Propagandists Cry About Bernie’s Online Base Because It’s Effective

Since oligarchs can’t replicate grass-roots energy, they attack it, says Caitlin Johnstone.

By Caitlin Johnstone

Sometimes it feels like the only news stories over the last five years have been about mean tweets. Trump’s mean tweets, Sanders supporters’ mean tweets; some days it’s all the headlines ever want to talk about. You’d hardly know humanity is on the precipice of extinction on multiple fronts.

If you are the sort of person who believed that the “Bernie Bro” talking point would vanish after statistics showed the narrative of Sanders’ base consisting mostly of entitled white men to be completely false, then you are probably the sort of person who is often wrong about things. Whether the headlines are about an MSNBC host comparing Berners on Twitter to literal Nazi brown shirts, Meghan McCain bashing Sanders and then calling his supporters “nasty and cruel” for responding, or a Nevada culinary union dishonestly smearing Sanders on healthcare and then shrieking about being viciously attacked by online criticism, this garment rending over angry Bernie Bros remains more popular than ever.

Which, as we’ve discussed previously, is ridiculous. Acting like a few angry social media comments are in any way an inappropriate response to a millionaire narrative manager passive-aggressively sabotaging people’s attempts to fight crushing domestic austerity and create a working healthcare system for themselves is cartoonish drama queenery, and anyone who does this should be mocked by the entire world.

The Elizabeth Warren-supporting writer Sam Adler-Bell — a much less powerful player than the wealthy corporate media pundits who are seen on TV by millions every day — shared his experience with incurring the wrath of Sanders’ supporters on Twitter.

“Thanks to my squishy ‘be nice to Warren’ takes, I’ve experienced a lot of the storied online Bernie Bro attacks,” Adler-Bell tweeted. “And you know what? Not that bad. Pretty normal stuff. Small faction. I mute and move on. Maybe not a national headline that should last 4+ years.”

The popular explanation for these absurd establishment conniptions over the insolent common folk daring to talk back to their masters is that it’s being used to smear Sanders, and of course that’s true; Sanders is consistently attacked for having rude supporters. A more detailed understanding is that it’s also due to a media class whose ivory towers previously insulated them from the reactions of the riff raff being unable to handle a new paradigm where op-eds receive digital comments from an energized populist political faction, and that’s obviously true as well.

But the primary reason the Establishment narrative managers are becoming increasingly shrill about the online behavior of Sanders supporters runs much deeper: they’re afraid of it because it’s effective.

I’ve been writing for a long time about the possibility of a grassroots information rebellion in which ordinary people use new media in sufficient numbers to actually seize control of important dominant narratives, and, at least within the limited scope of the Sanders presidential campaign, we’re seeing an actual model for what such an insurgency might look like. In their endless freeform improvisation on social media, Berners have demonstrated the ability to unearth information and launch it into virality, to collectively send hashtags to the top of Twitter’s trending list like #ILikeBernie#BloombergIsRacist and #WarrenIsASnake, and to meme top presidential campaigns like that of Senator Kamala Harris completely out of existence.

Centrist elitists are fond of saying “Twitter isn’t real life,” meaning the dominant views you’ll see on social media aren’t necessarily reflective of the broader public, and of course that’s true. But clearly Twitter, like any other large and influential media platform, is able to help shape narratives which affect real life. The difference is that unlike other forms of billionaire-owned media, Twitter allows for the possibility of a grassroots campaign by the people to influence those narratives.

Even if you’re not a Sanders supporter I highly recommend keeping tabs on his online base, because it’s a force that is truly something to behold. And also because it sets an example of something that could change the world, if people could just figure out a way to expand their grassroots information rebellion beyond the scope of a single candidate’s presidential campaign.

And that’s the real reason the imperial narrative managers are so freaked out about it. Not because anyone is being “viciously attacked,” but because they understand that narrative control is power. The people collectively seizing control of the dominant narratives within the empire is the stuff of oligarchic nightmares, because whoever controls the narrative controls the world.

Power is the ability to control what happens. Absolute power is controlling what people think about what happens. Humans are story-oriented creatures, so if you can control the stories that the humans are telling about what’s going on, you can control those humans. Any adept manipulator understands this. So they understand that the people taking control of dominant narratives is a direct threat to their rule.

The oligarchs who control the U.S.-centralized empire would literally kill for such a large and highly energized collective advancing pro-Establishment narratives of their own free will, but they know they can’t get one because the status quo offers ordinary people nothing to get excited about. They can only obtain narrative control by purchasing it, whether it’s by advertising, buying up media outlets or funding think tanks.  

You can’t buy grassroots energy. Oligarchs find this endlessly frustrating. They’ve tried to emulate it, as with the so-called Resistance astroturf campaign designed to harness the energy of the 2016 Sanders run and corral it into support for the Democratic Establishment against Trump. But it falls flat without any shiny, attractive thing to positively push toward. So, since they can’t replicate grass-roots energy they do the next best thing: they attack it.

That’s all you’re ever seeing when imperial narrative managers try to disparage and discredit Berners online. They’re doing the exact same thing they’ve been doing with alternative media and RT: attacking a source of unauthorized narratives because they are unable to control it.

As I said from the very beginning, Sanders’ 2020 campaign is much more interesting as a movement than as a presidential candidacy. If Sanders manages to get in, he’ll push for a few changes which will be ferociously opposed every step of the way by existing power structures, and some mild reforms will end up taking place. If the people figure out how to use the power they tapped into during his campaign to take control of dominant narratives, they can actually transform the world.

So, let the narrative managers educate you with their fake tears. They are informing you of your power. Use it to wisely. Use it to birth a healthy world into existence.

Caitlin Johnstone is a rogue journalist, poet, and utopia prepper who publishes regularly at Medium. Follow her work on FacebookTwitter, or her website. She has a podcast and a book, Woke: A Field Guide for Utopia Preppers.” 

This article was re-published with permission.

The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.

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15 comments for “Propagandists Cry About Bernie’s Online Base Because It’s Effective

  1. Bradford Nelson Bray
    February 21, 2020 at 13:49

    “The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth becomes the greatest enemy of the State.” — Dr. Joseph Goebbels, Nazi Propaganda Minister

    The above is how all dictatorial powers work the narratives. Murdoch’s Propaganda info empire has been brainwashing people since the days of Nixon. Social media has only raised the bar on this ability.

    thanks for your work!!! So damn important.

  2. Daniel
    February 20, 2020 at 20:01

    I so appreciate and look forward to your writing, Ms. Johnstone. And in this piece, you touch on what feels like the epicenter of our human ills: the corporate sponsored, profit driven and bullying narratives that saturate our airwaves and our lives. Developed as they may be by coddled elitism, deep cynicism, fear and/or malicious intent, these destructive narratives serve to drive us to our most base instincts. Rising above this theater of the absurd (including our own) to reclaim our critical thinking and common humanity is our most effective antidote.
    I pray that we are reaching a moment of critical mass on this point, though, as the superficial feasts of Twitter, cable news and political circus are leaving many with empty stomachs and empty souls. It’s in the air all around us. People may not know exactly how they are being bamboozled or why they feel constantly undernourished but they know that they are. Keep lighting our way out of this mess!

  3. February 20, 2020 at 11:33

    Thanks to Paul Craig Roberts I learned of Caitlin J.–I am thrilled! I only wish the rest of the uninformed could learn to read and awaken. If you do not know PCR look up his website and get his newsletter.
    I have a friend in Norway. She told me that she doesn’t see huge palatial estates like say in Pebble Beach or on 17 mile road (near by), but she also quickly added that she doesn’t see slums in her country either. Hmmmm.
    I always tell people the difference between socialized medicine like Medicare for all, and what we currently call sickcare, is that when you get sick now, you are also bankrupted along with it. Our system adds the misery of bankruptcy along with a morbid condition. It sure seems a no brainer to me as to which is preferred. And why the hell are we putting up with 5,000 dollar deductibles, and 2,000+ monthly payments? WTF. It’s all BS to enrich insurance companies.
    And as a medical doctor I can tell you that modern medicine is crap because the corporations took over. I saw it happen in my lifetime. Whenever corporations take over a system it is eventually destroyed. For example: medicine taken over by Big Pharma, the telecommunications system, how about our food??? We no longer eat nutritious food. It’s only stuff that looks and tastes like food but it isn’t. Folks, we will witness the debilitating effects of eating food-like food on an entire generation. The disease will be biblical in it’s scope.
    Personally I think we should eat the billionaires and share the wealth. It’s time to follow the French and their solution to oligarchy not so long ago.

    • ML
      February 21, 2020 at 19:03

      As a now retired primary care NP, I second your comments, Dr. Bragg. Shameful what this system does to patients and providers alike.

  4. Kim Dixon
    February 20, 2020 at 05:06

    During the debate, Sanders attempted to deflect absurd calls for responsibility for online activists… by saying they must actually be Russians.

    So that the “radical socialist” in the race echoes the worst sort of McCarthyite paranoia and Bircher xenophobia.

    Is any more proof needed that we live in a Right-wing madhouse?

  5. robert e williamson jr
    February 19, 2020 at 17:09

    Hillary, Biden, Trump,Pompeo, and Mike.

  6. robert e williamson jr
    February 19, 2020 at 17:06

    Oh, do I love the stuff Caitlin writes. This piece is my personal favorite so far. She reaches into an horrid mess and comes up with an angle on the Sanders campaign an explains things in what turns out to be an epic teachable moment. For joy, she got it right, nailed it.

    One thing we know for sure it that Mike Bloomberg is fearful. Nothing makes a billionaire spend money like a drunken sailor than the fear his station in life might be endangered. I figure Bloomberg fears Trump and Bernie both.

    Biden, Trump, Pompeo, and Mike all are acting like very rich, old, fearful white men and women. Guys and gals who got caught, maybe with their hands in the cookie jar.

    Not Bernie, he has his followers trust at this point and the trend seems to be getting stronger. A statement about Bernie that cannot be called a lie. Bernie is onto something and they aren’t. This is a truth that is killing the establishment and both corrupted major political parties.

    I watched the video and I’m with her and absolutely amazed by her economic use of the written word. I feel this effort was brilliant.

    Thanks CN

  7. Ryan C
    February 19, 2020 at 16:29

    Russian grassroots political party Rodnaya Partia successfully advocated for free hectare land handouts to every citizen, not to be bought or sold, only passed on through inheritance. Putin signed in law in 2016 and website where any Russian citizen can claim a hectare of tax free land was up in 2017. Many hundreds of Russian family homestead settlements have been established so far. This is what the world needs, all food and resources come from land. Take back your motherland people!

    • SRH
      February 20, 2020 at 05:27

      Hmmm. You support a law that turns land into an inheritable asset. How’s that a revolutionary act? It sounds more like what we’ve had here in the UK for many centuries – for the aristocracy. Better, surely, would be land owned communally for public benefit. The USA had a lot of homesteads in its early history. Is that an example to emulate?

    • Ryan C
      February 22, 2020 at 17:17

      People in the UK haven’t ever had tax free land. The USA’s homestead law from the mid 1800s excluded many including native Americans and allotments were way too big for one family to work without hiring help. This Russian homestead law is the first historical example of a totally INCLUSIVE land act that gives every citizen a tax free hectare of land with the right to pass on through inheritance. Yes that’s a big deal and I really believe it will soon be used as a model for the rest of the world.

  8. vinnieoh
    February 19, 2020 at 11:46

    Once again this morning I watched all the US msm for any reporting of what is transpiring in Syria. Absolute silence.


    Because the official narrative minders have no way to spin this absolute collapse of US criminal ambition into something positive. And so they say nothing, as if it is not even happening.

    I have wondered over these last 17 years how long a system, an empire built entirely on lies, could possibly last. It is possible that I – we – may have an answer to that question soon enough.

    If it is true, as Caitlin says, that the official narrative is crumbling because more and more people are calling bullshit, I think it is equally true that the official narrative is crumbling under it own weight, supported as it is by lies, half-truths, mis and dis information, and fraud.

  9. Vera Gottlieb
    February 19, 2020 at 10:43

    Is there enough “mud and dirt” to go around until election day?

  10. michael
    February 19, 2020 at 06:55

    Since the “Modernization” of the anti-propaganda Smith Mundt Act in 2012, it has been legal (and obvious) for the State Department and CIA to hand down all important narratives to be dissembled by MSM to the hoi polloi. No dissent or even discussion allowed. A good argument can be made that US democracy ended in 2012.

    • SRH
      February 20, 2020 at 05:29

      A much better argument can be made that US democracy never existed in any real form, with its two-party system and history of exclusion which continues to this day.

    • DW Bartoo
      February 22, 2020 at 21:36

      SRH, I consider that you are correct in stating that democracy has never really existed in the U$.

      The question for this time is whether U$ians have either the courage or the desire to bring it into existence rather than continuing to foolishly believe and behave as though its ludicrous pretense is sufficient?

Comments are closed.