CNN is to journalism what Dairy Queen is to journalism.
As in, they have no clue how this journalism stuff works.
From the get-go, they absolutely and unequivocally botched their Morgan Freeman gotcha piece.
It's a case study in bad journalism trying to ride on the coattails of a social movement, proving they do not understand #MeToo -- or how to do a story.
I am not going to make excuses or condone Freeman's behaviour. He is a grown man, and I am not his publicist.
But what he did is not sexual harassment. No one's job was at stake. He did not attack anyone or blacklist them.
He did something a lot of people do -- and something I have encountered as a journalist and educator: try to bring the centre of gravity away from the person who holds the balance of power and bring it toward himself, by means of distraction and flattery.
This is a very straightforward stratagem, and in boxing, this would be a left jab -- a probe punch.
When I started out teaching college, I had a young student on the very first day tell the entire class out loud how attractive I was.
This wasn't sexual harassment. This was a ploy to (a) see how shallow I was, and (b) place himself above me in a pecking order.
I merely replied, "Nice try, but no bonus points for you."
I established my authority immediately, and he never pulled a stunt like that again, and neither did anyone in that classroom.
He could have used my intelligence as a substitute for looks -- it would still be the same gambit.
He could have resorted to negging, or some other way of pushing his boundaries.
This is what people do when they are potentially at the mercy of someone who can make trouble for them. It is a form of sparring, and in antagonistic dynamics, it is a form of finding out how far you can push, and whether someone will push back.
A journalist can ruin a career with a negative story. A professor can fail a student. If you do not understand power dynamics in the professional sphere, then you are not a journalist. You are an unreasonable facsimile of one.
Women still have to be adults. They still have to be aware of their power, and keep control of it. You can have no expectation that you can waltz in and not expect opposition from people. Children challenge their parents -- it is innate.
CNN's piece was tattling with absolutely no understanding of the nuances of what was actually going on.
Freeman apologized -- and he rightfully pointed out that lumping him with the Weinsteins and the Cosbys was irresponsible. It was. It trivializes sexual harassment.
But CNN's temper tantrum in response proves that as a news organization, they are unprofessional frauds.
Once upon a time, journalists would interview people from both sides of the story -- and when I say both sides, it doesn't mean they would interview the person accused of wrongdoing -- but those around him who can speak about his behaviour and understand him.
You lay out a map. You present information from both sides, and then you look at the bottom line.
In some cases, the blame is clear: a man murders a child for kicks. There is nothing good to say about him. There is nothing bad to say about the child.
But in the Freeman case, this is a grey area -- it is not cut and dried -- and there are far too many unanswered questions.
In fact, I could take any random person and find ten people to slag them. It is not hard. I can find a wonderful teacher, and find ten parents who will speak horribly about them, even if I find one hundred parents who think the person is a miracle worker.
That's not news. That is reality for everyone on the planet.
What CNN did was find a handful of people who were offended by Freeman's behaviour. I am certain we can find a handful of people who could tell you horror stories about the accusers. It's a cheat and a hack.
It takes far more than finding a few slaggers: you have to make a case that this behaviour has consequences other than displeasure. Did his behaivour stymie careers? Break the law? Sabotage innocents?
He could have given interviews with garlic breath and got the same reaction. It's disappointing, but it is not news.
And for CNN to thump their little chests and say they are not afraid to go to court is ludicrous: go to court? This isn't Watergate: this is village gossip -- and to trash talk and treat a source of a story as a punching bag isn't journalism: it is a cheap publicity stunt that serves no purpose and no public good.
It is partisan propaganda that trivializes sexual harassment as it infantilizes women who are being confined in some sexist Victorian stereotypes where their virgin ears bleed to the point they faint at the slightest provocation.
They got brains. They got mouths. They could have told Freeman to go jump in the lake and given him a death stare. That's it. He would have backed off. He isn't a threat. He isn't a menace.
So stop pretending this is some brute, and that you are doing a public service.
CNN has just proven they are not journalists. No one can now trust them to tell an accurate, reliable, or credible story because if they deem you The Villain, they are just going to slag you in public, thinking up insults instead of doing actual research to get something called facts.
CNN, get a grip. This slap fight is beyond pathetic. Once upon a time you had the Boys of Baghdad. Now, you are picking fights with celebrities.
I do not know what trailer park your headquarters now reside, but you forgot to pack your dignity when you moved there...