Virgil: Trump Brings New Front Against CNN—So Does the Left Like Boycotts, or Not?

Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during the CNN Debate in Miami on March 10, 2016. / AFP / RHONA WISE (Photo credit should read RHONA WISE/AFP/Getty Images)
RHONA WISE/AFP/Getty Images

Here’s a new rule, courtesy of our friends in the Main Stream Media: It’s okay for the liberal corporate establishment to impose boycotts on regular folks, but it’s not okay for regular folks to impose boycotts on the liberal corporate establishment. Got that?

As is so often the case, President Trump, in his blunt way, has forced liberal hypocrisy to the fore. In encouraging a boycott against corporate media, he has provoked the usual hostile reaction decrying boycotts—and yet that has served only to remind us that the corporate media actually like boycotts.

The issue erupted on June 3 when Trump let loose on CNN and also on its corporate parent, AT&T. In a pair of tweets, Trump’s thunder included this invitation to a consumer boycott: 

Yes, it’s unusual for a U.S. president to call for a boycott against a specific company, but then, as we have learned by now, Trump is an unusual president. 

For its part, CNN fired back in real time. On its New Day morning show, co-host Alisyn Camerota said of the critic-in-chief:

He’s watching because he said he couldn’t find anything else because obviously CNN has so much global reach; that’s all he can find while he’s in London.

Next up, Jeffrey Toobin, the CNN legal analyst who is happy to dabble into amateur psychology:

Fake news with the president has become a tell. Like when he says “believe me.” That’s almost always a lie. “Fake news” is now becoming kind of a tell for things that are true. That’s a classic example.

That night, as reported by Mediaite, CNN host Chris Cuomo added more anti-Trump pushback: 

This is America. We don’t have presidents who punish companies because they don’t flatter them enough. There’s nothing “great again” about taking America down the path of the despot.

And in another hour that night, the same Jeffrey Toobin—obviously a busy man—volleyed further criticism of Trump:  

If this tweet isn’t a fundamental violation of every norm that presidents have operated by, which is you don’t use the power of the presidency to punish individual companies. Anything like this. Particularly in relating to the press. It’s just an example of how this president acts in a way that no president in modern American history has acted. It’s completely outrageous and wrong.

And of course, CNN’s allies jumped in to help a fellow MSM-er. The Washington Post summoned up memories of an earlier press devil, Richard Nixon, and quoted a variety of press champions and Trump-trashers, including Noni Ghani of Reporters Without Borders: 

The president’s call for supporters to boycott AT&T, the parent company of CNN, is completely unprecedented in the United States. It is simply a continuation of his efforts to discredit critical journalism and dismantle public trust in the media for scrutinizing his presidency. This is the sort of behavior we’d expect from the leader of a country where the democratic value of the free press is not respected.

And PEN America added its voice, blasting out a statement headlined, “President’s tweet suggesting boycott of CNN’s parent company, AT&T, a disregard for press freedom”:

The president’s ill-informed proposal that consumers boycott a major U.S. corporation because of news coverage that he finds unfavorable makes plain the self-serving, insidious nature of his attacks on the media and his total disregard for the principle of press freedom. 

Meanwhile, on MSNBC, Lawrence O’Donnell accused Trump of “a grotesque attempt to crush the First Amendment rights of a news organization.” And then he added, “Another day, another impeachable offense.” 

Okay, you get the idea. The liberal establishment is gathering around to protect one of its own. And yet the left isn’t just defending CNN, it’s also defending its ultimate corporate parent, AT&T. And this is a bit ironic, since as recently as last year, many liberal groups were opposing AT&T’s purchase of Time Warner, which owns CNN.   

In fact, to make the issue even richer, then-candidate Trump, too, opposed that acquisition when it was first announced in 2016. Moreover, the following year, President Trump’s Justice Department went to court to block it—although it lost, and the merger went through in 2018.   

So we can see: Trump was on the same side as much of the left on this corporate-conglomeration case—although the left, not liking Trump, pretended not to notice.  

In fact, although the left likes to say that it opposes corporate power, when the big corporation in question is doing the left’s work—in this case, AT&T owning and supporting CNN—well, then much of the left sings a different tune. Who would have thought that “Don’t boycott AT&T!” would become a leftist rallying cry?

Hmm. Yes, it does seem that boycotts have been in the news a lot lately. But those earlier sightings of the “b”-word were in a completely different context—then, the left was in favor of boycotts.  Yes, as recently as last month, the left was actively supporting a looming boycott.

That boycott—a good boycott, the left would say—was brewing against the state of Georgia. On May 7, Gov. Brian Kemp signed the Living Infants Fairness and Equality Act, aimed at preventing most abortions.

In response, on May 29, the CEO of Disney, Robert Iger—whose company  does vast production work in the Peach State—declared that it would be “very difficult” for his company to keep filming there. Bloomberg News summed it up: “Disney Goes to War With Republicans.”

Of course, as we have seen, the liberal establishment tends to operate as a pack. And so after Iger’s statement, other production companies with substantial presences in Georgia—many California movie and TV companies have flocked to Georgia because it offers lower taxes—also weighed in with economic threats, including Netflix and AMC.  

And oh yes: That same Warner Media, the new subsidiary of AT&T—parent to HBO, TNT, and many other properties, including CNN—declared that it would “reconsider” its operations in Georgia. 

Understandably, the fight in Georgia will remind some observers of the events in North Carolina in 2016. That’s when then-governor Pat McCrory signed a bill restricting transgender bathrooms, thereby causing a storm not only on the left, but also in Woke Corporate America. And yes, there was a corporate boycott, muchly applauded by liberals. According to one report, the economic blockade cost the Tarheel State $3.76 billion; McCrory was defeated in his 2016 re-election bid, and the law was overturned by the new Democrat governor.  

So what will happen in Georgia? Will a boycott succeed there, as it did in North Carolina? We’ll have to see. Yet so many companies have operations—even headquarters—in Georgia that it’s hard to envision an exodus. Indeed, speaking of headquarters, a wiseguy might point out that CNN is headquartered in Atlanta, even if much of its on-air operations have moved to New York City. (And as an aside, there’s no talk of movie-makers not selling tickets to Georgians.) 

It seems that many liberals hope that Georgia’s LIFE Act will be thrown out in the courts, thereby saving corporate liberals any angst about making good on their threat to relocate from a low-tax, business-friendly state.  

To that end, Hollywood mogul Peter Chernin, who has argued for keeping business in Georgia, just salved his liberal conscience by giving $1 million to the ACLU for the purpose of funding its new legal effort to fight the pro-life bill. In other words, the corporate-media left is hoping to have its cake and eat it, too. That is, to stay in Georgia while counting on the courts to do its dirty work for it. 

Yet there’s still the issue of CNN, and Trump’s talk of boycotting AT&T. That may, or may not, turn into a real thing; we’ll have to see if Trump keeps up the pressure.  

Yet we already know this much: As far as progressives are concerned, boycotts are a tool for them to use—and yet they are never to be used against them. 

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