Just as the Republican party establishment tries to bring down both Donald Trump and Ted Cruz from their perches at the top of polls, so has Bernie Sanders’s rise led to similar attacks on the Democratic side, with the media leading the way. With the Iowa caucus imminent, the beltway insider mouthpiece that is the Washington Post editorial department launched an attack on him by accusing him of “peddling fiction” to the voters. Sanders responded by asking them to “check out where all the geniuses on the editorial page were with regard to the invasion of Iraq”, a deft counter-attack since that newspaper was one of the leaders in peddling all the fiction that was used to sell that illegal and immoral war to the American public. Lee Fang discusses how the New York Times misleads in its claims that Sanders is the main beneficiary of outside funds.
One of the distinguishing features of the propaganda model that exists in the US is the way that dissenting voices are shut out of the debate on serious issues. This is done by separating people into two classes: Very Serious and Not Serious.
This distinction has nothing to do with the quality of one’s arguments or whether one is liberal or conservative, Republican or Democratic or even whether one is correct or not, but rather with whether one works within the narrow window of the establishment consensus or whether one dissents from that consensus. So people who confidently predicted that the war in Iraq would be a glorious victory are still well-entrenched in the media and taken as Very Serious and still haunt the pages of the New York Times and the Washington Post while those who warned from the beginning that it would be a disaster are rarely if ever found. This is because the dissenters also argued that the war was both illegal and immoral and such fundamental criticisms are not allowed, only superficial tactical dissent (such as “Should we use just air power or also send in ground troops?”). To be considered a Very Serious Person, one must work within the framework that the US always has Noble and Good motives for its actions and that any mess it creates is due to errors or unforeseen factors.
The same people who were dead wrong on Iraq (and remember that they span both liberal and conservative, Republican and Democratic) were back urging the assault on Libya for Good and Noble reasons and they were given plenty of space to advocate their views. They were wrong again but are still around polluting the airwaves.
This does not apply only to foreign policy. Glenn Greenwald points out that that Paul Krugman, a liberal icon, has now decided that he is an arbiter of who is a Very Serious Person and who is not and has anointed himself as part of the group because he supports Hillary Clinton’s stances on financial and health care reform. He dismisses all those think that Bernie Sanders has a better plan as not being Serious People.
Greenwald links to 170 people who have signed a memorandum praising Sanders’s plans. Too bad these people are No Longer Serious.
To any of you Sanders supporters who previously believed that you possessed serious policy expertise, such as Dean Baker; or former Clinton Labor Secretary and Professor of Economic Policy Robert Reich (who yesterday wrote that “Bernie Sanders is the most qualified candidate to create the political system we should have”); or the 170 policy experts who signed a letter endorsing Sanders’ financial reform plan over Clinton’s: sorry, but you must now know that you are not Serious at all. The Very Serious Columnist has spoken. He has a Seriousness Club, and you’re not in it. If you want to be eligible, you need to support the presidential candidate of the Serious establishment, led by Paul Krugman.
Veteran media watcher Norman Solomon documents the recent escalating media assault on Sanders by the establishment press, trying to make out that he is the mirror image of Trump despite the fact that Sanders offers serious solutions to major problems while Trump has simplistic solutions to manufactured crises. Sure Sander is aiming high when it comes to proposing solutions. But as Robert Reich says, this is necessary if one is to achieve anything meaningful
An excellent rejoinder has come from former Labor Secretary Robert Reich. “Krugman doesn’t get it,” Reich wrote. “I’ve been in and around Washington for almost fifty years, including a stint in the cabinet, and I’ve learned that real change happens only when a substantial share of the American public is mobilized, organized, energized, and determined to make it happen.”
And Reich added: “Political ‘pragmatism’ may require accepting ‘half loaves’ — but the full loaf has to be large and bold enough in the first place to make the half loaf meaningful. That’s why the movement must aim high — toward a single-payer universal health, free public higher education, and busting up the biggest banks, for example.”
Those who say that Sanders has no chance of implementing his ambitious proposals need to appreciate what Reich is saying about the realities of politics.