The new American penchant for political streetfighting is taking everyone into the sewer.
President Trump can’t seem to help himself. A pugilistic veteran of New York bareknuckle business, he’s simply got to attack anyone and everyone who he even perceives is attacking him — no matter how it elevates the “attacker” or makes him or her appear the victim.
Recently it was Trump’s boorish and highly personal tweets about MSNBC personalities Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough that caused a rowdydow, most of which was aimed at the president himself. Then he tweeted some Internet troll’s silly video of Trump body-slamming CNN — using old footage of Trump at a pro-wrestling event, but superimposing the CNN logo on the figure Trump is seen body-slamming.
Then CNN found itself in its own firestorm after it tracked down the wrestling video’s maker and appeared to threaten him with being outed if he didn’t hold fast to an apology and other promises. In cyber parlance, that’s called “doxing” — digging up dirt and other documents on someone.
Others call it blackmail.
CNN protested the characterization, but that’s sure what it looked like to a lot of folks. At the very least, it was unseemly if not unethical for a supposed news organization to put conditions on withholding a person’s name — particularly in an attempt to bend that person’s behavior to its will.
A CNN spokesman said “CNN decided not to publish the name of the (video maker) out of concern for his safety.” But the network had also threatened to expose the man if he didn’t behave. So to heck with his safety?
This is not how a news organization behaves — policing the Internet and sending veiled threats to critics. It’s frankly chilling, and evocative of a dystopian future. Moreover, how thin-skinned must CNN be to go after a harmless Internet video maker?
As quoted by The New York Times, Indira Lakshmanan, the Newmark chair in journalism ethics at the nonprofit Poynter Institute, noted, “There are a whole host of reasons we protect identities. The whole reason of someone stepping out of line is not usually one of those things.”
In short, absolutely nobody is winning these streetfights. No one is covered in glory.
We understand Mr. Trump’s supporters’ delight in seeing him and his surrogates taking on the “mainstream” media. But consider the cost. The president just enjoyed one of the best weeks of his presidency, with a favorable court ruling on his travel ban and a continued unraveling of the Russia narrative. His chief foil, CNN, even had to retract a Russia story and let three staffers go.
Then he stepped all over his gains with his tweets — and the streetfighting picked back up.
North Korea is fast approaching the capability of threatening both its neighbors and the U.S. with nuclear-tipped missiles. Aggressive regimes in Russia and China are on the move.
The war against ISIS and Islamic terror is raging hot. There is a host of unfinished business on the domestic plate, including health-care reform, tax reform, federal spending and more. Yet all we seem to get from the White House and the media are swings at each other.
Let’s keep our eyes on the ball, shall we?