Fly on the Wall: Anderson Cooper Mentors a Young Journalist

The latest in Fair Observer’s series of fictional dialogues intended to make sense of the underside of the news.

FADE IN:

INT. COFFEE SHOP – DAY

As ANDERSON COOPER, holding a bottle of spring water, and

BILL SMEDLEY (Late 30’s) a black coffee, slide into a booth.

SMEDLEY

Mr. Cooper, thanks again for the opportunity, I know you have a very busy schedule.

COOPER

No, we’re good with the time—a half-hour okay?

SMEDLEY

Terrific.

COOPER

Happy to help out a new writer at the Post.

SMEDLEY

Okay, so, I should — I can just dive in here?

COOPER

Dive.

SMEDLEY

Great. Okay, so … Well, a week ago, two weeks ago, you were on Stephen Colbert and you laid out a great summary of how the Russian population is trapped in this disinformation bubble and —

COOPER

Right.

SMEDLEY

— and how we, the West, can’t seem to puncture this bubble to let the disinformation out, or to… deflate it and then inflate it with the truth… you know, what we in the West can do.

COOPER

Deflate, inflate.. that’d be a balloon, not a bubble.

SMEDLEY

Right, not what I was going for, sorry, I meant just the —

COOPER.

I think I’d drop it anyway..

SMEDLEY

Drop the bubble?

COOPER

Overworked, to be honest.

SMEDLEY

Okay, drop the bubble. So on to,uh.. the war crimes, beyond horrific, millions of refugees, millions more trapped, just the… the destruction of everything — roads, bridges, a train station, a couple of train stations,I think, maybe more… 

COOPER

Good, good…. 

SMEDLEY

… and residential areas and homes and apartments — I mean, the whole kitchen sink we’re talking about and…

COOPER

Drop the kitchen sink.

SMEDLEY

Drop… what?

COOPER

Death, misery, destruction, and then this kitchen sink, I don’t —

SMEDLEY

No, I wasn’t — that’s funny, but now, I wasn’t going to seriously —

COOPER

The kitchen sink’s dropped then.

SMEDLEY

… Agreed. So, let’s see… okay, moving on, there’s the point you brought up with Colbert, which is the likelihood of Putin being arrested for war crimes and tried by the ICC, in the Hague.

COOPER

Well, I said it would take time, or probably a long time, because he could just stay in Russia, never step outside it, to avoid arrest.

SMEDLEY

Right, right,so uh – quick question. Russia’s not a signatory or didn’t ratify the ICC or– what’s the other court?

COOPER

ICJ. International Court of Justice.

SMEDLEY

Yeah, so Russia didn’t — well, we didn’t either, did we? We pretty much said, “screw you”, we don’t recognize your legitimacy, your authority, so we’re just exempting ourselves, and that’s a fact so–

COOPER

Well, a lot of facts there and that’s a good one, but do you need it for your piece? No, you don’t need it. Irrelevant to the current story, the narrative, so drop it. Just some friendly advice.

SMEDLEY

Drop it?

COOPER

ICC, ICJ — both.

SMEDLEY

Okay, but uh… Okay. So moving on, there’s the whole question of whether Putin’s invasion was provoked or unprovoked, and I’d like to —

COOPER

What question?

SMEDLEY

Well, not about the invasion, which is a war crime, but the causes, both immediate and historical, so I think I could —

COOPER

Been answered.

SMEDLEY

What has?

COOPER

The question, and the answer’s “Unprovoked” with a capital U. Set in stone, so to speak, so I’d drop it. I think your editor has been clear about that. Or, yeah, just actually drop it.

SMEDLEY

Okay, yeah, but um.., It’s just that George Kennan, who created the Russian containment policy for Truman in ’47 —

COOPER

Love Truman.

SMEDLEY

Right, sure, so Kennan said years later, in ’97, that NATO expansion would lead right up to Russia’s border, and that was the plan — NATO’s, and Russia – first Yeltsin, then Putin — would look at Ukraine like we looked at Cuba, which was, and still is, I think, a red line for us.

COOPER

One of many.

SMEDLEY

And Cuba’s right here, 90 miles off the coast, off Florida, and we almost went to war over it, nuclear war, so now if — let’s say you’re standing in Ukraine and you throw a frisbee, it’ll land in Russia, you know?

COOPER

I’d drop the frisbee.

SMEDLEY

— the Frisbee? No, it was just a–

COOPER

So the State Department, the Defense Department, the President,the Congress — well maybe not the Congress — but all this, these facts, have been looked at, revisited, reassessed, and the final assessment was, is, that the invasion was unprovoked.

SMEDLEY

Set in stone, right.

COOPER

So next you want to…

SMEDLEY

Neo-Nazis, I think.

COOPER

Drop it. 

SMEDLEY

Sure. How ’bout Zelensky banning all political parties but his own? 

COOPER

Drop it, I think. No, just drop it. 

SMEDLEY

Right. Poroshenko’s ban on the Russian language?

COOPER

Old news, drop it… 

SMEDLEY

Zelensky shuts down all TV stations except — 

COOPER

Drop it. I would.

SMEDLEY

Sure. Dropped. Well, that’s… that pretty much leaves me with nothing.

COOPER

Not bad, really. You start from scratch, and you build on what’s been dropped, you know?.

SMEDLEY

Uh huh.

COOPER

Listen, this is terrible but I just remembered a meeting across town so I have to cut this short, I’m afraid.

COOPER SLIDES OUT OF THE BOOTH. HE THEN LEANS BACK IN;

COOPER (CONT’D)

But when you finish the story, please send it to me, I’d love to read it, or you let me know when it appears in the — 

SMEDLEY

Actually, I think I’m putting it all back in — I mean, what’s been dropped and see what I can — and the bubble, of course, that’s back in, so I can fit all of it into your Russian bubble. No, on second thought, don’t think so. Different bubble.

COOPER

Right… Right. Well, the Post probably won’t like it. I think you know that.

SMEDLEY

Right.

COOPER

Okay, then…

COOPER NODS. THEY SHAKE HANDS. COOPER EXITS. SMEDLEY

FINISHES HIS COFFEE AS WE FADE OUT.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.

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