Bad PR 112: #CNNBlackmail and Journalistic Ethics Going to Die

Listening to the news anymore can be an exercise in patience.  Trust me, I get it.  I got my degree in journalism.  Which I am not using in any productive way now, getting yelled at in a call center.  Doesn’t my life sound great?  However, as I watch this field that I once wanted to pursue as a career deteriorate around me, I can’t help but see some of the most recent incidents as sad reminders of what a shallow grave this profession is digging.  If you want to see why, look no further than the most recent fuck-up by CNN.  This is bad PR nirvana.  I could go on for hours about how bad this looks.

Some kid on Reddit, and it has been verified to be a kid of 15 years of age, decided to do a little trolling on The Donald subreddit and create a video image from WWF when Donald Trump kicked Vince McMahon’s ass, putting a CNN logo over McMahon’s face.  Is it immature?  Sure.  Do I care?  Nope.  Not even a little.  It is kinda funny.  I don’t even like Trump and I find it funny.  A stupid, intentionally-juvenile video clip made to troll CNN.  To normal people online it would have begun and ended there.  Except Trump found it as it was getting shared around and liked it.  So he shared it.  Well, as you can imagine, in the world of professional outrage, this act had to have some deliberately-stupid consequences.  Because a professional organization like CNN couldn’t show that they are the bigger people and display a little maturity.  No, that’s asking WAY too much.

Like CNN finding out about this and getting their dander up.  They claimed that Trump was threatening them with violence, and how that is completely inappropriate.  Then, when the kid who made the GIF came forward to them, they, in no uncertain terms, made very clear that if he does anything that they don’t like, they are going to publish all his personal information online.  Don’t believe me?  Here, see for yourself.

CNN just came out and said that if this underage kid does anything that they don’t like in the future, they are going to dox him.  They are fucking threatening a teenager with destroying his life if he does anything that they disapprove of now or in the future.  That’s…unbelievably stupid.  This is a crime.  A news outlet that claims to be about journalism has just published a story where they outright say that this kid could have all his personal information put online by them.  Maybe Ben Kuchera and Jim Sterling should work for this company.  Both of them support doxing too.  Maybe get Anita Sarkeesian and Rebecca Watson in on the fun.  Why not?  After all, if you can’t destroy the life of someone who made a GIF mocking your ethically-vapid news outlet, what can you do?

This is such a step in the wrong direction for this news outlet.  In a time when the regular news is going the way of Myspace, for this company to choose to get all butthurt and go at CNN this hard just blows my goddamn mind.  This kid did NOTHING wrong, CNN!  Not one goddamn thing!  But because he made you look kind of silly in a GIF that signifies absolutely nothing (but they will swear up and down in a secret threat), you had to go at him this hard?!  What the fuck is wrong with you!?

And hey, let’s not have CNN have all the fun.  Another intellectually-void publication decided that they wanted to get in the spirit of things too – Salon.  Take a look.

No, Salon, CNN is not the good guy here.  They are forcing someone to do what they want, and if that person doesn’t do that, then they will use something they are holding over their head against them.  That’s called “blackmail.”  Huh, I wonder if that’s a crime.  Well, it turns out there is a rather fascinating debate on the matter.  Here’s a link to that debate.  Makes me wonder what would happen if that kid decided to take CNN to court.  I sure as hell would.  Or that kid’s parents.  If someone threatens my child with doxing if he doesn’t do what they want, and it’s a professional organization like CNN, all for making a GIF, I would have my lawyer on the phone that day and the filing of a lawsuit the next.  After all, thanks to the wonderful people of the Internet, this action is never going to leave.  Ever.  For the rest of their time as a “news” outlet, CNN will have this sort of press following them around.

Here’s the PR lesson I have to teach – I cannot possibly imagine a worse look than this.  Their entire professional image is destroyed.  They got so butthurt about someone mocking them that they went out of their way to find out who it was and now holds their identity hostage unless this kid does what they want.  How do you spin that to look good?!  I honestly am trying to think of a way.  Nothing’s coming to me.  All their talk about how they are the good guys, and Trump is the bad guy for attacking them and making them look bad, now they do shit like this.  They might as well just put Jerry Springer on their network and flush all their ethical integrity down the fucking toilet.  Hey, Anderson Cooper, are you proud of the network that has your name associated with it?  Hey, Wolf Blitzer, what about you?  Jack Cafferty?  Any of the talking heads on that station?

When you reach a point that your image is synonymous with this level of incompetence, when you have reporters being fired because they got busted faking a story about Russia hacking the election, when the first thing that people see when they look you up is this tire fire that you started, it might be time to throw in the towel as a news network.  Just put on some trash programming about women fighting in Wal-Mart’s parking lot and you can join UPN in the garbage bin of networks that had potential and flushed it all away.

How pathetic.  How utterly, unbelievably, unethically pathetic.

Until next time, a quote,

“There is no better test of a man’s integrity than his behavior when he’s wrong.” – Marvin Williams

Peace out,

Maverick