I don’t think CNN threatened this guy with anything. Look, it’s pretty clear you hate CNN, but honestly, this isn’t some story of some righteous freedom fighter being threatened into silence. This guy didn’t make some grand political statement about freedom or really stand for anything.
He was just someone what posted loud angry things for the express purpose of getting a reaction. He’s the middle-aged internet equivalent of a kid spray painting profanity on a wall. The purpose is to get attention, not to actually “say” or accomplish anything else. That’s what makes internet trolls different from actual activists regardless of political background.
Activists say “Look at this! Look at what’s going on that I’m showing you!”
Trolls say “Look at me! Look at what I’m doing and give me attention for it!”
The irony being that as much as trolls want attention, most of them definitely don’t want recognition. They want attention,. but only in a way that doesn’t actually require them to face any consequences.
Whistle blowers and anonymous sources also want anonymity, but they want it in exchange for providing valuable information to the public. On the other hand trolls aren’t about giving anything to the public. They’re all about getting something from the public (attention, self esteem etc).
So here comes this guy, another self admitted troll who posts racist offensive things, not to actually say or change anything, but just to draw attention to himself in a way that he thinks won’t lead to anyone ever finding out who he actually is.
And it would have worked to, except that THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES re-tweeted his latest bit of juvenile stupidity. And whether you like it or not, the minute the PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES re-tweets something you came up with, it automatically becomes news.
So it makes perfect sense to me that media and journalism sources like CNN would try to find out “who came up with this thing the president is re-tweeting”.
If Obama had re-tweeted a cat video that went viral, I’ve no doubt that CNN would also have tried to find out who came up with it. Though in that case I’m pretty sure they’d have no problem with getting that person to come forward.
In this case, the guy had a “Holy Shit!” moment when CNN contacted him (God I wish I could have seen his face! That would have been priceless!) and he suddenly realized that all of the horrible racist things he had posted purely to grab attention from strangers would suddenly have his name as byline! He probably and rightfully freaked the f*ck out!
So in an act of massive maturity, which sadly for too many of us only comes the moment we realize how our stupid juvenile attention grabbing actions have placed our hard earned/hard worked lives and reputations at risk, he erased everything.
This isn’t a story about someone whose words expressed their convictions or someone lacking the courage of said convictions. This guy didn’t have any convictions or at very least (according to his apology) his words did not reflect his convictions.
This is a story about someone who wrote some very offensive things for the purpose of gaining attention and panicked the minute he realized that he had gotten more attention than he was prepared to handle.
CNN found him, but honestly they probably weren’t the only ones looking given the size of the story.
I know that a whole lot of people find this story scary, but I think we should all stop to consider why we find it scary. Is this story scary because we’re afraid that real activists and whistle blowers are being exposed by CNN or are we really scared because we’re thinking of all the stupid thoughtless offensive things we’ve “put out there” over the years and are just now realizing how terrifying it would be if all of those things carried our name in the byline.
Are we deathly afraid of people silencing our true opinions, or are we much more afraid that people will identify us with all of the thoughtless, stupid, offensive things we say and post more to gain attention than to stage a protest.
We love to view ourselves as righteous voices, but deep down some part of us (myself included) knows how incredibly vain, flawed, petty and desperate for approval we can be. We all say stupid dumb things and we all know that on more than one occasion we have said things for the purpose of getting attention and puffing ourselves up as opposed to “making a statement”
To me, the idea that some one will link my name to those times I have said or done that are massive stupid is much more frightening than the fear that someone will silence me when I am standing for something I believe in.
When most people believe in something, they aren’t ashamed to stand by it. But when people know they’ve done something stupid, all they want to do is escape any association with it.
Public forums like reddit and medium both invite people to state their view and invite them to be incredibly stupid.
It’s up to the person writing to know the difference and to think about why they are putting something out, not just what they are putting out.