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.
It happened, ironically enough, on Independence Day. When President Trump decided to re-Tweet a home-made GIF that modified some old pro wrestling footage to show him “slamming” CNN, the media erupted in collective, coordinated frenzy about the “danger” this would put CNN into. Never mind that, by definition, the original footage was “kayfabe” footage from a pro-wrestling spectacle and therefore no more real than the cause celebre Trump-as-murdered-Caesar Central Park play. And never mind that CNN itself is in no way above criticism, satire, lampooning, or spoofing. We were all solemnly assured that this was “deadly” targeting of private individuals by someone whose power exceeded theirs to a frightening degree.
When the general public response to the manufactured outrage turned out to be indistinguishable from “eh, who gives a shit,” CNN did what anybody in that situation would do: They used the limitless resources of a multi-billion-dollar corporation to target, find, doxx, threaten, and blackmail the creator of the original image. I mean, that is what anybody would do, right?
Samuel Johnson once famously wrote that “Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.” Unfortunately for the various illiterate bloggers who have misquoted him in the years following, Johnson had a particular situation in mind: namely, that of somebody who chose military service over imprisonment. Insofar as judges in $THE_CURRENT_YEAR rarely offer a wayward kid the choice between Rikers and Afghanistan, perhaps we could update the saying to “Doxxing is the last refuge of a bully.” It was once the province of individual bullies and occasionally, you will still see it used in a conflict between two people on the Internet. In the days of USENET it was common to snitch on someone to their employer or university if you didn’t like what they had to say; you would also sometimes see the home address, family details, or financial information of a particular individual person posted online in a repugnant attempt to intimidate or silence them.
Nowadays, however, doxxing is used far more often to enforce strict compliance with social norms. When Gawker outed Peter Thiel for being gay, they were doxxing him for their own amusement. Most of the “work” that noted scumbag Sam Biddle did over the years was doxxing-related; Google “Justine Sacco” for an example. Doxxing is popular with the progressive media because very few of them have ever done anything besides parrot goodthink in print. You can’t doxx them for previous statements, memberships, relationships, or jobs, because they don’t have any of that stuff. As an example, the press got a lot of mileage out of “doxxing” Trump for all of his various business choices over the years, but nobody ever stopped to remind the readers that Hillary had been living at public expense for virtually all of the time that Trump was doing ALL THOSE TERRIBLE THINGS. The same is true for Sam Biddle, Max Read, AJ Daulerio, and all of those other sad little people. How can you “dig up dirt” on somebody who has never had a real job or done anything besides snipe at people from behind the safety of a keyboard?
If you’re not part of the media elect, however, you can be doxxed for any reason, or for no reason at all. A few years ago, a fellow helped rescue some women from an underground dungeon and he was promptly doxxed for the amusement of the news media who were tired of saying nice things about the guy and who wanted to “approach the story from another angle”. Back in 2012, the editors of a very popular auto magazine called my day job and tried to have me fired as a “favor” to the Editor-In-Chief of that magazine. My crime: Making fun of an editor’s misspelling of “apropos”. Think about that for a moment: these two fellows though that the best and most proportional response to being criticized on the Internet was to make sure that my son couldn’t afford to eat dinner. Luckily for me, and for them, my employer told them to fuck off, thus sparing me both an awkward conversation with my son about why we were losing our home and/or a busy couple of nights implementing whatever deranged idea of a proportional response to their actions would have popped into my head. (I think it would have involved a belt sander, but there’s no sense in getting all hypothetical.)
Doxxing, by its very nature, is cowardly, and it becomes more cowardly as the privilege and/or power of the doxxer grows in proportion to the privilege and/or power of his victim. That, incidentally, was how Gawker thought they were going to get away with shaming Hulk Hogan; they assumed that a jury of their peers would be more sympathetic to their ramen-noodles New York lifestyle than they would be to Hogan’s Florida white-trash ridiculousness. It was a great plan right up to the point where a jury of Hogan’s peers happened to be selected and they viewed it as a group of would-be child pornographers picking on a guy who does charity work.
Compared to this CNN business, however, Gawker vs. Hulk looks like a light exchange of pleasantries between members at the same country club. Ever since the election, CNN has done quite a bit to portray Trump in a negative light. Some people would say they’ve gone beyond the boundaries of ethics, and others would say they haven’t done enough. This has always worked in the past because people like George W. Bush and John McCain were simply too polite to fight back using the same tactics.
Trump, on the other hand, has bypassed the media and gone straight to his constituents. And he’s done it with confidence and humor. The “Trump Wrestling Tweet” is funny. It is the work of somebody who understands PR, somebody who knows how to work a room. Instead of suffering in noble but hapless fashion as a punching bag, Trump has taken the fight right back to them. Trump has internalized the lessons of this TLP article:
An observation about the middle class: they have it deep inside their psyche that though they are taught to make prejudicial judgments based on hearsay, they are not allowed to show that they made them. The middle class think they are lawyers.
That kid was up to no good. You knew it as he walked to Louie’s table, even before he opened his mouth. You knew it. But Louie/we were constructed to act only on what happens, not what you think is happening. Since the kid was polite, Louie had to be polite back, even though the kid was obviously being a bully– you’re not allowed to respond to that. “Hey, I was just being friendly!” And prove he wasn’t. The kid offers to shake Louie’s hand, “Hi, I’m Sean,” and Louie has to shake it because so far the kid is being polite. We relate things to our future cross examination: “isn’t it true, sir, that sticks and stones can break your bones but names can never harm you?”
Bush and McCain and Romney and all the rest sat there and let the media bully them. They acted solely on the most “legal” interpretation of how the media treated them. Trump doesn’t play that game. He calls CNN “Fake News Network”. He calls their bluff and leaves them to clutch their pearls in the typical attitude of a bully who has been found out by a parent. “Gosh, Mrs. Cleaver, we didn’t mean that we were going to ruin his Presidency.” Instead of treating CNN with respect, instead of letting CNN perform asymmetric warfare on him, Trump hits back with a pro-wrestling GIF.
What CNN did next tells you everything you need to know about the character of the people who work there. They decided to doxx and bully a private citizen for the crime of creating the original image. We have been told, by the HuffPo and the other reliable media mouthpieces, that this Reddit user made racist statements. But CNN didn’t come after him because he was a racist; they came after him because he made a non-racist, non-anti-Semitic GIF about Trump and CNN. Note that when the police shoot a man dead in the streets and then “find” a bag of heroin on his person, every right-thinking citizen raises an eyebrow. But that’s what they did in this case.
It gets worse. CNN then announced that they would graciously withhold the identity of the image creator as long as he behaved. I believe this is the first time that a major media corporation has publicly blackmailed a private citizen, although I could be wrong. CNN didn’t say that he had broken any law, because he probably hasn’t. They just said that his “memes” were “ugly”. CNN reserves to itself the right in perpetuity to publicly brand this private citizen as a racist, Nazi, bigot, and/or whatever they want in the future, if his future behavior does not meet with the approval of CNN.
Make no mistake, CNN acted with purpose here. Their purpose was, as the French one said, pour encourager les autres. With their actions, CNN made it absolutely plain that anybody who criticized them in the future could be subject to a billion-dollar investigation and doxxing. Could any of us withstand such a procedure? Do you honestly think that you could keep your job, or your home, if CNN interviewed every single person that you have ever known throughout your life and interpreted the worst thing any of those people had to say about you in the most sensationalized manner possible?
I find CNN’s behavior here horrifying. It is a violation of the essential social contract between media and the public. Worse than that, by “taking off the gloves” CNN is essentially inviting its opponents to do the same. Let’s say that CNN “doxxes” somebody into losing their home, their job, their children, their family — and let’s say that person decides to take direct and violent action against CNN or its people. Would you be surprised? Would you think it was entirely unwarranted? How do you fight back against a bully, other than by using every means at your disposal?
Regardless of how you feel about Trump or Hillary or Bernie, I think we can all agree that CNN should not be permitted to bully, blackmail, doxx, or harass private citizens simply for making funny pictures. And if you despise Trump, you should be particularly angry — because CNN’s actions here make Mr. Trump look downright presidential by contrast. CNN may reserve the right to destroy one person’s life, but they should be aware that July 4, 2017 was probably a day when a lot of people decided to reserve a few rights to themselves regarding CNN. Including the right to ignore.