The Shills Have Eyes

Perhaps the most painful aspect of the Democratic primary has been the transformation of certain progressive online news channels from responsible information outlets to cheerleading sections for Sen. Bernie Sanders–cheerleading sections that spew off-the-charts hatred for the allegedly “corporatist” Hillary Clinton.

As a longtime advocate for these progressive online news channels, it has been heartbreaking to realize that some of the hosts and contributors to these channels have never heard of the old saying: “You don’t make your own candle burn brighter by blowing someone else’s candle out.” Both Clinton and Sanders are highly qualified, highly intelligent candidates with decades of dedication to busting barriers and ensuring equality–but in the world of these online news channels, Sanders is the only one who can save our democracy from death, while Clinton is half-Cruella De Vil and half-Lady Macbeth.

I have previously expressed my disappointment over the fact that a fairly prominent voice in online progressive media tried to suggest that the mainstream media’s alleged refusal to cover the Sanders campaign is somehow responsible for his woes with African-American voters. It was as though it never occurred to this particular commentator to actually ask a few African-American voters for some perspective as to why Sanders was experiencing these difficulties. She did not even have to ask African-American Clinton supporters why they rejected Sanders; she could have just asked African-American Sanders supporters who presumably have Clinton supporters in their social circle for some insight as to why their friends don’t feel the Bern. Does this commentator really believe that African-Americans are still unaware of Sanders and his platform after all these months?

It has been embarrassing to watch many of these progressive online news channels stoop to new depths to advance the narrative that Clinton is corrupt. Clinton is about as corrupt as Sanders–which is to say, not at all. What does it say about these commentators that they cannot praise Sanders without disparaging Clinton?

Last year, the New York Times and Steve Benen noted that right-wing operatives were effectively trying to seduce progressives into launching attacks on Clinton. One can’t help wondering if this tactic has worked beyond the wildest dreams of these right-wing operatives: who would have thought, just one year ago, that online progressive news outlets would brand non-reactionaries Paul Krugman and George Clooney as villains?

Seven years ago, former right-wing operative Frank Schaeffer noted the “changing cast list of villains” in the minds of religious fundamentalists who supported the Republican Party. The bombastic Bernie-backers in online progressive media aren’t that much different: every day seems to bring another “corporatist” who they can demonize as a Clinton apologist.

Did it ever dawn on these commentators that a certain percentage of their viewers actually like both Clinton and Sanders, view neither candidate as corrupt, and are offended when they run segment after segment implying that Clinton is a grotesque, greedy ghoul? Did it ever dawn on these commentators that by promoting the idea that progressives should only trust Sanders and not Clinton, they are inflicting wounds of resentment that may never fully heal?

This chastising of Clinton is both ridiculous and redundant. When I watch progressive online media outlets, I want to hear a perspective I don’t get anywhere else. The Clinton-is-corrupt narrative is a perspective I can get anywhere else. Why would I want to hear a progressive condemn Clinton’s alleged vanity? If I want to hear that sort of stuff, I’ll just turn on Sean Hannity.

UPDATE: George Takei’s commentary on the Democratic primary can certainly be read as a response to the partisanship of vehemently anti-Clinton online progressive news outlets. More from Media Matters.

SECOND UPDATE: Perhaps the two best–or worst–examples of over-the-top anti-Clinton sentiment in online progressive media can be found here.

D.R. Tucker

D. R. Tucker is a Massachusetts-based journalist who has served as the weekend contributor for the Washington Monthly since May 2014. He has also written for the Huffington Post, the Washington Spectator, the Metrowest Daily News, investigative journalist Brad Friedman's Brad Blog and environmental journalist Peter Sinclair's Climate Crocks.