rioter who actually jammed a Taser into the neck of Officer Michael Fanone on January 6th and when he was picked up by the FBI, we see in his confession, he realized he got caught up in this, didn't believe they were going to take over the Capitol and actually sort of take over the country and called himself so stupid for believing that. So, you know, we see this theme where a lot of rioters are telling the court and judges they are misled.

And judges have been willing to accept that up to a certain point and realizing a lot of people who are the most morally responsible for this are not going to be held the most legally responsible in the end. It's going to be of on small pawns who are, often, actually being held accountable.

STELTER: Tell me why Tucker Carlson's name keeps coming up in your reporting.

REILLY: Yeah. So, Tucker Carlson, one of the first things I always see when I go to the Facebook pages of a lot of these insurrectionists, posts from Tucker Carlson. It's either reshare from someone else. Sometimes it's Don Jr., sometimes it's Benny Johnson with Turning Points USA. A lot of these are often memes shared of Tucker's show.

In one instance, it was actually really fascinating because last month in December, Tucker Carlson went through and said, hey, here's this individual. Who is this individual in the red paint? He's on the frontlines.

And Tucker Carlson had a January 6th defense attorney on who was accusing this individual who had his face painted red and wearing a Keep America Great Again hat as being an agent provocateur, being an undercover law enforcement officer.

That's not the case, as I reported, it turns out this is just a guy who was a little bit on the edge there and kind of runs around Cardinals stadium in St. Louis during Cardinals' home games and apparently during away games, he will run around the empty stadium, yeah, but that's -- so that's who that individual is and he's a huge fan of Tucker Carlson. He posted all of these posts after January 6th explaining his entire journey and explaining that he thought the election was stolen.

So everything that sort of lines up with this theory of these sort of -- these either people who are secretly BLM or Antifa or going undercover to be Trump supporters just doesn't make any sense. We've seen repeatedly over and over it was disproven.

These are actually people who believed the big lie, people who believe that the election was stolen and they're taking what they see in their minds as justifiable action in order to respond to that what they see as the crime of the century as been described to them by their leader, by Donald Trump.

STELTER: I feel like that's why as a psychological level, this remains such a big story. There's not a lot of examples like this in history, Nicole, of a mass delusion hurting thousands of people. According to polls, millions of others claimed they also believed Trump won.

We're in chartered territory a little bit in America where because of Facebook, because of Fox, because of all these, you know, these media outlets, we're experiencing a mass delusion event and in January 6th it happened in real life but it kind of continues in virtual life.

So, what are the roots? What do we know from the research? What are the actual roots of denialism?

NICOLE HEMMER, AUTHOR, "MESSENGERS OF THE RIGHT": So, the denialism is very much rooted in kind of a desire not to be pinned with something that was so horrific. Remember, the reactions as things were happening on January 6th? This real horror that was happening across both sides of the aisle from conservatives and Republicans as well as Democrats and liberals, people who don't identify politically.

But that horror had a partisan vector, right? They were people who were responsible for this and Trump supporters and people within the administration. And so, the need to distance yourself from responsibility for that crime, for that sin against the country, for that terrorism is a big driver.

STELTER: So it's like a face-saving move. That's immediately the Laura Ingrahams of the world talk about Antifa instead, to save face for their movement.

HEMMER: Absolutely, to save face and to save face for Donald Trump to reclaim some good higher ground. It's pretty much the same thing Donald Trump went through when Donald Trump was nominated, where you had so many people who came out on the right who said he does not represent our believes, he's dangerous.

And all of that recognition disappeared pretty quickly once he became the nominee and once he became president. So there's a history of amnesia about the things that people once knew were bad.

STELTER: Amnesia, right, right.

So, Joshua Benton of Nieman Lab wrote this on Twitter the other day. He said, an accurate cultural memory of that day, January 6th, needs to be imprinted onto the American psyche. It's important for this to have an accurate cultural memory.

I agree, but can I be cynical, Nicole?


HEMMER: Please.

STELTER: I don't think that's possible. I don't think there will ever be a shared agreed-upon narrative of January 6th.

HEMMER: No, I don't think it will either because it served partisan purposes not to have achievement. There are too many incentives for distancing the right of January 6th for that narrative to hold.

I mean, it is something we've seen in history before. We saw it at the end of the civil war, this call for reconciliation between the North and the South and that reconciliation required denying that the south had done anything wrong. And that myth lived in the United States for 100 years.

STELTER: Is there a real parallel you think to this?

HEMMER: I do. I think that Donald Trump is the new lost cause.

STELTER: The new lost cause.


STELTER: As we head into 2022, whether he runs for president again, that he's going back to what was stolen, that's what is animating his movement now.

HEMMER: Very much so, and not just that it was stolen but there's a whole class of conservatives who are being held as political prisoners. I think it's important to recognize just how much the right sees itself as a victim of January 6th rather than the perpetrator.

STELTER: Ryan, I think one of the more hopeful angles of this story as it evolves is the role of citizen hunters, the people you're writing about, these amateur investigators who help the FBI find the criminals. Tell us why that's so interesting to you in the past year.

REILLY: Yes, I mean, because it is really average people who have taken it upon themselves because they were so alarmed and so worried about what happened January 6th because they saw it as an attack on their country, which it was, they really got the motivation to go out and hold these people accountable.

You know, I think the January 6th committee will get into some of the issues why the FBI wasn't prepared that day. I was talking to people a week after the election of 2022, an FBI informant saying this is going in a bad direction.

But, really what we -- so figuring out why the FBI wasn't prepared is going to be a big question that's going to loom over the next couple of years. But really in the meantime, a lot of these sedition hunters are trying to make up for the work the FBI sort of lost there and figuring out all of these people who went into the capital and attacked law enforcement officers has become this really motivating force for them.

You know, I think one thing people really have to recognize is we're only a partial part of the way there. We're very much in the beginning stages of this. There's more than 2,500 who entered the Capitol. And if you go on the FBI's website, there are upwards of 500 people who are wanted mostly for attacks outside of the Capitol. So, we're about a quarter of the way there.

STELTER: Wow. REILLY: So we have over 700 people charged now at this point but

really it's going to be a long way up and I think these sedition hunters are inspiring a lot of people to keep on this and make sure especially those people who committed violence on Trump's behalf ever held accountable.

STELTER: And look, one response to denialism and memory hauling is pursue the truth even more aggressively.

Ryan, Nicole, thank you both.

HEMMER: Thanks.

STELTER: Coming up later this hour -- some New Year's resolutions for the news media.

But, first, David Frum is here with a message about American democracy and the F word -- fascism.




STELTER: Hey, welcome back to RELIABLE SOURCES, I'm Brian Stelter.

Was January 6 of last year, the end of something or the beginning of something? David Frum says if you shrug it off, loose shrug off the riot, then you've already accepted and enabled the next one.

Frum is a writer for The Atlantic and the author of "Trumpocalypse." In a past life, he was a speechwriter for George W. Bush. David, thanks for joining me.


STELTER: You wrote about halfway through the year that as people try to justify January six, as Trump allies try to justify it, we're moving toward fascism, that Trumpism is moving toward fascism. Do you still feel that way now about a year later?

SPRUM: The Trump -- what is fascism? What do we mean when we say that? In my -- to my way of thinking, fascism is a popular movement that justifies violence in the name of some kind of overthrow of outdated institutions and to create some kind of national regeneration.

Well, that's what you hear more and more from the people who are minimizing. This -- there isn't accepted -- they're not horrified by the violence anymore. They're increasingly accepting it.

And they're accepting, too, that our -- that our institutions, the institutions of the United States, are so defective, that they need to be overthrown and rebuild and renewed in some radical new way with violence always in the background as the tool by which this will be done. STELTER: So certainly, there are conversations about that here on CNN and on MSNBC, but do you think the rest of the national news media is taking the aftermath of January six seriously enough? Is there enough focused coverage on this?

SPRUM: Well, it's difficult to keep up. I mean, that's been the story since 2015. I mean, there's a scandal, and then another scandal, and then another scandal, there's an outrage, and then another outrage and then another outrage.

We kept saying through the Trump presidency, that the motto -- at least the beginning of the mantra that many people used was the phrase, this is not normal. This is not normal. But the truth is now we have to accept this is now normal.

This is now normal. And it's not normal, in the sense of justifiable or laudable or acceptable, it's normal in the sense of this is our reality. This is what is going on.

And the central question -- a central question of American politics for the future is going to be in 2022 and 2024, what -- do you accept this?

And if you don't accept it, what will you do to keep the country true to its democratic and liberal traditions?

STELTER: This is the question I get from viewers. Every time we talk about generally six, democracy -- dangers to democracy, I constantly hear from viewers all the time, they say OK, we know the problem. You keep telling us the problem. When are you going to tell us what to do?

When are you going to tell us the solutions? Now, I don't know if I can, David, can you?

FRUM: The solution as always is citizen involvement. And the question I get that -- like you with what we do, the question I often get is are you optimistic or are you pessimistic?

And my response to that always is I don't accept those categories, because to be optimistic or pessimistic is to accept that the future already exists, that you can see it, and have an opinion about it, make a prediction about it.


FRUM: But that the future is what we make and we make together. So whenever I get that question, I have to turn it back on the questioner.

OK, we're -- if we're agreed, what will you do? Because you're the actor here, it is a democracy still, if you can keep it, what will you do? And it begins with engagement. It begins with political participation.

Not just the single act of voting but a real commitment to participating in the institutions of your society and not accepting, for example, not accepting lies as legitimate or normal or tolerable behavior.

STELTER: Even if the line is normal, we can make sure we're not numb to it, we can make sure we're aware of it.

I like that spirit for this New Year, David, that, you know, it's up to everybody individually to do their part.

FRUM: Everybody individually, and then everybody collectively. All people of goodwill anyway. And this is unlike the 9/11 trauma, this is an interior challenge. It makes it in some ways more difficult and in many ways more painful.

STELTER: Yes. I want you to stick around, David, more questions for you after the break. Also coming up here on the program, Kara Swisher, with a preview of what to expect from tech -- from big tech in 2022.


STELTER: Trust in media is at rock bottom lows. This trust is now the norm.


STELTER: There are entire networks that exist to tear down the mainstream media. And look, there are a lot of legitimate media critiques to make but there are also a lot of cheap, lazy, cynical critiques of the media.

And David Frum has been writing a lot about those lately, so he's back with me for more. David, I've enjoyed your Twitter threads lately about what we mean when we say the media. And oftentimes, what we mean is actually the disinformation industry, right? Because you've got newsrooms that try their best and then you've got media outlets that just try to confuse and distort.

How do you think people as they navigate this world, how should they think about the "media" in 2022?

FRUM: Well, we should stop thinking about the media as if it were 1972 or 1992.

STELTER: What do you mean?

FRUM: Well, I think a lot of people when they say the media, they mean --


FRUM: -- the three big old television networks that broadcast over the air, they mean somehow powerful big-city newspapers, they mean Time and Newsweek, and they mean -- they mean perhaps CNN if they're up to the year 1992.

They have this vision of the media as being something subpar -- apart from the rest of society, and they're not ready for a world to, which by far, the most important media corporation in the world is Facebook. I say that with no disrespect to CNN, but Facebook is where -- is where Americans above all get their information, where institutions like YouTube and Reddit are important parts of the media, where if you have one of these, you can add more instantaneous real-time audiovisual broadcasting power than Walter Cronkite ever had.


FRUM: I -- so I just -- I want people to catch up with the Times.

And in some ways, we need to turn the lens back on the consumers and say remember, thought -- false news has its impact because people want it.

And one of the things we need to study is not just why do people produce it, but why do people believe it?

Because many of the most popular false news items of the past few years are so obviously untrue, that you have to wonder that they're doing something for the user because who else would believe it unless you badly want it to believe?

STELTER: Yes, the way to disrupt the disinformation economy is critical thinking skills.

But that's really easy to say and it's really hard to actually implement and have everybody be more critical in what they view what they consume. And that's almost impossible.

FRUM: Well, at and for, I think the part of the first of the critical thinking skills to understand is, as the purpose of the universe is not to validate your preconceptions.

So when you get a story that validates your preconceptions, be careful. And this applies to people from all points of view. When you see a piece of viral video, ask yourself what happened five minutes before that video was shot?

What happened five minutes after? Where's the camera? Think of the camera as a character in every story, that how did the camera get present? Why is it there? Who invited it?

And that -- and whatever the viral video, whether it's a dog and cat doing something adorable together, whether it's something that makes you proud, whether it's something that makes you upset, interrogate the video because the camera is not to be trusted.

It's an -- it's a character, and like all characters, it has an agenda.

STELTER: That's so interesting. We have to think of -- yes, think about where it's coming from, where's the camera? It makes me think this is becoming a harder and harder country for a President to govern and right now, it happens to be President Biden.

But compared to the Bush years, which would you know, intimately, do you ever think about how different it is for a President or an administration to try to navigate this media ecosystem?

FRUM: Well, when President Bush ran for the first time -- W. Bush, in 2000, there was no social media, and there was really barely any social media in 2004.

There was no YouTube, there was no real-time video. It was very difficult for ordinary people to capture real-time video. But you know, we are -- we just have to accept this as progress.

I mean, it's harder today to buy the proper -- the right mortgage product for you than it was 30, 40 years ago because there are more choices. It's harder to make wise food choices because there are more choices.

So we are going to all have to be in every aspect of our lives, that the material abundance, the incredible dynamism and creativity of modern society and thank God for it, also imposes not only greater opportunities on us, but also higher responsibilities. And we --

STELTER: That's why I always say to students, the future of media is all of the above. There's going to be more garbage and also more incredibly beneficial journalism but it's going to be hard to figure out how to navigate the difference.

FRUM: But still that's the reality, there's no arguing with it. So let's -- for this New Year, let's focus on the positives because it is possible to be a better informed and more responsible citizen today than ever before in the history of the world. So live up to that task.

STELTER: Right, live up to it.

David, thanks so much for being here.

FRUM: Thank you.


And there's much more still to come here on RELIABLE SOURCES. After the break, Kara Swisher, on all the talk about Facebook and whether there's ever going to be any action. Hear from her in just a moment.



STELTER: If last year was all about a Facebook reckoning, what does this year have in store for Meta?

Well, Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen will surely remain in the news, so will other critics of big tech including many lawmakers, while Mark Zuckerberg will keep hyping the Metaverse and most of us will keep wondering what that means.

But there's a lot going on in tech beyond anti-social media. Think about the streaming wars, for example, how Netflix is being challenged by rivals like HBO Max and Disney plus, CNN also getting into the streaming wars with a new streaming service in just a few months.

So I'm joined by one person who can talk authoritatively about all of it. That's Kara Swisher. She is among other things, the host of the podcast, Sway, for the New York Times. Kara, Great to see you.


STELTER: I feel like for months and months and months, we've heard so much talk about these big tech platforms, so many promises from lawmakers, so many hearings.

There's the appearance of action, but do we have any reason to believe that all of the talks will actually translate to legislation and regulation?

SWISHER: Well, there is legislation, at least. You know, it's moving through the system. It's just a question of whether they can pass it. They don't seem to be able to pass anything.

And I think it's frustrating to some of the legislators who have -- who sort of steeped themselves in it like Senator Amy Klobuchar, Representative Ken Buck, Representative David Cicilline, who have been working hard on figuring out what to do -- Senator John Stones, there's many pieces of legislation.


SWISHER: And so, it's not for lack of effort and there's all kinds of different legislation attacking very different issues, it's just really difficult to get anything passed.

And what we really need overall is a national Privacy Bill, which is a long time coming.

STELTER: A national privacy. But why is that the most important?

SWISHER: Because it detects the business incentives around this whole thing. I mean, what -- a lot of the stuff that is in Congress right now, have a lot of First Amendment issues.

A very -- it's -- we don't -- we don't really -- don't want the government wading into speech, and that they can't, by the way, because of First Amendment issues.

And so it's really important to think about things that focus on the business, which is the use of information for money-making by companies like Meta and others.

I keep -- I keep -- I want to call them Facebook, but Meta, I'll call them whatever they want to be called.


SWISHER: So you know, I think that's where -- if you start to attack there, you start to -- not attack really, if you start to regulate there, you start to have a lot of other effects down the line where their business incentives are aligned with consumers.

STELTER: Right, I see. Do you see any evidence that consumers are changing their behaviors and their habits as a result of the revelations about, you know how these devices are sometimes hurting us, or are we all just too addicted?

SWISHER: Well, it's not just addiction, but it's necessary during the pandemic, everything accelerated.

You know, the use of the internet and the use of remote work, or education or communications or delivery, all kinds of retail, all kinds of services, really did go crazy during the pandemic and it makes sense that we have to rely on these tools to do so.

It also made these tech companies become more valuable than ever by tripling in wealth and size, and this and that.

And so they were there with all the devices needed for a pandemic. And of course, it's still continuing and so -- and people have gotten used to it, including working at home.

So every aspect of society, which is already headed in that direction, is already addicted to a lot of these things. It's a necessity now for pretty much everybody.

STELTER: Right. That's a very good point. So, in-person conferences are coming back, CES is about to happen, the big Tech Expo.


STELTER: Is there interesting hardware on the horizon, or is the story these days, all about software, all about apps, all about the ways we use these apps?

SWISHER: Well, apps is the center of the universe.

But there's some really interesting stuff happening around AR and VR, obviously, Facebook, I mean, Meta, has been trying to push that with their Oculus, Apple is probably going to weigh in with something, all kinds -- Snapchat is working on glasses.

There's all kinds of areas in that but it's not quite ready for prime time because they're -- you've seen a lot of the ads for Oculus, it looks like the most uncomfortable. It's like let's put this on and look kind of terrible.

STELTER: Right. You can look the Google for something. Yes.

SWISHER: But I think eventually with all these companies -- yes. You're not going to see any at CES as necessarily, but it's a direction that people are going into to get to this Metaverse level and I think you'll be seeing a lot of that.

Obviously, in transportation, all these -- all these electric vehicles, all these autonomous vehicles, these values have gone up like crazy, you're not going to again, see that at CES. So it's still -- it's still a software app game right now in services, but there's some really interesting stuff coming along, for sure.

STELTER: Right. And it takes time. Now, in the entertainment space, how do you view the streaming wars? Or do you even call them streaming wars?

SWISHER: We are.

STELTER: How do you view what's going on with Netflix and everyone trying to tackle Netflix?

SWISHER: Well, you know, Netflix has had like nine laps around the track before entertainment companies have caught up, but they certainly are trying to catch up.

Now, the numbers went up very quickly during the pandemic.

And now there's sort of a Disney and other places are sort of waffling because what people do is they churn and return, it's called.

Where you sign up for something, you watch it, and then you cut it off.

And I think everyone's going to have to offer streaming services, that's the way people want to watch television. And obviously, it's -- it impacted movie-going and stuff like that.


SWISHER: I know Hollywood's resisting it, but look at a great movie, like West Side Story, it just didn't see anybody in the theaters.

They're going to have to put all these things online and they're going to move quickly. And so you're going to see enormous amounts of content moving here in these services. The question is, how many -- how is it going to be served to consumers?


All right, finally, Kara, do you have any New Year's resolutions you can share with us?

SWISHER: It's not to stop having children.

No, I had another -- I have my fourth kid this year --


SWISHER: -- And so I'm going to stop having children. Yes, I feel like I've done enough and I would -- I'm really going to focus a lot on climate change tech this year.

I did that -- I talked about it last year.

But I think that's one of the -- you know, it's an existential crisis as you're seeing all over the globe and there's a lot that tech can do to move people towards that.

It has changed people's behaviors, especially autonomous cars, the way we buy and sell, the way we consume, I think there's a lot that tech can do.

Not this complete solution, but it's certainly interesting.

Including space travel, I know it's -- it seems like kind of silliness right now, Billionaires shooting themselves close to space.

But the idea of becoming a -- I hate to -- I hate to repeat the man of the -- Time Man of the Year, Elon Musk, but we do need to be a spacefaring humanity -- humanity has to be spacefaring.


SWISHER: And so I think it's really an interesting area. So there's all kinds of stuff coming and we'll see where it goes.

STELTER: Sign me up. I'd love to go with you. Kara, thanks so much.

SWISHER: Yes, really? No, I'm not -- no, I'm staying here. Are you going? You're going up in space if you will. Right, and --

STELTER: I'll go if you go.

SWISHER: -- You could do cable from space. That would be great.

STELTER: We're streaming.

SWISHER: No, I'm not going. I have too many children.

STELTER: We're streaming.

SWISHER: As I've said -- yes, streaming from space. Yes.

STELTER: Kara, thank you so much.

SWISHER: Thanks, Brian.

STELTER: More New Year's resolutions for the media right after a quick break.


STELTER: All right, last but not least this hour, some new year's resolutions for the news media. Nicole Hemmer is back with me, author, "Messengers of the Right." Let's figure out what the press shouldn't be doing in the next 12 months. Do you have a resolution for us, Nicole?

HEMMER: I do. The big one is to have a long memory.

The destruction of democracy is not a 2020 story, it's not a 2021 story, it's going to be with us into 2022, it's going to be less splashy, it's going to be in state Houses and the Supreme Court and in Congress and it's not going to necessarily come dressed up as an insurrection.

So keeping the eye on the story even when it's not, you know those gripping images that we've had in the past few years.

STELTER: Right. It is -- it's one of these drip, drip, drip events or stories that are hard to cover.

But hey, that's an important challenge for the media.

HEMMER: Absolutely.

STELTER: Right. Nicole, thanks so much.

HEMMER: Thanks so much for having me.

STELTER: And thanks to all of you for joining us for this New Year's edition of RELIABLE SOURCES. My resolution is to get you to sign up for our nightly newsletter if you're not on the list yet.

Sign up for free The letter is going to come out in just a few hours. We'll see it in the inbox and back here on TV this time next week.