Think I’m being snarky with the headline? The actual network-approved title of tonight’s event is “Stand Up: The Students of Stoneman Douglas Demand Action.” This is an advocacy event, not a “news program,” and they’re making no bones about it. I did some cursory googling this morning to see if CNN has ever hosted something so overtly biased towards one side’s position on a hot-button issue and came up empty. By comparison, the debate they hosted on taxes in November between Bernie Sanders and Maria Cantwell on one side and Ted Cruz and Tim Scott on the other was titled, prosaically, “The Fight Over Tax Reform.” They could have done that with this event too — “The Fight Over Guns,” “Americans On Guns,” whatever. But this isn’t a debate or a town hall in the proper sense, even though both sides will be represented. It’s a showcase for very sympathetic victims on one side but not, a la Steve Scalise, on the other. Maybe it’s better that they’re not pretending otherwise with a more anodyne title. There’s a little honesty in that.
The town hall begins at 9 p.m. ET. Here’s what CNN.com’s homepage looked like today for hours, as some high-school students in Florida left class to protest gun rights:
The small headline shunted off to the right side is about the sitting president ordering his attorney general to investigate the previous president, in case you can’t make it out beneath that “Man Walks On Moon”-sized banner.
As of 4:30 this afternoon, here’s what the left side of the homepage looked like:
You would think they’d squeeze something in there about Trump reportedly considering some gun-control proposals, which is potentially big news, but it would screw up the “good against evil” vibe and risk crowding out the bit about the student reading her poem, I guess.
Oh, here’s something else from the network Twitter account this afternoon:
— CNN (@CNN) February 21, 2018
When people like me complained about that, some dimwitted or disingenuous liberals squawked back that there’s nothing wrong with a news outlet reporting how legislators voted on a key proposal. It’s news! Indeed — but they don’t do that consistently on legislative votes, especially at the state level, do they? And they certainly don’t consistently match how a legislator voted to his or her grade from a key lobby group. That tweet isn’t being reported as news, it’s being reported exactly the way a PAC would flag a key vote for its donors in keeping a scorecard. It’s a directive on whom to oppose electorally, not a “news report.” A good point:
Senate recently filibustered a 20-week abortion ban. Like GOP on guns, Dems voted against public opinion (59-35) and global standards (all but countries 7 ban it) on a life-and-death issue
Yet I never saw networks detailing Planned Parenthood’s $20M spending & “bought off” Dems
— Brian Riedl 🧀 (@Brian_Riedl) February 21, 2018
What’s the difference? Democrats voted against a majority of the public on the abortion proposal and had a strong financial incentive to do so. Both the abortion vote and the current gun-control push are framed explicitly in terms of saving children’s lives. Why did CNN key-vote the Florida gun vote but not the congressional abortion vote?
You know why. They’re entitled to be advocates if they want — God knows their competition is — but they’re not entitled to keep up the pretense that they’re the “neutral” network navigating between “Resistance” MSNBC and “state media” Fox. And in fairness to MSNBC, I’m not sure they’ve been any more biased than CNN has been over the last few days. CNN’s tilt is so egregious that I find myself checking my own bias in favor of gun rights as possibly distorting my judgment of how fair they’re being. I’m not wrong that everything I described above is ba-na-nas for an ostensibly impartial news outlet, right?
The X factor in the town hall is the host, Jake Tapper. Tapper is the one anchor left on CNN who seems to care about being viewed as neutral. Populists hate him for various reasons, partly because he’s critical of Trump, but I think any other CNN anchor in this role would be more likely to take the program into outright advocacy than he is. That’s not to say it won’t end up there anyway, though. Again, I refer you to the title of the event plus the fact that some juicy targets for gun-control fans will be part of the program, most notably Marco Rubio and Dana Loesch. A friend and I were debating earlier whether it made sense for them to show up or, given the biased nature of the event, more sense for them to boycott. He said boycott. I said that they should show up, partly to remind viewers that there’s another side to this, partly because it’s harder for gun-control fans to dehumanize the opposition when it’s in front of them, and partly to avoid embarrassing “MACHO GUN SUPPORTERS RUN FROM CHILDREN!” headlines. Which, rest assured, would have appeared as 800-pt banners on CNN.com tomorrow if Rubio and Loesch had bugged out. Anyway, here’s your thread to comment.