Brian Mark Weber / July 7, 2017

CNN Body Slams Its Own Credibility

By going after the guy who made an animated gif, the once-great cable news network falls even further.

The media is bent out of shape again over a tweet from Donald Trump. So what’s new? In this case, Trump’s retweeting of a brief video of him taking down and pummeling a CNN logo superimposed over World Wrestling Entertainment CEO Vince McMahon’s head. The 28-second animated gif has journalists and network anchors hysterically claiming that the president is endangering their lives by sanctioning and encouraging violence against the press.

Please. Any sensible person can see the satirical nature of the tweet, which spliced together footage from a choreographed professional wrestling event. And Trump pounding a CNN logo was far less offensive than a video put out by a progressive organization a few years ago showing a Republican pushing a wheelchair-bound grandmother off a cliff to criticize the GOP position on health care.

And the Trump wrestling video was child’s play compared to the anti-Trump vitriol put out by progressives in the past year. If Democrats can celebrate the mock assassination of President Trump in a Shakespeare play, surely they can recognize what was comparably light-hearted humor in the video that Trump retweeted.

The media clearly want to maintain a double standard by asserting no connection between their criticism of Republicans and actual violence committed against Republicans, while at the same time promoting the idea that criticism of CNN is placing members of the media in imminent danger. But when a Bernie Sanders campaign volunteer opened fire on congressional Republicans practicing on a baseball field, the media bent over backwards to downplay its significance.

As Jonathan Tobin explains in National Review, “Some on the right observed that the press would have played the story very differently had it been, say, a disturbed Trump supporter or NRA member shooting down members of the congressional Democrats’ baseball team, rather than the GOP squad. They were probably right about that, as it is likely that the media would have played the story much bigger and concentrated on the political motives of the shooter rather than burying that angle.”

Journalism’s once-proud standards — such as fairness and objective reporting — appear lost and possibly irrecoverable. The demise of journalism didn’t begin with the 2016 election, but ever since Trump’s shocking electoral win over the media’s favored candidate, Hillary Clinton, the chasm between responsible news reporting and fake news has all but disappeared.

After building up Donald Trump the candidate, no doubt to take advantage of the fact that he was good for their ratings, the media realized too late that he had stirred up a powerful portion of the electorate. And since that moment they’ve tried to destroy him. In the process, they’ve lost their integrity.

A network or newspaper reporter’s work will invariably contain subtle biases, but the distinct lines between opinion and news pieces are becoming harder to recognize. Journalists aren’t even attempting to be objective in their coverage, and this has damaged their reputation and their trustworthiness. Not that long ago, it was fairly easy to tell the difference between real reporting and irresponsible blogging. Now more than ever, they’re one and the same.

Michael Goodwin reflects on the dramatic shift in the media when he writes that “the evidence was on the front page, the back page, the culture pages, even the sports pages. It was at the top of the broadcast and at the bottom of the broadcast. Day in, day out, in every media market in America, Trump was savaged like no other candidate in memory. We were watching the total collapse of standards, with fairness and balance tossed overboard. Every story was an opinion masquerading as news, and every opinion ran in the same direction — toward Clinton and away from Trump.”

The lack of standards isn’t restricted to television networks and major newspapers alone but also in social media. The anonymity of the medium has opened the floodgates and enabled anyone with access to a computer or smartphone the ability to spread the most outrageous, false and incendiary ideas without taking responsibility for them. The adage to never yell “fire!” in a crowded theater doesn’t apply to social media, and that’s a real problem. Freedom of speech and of the press requires at least a modicum of civility and responsibility, and social media could benefit from these fundamentals while still protecting the right of people to express their ideas and opinions.

Jim Geraghty of National Review considers CNN’s bizarre decision to blackmail the private citizen who first tweeted the Trump video by noting, “This certainly looks like a major news network utilizing its considerable resources to expose one of its online critics, a rather petty use of those resources. On the other hand, the sense of shame and regret exhibited by the Reddit commenter is pretty revealing. Deep down, a lot of obnoxious online trolls don’t want their comments and behavior associated with their real identity. They know it’s wrong, and it violates their own conception of who they are, and how they want other people to see them. If you’re doing something that would cause you that much personal and professional ruination if it was ever exposed… eh, maybe you shouldn’t do it?”

Maybe that’s why, as The Federalist notes, “Last week, more Americans tuned in to watch re-runs of ‘Yogi Bear,’ ‘Full House,’ and ‘Friends’ on Nick At Nite than to watch Anderson Cooper and Don Lemon’s shows on CNN.”

It seems that the media complex’s entire understanding of what is right and wrong regarding news reporting and information sharing is unraveling before our eyes. The very pillars of a responsible press that once garnered widespread respect and admiration are in ruins, all while some citizen bloggers and online trolls are making the situation even worse.

Journalists and anyone with access to a social media platform need to be responsible about what they say and how they say it. But the mainstream media does grievous harm to itself when it picks sides and threatens to expose private citizens for spreading information it deems unacceptable. Instead of restoring its reputation and journalistic integrity, CNN is giving the public another reason to turn away from traditional media.

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