CNN Sparks Meme War: Reddit Strikes Back After CNN Threatens User Who Created Trump GIF

CNN continues to feel the backlash against a perceived threat to out the identity of a Reddit user who created a now-viral Trump GIF, with Reddit users and subreddits striking back and starting to ban links to the network.

The incident was sparked last week when Donald Trump re-tweeted a GIF created by a Reddit user showing Trump (during his stint in the WWE) attacking a person with the CNN logo superimposed over his head. The tweet led to widespread criticism for Donald Trump by those who saw the action as petty and below the office of the president, with some claiming that it could incite violence against journalists.

The controversy soon turned to the person who first created the GIF, a Reddit user named HanA**holeSolo. A number of outlets began looking into the person’s posting history, finding a number of instances of racism and anti-Semitism. In its own report, CNN uncovered the identity of the man but noted they would keep it private — after what many saw as a forced apology and on the condition that he refrains from posting any more inflammatory content.

“CNN is not publishing ‘HanA**holeSolo’s’ name because he is a private citizen who has issued an extensive statement of apology, showed his remorse by saying he has taken down all his offending posts, and because he said he is not going to repeat this ugly behavior on social media again,” the article stated. “…CNN reserves the right to publish his identity should any of that change.”

That apparent threat did not go over well with the internet, with many equating the threat to blackmail and the term #CNNBlackmail shooting to the top of Twitter. The actions also sparked something of a battle within Reddit. While some defended CNN and noted that HanA**holeSolo’s own history of posting racially charged content makes his outing fair game, the majority were against CNN, and some subreddits are already taking action.

Many saw CNN as trying to frighten away critics who might create unflattering GIFs and memes, so naturally, Reddit became even more flooded with anti-CNN memes. One, which shot to the top of Reddit, showed a picture of a hostage making a forced apology while being held at gunpoint by men with CNN logos superimposed over their heads.


Some cited the “Streisand Effect,” an internet theory that shows how attempts to suppress certain information ends up spreading it even further.

The Economist offered some history into the theory.

“Named after the American singer and actress Barbra Streisand, the Streisand Effect describes how efforts to suppress a juicy piece of online information can backfire and end up making things worse for the would-be censor. Ms Streisand inadvertently gave her name to the phenomenon in 2003, when she sued the California Coastal Records Project, which maintains an online photographic archive of almost the entire California coastline, on the grounds that its pictures included shots of her cliffside Malibu mansion, and thus invaded her privacy.”

However, Streisand’s lawsuit only brought more attention to the pictures, which then spread further around the internet.

CNN apparently didn’t bear the lesson. The network’s alleged “blackmail” of the Reddit user who created the Trump GIF has now sparked what some have termed a Meme War. A subreddit called CNNMemes, which was created earlier this year but had been dormant, was flooded with user-made images criticizing CNN. By late morning on Wednesday, there were 15,000 users on the subreddit.

Others have taken more direct action, with a handful banning direct links to CNN on their subreddits and instead only allowing links to archived pages. Moreover, the backlash continues, with CNN still among the top terms on Twitter and critics still creating memes attacking the network.

[Featured Image by Ric Feld/AP Images]