Friday, July 07, 2017

Punching Down

After terrorists attacked the editorial offices of the Paris-based satire newspaper Charlie Hebdo, some on the Left implied that they deserved it for "punching down" instead of "punching up" meaning that they should only have satirized the powerful. That seemed offensive to me since the "powerless" that they were accused of attacking had guns and bombs and were willing to use them.

Keep that in mind when judging CNN's coverage of a short clip showing President Trump hitting someone with a CNN logo over his head. CNN issued this statement:

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.
After heavy criticism, CNN backed off a bit from this statement. Some people called it blackmail. While that is debatable, it is certainly an example of punching down. CNN knows that publicizing this person's name will cause him no end of problems up to and including threats on his life.

This person didn't do anything wrong. He made a silly clip. Apparently he's made others that CNN found offensive. But lots of people post things online that CNN would find offensive and they don't threaten to publicize any of those people. This person's main sin was that President Trump used his meme. Otherwise CNN would never have given him a second (pr possibly first) thought.

That they bothered digging into who made the clip in the first place was an inappropriate use of their time. It was punching down. Then they doubled down on it by threatening to ruin the guy's life if he didn't change his ways. A news organization should not make itself arbiter of someone's behavior.

CNN's staff has complained that they have received death threats. Considering the reactions from the left to the Charlie Hebdo attack, would they also condemn CNN for punching down or would they circle the wagons around one of their own?

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