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When the News Requires Asterisks

In yet another of those almost daily signs of our very weird times, one of the people who figured prominently in Wednesday’s news chooses to call himself HanA**holeSolo. The asterisks were inserted by the more polite people at the Cable News Network, who gave him his 15 minutes of fame when they discovered he was one of the people who created that viral video of President Donald Trump body-slamming a former professional wrestling foe with the CNN logo superimposed on the villain’s head.
Trump proudly “tweeted” the video, which was the previous day’s reminder of how very weird are our times, and it got plenty of attention even on a Fourth of July when the nutcase regime running North Korea launched a successful test of a missile that could have reached Alaska. The old-fashioned sorts of Republican commentators in the establishment conservative press tsk-tsked that it was not befitting the dignity of the presidency, while the more newfangled sorts on the right lustily cheered it as a masterpiece of modern political rhetoric. On the left the reaction ranged from the more sober sorts who found it undignified and downright embarrassing to the shriller sorts who insisted it was another Trumpian provocation to violence against journalists. The story also raised question about journalistic practices and privacy protections in the internet age, too, along with usual bi-partisant tsk-tsking about how very weird the times are lately, as well as further reason for partisan bickering, so of course it got a lot of play.
We chose to write about that North Korean missile test instead, which CNN also devoted much time to, but the network has a larger staff and a more personal stake and thus sent out a couple of enterprising reporters to find out who had created the video. All of the stories had already noted that Trump or one of his associates had found it on some sort of social medium called “Reddit,” in a particular “thread” where Trump’s most fervent supporters meet on-line to cheer their hero and boo his media opponents, which sated our curiosity about the question, but CNN dug deeper to discover the identity of the specific poster who had helped create the video. They also found out, unsurprisingly enough, that the aforementioned and self-described HanA**holeSolo had a long history of posting outrageously racist and religiously intolerant and openly violence-provoking comments on the site.
That did provide CNN and the rest of the left with a fairly effective rhetorical counter-punch to all the metaphorical body-slamming they’ve lately been taking from Trump’s “tweets.” During the campaign Trump had been caught “re-tweeting” some wildly and obviously overstated statistics about black murder rates from a fake source cited at an unabashedly racist web site, and it doesn’t look good that the president or any of his associates are still reading and “re-tweeting” from such sites. We’ll assume that Trump was only advocating a figurative body-slam of the media, but those shriller voices on the left could rightly note that a recent Republican congressional candidate was cheered on the by more new-flanged right when he did it literally. Not to mention that the president “tweeting” old video of himself participating in professional wrestling is pretty darned undignified, with or without a CNN logo superimposed.
Still, CNN also left itself open to some valid criticisms from all corners. The network learned HanA**holeSolo’s true identity and called him up for an interview, but when he apologized profusely for his past rants and promised to be more politically correct in the future they agreed not to reveal his real name but reserved the right to do so in the future. On both the left and the right there are people who stand for the right to be an anonymous a**hole on the internet, and they make a good case, so that took up a lot of the talk. Others on both the left and the right have no problem with people being held accountable in the court of public opinion for the opinions they state there, and they also make some good points, but pretty much everyone on both the left and the right agreed that CNN was coming close to blackmailing HanA**holeSolo from expressing his a**hole opinions.
That’s something to worry about, given all the efforts on both sides to suppress more reasonable views, but for now we’re more worried about that North Korean missile test and Trump’s upcoming European trip and face-to-face meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Trump’s “tweeting” about that stuff, too, with the same undignified bluster of a professional wrestler, and the brief fame of HanA**holeSolo informs those stories in a worrisome way, so for all the network’s many faults we appreciate CNN’s daily reminder of how very weird are our times.

— Bud Norman

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