First, two rules…
1. Unless you’re a shock comic, don’t publicly attempt an “obvious joke” about Nazis. (This also applies to rape, lynching, and presidential assassination.)
2. The First Amendment protects your right to free speech, not your right to get paid for it.
Jeffrey Lord forgot both rules last week. The pro-Trump CNN pundit tweeted “Sieg Heil!” at the end of a Twitter fight…
…and of course, when you do that, it’s always the end of a Twitter fight. You lost.
Not surprisingly, CNN fired him the next day. Also not surprisingly, conservative media rushed to defend Lord, while liberal media chastised CNN for hiring him in the first place.
Let’s dispense with Sean Hannity’s whiny self-righteousness…
…because he never lets facts stand in the way of an outraged tweet. Or he’s forgotten that the same CNN fired Kathy Griffin for “joking” about decapitating Donald Trump, a New Jersey college fired a black professor after her “white privilege” rant on Fox News, and liberals torched Bill Maher for saying “house nigger” on his HBO show.
And that’s just the past three months.
Let’s also dismiss Lord telling Breitbart his tweet was “clearly sarcastic” and “an obvious joke.” It doesn’t matter. See Rule No. 1 above. As for Rule No. 2…
Lord also told Breitbart, “Had I known that this would happen, I’d have done it again. This is very much about free speech.”
Yes, and it was CNN’s free speech to get rid of him.
Because the conservative arguments are so lame they can be mocked simply by quoting them, let’s focus on the liberal response. It’s actually dangerous.
Wrote Slate’s Justin Peters last week: “The only thing dumber than how Lord left the network, in fact, is how he got there in the first place.”
After Donald Trump complained to CNN that the network wasn’t being nice enough to him, CNN responded not just by letting him propose some people who would be nice to him, but by actually putting one of them on television ad nauseam. It’s sad but not surprising. If CNN’s political-commentary programming stands for anything, it is for cheerful acquiescence to the demands of the powerful in the name of false balance.
Peters defines “false balance” as “the flawed journalistic impulse to give each side of an argument equal time and weight regardless of each side’s relative standing to facts and truth.”
He calls Lord “a marginal gadfly” who’s “really, really awful.” So who would Slate choose to represent President Trump’s side on the air? Who’s just Trumpian enough not to offend? Who passes the Peters Test? Does anyone?
The Washington Post’s Erik Wemple thinks none of Trump’s spinmeisters deserve airtime…
During the presidential election campaign, the network hired a number of pro-Trump voices just to speak on behalf of the candidate, considering that its stable of reasonable conservatives wouldn’t perform that service. The result has been something approaching madness, with red herrings, false equivalencies, non sequiturs, disjointed rationales and every other polemical foul imaginable besmirching CNN transcripts.
(As an aside, those last six words perfectly sum up “media elite” writing.)
The fact is, Trump won enough votes in enough places to be president. As you can tell from the conservatives rallying to him, Lord speaks for many of these voters — nearly 63 million of them.
If those millions have embraced “false equivalencies,” then it’s not “false balance” to let those be heard. Even if they’re wrong. Especially if they’re wrong.
I frequently watched Lord on CNN and was glad for it. In less than a minute, I understood today’s defense for whichever foot Trump had inserted into his mouth. More importantly, I heard it unfiltered by smarmy journalists.
I love my own kind, and I hate Donald Trump, but damn. There are times when I read and watch my peers, and I just want to choke them with the cords to their keyboards and microphones.
The very definition of “media elite” is the conflicted belief that Trumpsters like Lord are both unbelievable buffoons and public threats. It’s insulting and infantilizing when the media insists our republic can’t survive asinine opinions.
Does anyone really think Lord swayed a single voter in his two years on CNN? Hell, he was immediately gang-challenged on the air, and no corner of the internet failed to fact-check him.
While Lord swayed no liberals, the opposite might accidentally be true. Watching the shit shows, I can imagine at least some Trump “protest voters” are wondering if Hillary Clinton really would’ve been any worse. I can also imagine a politically curious pre-teen watching the likes of Lord, Omarosa Manigault, and Kayleigh McEnany — and thinking, “I have friends in the sixth grade who are smarter than this.”
Yet Peters and Wemple want to purge these voices because America isn’t smart enough to realize they’re ridiculous. But if that happens, it’ll only drive more people to Breitbart and Hannity.
CNN did its job by hiring Jeffrey Lord. It also did its job by firing him.
I don’t expect Hannity to see that, but I have higher expectations of my fellow journalists. It’s downright scary that Peters uses the F-word…
This impulse is the most insidious form of, yes, fake news: cable networks’ habit of hiring superficially articulate frauds and fakers to interpret the news, in the process falsely equating their bad opinions with informed people’s good ones.
If Peters and Wemple ruled the media world, I wonder how they would decide whose opinions were “bad” and whose were “good.” Maybe that should be Rule No. 3….
Never let journalists run things.