On July 2, in a tweet that has currently been liked 583,000 times, US President Donald Trump shared a gif of himself wrestling ‘CNN’ to the ground.
The meme had originally been created by Reddit user “HanAssholeSolo”, who has now apologized for the gif, and for a series of racist online posts. That did not stop CNN controversially asserting it “reserves the right” to publish his identity should he “repeat this ugly behavior on social media again”.
For many, CNN’s words appeared to be a threat, particularly problematic as it was directed towards an individual from a large news corporation. It was also suggested that this represented attempted censorship of criticism against the news outlet.
A multi-billion dollar TV network blackmailing a private citizen into not making funny videos about it is not journalism, CNN. #CNNBlackmail— Julian Assange (@JulianAssange) July 5, 2017
The network’s response to the original gif, which was characterized by some as “blackmail”, has unleashed a veritable flood of anti-CNN memes.
By using threats to censor a meme creator CNN has inspired hundreds if not thousands of replicas. Dolts. https://t.co/MaS2GkL4D2— Julian Assange (@JulianAssange) July 5, 2017
In fact, pro-Trump online communities soon declared a “meme war”. Far-right radio host and founder of the Infowars website, Alex Jones, shared a video playing on sci-fi film series “Star Wars” to announce “meme wars” against CNN. The 8-minute video includes a compilation of clips in which a character with the CNN logo pasted on his face is beaten up, usually by a character with Donald Trump’s face.
Meanwhile, on social media, the hashtag "CNN blackmail" took off, accompanied by hundreds of copy-cat memes.
Another hashtag claimed “CNN is ISIS”, apparently implying that reddit user HanAssholeSolo’s apology was in some way forcefully extracted from him.
In the apology, he wrote "I would like to apologize for the posts made that were racist, bigoted, and antisemitic. I am in no way this kind of person, I love and accept people of all walks of life and have done so for my entire life."
“I have the highest respect for the journalist community and they put their lives on the line every day with the jobs that they do in reporting the news.”
The White House itself has so far offered no comment on Trump’s eyebrow-raising tweet, which was captioned “#FraudNewsCNN #FNN”. Trump has frequently made clear his disdain for the channel which he has variously referred to as “Clinton News Network”, “the enemy of the American people” and, repeatedly, “fake news”.
The network made headlines last month after three investigative journalists were suspended for publishing a false news story that incorrectly connected Trump aide Anthony Scaramucci to a Russian investment fund linked to the Kremlin.
Wow, CNN had to retract big story on "Russia," with 3 employees forced to resign. What about all the other phony stories they do? FAKE NEWS!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) 27 June 2017
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