Masked Media Critics
I have enjoyed National Review for nearly four decades. Even when NR gets it wrong (in my view), they almost always do so thoughtfully and from sound conservative principles.
In the current issue, you presented me with an exception to this rule. I refer to your (admittedly mild) defense of CNN’s “doxxing” (or, rather, threat to do so) of a young “Redditor” who created and posted a video graphic of CNN being beaten up by Donald Trump. Rather than focusing on CNN’s a) inability to take a (kind of lame) joke, or b) devotion of investigatory resources to such a trivial matter when there are other obvious issues that could benefit from such “sunlight,” you said: “Why should political social-media posts be anonymous? . . . The identity of social-media pundits is a matter of public interest. Let the sun shine in.”
Here’s the problem: Anonymous speech is an integral and fundamental right tied to the right to free speech itself. If this were not inherently obvious, please note that our nation’s civil-rights jurisprudence recognizes this fact explicitly. The modern-day political climate is such that a person’s life can be destroyed for even trivial transgressions of the current liberal pieties. More grimly, leftist mobs roam the land ready to destroy property, pepper-spray the objects of their unhinged hatred, and worse. There are sound reasons to remain anonymous when being provocative, and weighing these against the ludicrous idea that some guy with a GIF editor is a “pundit” of any stripe does not exactly scream out for “sunshine.”
Of course I am aware that the First Amendment applies to state action and thus says nothing about whether CNN is permitted to deploy resources to cause someone harm as a penalty for mocking it. The “civil rights” argument is just a parallel: This is the powerless standing up to the powerful, something liberals claim to admire (until the moment it’s something that gets their own panties in a bunch, of course). Combined with CNN’s willingness to die on the barricades to protect the anonymity of someone making up fake-news allegations against Republicans, I think the real story here is the appalling hypocrisy on display.
The Editors respond: You’re welcome, and thanks for your support. We agree that CNN deserved at least mild criticism, which is what we think we gave it. We agree as well that anonymous speech is constitutionally protected. Whether it should be celebrated is a different matter. Sometimes “the powerless” are just the cowardly.