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What World Is CNN's Stupid Boss Living In?
In Chris Licht's alternate universe, the media hates cops and loves loves loves trans people. Uh, fact check....
If, like me, you are a denizen of that sad little corner of the universe known as Medialand, you will have been riveted over the past few days by the widening catastrophe at CNN. Now, we all know that CNN has been bad ever since around, say, June 1, 1980, but the immediate crisis centers around its current CEO, Chris Licht. (Update, 10 a.m. ET, June 7: On Wednesday morning, Licht was fired. Bye!)
On Friday, The Atlantic dropped a 15,000-word piece by Tim Alberta chronicling Licht’s first year running CNN. Does Chris Licht deserve to have 15,000 words written about him? No! But whatever. I would drop the “I ain’t reading all that” meme here, except that I, uh, did read all that. The article’s main points, roughly summarized, are:
Chris Licht is an asshole.
Chris Licht is very bad at his job.
That stupid Trump town hall he did? It was stupid.
Everyone at CNN really hates Chris Licht.
Now, Chris Licht, a man who wants thousands of employees to listen to him even though he was dumb enough to let a reporter follow him everywhere on the record for a year while he said a torrent of idiotic nonsense out loud, is groveling desperately and promising to change. Since even CNN’s own media reporter says that everyone at the network still hates him, it’s reasonable to assume that Licht will be shown the door soon. RIP, blah blah blah.
So why am I bothering with this doofus? Because apart from revealing him to be a moron, the Atlantic piece also gives us a sterling example of one of the most insidious habits of corporate media sociopaths these days: their impulse to insist that, rather than the very powerful people they actually are, they are scrappy underdogs fighting America’s greatest enemy: the woke mind-virus. (And yes, this example involves trans people.)
Here’s a bit from the Atlantic profile. (For context, a lot of the piece is about how, in Licht’s eyes, CNN was super-duper-liberal and out of touch and now he’s come in to drag it back to the real America, ie Republicans.)
Emphasis mine throughout:
Licht insisted that his media critiques were not ideological; that he was rebuking not a liberal slant on the news, per se, but rather a bias toward elite cultural sensibility, a reporting covenant in which affluent urban-dwelling journalists avoid speaking hard truths that would alienate members of their tribe. When we returned to the question of covering transgender issues—specifically, the science around prepubescent hormone treatments and life-altering surgeries—he suggested that the media was less interested in finding answers and more worried about not offending perceived allies.
“We’ve got to ask tough questions without being shouted down for having the temerity to even ask,” Licht said. “There is a truth in there, and it may not serve one side or the other. But let’s get to the truth. Some of this is right, some of this is wrong; some of this is wrong, some of this is right.”
He paused. “And I will add, this is where words matter. You immediately force some people to tune out when you use, like, ‘person capable of giving birth.’ People tune out and you lose that trust.” He took another pause. “Do not virtue signal. Tell the truth. Ask questions getting at the truth—not collecting facts for one side or collecting facts for another side. Ask the tough questions. It’s an incredibly sensitive, divisive issue of which there is a Venn diagram that this country can agree on, if we get there with facts.”
Licht argued that the media’s blind spots owe to a lack of diversity—and not the lack of diversity that he sees newsrooms obsessing over. He wants to recruit reporters who are deeply religious and reporters who grew up on food stamps and reporters who own guns. Licht recalled a recent dustup with his own diversity, equity, and inclusion staff after making some spicy remarks at a conference. “I said, ‘A Black person, a brown person, and an Asian woman that all graduated the same year from Harvard is not diversity,’” he told me.
A minute later—after noting how sharing that anecdote could get him in trouble, and pausing to consider what he would say next—Licht added: “I think ‘Defund the police’ would’ve been covered differently if newsrooms were filled with people who had lived in public housing.” I asked him why. “They have a different relationship with their need with the police,” he said.
Wow, he really hit all the points there! We got some coastal elite-bashing (and nobody is better positioned to whip us New York types into shape than the man who has spent the last 15 years running heartland favorites like Morning Joe, CBS This Morning, and Stephen Colbert’s late-night show). We got some “there’s a TRUTH about trans people but we’re too SCARED to talk about it, what’s with this ‘I identify as a cloud’” stuff. We even got some “defund the police” stuff!
I have two reactions whenever I read things like this. The first is “fuck you.” But the second is: what world are these people living in????
Like, yeah, great point Chris Licht, there’s nowhere the average news consumer can go for skepticism about trans people, with the minor exceptions of the New York Times, the Washington Post, Reuters, New York magazine, Fox News, the entire British media, and many, many more—including the very magazine Licht is speaking to in the profile, The Atlantic, which has written about 5 million anti-trans stories.
And please introduce me to this alternate universe where “defund the police” and criminal justice reform was met with rapturous media coverage—because here in the real world, the corporate media has been relentlessly hostile to the entire criminal justice reform movement.
Chris Licht has been at the center of media power for over a decade. He’s running one of the biggest news outlets on the planet. He has had more influence on the way all of these issues are covered than about 99 percent of the population. But, in his mind, he’s swimming against a lefty tide, furiously paddling upstream while a giant trans monster tears through our discourse, lets every murderer out of jail, and is fervently cheered on by the entire press.
It’s so, so, crazy. But it’s also an excellent window into the way these people think. They really seem to believe that saying “Hmmm, not sure about these TRANS people, and I actually LOVE cops” is groundbreaking, taboo stuff, instead of the consensus position in the corporate media. I hate it!