We’ve all seen the scene in some Hollywood movie or TV episode.
It’s time for the climactic battle, an apocalyptic clash of good against evil. The conflict is titanic. In the chaos, innocent citizens perish in the crossfire, or thousands of soldiers die in the push to retake a crucial point on the field. Perhaps a general even disobeys an order, or does something ghastly, in order that good may triumph.
As the tableau winds down, some halcyon time after the battle, that grizzled old general is being grilled by a committee or a reporter or a fellow soldier about all those who died. So many perished, the credulous questioner asks. So many lines crossed. What was it all for?
And the general scowls through squinted eyes, grits his teeth a little harder. “Acceptable losses,” he’ll say. And then he talks about how it haunts him, but it was all necessary to achieve victory over an uncompromising evil. Play jaunty patriotic tune. Fade to black.
Many mainstream media personalities – especially those at the New York Times, the Washington Post, and CNN – probably see themselves as this strong-jawed general. Their climactic battle is the fight against the most powerful man in America, a man who seems determined to convince the country that the news they report is largely “fake.”
In the face of this threat, these pundits react with vengeful wrath. Behind the scenes, I’m sure some fault President Trump for targeting the product they peddle, threatening their business. Many fear that he’s an authoritarian who wants to chill hard-hitting reporting with his rhetoric. The very freedom of the press is at stake, they exclaim, wide-eyed.
And some just don’t like him much.
So they punch back. Hour after hour, day after day, week after week, on and on. The flailing blows to Trump and his administration come so fast they seem like a blur. Some glance off Teflon Don; others hit him square in the jaw. They know they’ve got him riled when he goes on Twitter to rake one of them over the coals. This spirit infects their places of business, with the most audacious voices promoted until their screeds receive special treatment, both in the newsroom and on social media.
And the screed-makers’ heads grow at the same rate as their megaphones.
So what if a few false claims are made? So what if journalistic procedures aren’t perfectly followed? We are the tip of the Resistance’s spear, they rationalize. This is war, and Trump must die for the nation to live.
But in their quest to resist Trump, these pundits and the networks who house them have lost their way.
It’s happened far too often since November. Someone makes a claim, sometimes anonymously sourced, usually about Trump. Its authenticity or wisdom is questioned by the broader public. The network may retract the claim, fire the offender, or stand by the report. Regardless, the thing has been said.
And then there was yesterday.
Trump tweeted an old video clip of himself at a wrestling event tackling and fake-punching a dude with the CNN logo superimposed over his face. Like most Trump tweets, it was dumb and sophomoric, but played well to his base.
Then Andrew Kaczynski of CNN decided it would be a good idea to find the personal information of the Reddit user who had created the GIF and . . . get in touch with him.
I can imagine how that conversation went. “That’s a nice address and phone number you’ve got there. Be a shame if someone were to make it public.”
The chastened Redditor hastily, profusely, and publicly apologized. But as of this writing, Kaczynski’s article remains up on CNN’s website, along with the haunting line: “CNN reserves the right to publish [the Redditor’s] identity” should his apologetic behavior change.
This goes beyond a lapse in professional judgment. It tiptoes dangerously close to extortion and blackmail. The fact that something like this is deemed acceptable at CNN, one of the foremost voices in news media, should be enough to question their integrity as an organization.
Like so many others in the past several months, this piece of reporting makes it clear that to the media wing of the Resistance, journalistic ethics are less important than the next beachhead. There must be a stopping point to their anti-Trump frenzy, or else the moral losses accompanying their assaults will no longer be acceptable under any reasonable standard.
Connor Mighell is a third-year law student at The University of Alabama School of Law with an undergraduate degree in Political Philosophy from Baylor University. He is a staff writer at SBNation and The New Americana, and his work has also been featured at The Federalist and Merion West. He may be found on Twitter at @cmigbear.