June 04, 2015

Why does the media hate #BernieSanders?

Sen. Bernie Sanders
I have documented some of my own concerns about Bernie Sanders. They include the fact that he's a gun nut, wants the state of Vermont to suck off the military-industrial complex teat (and in general might not be quite so progressive on foreign policy as I'd like), and that these concerns are enough that if the Green Party ran a legit candidate, like Jill Stein again, I'd likely still vote Green versus Bernie, if he were to win the Democratic nomination. (And please participate in the poll at right about actual and rumored 2016 Democratic presidential candidates.)

However, while critiquing myth vs. reality on his positions, I don't diss the man as a candidate. I wouldn't diss him if he were a Green candidate, and certainly not as a Democratic candidate.

Unlike the New York Times and others, who have dissed him indeed, as Columbia Journalism Review reports in depth.

Let's start with how the Old Gray Lady buried his official campaign announcement:
The Times, for example, buried his announcement on page A21, even though every other candidate who had declared before then had been put on the front page above the fold. Sanders’s straight-news story didn’t even crack 700 words, compared to the 1,100 to 1,500 that Marco RubioRand PaulTed Cruz, and Hillary Clinton got. So, one-half the coverage, buried wayyyy inside. 

The bigger issue is the Times, as part of the “mainstream media,” already engaging in crafting of narratives.

Chief of those? “He can’t win.” Why? Erm, he’s a “socialist”!
Sanders, of course, is Vermont’s junior senator, barber’s worst nightmare, and IKEA socialist (he favors the term “democratic socialist,” as in the Scandinavian variant), who quaintly maintains that people and the planet are more important than profit. Not long ago such beliefs fell well within the waters of the main stream where politicians swam, but the current has since been rerouted, and Sanders now paddles hard against the left bank. For not going with the flow, and for challenging Hillary Clinton, the big fish many elites have tagged as their own, Sanders’s entry into the race was greeted with story after story whose message—stated or understated, depending on the decorum of the messenger—was “This crank can’t win.”
That’s of course crowning Hillary long enough for harpyish spinster Maureen Dowd, among others, to then dethrone her.

Steve Hendricks, in this excellent piece, then notes more bullshit. First, it’s a lot of the MSM trying to horsecollar Sanders with the “can’t win” label, and thus dissing him:
Other major news organizations ignored Sanders as nearly as they could a sitting U.S. senator who entered the presidential race. ABC’s World News Tonight gave his announcement all of 18 seconds, five of which were allotted to Clinton’s tweet welcoming him to the race. CBS Evening News fitted the announcement into a single sentence at the end of a two-minute report about Clinton.
But it doesn’t stop there.

Hendricks continues:
In past races, when editors have explained why they scorned the likes of Sanders, they have tended to recite an editorial recipe for political long shots that is much like the Hollywood recipe for starlets: don’t cover them much, and don’t take them seriously. The trouble with this commonplace is that editors actually love covering long shots—certain long shots anyway. Ted Cruz, for example, received his serious, in-depth treatment in the Times’ news columns even as its analysts were writing pieces like “Why Ted Cruz Is Such A Long Shot.”
So, there you go.

Well, why not cover Sanders? Because, on the economic side, he is indeed a democratic socialist, and the NYT, other than letting Paul Krugman grace its op-ed pages, is a capitalist corporation, which is beholden to the standard capitalist narratives of the NY-DC axis. Hendricks notes:
The difference is that Cruz has not erected a platform whose planks present a boardwalk of horror to the corporate class atop the media. These same planks of Sanders’s, not at all incidentally, are the very ones on which Clinton most wobbles as she stands before Democratic voters.

 Can he win?

It's more likely than the mainstream media might admit.

Remember a junior state senator from Illinois who ran against a seemingly undefeatable person, name of Hillary Clinton, eight years ago? Sure, Barack Obama has more charisma than Bernie Sanders. Or does he, that much?

Besides, Hendricks notes Ted Kennedy running his front-runnerness in the 1972 run-up off an island bridge and into murky waters; Paul Wellstone's fateful 2002 plane crash, Jimmy Carter trumping favorites with shoe leather and a somewhat faked smile, and more.

He also notes that Sanders got off to a decent fundraising start and Clinton's suddenly gotten coy about details of her latest financials. Hendricks didn't even note Sanders' early crowd draws in Iowa. Hardly the sign of someone who can't win, on Sanders' part.

So, read the whole thing from CJR. It's worth it.

Beyond that, as Teddy White belatedly admitted, but only after helping create Camelot, there's a sort of ethical issue withe media getting too involved with creating "narratives" about politicians.

UPDATE, June 8: Add National Journal to the haters. Its 2014 piece implies, as have some others, that Sanders is somehow anti-black because he wants to try to get working-class whites to vote Democratic. Joan Walsh at Salon made the same claim just a week ago.

At the same time, I would bash Walsh less than Doug Henwood does. Race and class issues do overlap, but yes, they're not the same. It's kind of like environmentalism. A lot of environmental issues aren't out in national parks, but are about industrial companies building toxic plants in urban areas in neighborhoods that aren't just low-income, but are also high-minority. And yet, the environmental movement in general remains largely white.

Classism and racism overlap, in other words, but they're not the same thing. And, Walsh notes that our first post-racial president's stance that American needed to "look forward" is itself a problem.


SOM guy said...

Always I struggle with half-loaf vs. a full-loaf... HRC has a much better chance in the general election... No way I vote Green in any case, I don't need the 2000 election redux.

Gadfly said...

Well, Nader didn't cost anybody the 2000 election, so, if you want to repeat myth instead of reality, go ahead and keep playing inside the two-party box.