So last night, Bill O’Reilly and Jon Stewart faced off at The Rumble in the Air-Conditioned Auditorium, a presidential-style “mock debate” held at George Washington University in D.C.
And this morning, in a brief news flash on CNN International about yesterday’s event, anchor Natalie Allen, reading prepared copy off her teleprompter, reported on the debate between “conservative talk show host Bill O’Reilly and comedian Jon Stewart.”
Something seemed conspicuously missing from this description.
As per the highly intuitive canon of construction known as expressio unius est exclusio alterius, by designating only one of two individuals as having a political point of view, one tacitly declares the other to be non-partisan.
Yet obviously, Jon Stewart is at least as liberal as O’Reilly is conservative. In fact, it is this very contrast in the respective world views of the two men that prompted their pairing up in the first place.
Then why did CNN elect to attach the “conservative” epithet to O’Reilly and skip the “liberal” designation for Stewart, thus rendering the description of the event effectively false by omission? Why label one but not the other? Who made this decision and why?
Could this have been but an innocent oversight on the part of the writer and whatever editor happened to be in charge of greenlighting the material subsequently fed to the anchor?
Hypothetically, is it equally likely that CNN, by sheer inadvertence, might have perpetrated the reverse omission, characterizing the debate as having been between “talk show host Bill O’Reilly and liberal comedian Jon Stewart”? (Fat chance on that, I would think.)
Mind you, we’re talking about CNN International, a channel that primarily caters to audiences that, on balance, are less familiar with U.S. media personalities than Americans are. Were I just some viewer in Austria that had not lived in the U.S. for as many years as I have, based on the news flash in question, I’d have gotten the impression that this had been a debate between a conservative ideologue on one side and an epitome of political neutrality on the other. (Of course, that’s a laugh, but how would the average and casual CNN International watcher know that?)
And so I’m guessing that generating precisely this misleading impression in the uninitiated must have been what those responsible for the wording of this particular news flash had been aiming for, either consciously or otherwise.
What followed was a short collage of laugh and applause lines delivered by the allegedly non-partisan comedian Jon Stewart, with his “conservative” interlocutor apparently just standing there taking his lumps, unable to engage in effective repartee; a state of affairs that bore scant resemblance to the actual debate in its unedited form. Hard to imagine that such a heavily skewed montage could have emerged from a cutting room by accident rather than as a result of calculated premeditation.
CNN really ought to be above cutesy manipulative legerdemain of this nature, which does little in the way of defusing conspiracy talk about the so-called “liberal mainstream media.”
Even worse, for a moment there I thought I was watching MSNBC.