Extortion? Coercion? Blackmail? Slow Down, Everyone

A couple of months ago, the world was rocked by the sudden firing of James Comey, the subsequent chess moves, and eventual appointment of Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Mueller was hired to investigate the well-documented Russian meddling in our election, and the need for his appointment became more apparent after President Trump admitted the firing was a result of Comey’s investigation into the Russia case.

At the time, while the press considered the implications, and possible “obstruction,” the conservative media and press world went bonkers, saying it wasn’t obstruction, because Trump was Comey’s superior. He had a right to fire him.

Never mind that it had the effect of obstructing an investigation, it definitely failed the legal test of obstruction.

Fast forward to the last 24 hours, when CNN issued a statement about the Reddit user (HanA**holeSolo) who posted the now infamous video of President Trump bodyslamming a parodied CNN figure. If you’ve been living under a rock the last week, President Trump posted *Solo’s video, which now has 341,000 retweets and 568,000 “likes.” The video sparked immediate outrage in the press, because the president has waged an all out war against CNN, calling them fake news, liars, even declaring they and every other tough reporter is an “enemy of the American people.” Some expressed fear that it may result in violence on the media. This came just a week after the president crudely attacked the two hosts of MSNBC’s Morning Joe cable program, and engaged in a week-long twitter storm about how much they suck.

The Reddit user, who bragged online about the “MAGA emporor” (sp?) tweeting his spoof, apparently loved the attention and wanted everyone to know he created it. So naturally, journalists did what journalists do: they chased the story and followed leads. CNN, in particular, since they were the subject of the GIF.

Apparently, anonymity isn’t all that anonymous if you’re sloppy. CNN was able to identify the user with Facebook and Reddit bio details. The day after CNN attempted to contact *Solo, he issued an apology, and said “it was a prank,” saying he’s removed all his other anti-Semitic and racist posts, including his comments that encouraged stabbing muslims and joked about putting cats in blenders. Then, CNN posted an update, saying they reserved the right to expose the user’s details that were publicly available, if anything should change. (They’ve now said they will not do so, regardless, out of concern for his safety.)

Suddenly, the internet exploded with accusations of “extortion,” “coercion,” and even the trendy hashtag #CNNBlackmail. The problem is this wasn’t just the theme of the conservative tabloid world, but even major media outlets competing with CNN. ChicksOnTheRight, Restless Patriot, Daily Wire, TwitchyRedState and even FoxNews jumped all over what they viewed was illegal coercion of an apology, apparently not concerned with his vile behavior, or the irony in playing lawyer on opposite sides of the fence.

Think about it:
On the one hand, people are defending the President’s actions in firing Comey as “not obstruction,” on the technicality that he’s Comey’s superior, so it can’t be obstruction. On the other hand, these same people are accusing CNN of felony blackmail/extortion because they “reserve the right” to publish an already public digital trail of a social media user who attacked them. Public information, available to anyone who tried. That’s not blackmail.

Only a week ago, most of our friends dismissed the trump teams offer to “spike” a National Enquirer story for an apology, but now CNN is breaking the law?

What’s with the duplicity?

To me, this underlines the rush to judgment and need for confirmation bias on both sides of the political spectrum. President Trump fired a guy investigating his friends, but it’s hard to argue he broke the law. (Although, it’s not unfair to ask the question and debate it’s merits) Now, CNN extracts an apology from a vile Redditor, and people are arguing they broke the law. (Again, fair to ask the question and debate it’s merits) But, only Sen Ted Cruz is the actual lawyer here, and even he incorrectly implied the information was obtained illegally. Why did he even bother? Impetuous tweeting should be left to the domain of the President.

We all need to slow down, think things through (but not too hard), and try to be consistent. Is that possible anymore in this hyperpartisan world? We so often hear a bit of news, repeat it, which then gets repeatedly a little different, then picked up by an online blogger or tabloid, which is then forwarded online by virtue of it’s headline alone… just because it tickles our knee-jerk gut reaction to something.

For it’s part in tweeting the video, while denying it came from Reddit, the White House is refusing to say where it did. Why?

Note: the LATEST “fake news” accusations surround the fact that the president technically forwarded a cropped version of the original GIF, with original audio added back in. But the same GIF. Yet, they somehow did something bad. For going to the original source. My Lord, what’s happened to us?

To set the record straight, the original Redditor is an adult male, not 15, as some are claiming. He deleted his material before contact was made with CNN, not after a “threat” was made. He apologized, and said it should be a lesson to others to not do the same. Ergo, no “blackmail.” No “coercion.” No “felony.” And, considering how vile this alt-right Redditor was, under the delusion of “anonymity,” why do so many care? Many of us dealt with this tripe during the last election, but most went away when the Russian funds dried up. Unfortunately, some were actual people who live here, live among us, and spread their hate. But they aren’t as anonymous as they’d like to think.

Presidents don’t engage in this kind of talk for many reasons. They aren’t impetuous on purpose. Because such behavior encourages the vile behavior of people who create such violent tripe online. Notice the reaction on the thread where the GIF was posted, when they realized THIS President was tweeting their material:

“TWEETED by the PRESIDENT. Now it’s confirmed that Trump sees our memes.”
“We all wish for such validation.”
“You are now a legend!!”

That’s what I’m afraid of.

Now, consider your own digital trail, the words you say, the news you read, and how you respond before you say something online. Maybe the world, and the news cycle that describes it, will become a better place. As a lifelong conservative libertarian, I find this all incredibly embarrassing. And so should you.

Final note: CNN has apparently ticked off liberals for “going soft,” and conservatives for “outing” a vile human being. I was taught long ago by someone much wiser than me, that if neither side of a story is happy with your reporting, you’re usually doing something right.

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Ed Willing

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