DID CNN GO TOO FAR?
Last Sunday morning, US President Donald Trump ventured into uncharted territory for any world leader – he tweeted a 30-second video showing him beating up a professional wrestling “villain” whose head had been replaced by the logo of news network CNN.
The tweet, with an accompanying hashtag #FraudNewsCNN, was part of Mr Trump’s ongoing battle against news organisations he believes have done him a disservice.
What followed was a strange series of events that has left many observers scratching their heads.
It turns out the video Mr Trump posted bore a striking similarity to a silent image animation (called a GIF) from social news aggregation site Reddit, where it was first posted by user HanA***oleSolo four days before the tweet, in a sub-Reddit dedicated to the US President.
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After Mr Trump posted the video, the Reddit user took credit, proudly proclaiming: “Wow!! I never expected my meme to be retweeted by the God Emperor himself!!!”
Many of the users in the dedicated forum call Mr Trump the “God Emperor”, and having one’s creative work lauded by someone you so admire is certainly cause for celebration.
The Reddit user’s 15 minutes of fame led other curious users to comb through the site for his past posts, which happened to contain racist and anti-Semitic content.
News organisations, particularly CNN, also got in on the act.
CNN reporter Andrew Kaczynski eventually managed to identify the identity of HanA***oleSolo by sifting through his digital trail and past history on the site, and cross-referencing it with information found on Facebook.
The reporter sent e-mails to the user last Monday.
The next day, HanA***oleSolo posted an extensive apology on the sub-Reddit, and deleted all his other posts.
“I would like to apologise 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,” he said.
“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.
CNN had said that Mr Trump’s tweet “encourages violence against reporters”.
The Reddit user also expressed remorse in a follow-up interview with CNN, and begged not to be named out of fear for his and his family’s safety.
CNN said it would not be publishing his identity as he has apologised, but would do so if he repeated his “ugly behaviour on social media” again.
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The strong-arm tactics did not go down well with a number of Twitter users who saw it as an attack on free speech.
The hashtag #CNNBlackmail started trending last Tuesday night.
“A multibillion-dollar TV network blackmailing a private citizen into not making funny videos about it is not journalism, CNN. #CNNBlackmail,” said WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
“So @CNN can find a Reddit user in three hours but can’t find a Russia connection in six months?” said Twitter user Charlie Kirk, referring to the current probe into Russia’s links with Mr Trump’s successful presidential campaign.
Meme creators also went into overdrive against the news network.
The CNN logo started appearing on doctored images. One depicted an ISIS hostage situation, and in another, the logo was superimposed onto the head of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
In a tit-for-tat measure, some netizens also threatened to release personal information such as the home addresses of Mr Kaczynski and other CNN staff.
But it seems a majority of netizens were just struck by the audacity of the US President’s Twitter antics.
Mr Trump not only posted the wrestling video, which incidentally has become his most popular tweet with close to 600,000 likes and 350,000 shares, on his personal Twitter account, he also retweeted it on his official President of the United States account.
This means it will be preserved for posterity in the US National Archives.
In April, archive head David S. Ferriero said Mr Trump’s tweets, misspellings and all, will be kept so future generations can revel in his “peculiar and unprecedented use of Twitter as an art form and governing tool”.
‘PLASTIC’ RICE IN AFRICA
Videos of people rolling rice up into balls and bouncing them across the floor have led to serious consequences in Africa.
Many of these YouTubers believe that this is proof that the rice they have bought from their local produce shops contains plastic, a rumour that has been circulating online since 2010.
The recent videos have fuelled calls for boycotts of foreign imported rice into Africa, particularly from countries such as China and Thailand.
It didn’t help that the Nigerian authorities seized 2.5 tonnes of reportedly fake rice last December.
Customs official Mamudu Haruna initially called the rice “plastic” in a press briefing. “After boiling, it was sticky and only God knows what would have happened if people consumed it,” he said.
He was later forced to eat his words when the country’s Health Minister said that there was no evidence for such claims.
But the damage had been done, and the situation has only become worse in recent months.
The problem has become so grave that some agencies, such as Ghana’s Food and Drugs Authority, have conducted investigations into the allegations.
They invited any consumer or trader to send in samples which they suspect are made of plastic.
The conclusion is that no plastic rice is being sold on the Ghanaian market.