Let's start by saying that I agree with his take that attacks on Sanders supporters as sexist and misogynistic by their Clinton counterparts have been overblown. There no doubt are Bernie-bros -- young, white male Sanders supporters who act like entitled frat boys and have attacked mostly female Clinton-backers. But to say they represent a massive wave, a trend, or that they represent Sanders or the bulk of his supporters is absurd and reductive.
I also think he's correct that much of the pushback by Clinton supporters is political in nature – as is pretty much everything related to a presidential campaign. As Greenwald writes, the "last thing" supporters of the former Secretary of State should wish to discuss is "her record in helping to construct the supremely oppressive and racist U.S. penal state," or "how she’s drowning both personally and politically in Wall Street money."
You sure don’t want to talk about what her bombing campaign did to Libya, or the military risks that her no-fly zone in Syria would entail, or the great admiration and affection she proclaimed for Egyptian despot Hosni Mubarak, or revisit her steadfast advocacy of the greatest political crime of this generation, the invasion of Iraq. You don’t want to talk about her vile condemnation of “superpredators,” or her record on jobs-destroying trade agreements, or the fact that she changed her position from vehement opposition to support for marriage equality only after polls and most Democratic politicians switched sides.Clinton is, from a progressive standpoint, an imperfect candidate (at best), well to the right of Sanders on most issues that matter to the left. She's a raging centrist and establishment to her core. Supporters argue that makes her better equipped to wrangle with a Republican Congress or more likely to win in November. I'm not convinced that's true -- but that's what the primary debate is about.
The Bernie-bro narrative, however, is something else entirely. It shifts attention away from these differences and centers the entire debate on gender, without actually addressing gender-dependent issues. It is built on an un-provable notion -- that anonymous social media trolls venting their spleen somehow can be said to stand in for the entirety of Sanders' backers. Logically, the argument just doesn't hold up. And that is Greenwald’s point.
Still, I have significant issues with his Intercept piece -- primarily with its tone and length (which are related issues), but also with its reliance on some of the same logical fallacies he decries.
First, the tone is overly strident, a result of both word choice (accusations of intention that cannot be proven) and repetition. Greenwald hits the same target over and over, well beyond what is necessary, creating the impression that his argument is personal and ultimately lessening its impact and causing the piece to be overly long.
As for the logical issues, he bases much of his argument on the “intention” of Clinton supporters. The assumption of intent on the part of others is a fallacy. We can only know what people say or do, not what they think, intend or feel in their hearts. In this case, Greenwald writes as though there is a broad conspiracy by a set of connected surrogates he describes as the Clinton press, whom he says are using attacks on the Bernie-brow to deflect from Clinton's flaws. His fears may be accurate -- perhaps it is a concerted effort that can be linked to Clinton on some level, but absent specific evidence we can’t know for sure. The “conspiracy” being implied here ultimately detracts from his legitimate critique -- that the Bernie-bro attacks on Sanders deflect attention from the real differences between the candidates and make it all about gender.
More troubling, I think, is his treatment of the abuse allegedly directed at Clinton supporters. He argues that the abuse is not so much about Clinton or Sanders as it is about the Internet. While it is true that the greater freedom of both speech and anonymity created by the web has made it easier for trolls to operate, blaming Consider this passage:
The reason pro-Clinton journalists are targeted with vile abuse online has nothing specifically to do with the Sanders campaign or its supporters. It has everything to do with the internet. There are literally no polarizing views one can advocate online — including criticizing Democratic Party leaders such as Clinton or Barack Obama — that will not subject one to a torrent of intense anger and vile abuse.The Internet, as he says, has allowed this kind of behavior to prosper, but the behavior is not new, nor is it divorced from the context in which it happens. This is not random abuse, but targeted – it comes from someplace and is directed at specific targets. It should not be seen as a reflection of any of the candidates (Donald Trump is probably an exception because he courts these kinds of trolls both online and in person), but it cannot be completely divorced from the gender dynamics in play during this election (there remain far too many on both sides of the aisle who are uncomfortable with women in power), nor from the stakes faced mostly by Clinton and her supporters (losing likely ends her political career). The abuse has everything to do with the Internet AND with Clinton and Sanders.
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