CNN has fallen into Trump’s pro-wrestling trap and it can’t get up

The media swells outraged at President Trump’s CNN wrestling tweet do not understand the level at which he communicates to his base, primarily out of their disdain for vulgar mass culture, including reality television and pro wrestling.  (Remember that the root of the word “vulgar” is the Latin “vulgus” or “common people.”)  The president, by contrast, is one of the most successful impresarios (and stars) in the history of American mass culture. Celebrity Apprentice was the most successful reality TV program in the history of the American medium.

President Trump knows how to reach the great mass of the public using images, music, and words, while those who disdain him primarily operate on the level of discourse they consider far superior: an appeal to intellect. Now, as somebody who went to the trouble of acquiring three graduate degrees and teaching at a couple of Ivy League universities, I can make a plausible claim to value intellectual discourse as much as anyone. And I do.  But I don’t kid myself that this is the only meaningful level of communication – in politics, art, human relations, or anywhere else.

The visceral reactions to the wrestling takedown by Trump of a character with a CNN logo photoshopped on his head backfired immediately, as the first stage of the trap sprung.  The primary outrage was that this could incite violence against journalists, which is laughable considering that most of the media establishment shrugged off the Kathy Griffin ISIS-style beheading photo as a harmless exercise of the First Amendment.  President Trump, the impresario, understands the potency of an image such as this:

He knows that these memories do not completely fade. Don’t forget that he is also in the branding business, and understands the nature of keeping images and associations alive on a continuing basis.  The comparison with his own cartoonish image takes place subconsciously even if not in the front of mind:

Griffin is part of the CNN brand, even though they fired her from her New Year’s Eve gig, an iconic annual event, thereby affecting CNN’s brand.  It was her highest profile engagement, a major part of her brand, too.  So CNN’s outrage over violence just makes them look ridiculous, even though they did fire Griffin after waiting a day to gauge public reaction.

I wonder how many of the media Trump haters ever attended a pro wrestling match? I therefore wonder if they understand the mentality of Americans who happen to enjoy pro wrestling? My guess is that few among them have either first-hand experience or the interest in knowing anything about the subject. They probably are a little ashamed of their country for supporting such a loutish and obviously phony spectacle that has the potential of stirring up the undesirables and deplorables. The critics of Trump for inciting violence certainly didn’t know at first that the man who was taken down by Trump was Vince McMahon, the owner of WWE, indicating the obvious comic and friendly nature of the stunt.

As a teenager in Minneapolis in the early 1960s, back when local television stations broadcast live pro-wrestling matches, my pals and I would bicycle down to a local station that offered free tickets for a studio audience on its Saturday Night Wrestling show. Quite often, since it was free and something to do on a Saturday night. We were a bunch of cheeky smart alecks there to laugh at them. But we quickly got it that the rest of the audience and the wrestlers themselves got it, too.  Everything was taking place with a giant wink.

And that gave us permission to act out our parts in the drama with enthusiasm, screaming at the designated villain, jumping up and threatening to run at the ring to attack. All play, mimicking terrible tantrums, but permitted because it was a wink and a nod. It was kind of therapeutic, this permission to act out primitive urges in public, I guess. But it was also making fun of the people that made fun of wrestling fans.

And CNN – despite being in the entertainment business -- understands none of this. They have just, in fact, stepped even deeper into the trap Trump baited with the video. Piecing together accounts from CNN, HuffPost, Vox, the New York Daily News, and Sundance of Conservative Treehouse, once the White House tweeted the video, a person who posts under the pseudonym “HanA**holeSolo” on Reddit identified the account as the source of the photshopping of the CNN image. It was actually a gif moving image, posted last Wednesday, that superimposed the CNN logo on Vince McMahon’s body. (The White House has issued a denial that Reddit was source.) But once HanA**Hole identified himself, his post on Redddit was noticed and publicized on Twitter by journalist Jared Yates Sexton:



It turns out that he is a troll who has published a lot of nasty racist, antisemitic stuff, and therefore President Trump must endorse everything he ever wrote because he used a video (not a gif, by the way) that may have originated from HanA**holeSolo. I gather that is the line of reasoning being employed by the sophisticated intellectuals outraged at Trump.

Once CNN got wind of the story, it writes that:

…CNN's KFile identified the man behind "HanA**holeSolo." Using identifying information that "HanA**holeSolo" posted on Reddit, KFile was able to determine key biographical details, to find the man's name using a Facebook search and ultimately corroborate details he had made available on Reddit.

On Monday, KFile attempted to contact the man by email and phone but he did not respond. 

Gee, I wonder what they said to him?

They don’t offer us a clue, other than to report that the man behind Han A**holeSolo suddenly changed and offered the type of fulsome apology (full text at the end of this article) practiced by captives of the North Koreans while blinking out S.O.S. in Morse Code.

Now what do you suppose sparked this sudden burst of conscience?

Of you guessed blackmail, then you are following the same logic as Sundance:

In an article identifying the originating source of the wrestling gif tweeted last week by President Donald Trump, CNN says they’ll keep his name private so long as the person remains compliant to the media thought police.

The direct threat is: “CNN reserves the right to publish his identity should any of that change.”


It seems to me that a few days ago President Trump was accused of blackmailing MSNBC’s Joe and Mika. Now CNN has outed itself for currently blackmailing a private citizen with exposure unless he complies with their demands.  

The drama being played out to people who understand pro wrestling is clear. CNN has cast itself as the villainous wrestler in the match, its hypocrisy and duplicity making the case so convincingly that it doesn’t even need a mask or outrageous costume to mark its role in the drama.

And they still don’t get it.


HanA**hole’s apology (via CNN):

On Tuesday, "HanA**holeSolo" posted his apology on the subreddit /The_Donald and deleted all of his other posts.

"First of all, I would like to apologize to the members of the reddit community for getting this site and this sub embroiled in a controversy that should never have happened," he wrote. "I would also like to apologize for the posts made that were racist, bigoted, and anti-semitic. 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 am not the person that the media portrays me to be in real life, I was trolling and posting things to get a reaction from the subs on reddit and never meant any of the hateful things I said in those posts. I would never support any kind of violence or actions against others simply for what they believe in, their religion, or the lifestyle they choose to have. Nor would I carry out any violence against anyone based upon that or support anyone who did."

The user further apologized for calls for violence against the press in his statement on Reddit.

"The meme was created purely as satire, it was not meant to be a call to violence against CNN or any other news affiliation," he wrote. "I had no idea anyone would take it and put sound to it and then have it put up on the President's Twitter feed. It was a prank, nothing more. What the President's feed showed was not the original post that was posted here, but loaded up somewhere else and sound added to it then sent out on Twitter. I thought it was the original post that was made and that is why I took credit for it. 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."