Chris Matthews Speaks At The World Affairs Council, I Remember Why Media Fails


The stage at the fairmont

The real reason for the event, book sales

About a minute away from me asking a few questions.


Chris Matthews, MSNBC’s host of Hardball, spoke tonight in San Francisco at the Fairmont where the World Affairs Council held a program with him discussing: “Will Politics in Washington Ever Work Again?” The discussion was moderated by Michael Krasny. 

As the World Affairs Council summarized on its website , “Chris Matthews sits down with Michael Krasny to discuss a political heroism that once was and the lessons it offers for today’s political climate.”

I found this premise flawed. Perhaps I’m too cynical, but I think when you start with the idea the past is better you’re taking a rose tinted view that prohibits an even handed critical and grounded conversation. Given the event was hosted by a public radio host and featured a TV news show host, I think evenhanded critical and journalistic coverage would be reasonable to expect. So when the event started with such a flimsy premise it seemed off.

I’m first going to offer my own thoughts on the event which are largely based on a conversation with Mr. Matthews afterwards. But if you watch the video linked to this article you can see some key moments in the evening which I’ve marked out based on the time stamp when viewing.

After the talk I went to talk to Mr. Matthews as I had a few follow up questions. I waited until after everyone who’d bought books had a chance to purchase a book so I wouldn’t be interrupting their experience of the event.

His characterization of the youth of today seemed problematic to me. (During the talk his comments on the reason behind so many uninsured youth put the blame on youth entirely without consideration for unemployment, increases in the cost of living without wage increases, rent increases, student debt increases etc… And when coupled with his advice that youth’s role in politics should be helping politicians get elected it displayed an assumption that youth aren’t engaged or participating in the process) I asked given the high youth turnout in recent elections coupled with harsher circumstances being the actual reasons for many uninsured and under insured youth, did he actually believe that youth turnout was the problem? And if so how? Especially given the high youth presence both as voters and also on the campaign trail in recent elections, wouldn’t that characterization be unfair? Rather than offering a more comprehensive answer or context for his former comments he said “fine we disagree”

His personal response to me was, “Either be a critic or an activist” which I found frustrating as he’s a journalist and should be able to answer a follow up question regarding his own comments.

I continued to ask – Okay if we disagree, given that you’ve got a large platform and claim to care about race and war, could you invite a younger journalist like Rania Khalek (I did name drop her as I think she’s a great writer with insights mainstream media could benefit from) on your show when discussing some of these issues so even if you disagree, youth issues can get voiced on those topics?

He asked who she was and what she wrote for, so I explained she’s an Independent Journalist who writes on a blog called Dispatches from the Underclass. And if he checks out her work he should be able to tell why I think she’d be a good voice to discuss issues on his show. He replied “I don’t like bloggers, who’s her editor?”


I mentioned some people would rather NOT work for Comcast or another multinational media conglomeration and thus blogs are an attractive option. Which he rolled his eyes at.

At this point I was a bit taken aback. And I pretty much gave up. The assumption that an editor is needed for content to have value basically says either you’re mainstream media or you have no value. Given in his talk he name dropped his agent – the feeling he was more entertainment than news, and less interested in content than personalities was too strong for me to bother continuing. He seemed equally frustrated by me asking questions at all so perhaps it was best that I left then. Which I did…

But the event was well organized by the World Affairs Council in their normal 1 hour forum with room for audience questions – and while I find Mr. Matthew’s bias frustrating (much like I find mainstream media bias frustrating) it made me glad that the internet exists and we can find alternative media sources.


If you want to see the video I’ve marked some highlights….


Most importantly I’d say is at 47:13 minutes into the video where you can watch his own statement on watching media. SUMMARY: (not quote – my comments from here on out will be in brackets) If you get your news from any one of these sites you’re stupid; you should seek more information and make up your own mind. While referencing the bias of his network he without prompting brings up the owners to deny they have influence.


At 36:30 you’ll see his comments on killing Arabs & Islamic people on TV every night since 2011 as being bad policy.

[I guess Afghanistan and Iraq aren’t being counted here? As the US has been at war for much longer… While I agree this is problematic, I also find the abridge timeline he voiced problematic as if he can’t remember a decade worth of war, or is only absentmindedly giving incorrect dates it’s problematic. Either it’s purposeful erasure of history or he doesn’t know the history. Unless we give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he’s talking only about the Arab Spring and not general US foreign policy – but his voicing would mislead viewers so that is still irresponsible. All in all it makes me question why is he considered the expert? ]


At 37:00 he states, “Trying to find good guys in Syria is very difficult”

[Not sure how well this statement reflects on the millions of civilians being hurt by violence today.]


At 41:20 you can hear his perspective on drones. (Foreign readers, not this justification of military use isn’t coming from the government, it’s coming from the media so most Americans are receiving this news with a similar bias.)


At 1:03:00 you’ll hear his advice to those in their 20s & thing they should look forward to in politics: “Do something yourself and find a politician you believe in and help him or her … It’s not a spectator sport”

[I found this frustrating as it doesn’t acknowledge huge numbers of youth already involved ranging from campaign staff on the ground to the folks behind web tactics which have completely changed campaigns]


At 1:13:39 He comments on youth enrollment in “Obamacare” and a few seconds later at 1:14:20 he comments using the assumption youth/younger voters think they’re invincible and “want someone else to pay for it”


At 1:22:20 is the shout out to his Agent Ari Emanuel for his highly paid job saying it’s a pretty good gig. [I guess this is more entertainment then given Emanuel’s agency’s focus?]


Overall thoughts on the night:


After meeting someone from a liberal network who claims to care about issues of race and war, I found his analysis on both flimsy at times and his dismissive attitude of youth particularly seems odd given youth are very much effected by race issues, and are often times the soldiers serving abroad. While he made some good points, much of the talk was pretty obvious to anyone watching, reading, or following the news. Regarding the stated topic of political heroism and the lessons from it: it didn’t feel like they were discussing lessons learned as much as their version of a better political past with no prescriptive solutions to undo current troubles. However if you’re looking for entertainment – he was certainly a watchable character.

 Originally posted on Oximity.


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