“All the news media would have to do to have a shot at beating Trump would be to act in a measured, professional fashion. Trump has revealed that they’re incapable of that; it seems as if that option has never even occurred to them.”
Thus wrote Glenn Reynolds, the Instapundit, yesterday. I almost made it the Ethics Quote of the Day. The poster child for the malady that Reynolds describes is, of course, CNN. What has happened to that once respected news source in the last few weeks, and accelerated in the last few days, should, in a rational world, be reveille for the others who easily could fall into similar self-baited traps, and probably will. As we have seen, however, most of the similarly infected have either defended CNN or tried to bury its disgrace.
During the campaign for the Republican nomination, the assumption was that eventually Donald Trump would snap, engaging in some ugly conduct or rant that would sink his prospects and decimate his support. It never happened. Then in the general campaign, the same assumption reigned. He was a narcissist without ethics alarms. Goad him, frustrate him, and he would eventually crumble like Humphrey Bogart on the witness stand in “The Caine Mutiny.” That theory worked well. Never mind: since his election, Trump has been subjected to unprecedented hostility from the news media, disrespect from elected officials, journalists and popular culture like no one before him, and a barrage of hate and insults. Is part of the impetus behind the tactics of “the resistance,” Democrats and the news media the theory that relentless frustration and abuse will finally provoke that elusive “snap!” that results in an impeachable offense? I think it is. So far, as before, this tactic has failed. Ironically, it is Trump’s most relentless foe, the mainstream media, that is snapping instead, driven to humiliating unprofessional and unenthical conduct by the President’s juvenile trolling. One wag recalled Wilford Brimley’s classic interrogation of Paul Newman’s character in “Absence of Malice” after Newman had maneuvered a district attorney, a federal agent and an unethical reporter into destroying themselves and their careers,
“Mr Gallagher…I seem to want to ask if you set all this up. If I do, you ain’t gonna tell me, are you?
I don’t think Trump’s sophomoric and undignified tweets were brilliant stratagems; he’s not that smart. He does, however, have the immense benefit of loathsome and inept enemies, and moral luck has been on his side. It is very possible that CNN’s over-the-top, thuggish and ugly response to the President re-tweeting a stunt GIF showing an image of him wrestling with a figure symbolizing CNN will prove to be a tipping point for both the network and the news media generally.
The network’s efforts to defend the indefensible, a senior CNN reporter intimidating and threatening to dox the ordinary web troll who made the GIF, has made it clear to anyone paying attention that CNN simply employs too many awful, unprofessional people, prone to liberal fascism and habitual contempt for fairness and decency. This, in turn points to a sick and unethical corporate culture, which was hinted at recently by the James O’Keefe sting videos featuring a producer mocking the concept of journalism ethics.
Today on her Twitter feed, CNN political analyst Kirsten Powers argued that Americans “do not have a right to stay anonymous” if they are expressing offensive views, meaning views that she/CNN/ progressives—you know, the good people who are always right?— find offensive.
Powers was responding to the uproar surrounding CNN’s report on the Reddit user believed to be responsible for the famous WWE meme of President Trump body-slamming the network’s logo. The CNN article included a threat to reveal the meme maker’s name if he doesn’t comply with the outlet’s demands.
The CNN commentator took issue with the people from all sides of the political aisle taking the side of the Reddit user, who goes by the pseudonym “HanAssholeSolo,” and argued he didn’t deserve any sympathy due to his past “anti-semitic racist, and anti-gay” posts. “People do not have a ‘right’ to stay anonymous so they can spew their racist, misogynist, homophobic garbage,” she added, noting that she would have published the GIF-maker’s name for all to see.
“Racism and misogyny is not an ‘opinion'” she said.
Bingo. There it is: the watermark of a leftist fascist, an anti-free speech hypocrite, and the rotting, stinking soul of CNN.
Wrong, Kirsten Powers. Racism and misogyny are opinions, as are alt-right extremism, Bernie socialist fantasies, Black Lives Matters anti-cop, anti-white rhetoric and my opinion that Kirsten Powers , if she is typical of the thinking at CNN, is an enemy of democracy and open discourse.
Where did CNN get the idea that it was a journalism outlet’s proper function to harass, intimidate and threaten a private citizen exercising his right to publicize his views on the internet? It isn’t just Powers: CNN host “New Day” Chris Cuomo tweeted yesterday, “Should CNN reveal name of Reddit user who made trump wrestling video? Had a lot of bigoted and hateful material on page and website.” Cuomo deleted the tweet shortly after posting it because, too late as usual, he realized that it made him sound like an idiot and the law school (Fordham) that somehow graduated him look like it took a bribe, because the man can’t think.
Many who can think were more perceptive about CNN’s conduct:
[I]nfantile jostling between press and President is one thing. It’s another to use resources to target those who create the memes, gifs, and parodies, and threaten those people with exposure if they don’t apologize. Good people are defending the reporters doing the legwork to find the poor Reddit slob who created the gif. Ridiculous! The reporter may be a nice person, but he’s lost his mind.
That’s what’s happening right now. Decent people are losing their minds and doing profoundly destructive, self-harming, and outlandish things in the defense of what?
At what cost is the nonsense proceeding? Do the anti-Trump media and mouth-breathers on the left cheering them on (they’re one and the same, but for the sake of argument), know what they’re doing? Every day that the media continues to act like rage-monster toddlers, they lose credibility and value. No one will believe their reporting, that’s assured. What’s worse, no one will believe anything at all.
If the news media thinks like and acts like CNN, no one should believe anything at all.
If you ever had any doubt that Donald Trump was right that the mainstream media is the enemy of the American people, CNN corrected your inexplicable inability to comprehend this painfully obvious truth by choosing July 4th to threaten some guy for daring to make fun of Its Medianess Holiness. Apparently, if you dare defy the media it has the right to wreck your life – as long as you are an anti-Obama rodeo clown or a meme-making rando on Reddit…. Someone is going to point out that the meme guy is kind of a jerk and said stuff that offends decent people. So? How is that the point? This is a multi-billion dollar media corporation using all its power to threaten an individual into not criticizing it. How is that ever okay? And don’t pretend for a minute this media extortion precedent gets limited to outlier Reddit guys. Normal Americans are next.
I will stand by my earlier assessment that a powerful journalism establishment that violates its professional obligations and is dishonest, biased, unethical and untrustworthy is, in fact, an enemy of democracy, the nation, and the people. Trump is often wrong. Not about this.
Here’s left-wing “explainer” site Vox :
A plain reading of CNN’s article, however, contradicts what the network and Kaczynski are saying. If CNN really intended to withhold HanAssholeSolo’s information regardless of what he did, then why didn’t the news organization say it was withholding his private information simply because he’s a private citizen? Why did it go on to add all the conditions about his behavior? And why did it say it could release the private information with an explicit condition tied to his behavior?
…In journalism, there is a clear line between public and private figures. Public figures are held to a higher standard — since they represent not just themselves but their offices, their industries, and so on. But private figures are given a veil of privacy, since it’s not really in the public interest to get some random person’s private information.
Just imagine if the situation was flipped. Someone with liberal views posts a wrestling GIF of a Democratic politician beating up a man whose head is the Fox News logo. The liberal politician then picks up this wrestling GIF, tweeting it. A background check of this Reddit user then reveals he’s made some ugly comments in the past — about conservative female politicians and journalists in particular.
Should Fox News be allowed to tell this Reddit user that they will release his private information if he doesn’t behave as Fox News wants? Should Fox really be a gatekeeper of what goes up on Reddit and other social media? Should people trust Fox News or any other media outlet with this kind of power?
My guess is many liberals wouldn’t appreciate Fox News doing this. And they shouldn’t.
This is Andrew Kaczynski at CNN, who doesn’t seem to have any idea how bad this is:
CNN is not publishing “HanA**holeSolo’s” name because he is a private citizen who has issued an extensive statement of apology, showed his remorse by saying he has taken down all his offending posts, and because he said he is not going to repeat this ugly behavior on social media again. In addition, he said his statement could serve as an example to others not to do the same.
CNN reserves the right to publish his identity should any of that change….
So the human being behind the ridiculous pseudonym HanA**holeSolo should cringe for the rest of his life and never publish anything that CNN could possibly deem “bigoted” or “racist” because it would trigger CNN’s delusional duty to destroy him.
This person is a nonentity. We shouldn’t even have heard about him in the first place. Who cares who originally posted the video clip of the CNN logo stuck on the face of the guy Trump was wrestling? Trump passed along the clip the way most of us pass things along, by deciding we like that one thing. We don’t search for who started it and then all the other things that person has said or done.
It seems so obvious what is wrong about this, doesn’t it? What does it tell us that CNN can’t see it, then?
Jonathan Turley, like Althouse, a law professor/blogger in USA Today:
If the man’s name is news, CNN can choose to publish it or not publish it. In reality, he is news only because his videotape was snatched from obscurity and paraded to the world by the president of the United States. It is the Internet equivalent of being hit by lightning. If the man posts an anti-media comment or gif, will CNN then declare it news and post his name? It is not clear how long this probationary period will run, let alone the standard for distinguishing between free speech and ugly speech.
Nor is there a clear rationale behind a media probationary status. Journalists will often withhold the names of sexual assault victims or minors. However, they don’t threaten to reveal those names if they fall to meet the news organizations’ expectations or standards in future conduct. Indeed, even when juries reject sexual assault claims, CNN continues to protect the names.
In this case, CNN is behaving like a media censor. The president arbitrarily selected this man and his gif. Now CNN appears willing to arbitrarily punish him.
It is the threat of future disclosure that is so concerning and dangerous. News is not supposed to be a weapon to be brandished to induce good conduct by organizations like CNN. Free speech and free press go hand in hand. Indeed, many reporters are protected more under the former right than the latter in legal controversies. Once a news organization becomes the manager of free speech, it becomes a menace to the free press.
Menace—as in “enemy.” Turley’s assessment is fair and accurate. CNN and the other daily violators of basic journalism ethics and standards are a menace to the free press. President Trump isn’t wrong to call attention to what journalism has become in the wake of its alliance with political activists and ideologues.
So again, good. The news media’s unrestrained hate for Donald Trump has caused it to reveal a crippling ethical deficit that has rendered the concept of objective journalism a desperate fiction. It is moral luck that the President’s infantile trolling has provoked the unmasking, but it doesn’t matter: the CNN episode makes it impossible to maintain the myth that the United States still has the free press protected by the First Amendment and anointed as existentially essential by the Founders.
CNN and the rest of the mainstream media have employed circular logic, rationalizations and fallacies to evade public recognition of the frightening truth. Their argument is that as the “free press,” they are by definition good and virtuous, and because their reporting is good and virtuous (since they are doing it), accusations that the reporting or the reporters are in fact not good, not virtuous, but biased and willfully distorted undermines a “free press.” That, however, is a self-supporting deception. News media that is not objective, independent, honest, fair and ethical is not the free press that a democracy needs, and should be, must be, exposed and condemned until it reforms itself, or is replaced.
That the nation does not have the kind of news media it must have for democracy to survive is a frightening and horrible development, and President Trump, intentionally or not, has made that fact blazingly obvious by provoking CNN to show its true character.
UPDATE: And here is Ken White’s opinion of CNN’s conduct:
I found this alarming and ugly. CNN should publish the name or not publish the name. For CNN to tell him what he should or shouldn’t say in the future, and threaten him that they will reveal his name in the future if they don’t like his speech, does not make them sound like journalists. It makes them sound like avenging advocates, and lends substantial credibility to the argument that they pursued him because he posted a GIF about them. I don’t know what they actually intended — they’ve denied intent to threaten and claim this was only to clarify that there was no agreement. If so, that could have been conveyed much less like a threat. However they meant it, this is reasonably interpreted as a warning that the Redditor must speak only as approved by CNN or suffer for it. That’s grotesque. Legal, but grotesque.
For the record, I found the rest of Ken’s post on the incoherent side and not up to his usual standards. He detests Trump, and somehow thinks it’s relevant what the GIF-maker had put on social media before the meme in question. Nor does it reflect on Trump that he used a silly, harmless meme made by someone whose other posts evinced bigotry, when there is no reason to think the President knew a thing about the guy who made it.
See? If bias can make Ken White stupid, nobody is safe.