The internet has basically been consumed today with the story of CNN running to earth the actual identification of the guy who created the meme of Donald Trump as a WWE character slamming another character with a CNN logo for a head. (Joe Cunningham has the background.)
The big brain behind the idea of tracking down the creator was a BuzzFeed alumnus, Andrew Kaczynski. Kaczynski made a career at BuzzFeed out of going through old speeches of GOP politicians and finding contradictions between the position they held years ago and that they espoused today. And then there were hard hitting exploits into brass knuckles journalism like exposing GOP candidates for using RNC produced press releases in their district newspapers. In Kaczynski’s mind this was plagiarism. Never mind that press releases are designed to facilitate being used verbatim and catnip for any public relations guy is seeing someone slap their byline on your press release.
This is how Kaczynski crowed over his success:
After posting his apology, “HanA**holeSolo” called CNN’s KFile and confirmed his identity. In the interview, “HanA**holeSolo” sounded nervous about his identity being revealed and asked to not be named out of fear for his personal safety and for the public embarrassment it would bring to him and his family.
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.
IANAL. I don’t know if this constitutes blackmail, Ted Cruz is making a very strong case that it does. At a minimum, if the squalid bullsh** between Trump and Joe/Mika could be honored with the name “blackmail” what CNN did here was much worse.
Kaczynski is no stranger to inciting cyber lynch mobs. He was the driving force behind taking an unfortunate tweet from a totally unknown person, Justine Sacco, and burning her career and professional life to the ground.
This isn’t Kaczynski’s first attempt at destroying a private citizen’s life. As a BuzzFeed reporter, he gained notoriety for publicizing a lame joke Tweeted by a 30-year-old PR director named Justine Sacco. As Sacco was boarding a plane from London to Cape Town, South Africa, she poked fun at many people’s poor understanding of the continent. Kaczynski decided the joke was racist and helped gin up a digital lynch mob while she was in the air for 11 hours sans internet. By the time Sacco landed, she was mobbed by reporters, was fired from her job, and had to go into hiding.
One really wonders what Kaczynski was thinking about when he decided to declare war on this particular guy. The online crown he runs with, reddit and 4Chan, aren’t big on nuance. And remember, these are the guys who located Shia LaBoeuf’s “resistance” flag by analyzing star position and the time/direction of aircraft contrails. Twice. They aren’t big on responding to social cues, either.
According to BuzzFeed:
For now, according to a source with knowledge of the situation, Kaczynski and his family are the subject of an ongoing harassment campaign that includes the publication of personal information and death threats.
And allegedly, the “reserves the right to publish” crap was inserted by someone else.
— Max Tani (@maxwelltani) July 5, 2017
The journalistic value of what Kaczynski did was nil. It was simply juvenile petulance and an attempt to punish someone for Trump reducing them to a laughingstock. CNN devoted more investigatory effort to this escapade than they did to Benghazi, the IRS, Fast and Furious, the retreat from Iraq, our slavish subservience to Iran, Hillary Clinton’s emails, the Bill Clinton-Loretta Lynch meeting, or any of a dozen or more major issues during the Obama years. Any value this had was in how the gif got into the hands of the White House, this poor shmoe’s name was totally irrelevant. Even if it were relevant, threatening to destroy his life for the sake of sh**s and grins, regardless of his odious posts, was uncalled for.
Kaczynski is not the only CNN person to have their personal information posted today. There is an active doxing effort underway targeting CNN on-screen talent and you can bet this is not going to end soon or well.
UPDATE. The below tweet indicates that Kaczynski had deleted the tweet, he has not. It is presented simply to show the mentality of the guy in question.
— Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) July 5, 2017