CNN, Memes, and Blackmail

The internet is in an uproar over the reprehensible Andrew Kaczynski of CNN extracting a confession of guilt and threatening to dox the anonymous reddit poster who created the meme of Trump beating up a CNN avatar, back in his WWE days:

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.

Kaczynski is rightly being torn to shreds as a pathetic, unethical weasel for his antics and some are recalling that he isn't new to this, being the person who set off the Justine Sacco witch hunt. While most of this criticism has focused on his blackmailing this reddit user (who turns out to be a 15 year old kid), and threatening to expose him if he were to ever resume his racist, anti-Semitic shitposting, or to become insufficiently penitent, this focus elides another very crucial bit of the story. While the blackmail is the worst aspect of what Kaczynski did, this is on top of his even investigating the identity of the creator of a very generic meme in the first place.

Memes, by their nature, are generally made anonymously without credit, or if their source is known it is usually quickly forgotten as the meme traverses cyberspace. Anyone involved in meme culture realizes they probably won't receive credit (or close scrutiny) for their 'work'. This is doubly true of simplistic, generic memes that just cut-and-paste identities into a fighting scenario. Person X beats up person/organization Y. What little technical skill is required to do this, there is even less imagination necessary. Trump is feuding with CNN? Here's Trump beating up CNN.

Since Trump has been, in his patented manner, cantankerously beefing with various personalities and organizations, memes of this nature are a dime a dozen. There are literally millions of them. The origin of any particular one is of no newsworthy significance whatsoever.

Of course, when the president himself tweeted this one, it may have reasonably become a matter of curiosity who the creator was, for people who are incredibly bored or who—as in the case of CNN—are out for vengeance for the vicious attack on them. But even then, it isn't news. And the notion that it is news because it "incites violence against journalists" is ludicrous on its face. WWE is itself staged violence. To claim this meme incites violence against journalists is akin to claiming Sargent Slaughter beating up the Iron Sheik promotes violence against Arabs (these wrestling references are dating me.)

Meanwhile people on the left like Jeet Heer and Andrew himself have been defending his actions on the grounds that it turns out the meme-maker has posted racist, antisemitic stuff before.

Imagine that, this young lad thinks outsized Jewish influence in the media nefariously correlates with certain untoward behaviors... and was just threatened with doxing by a Jewish journalist. Guess you showed him, Andrew.

But his identity doesn't suddenly become newsworthy because he's posted racist things. The "story" is still: some guy somewhere made a generic meme. Which we already knew. Worse than fake news, this is non-news.

While the big story is the blackmailing aspect, don't lose sight of CNN, with its bruised ego, seeking out nobody scapegoats to ritually unload its frustrations on, despite an utter absence of any legitimate journalistic angle to pursue in the first place. Kaczynski and CNN engaged in this despicable behavior after chasing a nothingburger of a story. Let's make sure their humiliation is proportionate to the immensity of their journalistic crimes.