Every week — and sometimes more often than that — there is another reminder of how what happens on the internet can go viral and spill over into national politics and the mainstream media.
This week, that reminder came in the form of a 28-second video created by a user of the online message board Reddit. The video depicts President Trump attacking a man with the CNN logo superimposed over his head, a reference to the — how shall we put it? — somewhat up-and-down relationship between the president and a cable news network.
The video erupted into a news story on Sunday, when Mr. Trump posted it on Twitter. The move delighted his fans, and left others aghast. Some said that the president’s use of the video could incite his followers to threaten or attack media employees.
The video’s impact did not end there. On Tuesday, CNN published an article saying it had found and spoken to the Reddit user who made the video. The man had created other posts that were anti-Semitic and racist in nature, the network reported. CNN did not name the creator of the video because, it said, he was “a private citizen who had issued an extensive statement of apology” and had taken down the offending posts, but the network said it “reserves the right to publish his identity should any of that change.”
The CNN article — and in particular what some labeled the veiled threat to publish the video creator’s name — immediately drew a backlash from Mr. Trump’s supporters and others. Using the hashtag #CNNBlackmail, right-wing Twitter users accused CNN of trying to blackmail the man who made the video.
The mounting controversy against CNN was fueled by right-wing internet users, who Kevin Roose, a business columnist for The New York Times, says make up “a particularly prolific and vocal internet subcommunity.” Many of those users frequent Reddit and sites like 4chan, where they have given birth to many a meme and conspiracy theory.
How much longer the video’s impact will play out is unclear, but it has already done enough to earn the title of the little video that could. It has dominated several days’ worth of news cycles; spurred thousands of tweets, posts, comments and news articles; gotten a major news network into some hot water; and prompted a president to engage with it. Not bad for something that was only supposed to last 28 seconds.
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