Friday Reads: You might be BernieBro if …Posted: February 5, 2016
It’s the Friday before Mardi Gras and it’s way too cold and way too early this year! The only good news I can pass on about this is the decided lack of AirBnB/BnB tourists invading my hood. I’ve actually started to wonder if the alternative rental leeches have finally saturated the market here because the vacancies are giving me some much needed peace and quiet.
It also means that I don’t have to dread going out for groceries and wondering if the one little spot in front of the kathouse will be taken over by a stationwagon on steroids (e.g. SUV) usually with a Texas license plate. My street is still a bit of a cab stand atm. Taxi cab alarms going off at all hours are enough for me to go all Clint Eastwood on some one. However, the cabbies aren’t happy about the UberDudes here so they’ve filed a suit and I’m taking some mercy on them.
More than two dozen cab drivers will make a plea before a New Orleans judge Friday (Feb. 5) to block UberX drivers from picking up passengers, a decision that could have an impact on the big Mardi Gras weekend and beyond.
The cabbies filed a lawsuit Jan. 26 in Orleans Civil District Court against 10 drivers for UberX — the ride-hailing app’s lower-cost service — who cabbies say are violating state law by taking fares without having a commercial or chauffeur driver’s license, which amounts to unfair competition.
“The majority of UberX drivers do not possess the proper license required by law and … the requirement to hold such a license is not being enforced by the City of New Orleans against UberX drivers,” the lawsuit says.
Taxicab drivers are routinely checked for the appropriate permits and service owners can lose their city operator’s license for violating the requirements, which include background checks, drug testing, and installing cameras inside their cars.
Orleans Civil District Judge Piper Griffin will hold a hearing Friday at 10 .m. on the taxicab drivers’ request for a preliminary injunction keeping their competitors from picking up passengers.
I really can’t blame any one who files suit against these “sharing economies” companies frankly because they completely ignore local health and safety laws. They ignore zoning laws, noise ordinances, and all kinds of things. I understand the need for a side hustle but why do something that hurts other folks’ livelihoods while giving a piece of your action to a third party parasite? I’m still waiting for the city to come down harder on short term rentals. I guess we’ll have to see what Jazz Fest and French Quarter Fest vacancies look like around here. I am ground zero for all this damn stuff and it’s nothing but a nuisance.
So, all of us that have been Hillary supporters for some time can tell tales of hair-raising misogyny on line and else where. The press is finally beginning to notice that not all of Bernie Sanders supporters are nice folks. I actually heard Chris Matthews ask John Heilemann if there was anything to it and Heilemann said yes. The national press secretary for Hillary Clinton Brian Fallon discussed the Bernie Bros at a Bloomberg Politics Breakfast this week. Any Hillary supporter active on social media has experienced a Bernie Bro Bash and Dash. Fallon asked the Sanders Campaign to rein in the angst and testosterone of their supporters and to watch the candidate for signs of Bro Creep.
Brian Fallon, national press secretary for the Hillary Clinton campaign, spoke at a Bloomberg Politics breakfast in Manchester, New Hampshire, on Thursday. He addressed social media attacks against Hillary Clinton by the “Bernie Bros,” saying that Senator Bernie Sanders’ shouldn’t let the “crudeness” of some of his supporters seep into his own criticism of Clinton. On the issue of whether some of Sanders’ attacks are sexist, Fallon said, “he knows what he’s doing when he does these little hip checks.”
BernieBro sexism is not imaginary. It’s also not all about the guys who say they’ve never done anything like that. It’s about how every woman spends every day fighting off something related to some guys’s issue with women and his own hyped-up idea of masculinity.
But the live controversy over the alleged bros’ existence and activities didn’t begin until months later, after many women began to notice that when they criticized Sanders online or praised Hillary Clinton, male Sanders supporters would reliably turn up in swarms to tell them they were wrong. And that this swarming occasionally escalated further, intomisogynistic abuse that was upsetting or even frightening for them.
Several women, including some who were themselves Sanders supporters, pointed this out online. A greater number noticed that they’d had the same experience, sighed, and resignedly added “Bernie Sanders” to the category of things women tweet about at their own peril, along with “feminism,” “guns,” “Muslims,” “pop culture,” and “probably everything else.”
The Sanders campaign, to its credit, took swift and sensible steps to try to improve its followers’ behavior. And there is absolutely no reason to believe that this slice of online abusers represents the views of either Sanders or the bulk of his supporters, who have better things to do than fight on social media. But some prominent Sanders supporters perceived the complaints about Bernie Bros as a threat to the Vermont democratic socialist’s candidacy, and decided that they needed to set the record straight.And so, predictably, the “Not All Men” portion of the debate followed. Contributions ranged from measured but only marginally relevant to the issue of abuse (actually, the real divide between Sanders and Clinton supporters isn’t gender but age) to bonkers (Glenn Greenwald going Full Greenwald, claiming that the entire Bernie Bro narrative was a “concoction” by “pro-Clinton journalists,” a “cheap campaign tactic masquerading as journalism and social activism”).
But those efforts weren’t just an unnecessary fight against a perceived media-industry-wide campaign to discredit Bernie Sanders that didn’t actually exist. They were actively counterproductive. The women who complained about their treatment were talking about their own lives, and how the insults and harassment had affected them. And so the debunkers, intentionally or not, sent the message that the really important thing here was not women’s experiences but rather how they might affect a man.
The most maddening thing about this phenomenon is the mansplaining on sexism. It’s a bit like being told by Bill Cosby that you’re being passed out on a roofie makes for better orgasms and has nothing to do with rape.
Some look at these demographic breakdowns and say that Sanders supporters aren’t representative of the diversity of the Democratic base. Others say that many Sanders supporters are motivated, whether they realize it or not, by sexist bias against Clinton. This second critique was expressed perhaps best by a viral “ALL CAPS” critique (worth reading in full) of the “Bernie Bro” phenomenon by Pajiba’s Courtney Enlow.
And, of course, because there are actually women who do support Sanders, the term has come full circle; Sanders supporters sometimes use the term “Bernie Bro” ironically to mock the idea that there aren’t women in their ranks.
But while such responses from Sanders supporters are often straw men, they’re right that the critique is off base.
What people really mean when they talk about “Bernie Bros”
Often, though, when supporters of Clinton or critics of Sanders complain about “Bernie Bros,” they’re not actually talking about Sanders supporters as a whole. They’re talking about a specific subset of Sanders supporters who are particularly active on social media (especially Twitter) and can be particularly aggressive in defending their candidate.
Complaints about the behavior of Sanders supporters on Twitter are by no means new. Here’s how Roderick Morrow, who started the joke hashtag #BernieSoBlack, put it to me in August:
there’s all these people who, I don’t know, they’re just sitting around searching his name on Twitter or something, they just come and get in your mentions and start harassing you, they start saying the same things over and over to you.
There are names for these tactics, many of which are associated with the ongoing online-movement-cum-dumpster-fire known as Gamergate. There’s “sea lioning” — trawling tweets from people they don’t actually know to start demanding answers and debate. There’s “mansplaining” — being condescendingly pedantic to people who may very well know what you’re telling them. There’s “dogpiling” — a disproportionate (and sometimes coordinated) group response to an individual comment. And, of course, there are actual threats.
Tiger Beatdown’s Sady Doyle articulated it this way:
I am now the subject of blog posts labeling me “the most extreme opponent of the Bernie Army” (yes, it’s an army now) and various gross-out pictures of pig testicles. There have been, I’d estimate, a little over 100 messages on Twitter today alone – give or take a paltry few interactions about things I actually wrote at some point.
This — the trope of the mansplain-y, harass-y Sanders supporter who gets all up in the mentions of anyone insufficiently praiseful — is the definition of “Bernie Bro” that journalists tend to use when writing about the phenomenon.
But, the deal is that Bernie does mansplain and play into sexist tropes. One of the very things that irks women of a certain age is remembering how all the early movements in the 1960s and 1970s were their own brand of raging patriarchal malarkey.
In the week leading up to the Iowa caucus, the internet was abuzz with a Bernie Sanders/Hillary Clinton meme that highlighted the pair’s ideological differences. Although the poster-like graphic was mocked up to look official—from the patriotic blue background to the tagline, “Be informed. Compare them on the issues that matter”—it employed decidedly non-political matters (e.g., wolves, sleeping, caves, jetskis, Pokémon) to demonstrate their opposing viewpoints. The obvious goal was to play up Sanders’ perceived complexity and contrast it with Clinton’s supposed #basic nature, in order to illustrate why the former was a better, hipper candidate.Translated to internet humor: Compared to Sanders, Clinton isn’t as evolved in her tastes and approaches. And so graphics popped up which imagined what the candidates might say about Olive Garden (Sanders: “Only when I’m high.” Clinton: “An authentic Italian restaurant for the whole family”) or lizards (Sanders: “[covered in lizards] ‘Hell yeah! I love these little guys!’” Clinton: “No”). The meme’s absurdity wasn’t quite as successful (or humorous) once it ventured into pop culture territory, however: Clinton was portrayed as being oblivious to the nuances of “Star Wars,” anime and “Harry Potter,” as well as a philistine when it comes to jazz (“It’s not Christmas until I put on Kenny G’s Christmas album”), Iggy Azalea, industrial music(“Marilyn Manson, Rob Zombie, the list could go on”), Radiohead (“I love ‘Creep’”) and the Grateful Dead (“I like ‘Touch of Grey’”).
Radiohead and the Dead have zero to do with the election or candidate platforms, which of course is the point—it’s all speculative humor meant for social media virality and a Facebook chuckle or two. Still, the meme’s subtext has uncomfortable parallels to the authenticity wars that continue to rage in rock circles, the idea that certain acts and genres are more real because they don’t employ an army of songwriters or laptops. It’s also reminiscent of the indie-vs.-mainstream music dichotomy of the ’80s and ’90s—when the idea of “selling out” and going overground was often anathema—and the negative perceptions around the concept of a “casual fan”: Liking only the big single or a band’s surface output is often considered hopelessly uncool.
These jabs at Clinton’s imagined sonic preferences reinforce the tired idea that the tastes of non-cis-male cultural consumers—from teenagers on through boomers and beyond—are something to be mocked and disrespected. It’s seen in the way the term “fangirl” has become a term of derision directed at supporters of any band with an adolescent fanbase—everyone from My Chemical Romance and Fall Out Boy to One Direction and 5 Seconds Of Summer—or the way having the musical taste of a “soccer mom” is worthy of an eyeroll. Women of all ages have their favorite artists or genres mansplained to them online every day, when they’re not having their expert opinions or reviews viewed with condescension.
Younger people may want to take a look at the Bernie Sanders “rape fantasy” writing to see just exactly how bad it could be back there trying to be groovy with the primordial DudeBro. It may have been a way to look at gender roles but it was definitely a look steeped in white male privilege. Even in revolutions, women’s positions are described as “being prone” and cooking dinner. The Sanders campaign is making an effort to reel the Bros in but mostly what I’ve seen is dudes mansplaining to me that I’m taking them all wrong.
On Reddit, Sanders’s digital director, Héctor Sigala, told Sanders’s digital army to join the fight against the Bros. The campaign speaks very frankly with its digital cadre, whose volunteer efforts are a huge part of Sanders’s current success and whose political and grassroots sophistication is the envy of most of the candidates running for president this cycle.
Sigala’s message: The Bros are making it tougher for Bernie and they need to stop.
“We love our supporters and we know we wouldn’t be here without you all, but it does add a layer of complexity when we have to track what you all do during some moments when we are shaping our messaging,” he wrote. “Above all: just know you represent our movement and be respectful with those who disagree with you.”
Walsh said she senses the Sanders campaign is aware of what is going on, and urged the campaign to step up its efforts to push back.
“I think they are getting concerned that they have this set of keyboard warriors who revel in insulting women, not just Hillary,” she told BuzzFeed News. “I think they just have to get that message out more aggressively. I don’t blame Sen. Sanders personally, at all. But it is disturbing to see such a misogynist strain in the male left. It’s not a new thing, but it’s tough to experience.”
I myself have written a few pieces about the Vermont senator, varying in perspective. And I’ve found that even coverage that tips toward the positive garners a torrent of strongly worded reader responses, from “Your article is misleading” to “Has Hillary offered you a job in the White House press corps?” (That’s not how the press corps works, if anyone was wondering.) In fact, I receive exponentially more criticism when I write about Sanders than any other candidate. And I’ve essentially called Ted Cruz a sociopath, and straight-up called Donald Trump a fascist.
These interactions have been more irritating than anything else—though I’ve significantly worn out Twitter’s mute function. I don’t feel especially threatened by Bernie Bros, and any large-scale negative attention directed toward my inbox typically lasts a few hours at most.
The women writers who dare question or criticize Sanders have it much worse. A subset of Sanders’s supporters have been known to orchestrate campaigns of relentless, misogynistic harassment against them. The phenomenon is so widespread that Cosmopolitan’s Prachi Gupta put together a comprehensive roundup of the women who’ve been targeted—one of whom, Sarah Jeong, a writer for Vice, temporarily locked her Twitter account to stanch the flow of vitriol.
Funnily enough, Jeong actually considers herself a Sanders supporter. And this highlights a significant inconsistency at the root of the Bernie Bro problem.
A number of vocal Sanders supporters prefer to deny the existence of Bernie Bros altogether. The Intercept’s Glenn Greenwald, for example, considers the meme a “blatant, manipulative scam” attributed to “Clinton media operatives” who are “campaigning for their candidate under the guise of journalism and social-issue activism.” Others dismiss the Bernie Bros moniker because there’s nothing traditionally “bro-y” about Sanders’s overall support base. But the most common talking point trotted out is also the most nonsensical: Sanders supporters aren’t all men, ipso facto, the Bernie Bro is a myth.
But pointing to the existence of women supporters is hardly a sufficient refutation of misogyny within political movements. Who else enjoys a significant female support base? A slew of anti-choice politicians across America.
BB wrote about this last month before the narrative took hold in the broader media. We’ve all noticed the condescending, superior tone that comes along with being raptured by the Sanders Campaign.
So, it’s getting worse out there and I’m already ready to hit some one. The right wing and Republicans are back in full metal jacket misogyny. It’s been bad. JJ and BB have documented some of it already. Here’s a good round up from Amanda Marcotte with my favorite explanation of the Morning Joke discussion on Hillary Shouting.
And on Wednesday, the pundits on “Morning Joe” on MSNBC could not get over the audacity of a woman raising her voice at a noisy rally, like she was a politician or something. “There is something unrelaxed about the way she is communicating,” Bob Woodward complained, all aflutter that a lady is raising her voice above a soft, man-soothing whisper.
Cokie Roberts jumped in, pointing out, “These are rallies, though, and it’s hard to do that at a rally.”
“I’m sorry to dwell on the tone issue,” Bob Woodward, said, before bravely charging ahead, “but there is something here, where Hillary Clinton suggests that she’s almost not comfortable with herself.” Women who are comfortable with themselves, you see, speak in low tones so as not to be heard. To communicate true self-acceptance, a proper lady will not speak at all. He’s just concerned and trying to help, you see.
As writes like Ann Friedman and Amanda Hess, as well as the folks at “The American Life” have shown, policing women’s voices is a time-honored way to make it clear to women the only way they’ll be accepted is if they refrain from talking at all. This is a game Clinton cannot win. If she took this oh-so-concerned advice and started talking in a whisper, she’d immediately be accused of not presenting herself as an authoritative figure. You get to be a bitch or a bimbo, and the promised middle ground between the two is an illusion.
And yes, that’s the media that Sanders calls the establishment supporting the Clinton Machine and the Bernie Bros say are friendly to Hillary.
Yup, 2016 is going to be a bumpy ride.
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?