Polarizing Language

It’s no secret that political parties now lie at opposite sides of the spectrum. Nowadays divulging your political party is akin to claiming a religion that is intolerant of others. I use this analogy because political parties often operate like religions. They exist of tight knit communities, that have a set of morals and ideals they believe the world should abide by. Those who disagree with this sentiment are often regarded with scorn, and if you happened to share with Facebook this presidential season who you voted for and why, you probably lost a few Facebook friends in the process.

I won’t try to say that this is uncommon. For centuries, political parties have been at wars with each other, each trying to push their party into the position of power and majority. However, it is only recently that the polarization of parties has been encouraged. Media, both right and left, has been contributing to the headstrong attitude that political parties members already retain. If you’ve paid attention to President Trump’s recent antics, you’d know about his hatred for CNN, which he mockingly refers to as “Fake News Network” or “FNN”. To Republicans, CNN is a repeat offender, manipulating the public into rejecting Republicans, and using language to encourage others of “fake news”. If you navigate your way through CNN’s website page for politics, it isn’t hard to point out.

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This screenshot was taken from the website on July 8, 2017. In it you can see how the word choice significantly contributes to fueling hatred towards the opposite party. Inflaming article titles such as “The survival of a Southern Baptist who dared to oppose Trump” and “Haley: Everybody knows that Russia meddled in our elections” which are suggestive of a tyrannical Republican government fill the page. Each title serves as evidence to an agenda fulfilling network. Shocker. CNN is widely known to be a Democratic media outlet, so the surprise is little.

But CNN is not the only news network guilty of this. Its counterpart, Fox News, a renown right-wing news network, similarly utilizes the same tactics.

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While the number of articles is significantly dwarfed by the number of articles present in the CNN screenshot, the concept is the same. Fox News writes “Obamacare problems deepen, as Senate bill sideline” and “House Republicans stymied in their efforts to adopt a budget” suggesting that the left-wing is responsible for many of the government’s problems. Each network points the finger at each other. And this warfare is executed using language and practicing selectivity by choosing which stories will be covered over others. Similar topics will be written about in very different lights, or simply not covered at all, in order to withhold valuable, maybe even game changing political stories simply to fuel the fire.

This tactic has been around so long media has been alive, there were political newspapers going back to America’s conception that had allegiances to parties and served as propaganda. Now, both CNN and Fox New’s use of articles is responsible for shaping millions of American’s political opinions. Which is admittedly a big deal. Ideally, news networks should be all encompassing, serving up information without the embellishment of political bias. The purpose is just to inform the public right? However, since both CNN and Fox News do not claim to be unaffiliated or even non-partisan, we can’t really try to hold news networks accountable for the influence they have over the public. Attempting to hold them towards some sort of gold standard, in which reporters only report the super detailed truth and nothing but, is simply ridiculous. If all reporters did that, we’d only need one news network. But because news networks have agendas, things they support and rebuke, there is a plethora of news networks. And it is up to the public to decide which network they prefer. I say the word “prefer” here because someone might opt out of choosing a more non-partisan network because they may be a Republican or Democrat unwilling to here any oppositional news or opinions contrary to their own.

In a perfect world, we’d all be willing to hear other’s opinions, but let’s face it, we don’t want to hear news that might somehow shake or change our set beliefs. If we bring back the religion analogy, a zealot might choose to ignore the new evolution study because they are unwilling to entertain the risk of their beliefs being challenged. For a moderate like myself who favors a panoramic briefing, rather than a one-sided one, it means extra work: watching several different news outlets, partisan and non-partisan.

CNN Doxxing Threat of Memer & (Han)Asshole(Solo)

If you’ve followed recent news, you’ve become aware of the President’s CNN meme, and the following outrage. Basically, CNN tracked down the meme creator, a Redditor named “HanAssholeSolo”, and came across a host of other ugly posts by the redditor that appeared to be Islamophobic, racist, and misogynistic based on post history. They tracked him down on Monday, and messaged him, but with no response. He issued his apology the next day, seemingly aware of his terrible mistake, and CNN issued an article about the investigation about the Islamophobic, racist, misogynistic man maintaining that while they reserve the right to publish his identity, they are going to be merciful and withhold it because the man was remorseful:

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.

The language used in this article was somehow reminiscent of a just parent. In my mind I recalled all the times my father considered punishing me, but said “because you apologized and show remorse, I’m going to forgive you. Try anything like that again and you’ll be in big trouble”. I don’t disagree with media branding this the #CNNBlackmail , because frankly it does look like blackmail. CNN sought the Redditor out and upon finding him, and the skeletons in the closet he harbored, they reached out to him in email (who’s content was never released, it could be blackmail), and the next day HanAssholeSolo published a lengthy and profoundly apologetic statement. It appeared to be a deal in exchange for his anonymity.

In this day an age, doxxing, a term used for releasing personal documents, is a widely used tactic on anonymous users. If you can recall, wikiLeaks Edward Snowden also was under the guise of anonymity before he was revealed and forced to flee the country. Recently, a good samartian attempted to help a lost girl find her parents, when the parents beat the man thinking he was a kidnapper. Although all was quickly cleared up with the police, the parent’s relatives took to Twitter to go out on a witch hunt, writing “Twitter, do yo thing”. This is not the first social media witch hunt seen; in recent years it has only become more and more prevalent. Recall how the hunter of Cecil the lion lost his practice, his home, and his friends all at the behest of outraged people over the internet. These days I can’t peruse through Tumblr without some blogger rejoicing how some racist lost their job due to social backlash. While I’m not against the common person enacting and defending justice, people can now act as judge and jury, regardless if they are warranted or not (as was not the case with the good Samaritan). Doxxing is a very scary thing, and I can imagine why the Redditor chose to issue an apology, whether sincere or not.

As you can imagine, the #CNNBlackmail hastag persists and not without anger, especially from the Reddit community. I personally use Reddit, and in the rules of the website, doxxing is strictly prohibited. There are plenty of assholes on Reddit, and they are constantly in-criminalizing themselves with their admittance of using drugs, committing crimes, and just being racist, bigot, angry jerks. But that’s what makes Reddit. Every user, regardless of what they say is meant to be protected from doxxing. Or so you’d think. Just because Reddit prohibits doxxing on their website (e.g. A Redditor cannot dox another Redditor), parties from outside the website can still track down Redditors and publish their information (e.g. a non-Redditor can dox a Redditor). This is why so many, like myself expressed immeadiate disgust at CNN for threatening to dox HanAssholeSolo; it’s like coming into someone’s safe place and threatening to pull the curtain.

Ultimately there shouldn’t be much sympathy for HanAssholeSolo. If it’s true that he’s an overall terrible human being, then why should we care if there is a hunt? Although I have never thought Trump was a good president or ever supported the clownery that is his presidency, he was right about one thing: it is witch hunt. Doxxing and getting people fired over terrible trespasses, without true knowledge of their guilt is a witch hunt. And it is all fun and games until you’ve taken it too far or become the witch yourself, as the good Samaritan was. Of course, all eyes are now on CNN, who asserts that they were not trying to blackmail the Redditor. This is just a string of slip ups for the network, since it was just last month that they were in hot water for publishing a now retracted article about how Trump officials had Russian investment fund ties. I have no idea what’s going to happen next, but its clear that with a President who has effectively become a meme and posts memes, and with CNN threatening to dox a memer, thus becoming a meme themselves, this whole fiasco of politics is one giant meme.