Thursday, March 10, 2016

Janell Ross's privileged assault on progressives

The portion of Sanders supporters who read the paragraphs above and began to compose their tweets, emails and below-story comments, we are aware of that Intercept piece that argues that the "Berniebro" and his alleged public misbehavior is media-generated fiction...But the emails, Twitter messages and comments I have received tell a different story. It is vile. And it stands in sharp contrast to the claim that no portion of Sanders supporters are angry people who sometimes engage in or embrace bigotry. - Janell Ross
Ross may be aware of Greenwald's Intercept piece - as well as the numerous other pieces taking down the Berniebro narrative - but one is tempted to conclude that she hasn't actually read them. She says that she is rebutting the claim "that no portion of Sanders supporters" are bad, but here is what her critics have explicitly said:
"Have pro-Clinton journalists and pundits been subjected to some vile, abusive, and misogynistic rhetoric from random, anonymous internet supporters of Sanders who are angry over their Clinton support? Of course they have." - Greenwald 
"This isn't to say that some Sanders supporters haven't been occasionally vitriolic." - Kriss 
"It would be surprising if Bernie Sanders had no knuckle-draggingly sexist followers given the prevalence of alienated and misogynist men on the internet." - Featherstone 
"It’s not that there aren’t Bernie Sanders supporters who are misogynists. Of course there are!" - Ryan 
"Thus, while we do find some evidence of Bernie Bros’ bad behavior, abuse against Clinton by Sanders supporters — both male and female —seems relatively limited." - Tromble and Hovy
The claim Ross says she is taking down has been explicitly conceded by literally every critic she is arguing against. The evidence she provides does not "tell a different story" - it tells precisely the same story that her critics have told all along. The problem is that Ross insists that these stories are common, when all available evidence tells us that they are not. As the Post's own analysis demonstrated, only about 0.17% of tweets about Hillary Clinton have bigoted content from Sanders supporters. While their methodology here may be imperfect, it's a hell of a lot better than just telling some sordid and inflammatory anecdotes and pretending that "there is a pattern -- demonstrated time and time again" of the sort of bigotry Ross wants to hang on Sanders and his supporters. There demonstrably isn't.

Ross continues:
Sanders and some Sanders supporters [demonstrate] racial cluelessness, an infantilizing and almost colonial kind of condescension about policy, and a tendency to react to anyone who points that out by, well, supplying even more evidence of racial tone-deafness, self-ordained intellectual superiority and sometimes completely open displays of various forms of outright bigotry. That's right. We said it.
And I said "wants to" for a reason. Because while, as I noted, one is tempted to conclude that Ross didn't actually read any of the above articles, the fact is that she obviously did. She knows perfectly well what her critics are saying. Ross knows that her anecdote of a handful of people (naively, deliberately, or whatever) using a problematic hashtag does nothing to establish some broad "pattern" of behavior, particularly given her own publication's quantitative analysis to the contrary.

So let's be as real here as Ross is being: at best, she's being irresponsible. At worst, she's being dishonest. And either way, she's being oppressive - leveraging her immensely privileged access to one of the most powerful media platforms in the world in order to smear a marginalized political movement made up largely of the young, the poor, and increasingly, yes, other people of color. She is deliberately participating in what the left has always recognized as an extraordinary apparatus of political oppression, and if she has her way, the result will be the election of a racist oligarchic warhawk who will cause more pain and suffering in a single drone strike or austerity bill than the combined trolling of every Bernie Bro in history. This is not "test[ing] the meaning of the word progressive," to paraphrase her headline - this is destroying it.