Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
– Lewis Carroll
Corporate media isn’t doing itself any favors. Although constantly assaulted by Trump as Fake News, when it comes to its coverage of Bernie Sanders, Flake News is the more fitting term given the penchant of its pundits to blow their collective gaskets and meltdown whenever the democratic socialist from Vermont is discussed. But is any of this really surprising? After all, the line that separates punditry from puppetry is a thin one: Corporations have bought our politicians and the mainstream media that reports on them.
Today, billionaires run for president and millionaires cover their campaigns as the media struggles to maintain its pretense of impartiality. So if ABC News can suspend correspondent David Wright and remove him from political coverage after he admitted he is a socialist because it might appear his politics compromise the network’s “reputation for fairness and impartiality,” shouldn’t all news anchors, hosts, and pundits who cover American oligarchs be subject to similar treatment?
Conventional wisdom holds that journalists not reveal their political leanings; if they did, following ABC’s logic, there could be no political coverage. But perhaps it is time they did. Or at least reveal their net worth. So, a modest proposal: Just as ABC News discloses that Disney is its parent company whenever it promotes covers Disney properties, it should post a chyron of the net worth of their star jabberwockers whenever they report on politics and economic policy. Until then (don’t hold your breath), we will have to put up with media bias against Bernie Sanders.
Consider this: While corporate media now congratulates itself on calling out Trump’s lies – something it failed to do when he was a candidate and even several months after he assumed the presidency – it indulges Biden’s. Trump does not hold a monopoly on alternative facts: In one branch of Biden’s alternate 1960s, he’s the tough-talking, white lifeguard in an inner-city Wilmington, neighborhood who bravely called out CornPop and personally protects public pools from “the Romans” gang and other “bad dudes,” a community service that he claims provided him insight into America’s racial divide. In another, he actively marches in the civil rights movement and is arrested in South Africa for trying to visit Nelson Mandela. In the real world, however, Bernie Sanders did march on Washington, was active in CORE and SNCC, and protested discriminatory housing policies at the University of Chicago. Unlike Biden, Sanders was arrested in 1963 protesting school segregation.
But in the post-truth world of political punditry, the corporate media have greeted Biden’s lies with silence, while excoriating Sanders’ truths. Some, like Democratic Party political operative Leah Daughtry, have lambasted Sanders for proudly citing his history of civil rights activism, saying, “It felt like when white people say, ‘Well, I have black friends.’” These are the same Sanders critics who don’t mind when Biden incessantly drops the name of his black BFF, Barack Obama and who, were they to inspect his fraudulent past of civil rights activism, would find that Biden was afflicted with moral bone spurs, though now he is trying to convince us that he was on the frontlines where he “marched with tens of thousands of others to change attitudes.”
But Sanders, the media never tires of reminding us, is a dour, angrily intense, sexist old codger coddled by his incorrigible “Bernie Bros,” the alleged “deplorables” of the kooky progressive left. MSNBC political analyst and billionaire heiress Emily Tisch Sussman has opined that supporting Sanders as opposed to Warren is…showing your sexism.” Another MSNBC pundit Mimi Rocah has said that Sanders “makes my skin crawl.” Sanders has made a blithering Chris Matthews see Reds under his bed as he envisions the rich executed by fanatical mobs right out of Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight Rises,” a nightmarish scenario that in the wake of Sanders’ victory in Nevada appeared to fuel the Hardball host’s delusional fears and prompted him to compare it to the Nazi conquest of France, an analogy that prompted a rare apology, though it was Matthews’ sexism not his sensationalism that led to his sudden “retirement.” However, MSNBC did suspend contributor Jason Johnson for labelling Sanders’ supporters “racist liberal whites” and attacking his black female supporters as “people from the island of misfit black girls” during a radio interview. For a media outlet that consistently paints Sanders supporters as sexist, the record of MSNBC’s own pundits leaves a lot to be desired.
Meanwhile, the mainstream media holds it forked tongue as Hillary Clinton declares that “nobody likes” Sanders” and questions his electability. This, is of course the same person who took umbrage during the 2008 presidential campaign when Obama remarked that she was “likeable enough,” though not enough to insure her electability. Still, she was apparently sufficiently amiable that last year when she insinuated that Tulsi Gabbard was a Russian asset, she got The New York Times and The Associated Press were amenable to running a correction for “erroneously” reporting it. When it comes to parsing, Clinton has proven herself an apt student of her husband, though unlike Bill, she prefers to finesse political smears not sexual indiscretions.
Then again, what should we expect from a media whose pundits ounce pounced on Sanders for being too old for a party they claimed needed young blood and new ideas but that now hype the candidacies of whippersnappers like Biden and Mike Bloomberg. Just as the media took its sweet time to call Trump out on his lies (initially debating whether to call them lies at all), today it remains tightlipped about Biden’s. It questions the health of post-coronary Sanders, yet remains relatively mum on Biden’s verbal and mental gaffes, including most recently his flustered attempt to cite the opening lines of the Declaration of Independence (or as Biden put it, “All men and women are created, by go…you know, you know the thing, oh, you know the thing”), leaving the pursuit of the issue to the Internet and late-night comedy hosts. The media dumps on Sanders for praising Fidel Castro’s literacy program, conveniently omitting that Obama did the same. They fear the prospect of a democratic socialist in the White House, while simultaneously invoking the moral authority of Martin Luther King to criticize him and his supporters. Perhaps they should go back and read some of King’s speeches, which at the time were considered quite “radical.” Indeed, before his canonization, as Peter Dreier noted in the Huffington Post in 2016, King, himself a democratic socialist, was, according to a 1966 Gallup poll, reviled by a 63% of Americans, though “moderate white liberals” – about whom King warned – like Biden surrogate Hillary Rosen have conveniently forgotten his pedigree to promote their own toothless liberalism.
Recently, Mara Gay has written about the wrath of Twitter mobs after she cited a tweet that erroneously stated that having spent $500 million dollars on his failed presidential campaign, Bloomberg could have given every American a million dollars. Gay, who is black, became the target of hateful tweets. As unfortunate as her treatment on Twitter was, it is not unexpected given the toxic nature of social media. Still, perhaps naively, one does not expect a similar toxicity to prevail at The New York Times and other corporate media outlets. Yet, when not ignoring him altogether, both have singled out Sanders, launching attacks cloaked not in Internet anonymity but festooned in the faux celebrity of his glib assailants. NBC’s Chuck Todd compares Sanders supporters to “brown shirts” and by implication Sanders, whose parental relatives died in the holocaust, to Hitler. On MSNBC, a manic, Looney Tunes James Carville predicts the “end of days” for the Democratic Party should Sanders become its nominee. Over at CNN, host Michael Smerconish asks, “Can either the coronavirus or Bernie Sanders be stopped?”
For The New York Times’ Gail Collins, Biden’s “gaffes” (one person’s gaffe is another’s sign of dementia) are delightful character quirks. “Joementum” is “on a roll,” she writes, as Biden flings abusive zingers at his “adversaries”: On the campaign trail, he calls a town hall student questioner “a lying, dog-faced pony soldier” (which Collins dismisses as a “joke”), tells a Detroit factory worker “you’re full of shit” and invites him to settle their dispute “outside,” and twice shushes a female campaign aide.
Defending Biden, Collin’s writes:
But hey, Biden is 77 and he’s been schlepping all over the country, giving speeches, eating bad food, shaking hands. . . . During his big, celebratory appearance after the primaries last week, his wife had to fight off a sign-wielding vegan who stormed the victory podium. So the Detroit incident is hardly a moment that’s going to live on in history. We could forget about it instantly were it not a reminder that Biden is not great at spontaneous back-and-forth, like you get in … a debate.
Ah, the magnanimity! The 78-year-old Sanders has also been “schlepping” through the nation and has had to fight off media outlets bent on smearing him and understating his achievements, yet he has remained laudably civil, unlike both Trump and the man the corporate media have ordained to replace him.
Yet it is Sanders who is consistently depicted as a humorless, cantankerous, misogynistic old codger and potential political spoiler despite the fact he has already unequivocally declared he will support the Democratic nominee. He said the same in 2016 and followed through, campaigning for Clinton at 39 rallies in 13 states. Meanwhile, Clinton and others proclaim without irony that Trump’s defeat is their priority, refusing to pledge their support to Sanders should he become the Democratic nominee. Will they vote for Trump instead? Some eleventh-hour, brokered convention candidate? Forgo the election entirely? PUMA Redux. Or will they reveal their true PINO (Progressive in Name Only) selves as they back away from Sanders and the progressive wing of the party to embrace the moderate white liberalism King rejected?
In a political environment that thrives on bombast and conflict, Sanders, to his detriment and the consternation of the corporate media that detests him, has proven himself a temperate and thoughtful candidate who speaks in complete sentences and can cite without faltering the Preamble of Declaration of Independence. However, having learned its lesson from the past, the media seems bent on continuing its penchant for promoting ill-tempered, foul-mouthed prevaricators.
For his part, Biden has taken a page out of Trump’s playbook: Like Trump before him, and to Bloomberg’s chagrin, he has learned that you don’t have to spend massively when the media gives you free time. And the corporate media have learned that cognitively-impaired Bics (gaslighters) are a boon to ratings, newspaper circulation, and, ultimately, their bottom line.
Unless COVID-19 tanks the economy and results in massive American fatalities due to government incompetence, Trump will most likely be reelected, even if Comeback Kid Biden is the Democratic nominee. If he does, we can expect more mind-numbing debates in which Biden loses his train of thought and Trump’s leaves the station entirely for part unknown. We can expect heated exchanges that make for good ratings and incendiary Twitter flame wars but that do little to put America back on track toward realizing the ideals for which it once stood. In fact, if Collins is right, and it becomes “a choice between nominating the reincarnation of George Washington or the candidate most likely to defeat Donald Trump, Democrats would know which way to go,” those ideals will continue to be deferred to the cynical demands of a self-fulfilling realpolitik. And should Trump win we will be in store for four more years of idiocracy and possibly many, many more, since like his BFF Vladimir, an emboldened, imperial Trump will not abide presidential term limits.