In Depth: Nasr – Over-reaction or Not?
I’m still digesting the very quick firing of CNN’s Octavia Nasr. As I said earlier “I don’t know. Maybe she had to go.” Being the position she was in at CNN one could make the argument that CNN was compromised, at the very least in the short term, as all the outrage erupted. But was the damage irreparable? Think about this for a moment. This wasn’t just a newbie who went off the reservation in a fit of pique. This was a 20 year veteran of the network with a deep background in Mideast affairs.
Let me be clear about one thing. Nasr’s original tweet was criminally tone deaf. A veteran of Mideast affairs should have known better than put out a glib tweet like that which was tailor made for wild interpretation. Admired how? In what way? The possibilities are endless. Of course, most people logically jumped to the most obvious conclusion regardless of any other possible interpretations.
Here’s where things get complicated. Nasr clarified her comments to refer to why Fadlalah was in certain respects a maverick in the Hezbollah movement, particularly where women are concerned and taking a stand against Hezbollah’s allegiance to Iran. This is the sort of dry intellectual technical point analysis that’s the stuff of the Mideast wonk, which Nasr was. But it doesn’t play well outside that arena with a public who are either not well informed on the subject matter to understand or don’t care because the underlying issue for them is terrorism and that’s all that matters. It’s akin to trying to humanize some communist leader who probably did one or two things right for his country but at a cost that far outweighed whatever positives he had. Nobody cares about the positives. All they care about is the tyranny.
But was Nasr truly compromised by making such an intellectual distinction about a terrorist? Having clarified what she meant, was it impossible to remain with CNN going forward? Or was CNN worried solely about blowback and bad PR, in which case the decision to sever ties with Nasr looks more like some sort of PC response? That’s the $64,000 question. I don’t have an answer. When you become radioactive as Nasr had sane reaction and analysis don’t apply anymore and it’s tough to second guess a decision.
Some have taken a dim view of the move particularly given CNN’s past. Steve Yelvington had a few things to say on Twitter about this…
When considering CNN’s firing of Octavia Nasr, keep in mind it’s the same network that didn’t fire Glenn Beck and Lou Dobbs.
Yelvington may be making a bit of a stretch here comparing Beck and Dobbs’ CNN/HLN commentary to Nasr’s needlessly provocative tweet but he does have a point. Beck and Dobbs were ideological lightning rods for the network and they survived for years. Nasr wasn’t and she got cut loose in two days. Ponder that.
On CNN’s firing Octavia Nasr, @yelvington, two thoughts: she could have had a link in her tweet to a post explaining, “I respect a lot.” By dumping a 20-year over veteran over that, CNN told its people that the View from Nowhere is more important than they are
From my vantage point nobody comes out looking good here. Not Nasr, who should have had the smarts to know what she was getting in to and handled this appropriately. Not CNN, which seemed too quick to distance itself from Nasr and it knew Nasr intimately for 20 years and knew what she really stood for far better than anyone out there lobbing in grenades at what happened. And not the chattering class who only care about the original tweet and what they think it means regardless of Nasr’s clarification. Nasr is just the latest journalistic victim, self-inflicted of course, of the new media age where intellectual arguments and social media intersects violently with ideology and single issue gotcha politics in a world where cable news networks are scared of their own shadows. She probably won’t be the last…