• Monthly
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $other
  • use PayPal


Is it time for our Spring fundraiser already? If you enjoy what we offer, and have the means, please consider donating. The sooner we reach our modest goal, the faster we can get back to business as (un)usual. Please, stay safe and we’ll see you down the road.

The “Liberal” Media’s Propaganda War on Bernie Sanders

Photograph Source: Steve Bott – CC BY 2.0

The “liberal” top-down class and propaganda war on the progressive populist Bernie Sanders is something to behold. It advances at least four master narratives.

Red Baiting

The first such narrative boils down to Red baiting. The Atlantic, recently gave space for the right-wing pundit David Frump to call Sanders a “Marxist of the old school of dialectical materialism” for whom “class relations are foundational” and “everything else is epiphenomenon.”

At ”liberal” broadcast media’s central Stop Sanders headquarters MSNBC (hereafter “MSDNC”), veteran political talk-show host Chris Matthews channeled Joe McCarthy before the New Hampshire Democratic Primary in a bizarre tirade linking the “socialist Sanders” to the supposed threat of “executions in Central Park” if “Castro and the Reds” had “won the Cold War.”

Last week, three days before the Nevada Caucus, MSDNC’s Stephanie Ruhle had on an old friend, former Diamond Resorts CEO Stephen Cloobeck, a major Democratic Party funder, to speak from Las Vegas. Asked about one of Ruhle’s favorite topics, the menace of “socialist Bernie Sanders,” Cloobeck called Sandersan anarchist” who “would love to burn down the United States” ” (When asked if he would support Trump if Sanders is the nominee, Cloobeck growled “anyone but Bernie, anyone but Bernie.”). She later gleamed while one or her many Republican guests, Jeb Bush’s former campaign manager, called for Michael Bloomberg to pour $100 million in negative campaign ads to stop the socialist Sanders.

This is how “left-wing” MSDNC rolls. Last year, advertising executive and MSDNC pundit Donny Deutsch went on the network’s “Morning Joe” show to semi-coherently say the following: “a socialist candidate [Sanders] is more dangerous to this company, country …than Donald Trump.  I would vote for Donald Trump, a despicable human being…if we have a socialist…because that will take our country so down… that’s not who we are. And if you love who we are and all the great things that we still have to have binders put on the side. Please step away from the socialism.

The dangerous Red Bernie storyline is promoted by competing Democratic candidates. During MSDNC’s presidential debate in Las Vegas last week, the mega-billionaire and longtime Republican Michael Bloomberg identified Sanders with “communism” while the billionaire-backed McKinsey Company veteran Pete Buttigieg claimed that the “radical” Sanders “wants to burn down the house.” Elizabeth “Capitalist to My Bones” Warren absurdly said that Sanders wants Democrats to “gambl[e] on a narrow vision that doesn’t address the fears of millions of Americans… who…want real change…[and] on a revolution that won’t bring along a majority of this country.”

After Sanders won Nevada running away, Chris Matthews agonized further on the “socialist” specter and analogized Sanders’ victory to the fall of France to Hitler’s Third Reich in 1940(forgetting perhaps that that Nazis were fascists, not socialists, though Matthews may not understand the difference.). Equally unhinged was MSDNC host Nicole Wallace, a White House Communications Director during the presidency of George W. Bush and a senior advisor for John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign. She expressed her wish for billionaire Tom Steyer to spend millions of dollars on stopping the socialist.

Former Chicago Mayor and ongoing corporate Democrat Rahm Emanuel and former Republican New Jersey governor Chris Christie went on former Bill Clinton staffer George Stephanopolous’s “This Week” to lecture Democrats on their need to unite behind a single candidate to attack Sanders’ “socialist agenda” (Christie) “mano a man’ (Emanuel).

Buttigieg told Democrats to “take a sober look” at the radical threat posed by Sanders. He claimed that the Vermont senator “believes in an inflexible, ideological revolution that leaves out most Democrats, not to mention as most Americans.”

These are telling perspectives on Sanders’ call for elementary, urgently needed reforms like Medicare for All, free public college, progressive taxation, the doubling of the nation’s inadequate minimum wage, the re-legalization of union organizing, and big federal green jobs programs.

Neo-McCarthyite class fears – bourgeois panic – lurks behind the insistent “liberal” Democratic calls (constant on MSDNC) for the “moderate” (corporate and neoliberal) Democrats to coalesce around a viable non-/stop-Sanders candidate “before it’s too late” and a dreaded radical “hijacks the nomination” on the model of Trump grasping the Republican nomination (more on the Sanders-Trump analogy below) in 2016.

“Values” vs. “Electability”

A second form of “liberal” anti-Sanders media and political bias is the constant narrative that Democratic primary voters must choose between a candidate like Sanders who embodies their values and policy preferences and a candidate who can beat Trump. At CNN last Saturday, morning host Michael Smerconish trumpeted the Democratic Party’s “superdelegates” – the nearly 15% of Democratic National Convention presidential candidate and platform selection delegates who represent the party’s establishment. Smerconish praised the unelected superdelegates for ensuring “candidate quality control through a form of peer review” and representing “the wisdom of party elders to hold back the masses” from “a populist surge” that would nominate a “disastrous” candidate who can’t “survive a general election.” The Democrats, Smerconish suggests, need to prevent Sanders from winning a majority of the delegates in the primaries and caucuses so that the superdelegates can help the sage “elders” check the deluded populist rabble (the voters) during the convention’s second ballot. (At least he didn’t call Sanders a communist).

This narrative pitting values and policy against electoral viability reflects a backhanded media acknowledgement that voters, especially younger ones, have moved to the progressive social-democratic and environmentalist left under the inegalitarian and eco-cidal ravages of neoliberal capitalism. It also advances a false dichotomy. Sanders’ leftish positions and persona actually make him the most electable Democratic candidate (ask the Democratic voters of Nevada) – the one most able to energize vast swaths of the electorate that have been demobilized by the corporate-neoliberal Democrats’ transparently fake progressivism and inauthentic opposition to concentrated wealth and power. Without a significant lurch to the portside, the Democrats cannot hope to remain viable.

It is difficult to imagine the number of voters required to defeat Trump backing an arrogant classist, racist, and sexist oligarch like Bloomberg (who has already spent $450 million blanketing the nation with commercials even before entering a single primary) – or getting behind a dismal. dollar-drenched centrist like the stale, old gaffe-machine Biden or the “fresh,” young and silver-tongued Buttigieg. If the self-financing titan Bloomberg snuffs out Sanders’ historic grassroots campaign (powerfully funded with an average individual contribution of $18), buying the nomination out from under the Sanders movement with the help of the “super-delegates,” millions upon millions of potential Democratic voters will sit the election out or vote for a third-party candidate. There will be “hell to pay” for the Democratic Party as Trump coasts coast to a second term.

Trashing Medicare for All

A third variant of anti-Sanders “liberal” media conduct is the constant claim that Medicare for All will destroy peoples’ existing health insurance and bankrupt the nation. The fear-prompting soundbite – ubiquitous across the “liberal” media landscape and in the campaign rhetoric of Biden, Buttigieg, Klobuchar, and Bloomberg – is primitive in its reptilian simplicity: big bad Bernie wants to take your medical coverage away and tax us all to death.

This is transparent bourgeois nonsense. Sanders’s plan makes quality health care a human right by replacing a burdensome, expensive, and poorly performing for-profit health coverage racket with a streamlined system that abolishes the administratively burdensome and cost-inflating parasitism of corporate health insurance. In a recent study published by the prestigious medical journal The Lancet, leading epidemiologists from the Yale School of Public Health, University of Florida, and University of Maryland School of Medicine find that a Single Payer system would slash national health expenditures by 13 percent – more than $450 billion a year – and save 68,000 lives a year. By replacing premiums, deductibles, co-payments and out-of-pocket costs with a progressive tax system, the researchers determined, Medicare for All will save the average U.S. family $2,400 a year and give lower-income household new access to medical services they need. Republican and corporate-Democratic objections to Single Payer based on the prediction of rising costs are not based on empirical reality. Economics and actuarial outcomes aside, the authors believe that it is a “moral imperative to provide health care as a human right, not dependent on employment or affluence.”

The “liberal” mantra that Sanders’ programs are “fiscally irresponsible” and “too radical” for the American people are false. Sanders pays for his popular programs (hardly radical or all that “socialist” when compared to policies in place in numerous other rich nations) with increased taxes on the absurdly under-taxed American rich and their absurdly under-taxed corporations and financial institutions – and by rolling back massive public subsidies (accurately described by Sanders as “socialism for the rich”) government grants Big Business.

False Equivalence with Neofascist Trump

A fourth form of “liberal” Democratic bias against Sanders is the recurrent media suggestion of basic underlying similarity between Trump and Sanders, with the latter portrayed as the Democrats’ “own Donald Trump.” That description comes from Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin, who recently attacked “Sanders and his fleet of Bernie Bros who slash and burn, attack and smear other Democrats” in a column ripping on the “disaster” that is Sanders’ “Trump-like campaign .”

“Liberal” politicos and media operatives now habitually make snobbish parallels between the two, portraying both as blunt and tough “populists” with authoritarian instincts and “bitter” and “angry” white-guy followers. Never mind that Trump and his base are neo-fascistic racist, Nativist, sexist and eco-cidal, and authoritarian fake-populists whose essence is hatred and division in service to the wealthy Few while Sanders and his backers are progressive populists, social democrats, and environmentalists who oppose racism, nativism, sexism in the name of popular, working-class solidarity against the reigning capitalist “billionaire class.”

Every Trump rally I have watched (at least ten by now) has been a prolonged racist, nativist, sexist, and authoritarian hate session dedicated to advancing a sick cult of personality and dividing up the country to more effectively rule it from the top down. By contrast, every Sanders rally I have attended (five by now) has conveyed an egalitarian message of love and solidarity combined with the notion that everyday working-class people need to reach across their differences to unite in a movement opposed to corporate and financial plutocracy.)

The equation of Sanders and Trump and their respective campaigns and bases is ruling class gaslighting whereby “elite” (neo)liberals identity progressive and democratic values with precisely their opposites.

Russia-Linkage and Other Stories

Besides these four master narratives in the “liberal” corporate media’s propaganda war on Sanders, other storylines and modes of bias deserve mention: the evidence-free suggestion that Bernie is also (like Trump) a “Russian asset;” the under-coverage of Sanders’ rallies, platform, and victories; the repetition of other candidates’ claims that Sanders is personally responsible for every incident of online abuse committed by those purporting to be his supporters; the false claim that Sanders is a friend of the National Rifle Association; the claim that Sanders has a big race problem (ironic since he’s the top-level candidate with by far the strongest anti-racist record and the best platform to meet the needs of the nation’s non-white citizens); the claim that Sanders isn’t a Democrat (he’s Caucused with Democrats in Congress since the 1990s and he’s run for president as a Democrats for the last five-plus years); sniping at Sanders for “not getting much done in Congress” (hardly surprising given the role of corporate lobbyists and campaign contributions in stifling progressive policy proposals in Washington); false claims that Sanders would be a “down-ticket” disaster for Democrats running for Congress; pretend shock over Sanders’ acknowledgement that there’s a Democratic Party establishment opposed to him; and weak analogies between Sanders and the failed British Labour Party candidate Jeremy Corbyn.

Do not be surprised if the Russia angle becomes a master narrative in coming weeks. In a hint of things to come, perhaps, MSDNC responded to early signs of Sanders’ Nevada victory by bringing on the self-described Democratic campaign “hack” James Carville, who calls Sanders “a communist,” to claim that Sanders’ triumph was pleasing to Vladimir Putin.

More articles by:

Paul Street’s latest book is They Rule: The 1% v. Democracy (Paradigm, 2014)

May 27, 2020
Ipek S. Burnett
The Irony of American Freedom 
Paul Street
Life in Hell: Online Teaching
Vijay Prashad
Why Iran’s Fuel Tankers for Venezuela Are Sending Shudders Through Washington
Lawrence Davidson
National Values: Reality or Propaganda?
Ramzy Baroud
Why Does Israel Celebrate Its Terrorists: Ben Uliel and the Murder of the Dawabsheh Family
Sam Pizzigati
The Inefficient and Incredibly Lucrative Coronavirus Vaccine Race
Mark Ashwill
Vietnam Criticized for Its First-Round Victory Over COVID-19
David Rovics
A Note from the Ministry of Staple Guns
Binoy Kampmark
One Rule for Me and Another for Everyone Else: The Cummings Coronavirus Factor
Nino Pagliccia
Canada’s Seat at the UN Security Council May be Coveted But is Far From a Sure Bet
Erik Molvar
Should Federal Public Lands be Prioritized for Renewable Energy Development?
R. G. Davis
Fascism: Is it Too Extreme a Label?
Gene Glickman
A Comradely Letter: What’s a Progressive to Do?
Jonathan Power
The Attacks on China Must Stop
John Kendall Hawkins
The Asian Pivot
May 26, 2020
Melvin Goodman
Trump Administration and the Washington Post: Picking Fights Together
John Kendall Hawkins
The Gods of Small Things
Patrick Cockburn
Governments are Using COVID-19 Crisis to Crush Free Speech
George Wuerthner
Greatest Good is to Preserve Forest Carbon
Thomas Klikauer – Nadine Campbell
The Covid-19 Conspiracies of German Neo-Nazis
Henry Giroux
Criminogenic Politics as a Form of Psychosis in the Age of Trump
John G. Russell
TRUMP-20: The Other Pandemic
John Feffer
Trump’s “Uncreative Destruction” of the US/China Relationship
John Laforge
First US Citizen Convicted for Protests at Nuclear Weapons Base in Germany
Ralph Nader
Donald Trump, Resign Now for America’s Sake: This is No Time for a Dangerous, Law-breaking, Bungling, Ignorant Ship Captain
James Fortin – Jeff Mackler
Killer Capitalism’s COVID-19 Back-to-Work Imperative
Binoy Kampmark
Patterns of Compromise: The EasyJet Data Breach
Howard Lisnoff
If a Covid-19 Vaccine is Discovered, It Will be a Boon to Military Recruiters
David Mattson
Grizzly Bears are Dying and That’s a Fact
Thomas Knapp
The Banality of Evil, COVID-19 Edition
May 25, 2020
Marshall Auerback
If the Federal Government Won’t Fund the States’ Emergency Needs, There is Another Solution
Michael Uhl
A Memory Fragment of the Vietnam War
Anthony Pahnke – Jim Goodman
Make a Resilient, Localized Food System Part of the Next Stimulus
Barrie Gilbert
The Mismanagement of Wildlife in Utah Continues to be Irrational and a National Embarrassment.
Dean Baker
The Sure Way to End Concerns About China’s “Theft” of a Vaccine: Make it Open
Thom Hartmann
The Next Death Wave from Coronavirus Will Be the Poor, Rural and White
Phil Knight
Killer Impact
Paul Cantor
Memorial Day 2020 and the Coronavirus
Laura Flanders
A Memorial Day For Lies?
Gary Macfarlane – Mike Garrity
Grizzlies, Lynx, Bull Trout and Elk on the Chopping Block for Trump’s Idaho Clearcuts
Cesar Chelala
Challenges of the Evolving Coronavirus Pandemic
Luciana Tellez-Chavez
This Year’s Forest Fire Season Could Be Even Deadlier
Thomas Hon Wing Polin
Beijing Acts on Hong Kong
George Wuerthner
Saving the Lionhead Wilderness
Elliot Sperber
Holy Beaver