When ThinkProgress announced that it was going out of business, a few observers wondered aloud, “Why didn’t anybody buy it?” But why would they have, when we have CNN?
As a child, I was aware of CNN in part because its introductory bumper featured the sinister voice of Darth Vader, and in part because it was both the prototype and the stereotype of the 24-hour news channel. CNN showed up in movies, either as itself or in parodies that imitated its role. It was on in the airports and the hospitals and the hotel lobbies, and in the waiting room at the dentist’s office. When something bad or exciting was happening, you would tell your friends, “Turn on CNN.”
CNN was careful and self-consciously nonpartisan — or, at least, it was keen for viewers to believe that it was. Its slogans were “This is CNN” — well, yes — and “The most trusted name in news,” and it cultivated its position within the firmament in much the same way as does Wikipedia today. It could be sensationalist and intrusive at times, but it was sensationalist and intrusive in the way that the paparazzo is rather than in the way that protesters who bang drums in your face and insist that you give up gasoline are. In short, it was what it said it was: a news network.
It is no longer that. These days, CNN is a peculiar and unlovely hybrid of progressive propaganda outlet, oleaginous media apologist, sexless cultural scold, and frenzied Donald Trump stalkerblog. When news breaks, it is no longer useful or appropriate to tell someone, “Turn on CNN,” because if he did, he would be as likely to be presented with a wall of advocacy and obsession as with the headlines of the hour. Today, CNN does not broadcast the news; it broadcasts what it wants you to think the news is. At long last, it has become Fox.
It is difficult to convey in words just what the candidacy and then presidency of Donald Trump have done to CNN, but one can gain a sense of the descent by comparing the network with a news organization that has largely maintained its sanity: the New York Times. On April 30 of this year, the front page of the Times featured stories on Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and the consequences of ISIS’s rule of Raqqa; on the biggest measles outbreak of the 21st century; and on the Labor Department’s decision to treat workers in the “gig economy” as contractors rather than as employees. The first column of CNN’s homepage, by contrast, featured — in order: “77 lies and falsehoods Mueller called out”; “What’s in the Mueller report? CNN breaks it down”; “William Barr now has to try to defend the indefensible”; “Barr gave his version of the report. Then we read it”; “Democrats ramp up Trump financial probe, make new hire”; “Prosecutors seek to block Stone from seeing unredacted portions of Mueller’s report”; “Analysis: Is Rosenstein the hero of the Russia probe? Or the villain?”; “Biden: Congress would have ‘no alternative’ to impeachment if Trump blocked Mueller probe.” The second column of the homepage was headed up by a puff piece — “Joe Biden’s past 24 hours could not have gone more perfectly” — and some fascinating reporting on whether Pete Buttigieg minded Oprah’s joking about his name. To find some actual news — that there had been an uprising in Venezuela — one had to go all the way over to the third column. April 30 was twelve days after the release of the Mueller report.
This has been typical of the network’s monomania. On August 14, the New York Times ran with the news that protesters had taken over Hong Kong’s airport; that Nicolás Maduro was torturing his foes in the Venezuelan military — sometimes to death; and that the White House was delaying its proposed tariffs on China. More prominent than any of these stories on CNN.com were an “analysis” titled “Trump’s talking more than ever about men’s looks”; an “analysis” of “Donald Trump, plastic pusher”; an “analysis” under the headline “This one word is a telltale sign Trump is being dishonest”; and a piece providing “proof Obama was better for the stock market than Trump.” Pick any day, and you’ll find the same disconnect. Were CNN to change its website address to “TrumpImpeachmentWatch.com,” would anyone notice the difference?
In 2017, the network adopted a new slogan, “Facts First,” which it promoted via a widely run advertising campaign that explained that, unlike President Trump, its employees were able to distinguish between an apple and a banana. “Lies,” the ubiquitous spot insisted, “can become truth, if we let them.”
Which, of course, is absolutely true — just as it is absolutely true that President Trump, the clear target of the drive, is a habitual liar and an unreconstructed narcissist. The trouble is . . . so is CNN. With the possible exception of the hallucinatory MSNBC, no other institution in American life spent more time and effort indulging the false idea that President Trump was quite obviously guilty of treason, collusion, and bribery, and insisting that the impending Mueller report would not only reveal this guilt, but would prompt Trump’s removal from office and, possibly, his arrest. For two long years, the network was breathless. The walls were always “closing in,” the hours were perpetually “ticking down,” and the end never stopped beginning. Wars have been fought with less relentless effort than Jeff Zucker and co. put into starting with their conclusion. Anything with the word “Russia” glued to it — however minor or tenuous or self-evidently silly it was — warranted a “BREAKING” chyron, and a grave, dramatic, eschatological tone. Nothing gave rise to skepticism or pause — not even the publication of the Mueller report itself, the details of which, when revealed, were all but rejected in favor of yet more conspiracy theories. Friedrich Nietzsche’s warning that “he who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster” has never been more assiduously ignored.
This regrettable mania has not only pushed CNN to indulge whatever rumors happened to be running around Twitter that day, it has provoked serious mistakes from within. One of those mistakes, the publication of a story that claimed that Congress was investigating a “Russian investment fund with ties to Trump officials,” was predicated upon a single anonymous source and represented such a serious breach of protocol that its three authors were forced to resign. Among the other false stories promulgated were that a CIA asset had needed to be extracted from Russia in 2017 because President Trump had put him in danger (Trump hadn’t); that James Comey was set to tell Congress that President Trump had lied when he said that Comey had told him he was never personally under investigation (Comey didn’t); that President Trump’s lawyers had edited Michael Cohen’s 2017 testimony before Congress and thereby suborned perjury (they had not); and that President Trump and his campaign had been granted early access to the hacked DNC emails, before they were made public (this didn’t happen). It is true, of course, that human beings make mistakes. But that all of CNN’s mistakes have gone in one direction, and on one subject, is telling. When all you have is a hammer . . .
It remains hard to escape the conclusion that CNN considers its main role to be as part of the “Resistance.” In August, the network hired former acting director of the FBI Andrew McCabe as a contributor, despite his having been fired from the agency after a report from the Justice Department’s inspector general that showed he had leaked information to the press and then lied to investigators to cover it up, and it continues to publish articles that presume or assert things for which there is simply no evidence. In reaction to the Horowitz report — a devastating document that highlights routine abuse at the FBI and in the FISA courts, and cuts off at the knees the idea that the investigation of Carter Page was based upon serious data — CNN published an “analysis” by Katelyn Polantz that insisted that “many of the claims by Steele, a former British spy, have held up over time, or have proven to be at least partially true.”
Bananas, apples, kumquats, whatever.
Watching CNN try to push an obvious political agenda while retaining sufficient space for plausible deniability is akin to watching a two-year-old child try to steal a much-coveted chocolate bar without getting caught by his parents; one can only shake one’s head and laugh at the incompetence.
Often, one can follow these attempts in real time. Jim Acosta, who seems to believe that his job is to act as the loyal opposition to President Trump, serves as a good example of the tendency, prone as he is to showing up at press conferences and emoting until he inspires a reaction about which he can subsequently complain on Twitter. Even more transparent a player than Acosta is Don Lemon, who is a “news anchor” in the same sense as that in which Nick Saban is a referee. In recent years, Lemon has become famous for refusing to accept when he is wrong — in 2014, having been informed that he did not know the difference between a semiautomatic and an automatic firearm, he tried to make the distinction a matter of personal taste with a desperately deployed “for me . . .” — and for his routine inability to control his emotions during interviews. The best — well, the worst — illustration of the latter tendency came in August of 2019, when Lemon invited the Reverend Bill Owens onto his show and then grew angry as Owens, an African-American pastor who had just met with President Trump to work on improving conditions in inner cities and wanted to talk about that rather than about Trump’s ridiculous tweeting, repeatedly refused to call the president a racist. When it became abundantly clear that Owens was not going to take the bait, Lemon instantly and dramatically switched tack, accusing Owens of homophobia, questioning whether he was sufficiently “Christianly or godly,” and implying that Owens was “condoning” Trump’s attacks on figures such as Representative Elijah Cummings. As Lemon did this, the technical team at CNN changed the chyron at the bottom of the screen so that it ceased to describe Owens as an “African American faith leader” and labeled him instead as a “controversial pastor.” From honored guest to enemy of progress in five minutes flat.
On other occasions, CNN has attempted to push a line by sheer volume alone. In the month following the February 14 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., the network’s site and cable channel became essentially indistinguishable from the Brady Campaign, filling every hour of its broadcasts and every pixel of its website with relentless, unyielding gun-control advocacy. As part of the push, the network hosted a televised “town hall” event that was deliberately designed to provoke grieving people into lashing out at politicians and policy organizations that hold a different opinion on gun control from their own, even as it provided a platform for the one person who actually held some responsibility for the attack — Sheriff Scott Israel, who has now been removed for incompetence — to playact as an indignant man of the people. Alongside this grotesque stunt, which it mined for videos for weeks afterwards, CNN took to misinforming the public with outlandish claims, such as that there had been hundreds of mass shootings already that year, or that Americans across the country were coming “dangerously close to a moment in time when every one of us will know someone who has been shot in a mass shooting.” It was an embarrassment.
There was a time I went to CNN for breaking international news because they used to maintain a foreign news cadre who could report from close to the scene.
But they seemed to have quit that.
Now they just spin and spin and spin all day long.
Very little news breaks, but when it does it is American mostly and spun all the rest of the day.
Used to be that local bloggers filled the gaps in international news.
I used to check on the dissident frogman for French (and French once-colonies) news.
I used to read Iraq the Model.
There still are a few Israeli blogs.
Now social media takes that spot, and, boy, are they unreliable!
I grew up close to a community of USSR escapees.
They said I needed to learn how to read the newspaper “between the lines.”
Altho newspapers are passe their point is well taken.
Pull out the facts and spit out all the rest.
If CNN were a news network then a simple complaint to the FCC would garner fines, the FCC does not fine editorials and opinion. It is the reason you do not see the crap reported in your local newscasts, they have an fCC license cable shitshows do not.
If the channel is also broadcast over the airwaves (ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, PBS, et al.), it is still subject to FCC rules. You pay for propaganda and lies.
What can the FCC do? The FCC may act only when it has received documented evidence, such as testimony from persons who have direct personal knowledge of an intentional falsification of the news. Without such documented evidence, the FCC generally cannot intervene.
I think a version of that is their mission statement; “Lies can become truth if we promote it.”
Again I wonder, when Democrats catch CNN lying (even though they like the lies), why don’t they wonder WHY? They don’t; they just assume, if they detected the lie, that the lie worked on someone and that was GOOD.
As noted earlier, CNN did not air the complete Horowitz hearing. They did not cover Graham’s opening remarks and didn’t begin until Feinstein began her remarks. Obviously, they fear the truth for, if Graham was lying, wouldn’t it be better for people to SEE the lies and draw their conclusions? When I was watching the Democrats make their statements, I could tell when they lied because I knew the facts (though I’m sure some of their lies slipped past me); for someone like Fox to only air the Republicans on not the Democrats (which they didn’t), viewers would be unaware of the astronomical level of lies the Democrats relied upon.
CNN relies on and promotes keeping people ignorant. People willingly seek this out because they are stupid.
John Wayne “life’s hard it’s even harder if you’re stupid ” application: bar fly polosi, crazy waters, racist/rapists al green, reptilian brain nadler, and pencil dick schiff all suffer from this situation.