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#CNNblackmail is currently trending, and in this article, we will break down how it all started, the response and the beginning of a new meme war. Whatever your political allegiance this story touches on an issue that goes beyond partisan politics and enters into the realm of the foundational aspects of our privacy, freedoms, and society.
"a group of people who aim or are seen as aiming to suppress ideas that deviate from the way of thinking that they believe to be correct."
How It All Started
As most political discourse begins these days, this story starts with a Trump tweet. Specifically this is the meme Trump tweeted that depicts a video of Trump on WWE wrestling and beating up Vince Mcmahon for entertainment, except Vinces face is replaced with CNN's logo (you can find it here).
After this tweet was sent out, the media erupted into a firestorm with many journalists claiming that this constituted a threat of violence on CNN, her employees, and journalists at large. Some even went so far as to compare him to dictators and repressive heads of state like Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the leader of Turkey.
CNN quickly got an idea of how they could get revenge for what they consider a very serious insult and threat. Andrew Kaczynski, a senior editor for CNN Kfile, wrote this article about how he found the Reddit user (known as HanA**holeSolo) who originally created the meme that Trump used in the tweet and got a heartfelt apology/retraction from him.
Though some would consider just the fact that CNN would go so far just because of a simple meme to be pretty petty on its own, it gets worse.
Within the article linked above written by senior editor Andrew Kaczynski was this text:
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.
Basically what CNN is saying here is that if they don't like the way that this person (Reddit user HanA**holeSolo) conducts himself in the future, they will release his identity to the world.
The backlash was immediate, tons of people mainly from the right and some from the left condemned CNN harshly for what they are calling blackmail and thought policing. The idea behind their argument is that by releasing this individuals identity it opens him and his family up to being targeted. In a political world that is becoming increasingly violent and extreme, this kind of exposure could be debilitating and even life threatening. The Reddit user and his family could expect to receive death threats, have their employers called and get fired, their kids could be hassled at school, their privacy would be destroyed, they would always fear being stalked or attacked by political extremists, become ostracized by their friends and community, etc.
And all of this would be just because he/she made a meme that was retweeted by the President.
Essentially most of the internet sees this as CNN trying to control the behavior of an individual, to suppress his ideas and expression because it deviates from their version of what is right/acceptable. In other words: CNN is acting like they are the Thought Police and the internet is not happy about it.
Andrew Kaczynski claims that his words are being misrepresented and that he had no intention of threatening the Reddit user. He also tweeted that the Reddit user apologized before they ever "spoke" thereby implying that there was no threat made.
Andrew Kaczynski's claim that he is being misrepresented counts on three factors for its legitimacy: a specific interpretation of CNN's statement, this tweet stating that the Reddit user is in solidarity with him and the fact that the Reddit user apologized first.
It's hard not to say that CNNs text is not at the least some way a threat. Just this line—"CNN reserves the right to publish his identity should any of that change [the Reddit users behavior]."—is enough for many to raise their eyebrows in shock. Some, like Wikileaks' Julian Assange, are even claiming that CNN has committed a crime, citing specific laws in the criminal code.
The second fact is that Andrew Kaczynski tweeted that he was called by the Reddit user and that said user claimed that—"I was not threatened in anyway." The issues with this are that first off we have to take Andrews word for it and second off how can we trust the words said by someone who is obviously under duress. Look at this statement from CNNs article:
In the interview, "HanA**holeSolo" sounded nervous about his identity being revealed and asked to not be named out of fear for his personal safety and for the public embarrassment it would bring to him and his family.
The third fact is one that while may be true on the surface has a deeper truth. Andrew claims that the Reddit user apologized before they "spoke." Now, this may be true that he apologized before they spoke on the phone but some are saying that the Reddit user was first contacted by email and that in this email was the veiled threat of releasing the users identity. This would coincide with CNNs own version of events where they post this headline (see image below):
"After being contacted by CNN, Reddit user whose video Trump tweeted apologizes"
The Response Part 1: The Internet
The response to CNNs conduct from the internet has been negative and explosive. Places like the Donald Trump reddit threat r/the_donald, the online forum 4chan/pol/ (self-styled as politically incorrect), and Twitter blew up with users using #CNNblackmail (trending number 1 on twitter) as the central unifying call to arms.
The online forums are preparing for a new Meme War (in reference to the "Great Meme War" between the supporters of the candidates of the 2016 Presidential race and Gamergate). This essentially means that people will create memes bringing attention to the controversy and spread those memes as far and wide as they can, on YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc.
Others have gone further by posting a list of companies who advertise on CNN and suggesting that they be contacted and threatened with a boycott.
Below is a picture of a post on the forum 4chan of a user calling others to a new meme war
The Response Part 2: Media and Public Figures
Public Figures Twitter Responses:
- Philip De Franco (Youtube News Personality)
- Dave Rubin (Host of The Rubin Report)
- Julian Assange (Wikileaks)
- Ben Shapiro (Political Commentator)
- Donald Trump Jr. (retweeted from Dave Rubin)
- Mike Cernovich (Social Media Personality)
- Paul Joseph Watson (Infowars)
- Kim Dotcom (Hacker)
The Medias Reporting:
- The Washington Times - CNN’s ‘#CNNBlackMail’ hashtag of shame
- Newsline - #CNNBlackmail: Network blasted for ‘threatening’ Trump meme creator
- Breitbart - ‘CNNBlackMail’ #1 Twitter Trend As Network Threatens to Reveal Reddit User’s Identity
- Newsweek - CNN ACCUSED OF BLACKMAILING THE REDDIT USER WHO MADE TRUMP WRESTLING MEME
- Globalnews - Reddit user who took credit for Trump GIF apologizes, account deleted after CNN finds him
- Huffington Post - Journalist Who Exposed The Racist Creator Of Trump’s CNN Tweet Gets Death Threats
- Inquisitr - CNN BLACKMAIL: NEWS NETWORK UNDER FIRE AFTER THREATENING TO ‘OUT’ REDDIT USER WHO MADE TRUMP WWE GIF
What to Expect
Moving forward we can expect that both the right and the left will try to use this situation to push their narratives.
The right thinks that CNN has essentially crossed a sort of digital Rubicon. Similar to how Franz Ferdinand's assassination was the catalyst for WW1, the #CNNblackmail controversy will be ground zero for a new Meme War that threatens to be bigger than those that came before. Expect to see many new meme renditions of Trump overcoming CNN, a video showing what has been made so far can be seen here. Twitter, Youtube, Reddit, and 4chan are already fully mobilized against CNN, with #CNNblackmail rising to number 1 trending on Twitter.
Further expect many on the right to condemn CNN actions specifically by pushing for legal ramifications and a call for CNN's advertisers to boycott. A large portion of the active internet is now going to be focusing intensely and relentlessly on CNN and I suspect it will get messy. How successful this campaign will be is yet to be seen and I will post an update article detailing the fallout.
The left will focus on how the Reddit user had some racist comments in his Reddit history and shift the narrative to the dangers of the Alt-right. The threat that CNN issued will be largely downplayed as a non-issue or just ignored. Much of the focus will be directed towards the supposed severity and danger of Trump's original tweet.
No matter where you fall on the political spectrum you have to ask yourself—does this behavior from CNN reflect the values I want to see out of a major news outlet?