Tuesday, March 15, 2016

The outrage over Sanders' "media coverage" comment is privileged and creepy

At a town-hall event on Monday, Bernie Sanders explained that he is running as a Democrat since "in terms of media coverage, you have to run within the Democratic Party". Incredibly, Clinton's media surrogates are insisting that this somehow reflects poorly on Sanders. Democratic National Committee vice chairwoman Donna Brazile, for instance, called the comment "extremely disgraceful", and Peter Daou, predictably, ran an entire reaction piece on the Clinton campaign's news site highlighting critical responses to the comment.

This is mostly just cynical spin from people who think of themselves as political media's genius puppetmaster pickup artists - who seem to believe that they can trick people into thinking literally anything. Still, it's worth reflecting on two points:

1. First, as Matt Bruenig observed a while back, Democrats are pulling a bait-and-switch here. When Ralph Nader ran for president in 2000, 2004, and 2008, one of his central grievances was always the way that media access works to give major party candidates a major systematic advantage over their opponents. And whenever he pointed this out, the liberal answer was always the same: "Don't like it? Then run as a Democrat!" What we see now is that if you are a leftist, Democrats will attack you for proceeding precisely as instructed.

2. Second, as I argued previously, the same media apparatus that marginalizes and silences voices like Sanders also routinely marginalizes and silences the voices of people of color, women, the poor, and so on. The left has always understood corporate media and the privileged platform it grants to elites to be an instrument of power and oppression. To gloat that it has claimed another victim, and to ridicule the efforts marginalized voices have to make to overcome their oppression, is absolutely odious. It expresses a right-wing faith in the capitalistic meritocracy of "earned" media, and openly celebrates the domination of corporate power at the expense of democracy. It betrays the longstanding left fight for public election financing, and it fetishizes a weirdly cultish notion of party loyalty in which even party membership is not enough.