Last week, the President of the United States tweeted out an idiotic meme of himself, from his WWE days, pummeling another combatant after clotheslining him. The meme included a CNN logo pasted over the combatant’s head, making it appear as though Trump was pummeling the CNN logo.
Dumb, funny, ridiculous.
Par for the course.
It was difficult for CNN to find a way to screw up the story. Here was President Trump tweeting out juvenile insults at them. All they had to do was scoff and point out that Trump is the president, not some 4chan s***poster. This was a gimme.
They blew the putt.
First, they claimed that the gif was an actual threat of violence — or at the very least, would prompt violence from Trump supporters. This comes shortly after a Bernie Sanders-supporting, Trump-hating leftist attempted to assassinate dozens of Republican congresspeople, and CNN insisted — rightly! — that left-wing rhetoric wasn’t responsible for nut jobs committing evil crimes. But that logic went directly out the window when CNN saw an opportunity to pounce on Trump.
Then it got worse.
On Sunday, CNN dropped a report on the tweet. The report didn’t focus on why the president would tweet such a thing; it didn’t focus on why the president would be trolling Reddit for Twitter material; it didn’t even focus on why the Trump White House and Trump campaign made unsubtle overtures to the underbelly of the internet.
No, CNN decided to focus on the original s***poster who put up the Reddit meme Trump hijacked for his Twitter. CNN’s Andrew Kaczynski put out a piece tracking down the Redditor who put it up; Kaczynski reported that the guy’s feed was full of anti-Semitic and racist imagery, but added that the man had apologized profusely online, said that he never wanted Trump to put up the meme, and stated that the meme wasn’t meant to encourage violence. Then CNN dropped this incredible two paragraphs:
CNN is not publishing “HanA**holeSolo’s” name because he is a private citizen who has issued an extensive statement of apology, showed 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.
That’s essentially blackmail. That’s CNN stating that it will out the guy if he dares to defy their political perspective or offends them sufficiently.
The whole story is frightening, and obviously an attempt to both nail Trump and discourage people from smacking CNN. Here’s the thing: the story here isn’t the guy who made the meme. It’s the president who tweeted it. Do we really want to establish a rule wherein every piece of information distributed now becomes suspect subject to the other, unrelated work of the source? That’s a pretty dangerous rule. Trump’s tweet was unpresidential and ridiculous. It wasn’t anti-Semitic or racist. What do the other anti-Semitic or racist memes made by the guy who made the CNN logo meme have to do with anything? And if this fellow’s other material is so newsworthy, wouldn’t CNN have an obligation to publicize his identity? Why would an apology cause CNN to hide his identity? The obvious implication is that CNN was happy to hide the guy’s identity so long as he followed their recommended playbook.
CNN has accomplished the Houdini-esque feat of turning itself into the villain after President Trump tweeted a gif of himself body-slamming the CNN logo and punching it. This should demonstrate once again that Trump isn’t ruining CNN — CNN is so obsessed with Trump that it’s busily ruining whatever is left of its credibility.