Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Bernie's concern trolls have run out of quotes

America's liberal establishment has a long and well-known history of co-opting protest movements that pose too great a threat to the status quo. This, I wrote recently, should warn us that they'll inevitably attempt to hijack the recent and important protest movement of black Americans against police violence. Which is why we should be suspicious when the media exclusively relies on political operatives and sundry academics to tell us "what black Americans think" - instead of, you know, actually asking black Americans.

So I was already skeptical a few months back when the Washington Post ran a quote from Kimberly Ellis claiming to speak on behalf of "BlackLivesMatter" (the media's official brand for any protest organized by black Americans).

Aside from the general problem of exclusively relying on single voices to speak for the entire movement, Ellis also exemplifies a perverse selection effect: to speak for black Americans, you evidently have to be a well-connected professional activist with a CV full of prestige positions, elite institutions and major publications. It's easy to see why journalists would rely on such convenient and conventional sources of information, but it's also easy to understand how this could systematically warp and co-opt the voice of a dissident movement. As Kissinger put it, the media expert has "a vested interest in commonly held opinions; elaborating and defining its consensus at a high level has, after all, made him an expert."

Anyway, all of this was before yesterday, when I noticed that the Washington Post, months later, is still recycling the same quote:

"We have a fundamental disagreement with Bernie Sanders that racism is somehow an offshoot from economic exploitation when the reality is that race and class in America are inextricably linked to the rise of capitalism in this country."
Needless to say, this was yet another entry in the Why Do Black Americans Hate Sanders? genre of articles that don't actually survey black Americans, and that exclusively rely on IMOs from various high-profile professionals and media personalities. Except this time they couldn't even be bothered to find a new quote.

It's absolutely shameful. So many liberal journalists are genuinely uncurious about what black Americans actually think, and are completely content to run with pure speculation for months on end. It's easy to blame this on a politically motivated inclination to attack Sanders, and I'm sure that's playing a role among some of our more cynical journalists - but honestly, I suspect that a lot of it comes down to a basic disinterest in the lives and opinions of black Americans. Why let their actual perspective get in the way of a good story?