Updating the old saying.

by w3woody

On July 4th, CNN found the person who made the “Trump slams CNN” video:

And CNN essentially engaged in a form of blackmail with the person who made the original video:

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.

As they say, don’t pick a fight with someone who buys ink by the barrel.

Except…

Well…

EXCLUSIVE: CNN Staff Reeling After Personal Info Leaked

Several anchors and reporters at CNN have had their home addresses published and have received threats of rape and other violence in the wake of a story published by Andrew Kaczynski, who heads up the network’s investigative K-FILE team. Anti-network trolls are encouraging viewers to wrongly accuse CNN staffers of pedophilia and child pornography. There is also “tons of anti-Semitism.”

“Frustration” is the predominant feeling inside CNN, The Mirror has learned.

I guess we need to update the saying. Instead of “don’t pick a fight with someone who buys ink by the barrel”, it should be “don’t pick a fight with an on-line community with nothing better to do.”


Personally I strongly agree with Ken White of PopeHat: CNN, Doxing, And A Few Ways In Which We Are Full of Shit As A Political Culture:

As I said when I wrote semi-anonymously, I think people should be prepared to accept the social consequences of what they’ve written if someone is able to figure out who they are.

Personally if you say a thing you should be willing to stand behind the thing you say–no matter how incendiary or angry or obnoxious it is. It’s why I publish this under my own name.

(Even my username is a variation on my real name: “w3woody” is short for “William Edward Woody”; the 3 is just an E backwards. And you can find me with that username on G-Mail, Yahoo and Mac.com. My blog links to my other blogs; to web sites which allow you to contact me, and if you cannot find my home address within 5 minutes it’s because you’re not trying. So “doxxing” me is a pointless exercise.)

But the real problem, as Ken White points out in the above article, is not that we have an angry Internet culture where people say mean things–but that we are all hypocrites and inconsistent in how we apply our moral judgement on others:

We’re not consistent in our arguments about when vivid political speech speech inspires, encourages, or promotes violence. We’re quicker to accept that it does when used against our team and quicker to deny it when used on the other team.

We’re not consistent in our moral judgments of ugly speech either. We tend to treat it as harmless venting or trolling or truth-telling if it’s on our team and as a reflection of moral evil if it’s on the other team.

We’re not consistent in our arguments about whether online abuse and threats directed at people in the news are to be taken seriously or not. We tend to downplay them when employed against the other team and treat them as true threats when used against our team.

We’re not consistent in our arguments about whether calling some individual out by name exposes them to danger. We tend to claim it does when the person supports our team and sneer at the issue when the person supports the other team.

We’re not consistent in our treatment of the significance of behavior by obscure individuals. When some obscure person’s online speech gets thrust into the limelight, we tend to treat it as fairly representative if they’re on the other team and an obvious non-representative outlier if they are on our team.

We’re hopelessly bad at applying consistent legal principles to evaluate whether speech is legally actionable depending on which team it comes from.

We’re pretty inconsistent in our assessment of what social consequences should flow from ugly speech, with our views of proportionality, decency, and charity diverging widely depending on whether the person at issue is on our team or not.

In the scope of human history, Mr. White continues, the Internet is very new.

It is, in a real way, revolutionary: the cost to print and disseminate your ideas has gone to zero; the only cost to read anything out there written by anyone about anything–from the most complex ideas in mathematics and quantum mechanics to deep ideas in philosophy, all the way down to pictures of fuzzy kittens–is simply your time and your ability to find things.

There are no gatekeepers anymore; no funneling of ideas through to the one guy in a village who has a printing press, no need to wait for the guy who buys ink by the barrel to see if your ideas are worthy of publication. Opening a blog at WordPress is free, and we don’t even bother with that as Facebook makes jotting off our ideas–on everything from the state of national politics to what we ate last night for dinner–as easy as pressing a few buttons on our cell phones.


So the fact that in retaliation to the threat of having one of its own doxxed (having private information publicized in order to receive retaliation from the community at large) if he doesn’t behave, a group of Redditors retaliated by doxxing a number of CNN reporters–none of that should be a surprise.

Even to someone of the meanest of intelligence, this retaliation should have been seen as inevitable as an avalanche when someone throws a large rock on an unstable slope.


To be honest, I find all this extremely funny, because it is simply absurd. Like an absurdist Samuel Beckett play–extremely serious and simultaneously meaningless absurdism.

At some point we will learn that we are not truly anonymous, and that we must own our words.

And that goes for the blackmailers at CNN as well as the racists who comment at /r/The_Donald on Reddit. (I’m not suggesting everyone on The_Donald are racist any more than I’m suggesting everyone at CNN is stupid. But the racists and the stupid both exist in both places, and given human nature, in roughly equal amounts.)

At some point we need to calm the fuck down–and that goes for the artificial whipping up of public anger by spin doctors working on behalf of Liberals and Conservatives as it does for the Media who think they can sow the wind without reaping the whirlwind.

But for now, I think the best thing to do about this whole #cnnblackmail thing is sit back, pop some popcorn, and watch in amusement as CNN reaps its own personal whirlwind.

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