The world of journalism and social media is a very odd place, especially in the era of President Donald Trump. There is very little difference between a troll and a reporter these days, and the fallout from Trump posting a meme showcases just how badly the lines have been blurred in the digital age.
Over the weekend, President Trump posted a relatively innocuous meme on Twitter of himself giving a body slam to a man with CNN’s logo cropped over his head. This was a version of a popularly shared meme based on Trump’s 2007 WrestleMania appearance. Widely understood to be a joke, the humor was lost on CNN who compared the Tweet to a threat of actual violence.
CNN went on the offensive from there, and targeted the person they believe to be the original meme creator. They even resorted to stalking the alleged creator of this meme, finding his personal information, threatening to expose his personal information on their airwaves unless he produced a coerced apology, and then blackmailing him in an article they published.
“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,” Andrew Kaczynski wrote in a CNN column. “CNN reserves the right to publish his identity should any of that change.”
This caused right-leaning members of 4chan, Reddit and other large online media platforms to strike back with a meme war of epic proportions. The same style of meme–a likeness of Trump beating down someone or something with CNN’s logo imposed–has been recreated thousands of times over the past few days, and paired with a #CNNBlackmail hashtag that immediately went viral. RealClearPolitics set up a compilation of some of the most popular memes that have been created thus far.
CNN’s threat to this private individual violates every journalistic principle known to man. The action may have been a criminal offense, and CNN may have even fingered the wrong guy as the culprit. With CNN producers and on air personalities recently caught on video admitting to faking the news, it is difficult to fathom how CNN could possibly dig themselves out of the immense hole they have put themselves in with their own behavior.