Sunday, June 18, 2017

How A Clintonite Hangs Himself Trying To Smear the Bernie Movement

More Medium misadventures: Poking around Medium, I came across another noxious Clintonite article, this one trying to blame Bernie Sanders and progressives for creating an atmosphere of conspiracy and violence that, this week, led a deranged man in Virginia to open fire on congressional Republicans as they took part in baseball practice. As often happens, my reply ran a little long and I've reproduced it here:

Oh, look, another Clintonite article on Medium that checks out on reality in order to echo the anti-progressive narrative of the nut-right. How shocking! Dismantling yet another one on points seems a waste of time, as neither "Roy Delfino" nor his target audience have any interest in the truth, but I have some time on my hands and it's a despicable-enough article that someone should probably tackle it.

You open with a false premise:
"This is not, however, the first act of violence by a Bernie supporter. Far from it. From leading violent anti-Trump riots in Chicago, to sending death threats to superdelegates, to forcing superdelegate Jim McDermott to defend himself with a shovel against a Bernie fan threatening to cut out his tongue, violence has long been a hallmark of Bernie's movement."
The astute reader will note that even if all of those were entirely accurate, they don’t really add up to anything, certainly not the picture you’re trying to paint. Your language, setting up the pattern you follow throughout, is obfuscatory. Lacking incidents to make a convincing case, you were forced, when constructing that sentence, to divide "death threats to superdelegates" from, well, a death-threat to a superdelegate--trying to make one thing look like two (the other item is bullshit too).[1] On the charges themselves, death threats against public officials are just an unfortunate fact of life. Officials from both parties get them-- it’s been going on for years. In a country with more than 320 million people, there’s always a few cranks out there. This is how you try to pin this big wave of violence--a wave that you haven’t established and that, in fact, doesn’t exist--on Sanders:
"But a large part of this violence springs from feelings of desperation, helplessness, and raw anger that fermented in Bernie’s base... This is where Bernie Sanders does bear an enormous responsibility, because this sentiment and worldview was propagated, recklessly and intentionally, by Bernie and his campaign."
Sanders, of course, doesn’t foment "desperation" or "helplessness"; he was the energizing hope-and-change candidate in the 2016 primaries who enunciated a positive progressive agenda. And it’s on those progressive politics, particularly the anti-corruption, pro-democratic components of them, that you’re attempting, in a rather artless smear, to pin violence.

Sanders supporters were upset by those superdelegates, for example. Here’s how those supers work (a subject you carefully avoid): Sanders won 72% of Washington--completely destroyed Clinton--yet Jim McDermott and the other five state superdelegates, granted by mere party decree the same voting-power as hundreds of thousands of Washingtonians, supported Clinton. It’s a story that repeated itself all over the U.S. Sanders flattened Clinton in New Hampshire, beating her by 22%, only to see the state’s superdelegates side with her and give her the state, 17 delegates to his 15. Throughout the process, the corporate press, which was a virtual monolith in support of Clinton and against Sanders, used the superdelegates in its accounting of the race in order to make Clinton look unbeatable. In the end, Clinton failed to win enough real delegates to take the nomination and had to rely on the supers to put her over the top.

In short, the superdelegates are an anti-democratic cancer on the party nomination process.
When you create something like that then use it to give one candidate unfair advantage over everyone else, everyone with any respect for democratic values is going to be upset by it, yet you take the position that Sanders’ supporters are only upset by it because Sanders is propagating that sentiment, blaming the progressive pro-democratic values and their prominent proponent rather than the anti-democratic portion of the process. What, exactly, are they supposed to think?

Worse, you later quote Sanders explaining this part of the process and, going off into the ozone entirely, characterize his words as some sort of effort "to send a clear dogwhistle to online conspiracy-theorists":
"'When we talk about a rigged system, it’s also important to understand how the Democratic Convention works,' Sanders said Morning morning. 'We have won, at this point, 45 percent of pledged delegates, but we have only earned 7 percent of superdelegates.'"
To note the obvious, there’s no "dogwhistle" there, "clear" or otherwise. The superdelegate system is, quite literally, a rigged system, party bosses operating entirely outside the democratic process yet being allowed to manipulate its course, and Sanders forthrightly and correctly says so. Sanders doesn’t like that. It runs counter to his progressive views, those being both pro-democracy and anti-corruption. You insist that Sanders, by merely enunciating those views, is sending some sort of secret signals to nuts on the internet, in which case the only way to avoid such a thing is just to shut up and not to offer them.

Which is, of course, what you want. You’re following the lead of Fox and the rest of the Trumpanzee-right press in tarring those progressive views as feeding nuttiness and violence for the same reason they do it: because you want them to go away. In something else that forms a pattern throughout your article, you avoid the substantial objections to the superdelegate system because those objections are entirely reasonable and honestly addressing them would put an end to your little anti-progressive smoke-and-mirrors show. Speaking of which:
"Fully aware of the delusions of his base, Bernie used phrases, and pushed an agenda, that dovetailed with those delusions."
The part that’s missing: anything that established Sanders’ base as delusional. You simply present that as a given and think yourself clever. You’re not.
"For instance, Bernie created the image of a DNC managed by corporate puppetmasters, and his campaign worked overtime to paint this image in the minds of Bernie fans on a nearly daily basis"
The DNC spent the campaign aggressively prostituting itself and the potential future Democratic presidency of Hillary Clinton to Big Money sources. Among other things, it progressively eliminated Obama-imposed bans on accepting money from lobbyists and PACs. Sanders didn’t create that image of the DNC; it did that all by itself (a fact that, again, you entirely ignore so you can bash the progressives). Sanders stands against the bribery-and-donor-service system that characterizes so much of our politics and again, you blame his enunciation of progressive anti-corruption values, rather than the corruption. Shaddup, Bernie.

In order to treat the rigged system as just some sort of kooky conspiracy theory, you don’t address the substantive facts regarding it and in one of your more outrageous moments, you insist the Wikileaks disclosures from the DNC "contained nothing more controversial than a few frustrated insults." Meanwhile, in the real world, those emails showed that the DNC, which is supposed to be neutral in a primary/caucus process, had, among other things, conspired with the Clinton campaign to rig the debate schedule in Clinton’s favor while ignoring the wishes of the other campaigns, had placed "spies" inside the Sanders campaign--and yes, they actually use that word--feeding them info and discussed strategies to deploy against Sanders. I’ve written at some length on the larger matter of the DNC’s efforts to tilt the primaries (the emails are a good resource for this). This piece has a section devoted to it. Just scroll down to the header, "A Rigged Process?"

Regarding the Nevada Democratic convention, you write that Sanders delegates "rioted on the floor," which is a fiction carefully nurtured by the Clintonites:

That letter you quote at some length was written by Bradley Schrager, the Nevada Democratic party general counsel and, more importantly, a Clinton supporter; you treat his words as some legitimate account rather than what it was, a piece of Clinton campaign propaganda. You take up the cause of Robert Lange, another Clinton supporter and the head of the convention, without a word about how her extremely bad behavior--acting like some half-assed dictator--contributed to what happened to her.

In Nevada, as caucus day approached, Clinton was on the verge of losing the state, which could have had a major impact on her national campaign, when, at the last minute, Democratic Senate leader Harry Reid intervened, arranging with the state’s big hotel and casino worker’s union to allow their workers to leave the job for long enough to go caucus for Clinton while still getting paid for their time. A pretty nifty trick. That's how Clinton won the first stage of the contest. That's also probably how, during stage 2 at the county level, the state flipped to Sanders, as large numbers of Clinton delegates, apparently not given the day off and marching orders this time, failed to appear. All of this is the preface that forms the context for the third stage, which was the state convention. In order to cut down on the Sanders contingent, it was scheduled to begin the same day the state’s largest institutions of higher learning were holding their graduation ceremonies and Lange--again, a Clinton supporter--was made a virtual dictator, a position she took up with great relish. That and the often-confusing and inappropriate rules under which the convention was conducted --mentioned by the source you cite, not by you--led to a raucous convention and a lot of Sanders supporters who felt they were being rooked. The Clintonites took full advantage, manufacturing the bullshit about a chair-throwing riot and running to every press outlet that would put them on to crow about it. Number of violent incidents recorded at that convention: 0.

You hit another of your low points when covering Sanders’ reaction to what happened. You write that "Democratic leaders, including Harry Reid, pressured him [Sanders] to end his silence and condemn his supporters’ actions. What they got instead was what can only be described as a tacit endorsement of his supporters’ sentiment and behavior."

But as you’re well aware, the few readers who bother to look at that statement will get a very different story from it. You quote only a portion of it, without indicating you’re only quoting a portion, and only from the preamble--in order to make your grotesque mischaracterization, you end your cut-and-paste early, right after he first mentions Nevada.

"Within the last few days there have been a number of criticisms made against my campaign organization. Party leaders in Nevada, for example, claim that the Sanders campaign has a 'penchant for violence.' That is nonsense."

And that’s where you stop. Continuing from there, Sanders wrote:

"Our campaign has held giant rallies all across this country, including in high-crime areas, and there have been zero reports of violence. Our campaign of course believes in non-violent change and it goes without saying that I condemn any and all forms of violence, including the personal harassment of individuals."

Sort of speaks to your own honesty as much as anything I could have said.

The Russian conspiracy nonsense became tiresome long ago. Clintonites love it is because it’s so entirely free of substance; it allows them to impugn the Sanders campaign without ever having to provide any real evidence of anything and, it being this thing of wind, can never really be subject to any sort of strict interrogation. The Clintonite press has been absolutely obsessed with it. You construct on it a series of allegations in an entirely incurious way while, seemingly without any sense of self-awareness, accusing the Sanders camp of fomenting an atmosphere of conspiracy theories.

The U.S. intelligence community insists there was a concerted Russian operation to influence the election. Perhaps there was. Did it involve the sort of network you describe? Who knows? You play a number of Clintonite shell-games with this matter. In one, you throw the much larger--massive and long-running--problem of fake news, trolls, etc. in with the Russia allegations and hope no one notices. Suddenly, it’s all Russian, even if we can’t actually prove any of it is. In another, you assert that
"Bernie supporters fell for it hook, line and sinker, and the narrative of the Russian propaganda machine quickly became dogma in Sanders circles."
But you fail to provide any examples or, more importantly, any real-world effect of any of it. It’s impossible to say that no one voted for Sanders because they believed the Pope had endorsed him or because they thought Clinton ordered her critics murdered but if there are any such people, we can say with great confidence that the number is going to be microscopic.[2] Fake news seeps into pro-Sanders communities the way it seeps into any internet community--there’s a lot of it here on Medium--but none of that bullshit has become "dogma." It's just stuff a relatively few people believe and most don't. Presenting the former rather than the latter as representative of the overall movement is as arbitrary as it is counterintuitive. You play still another game with timelines when you assert,
"The Sanders campaign was well-aware of the efforts by Russian intelligence and other fake news sources to help his campaign."
"Make no mistake, Sanders and his campaign knew exactly how this massive campaign of weaponized disinformation was being used to aid his candidacy at the expense of Hillary Clinton. They did absolutely nothing to stop it."
The story about a concerted Russian effort to interfere in the presidential election first broke in the Summer of 2016 after the primary season was already over and it mostly played out in the months after that. The high-profile stories attributed to it--the murder of Seth Rich conspiracy, the "Pizzagate" thing, etc.--all happened long after the primary season (and, it’s worth noting, all, in reality, started in domestic nut-right circles, not on any foreign shore). The Huffpost article you cite uses murky language to speculate that it started earlier but it’s really just describing suspicious activity that may or may not have been part of a Russian campaign that may or may not have even existed. In any event, the Sanders campaign wasn’t "well-aware" of Russian intelligence efforts that weren’t even reported until the primary season was over and, contrary to your demagoguery, wouldn’t have been able to do anything about it if it had been. A presidential campaign can’t call in an airstrike on some theoretical Estonian warehouse full of internet trolls. And while you’re very down on Sanders benefiting from internet trolls and "weaponized disinformation" based on these sketchy Russian allegations, things over which he had no control, you decline to offer a single word about the only organized campaign of trolls and weaponized disinformation we know existed, David Brock’s Correct the Record, a super PAC which openly collaborated with the Clinton campaign to skirt campaign finances laws and attack her opponents and critics.

You switch back to the weasel-wording, insisting Sanders has
"repeatedly and recklessly stoked the flames of anger and paranoia, while refusing to shut down, push back against, or take any responsibility for the conspiracy theories and violent rhetoric that spread like a virus in his base."
...wording that blames Sanders without actually blaming him, because, of course, he’s neither engaged in nor encouraged violent rhetoric or conspiracy theories and has no responsibility for such things, and his stoking "the flames of anger" amount, in your account, to merely expressing his progressive values, something he isn’t gong to stop doing just because you (and Fox News) don’t like them.

You keep circling this same drain right up to the end:
"Violence and conspiracies are, and have always been, a fundamental characteristic of Bernie’s movement, and Bernie’s cowardly attempts to absolve himself and his reporters of responsibility must be called out loudly and repeatedly until he is forced to clean up the absolute mess he has made."
"Bernie’s movement" presently consists of 80% of Democrats, who tell pollsters they approve of him. "Violence and conspiracies" are, it should go without saying, not characteristic of most Democrats, nor are such things their "hallmark." While Sanders is the most popular politician in the U.S., you’re doing this blaming-without-blaming dance while demanding that he be held accountable for something he hasn’t done and somehow clean up some mess he couldn’t clean up and hasn’t, in fact, made.

Get lost.



[1] The Chicago events occurred after Trump had spent months on the campaign trail encouraging his followers to commit violence against anti-Trump protesters. This built to critical mass in the Windy City, where demonstrations forced Trump to cancel a planned event. Trump’s immediate response was to blame Sanders for what happened. "Get your people in line, Bernie." So in attempting to pin those demonstrations on Sanders, you’re parroting an entirely fictional narrative crafted by Donald Trump.

What actually happened is that congressman Luis Gutierrez and other elected officials--all, btw, Clinton supporters--openly called on their constituents to join them in protesting Trump, a Facebook page dedicated to protesting the Trump event was launched (by a Sanders supporter) and a multitude of different groups--Black Lives Matter, MoveOn, Mijente, Assata’s Daughter, the Black Alliance for Just Immigration and on and on--organized the demonstrations.

[2] You make the outrageous claim that "we witnessed the phenomenon of Sanders supporters voting en masse for Trump." Over 80% of Sanders supporters voted for Clinton. A small number of them voted for Jill Stein, a larger number of them simply stayed home. We don’t have any real numbers on how many voted for Trump but we do know it’s microscopic, because there weren’t enough left after all that. For that matter, the number of Sanders voters in the Democratic primary, something around 10 million people, is tiny compared to the number of general election voters (136.67 million). "En masse" my ass.

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