Feeling Bern’d Up

At TNR today, Suzy Khimm has an illuminating article on how Reddit–a social medium that has been central to the organizational and fundraising efforts of the Bernie Sanders for President campaign–has more recently begun to reflect the less productive impulses of a political insurgency. That was particularly evident immediately after last week’s Democratic candidate debate, when Team Sanders went a mite ballistic over media assessments that HRC had “won” the debate.

When pundits everywhere hailed Clinton as the winner, and others (myself included) argued that Sanders had fallen short, the subreddit and every other social media channel went crazy with allegations that media was in the bag for Hillary Clinton. “Bernie wins EVERY poll yet CORPORATE MEDIA declares Hillary the winner !!!” one Sanders fan told me. “Are you blind or just bought? Grow a pair and admit the truth,” another wrote to Slate’s Josh Voorhees. Conspiracy theories rapidly proliferated, alleging that major outlets were deliberately undercutting Sanders by suppressing favorable poll numbers and deleting pro-Bernie comments. “We have an explicit example of the corruption of money in politics,” one Redditor wrote last week. “Time Warner is a top donor of Hillary Clinton and they own CNN, and CNN is censoring Bernie Sanders to alter his message.”

The outcry prompted its own backlash among the forum’s users. “My fellow Berners,” a Redditor wrote last week. “We need to chillax on the media conspiracy accusations. We are coming off like lunatics.”

“Guys, if every damn thing that doesn’t fit into praise for Bernie is going to be shouted down as a great big conspiracy, we are doomed,” another wrote. “This is absurd! Tone it down and accept it is a political race or we’re going to wind up under the bridge with Ron Paul’s supporters.”

Team Sanders is now launching a new Reddit vehicle with stricter rules about content and a rating system that encourages nutsy-boltsy organizing activities rather than, well, angry shots at the MSM. What’s unclear to me as a non-Reddit user is whether that medium inherently encourages tsunamis of anger, or is simply reflecting something that’s inherently part of an uphill presidential campaign. If you have an informed opinion about that, please chime in on the comment thread.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.