Mainstream media antipathy to #BernieSanders: Chris Hedges edition | Media ethics on Blog#42

Socialist journalist Chris Hedges doesn’t like Bernie Sanders any more than he likes Hillary Clinton. He said so during remarks to a special interest group.

He says he’s coming down this hard on fellow Vermonter and socialist (OK, he isn’t 100% socialist) Bernie Sanders for what seems to be the single solitary thing he disagrees with him on: the Israel-Arab conflict. Mind you, that conflict has been ongoing since before Israel was established as a state in 1947, and no president has come close to resolving it.

Assuming Hedges isn’t an anti-Zionist and all he objects to are the Israeli settlements, then are those reason enough to withhold his support for Bernie? Because, if it is, then he will most likely find that Bernie and Hillary and all Republicans with the possible exception of Rand Paul, whom we know is antisemitic, all pretty much have the same position when it comes to Israel. If Hedges is an anti-Zionist, however, what exactly does Hedges want? For Bernie to disavow his support for the Jewish state entirely? Is that a reasonable demand?

Hedges claims that Bernie refuses to defend Palestinians. Sanders clearly stated his position in his interview with Ezra Klein a couple of months ago. There is nothing vague about his stance:

“Ezra Klein

Do you view yourself as a Zionist?”

“Bernie Sanders

A Zionist? What does that mean? Want to define what the word is? Do I think Israel has the right to exist, yeah, I do. Do I believe that the United States should be playing an even-handed role in terms of its dealings with the Palestinian community in Israel? Absolutely I do.

Again, I think that you have volatile regions in the world, the Middle East is one of them, and the United States has got to work with other countries around the world to fight for Israel’s security and existence at the same time as we fight for a Palestinian state where the people in that country can enjoy a decent standard of living, which is certainly not the case right now. My long-term hope is that instead of pouring so much military aid into Israel, into Egypt, we can provide more economic aid to help improve the standard of living of the people in that area.”

From the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz:

“So where does Bernie Sanders stand on Israel? Here’s a review.
He backs Israel, but he believes in spending less on defense assistance to Israel and more on economic assistance in the Middle East.”


“He will defend Israel to a hostile crowd, but will also fault Israel – and will shout down hecklers.

At a town hall in Cabot, Vermont, during last summer’s Gaza war, a constituent commended Sanders for not signing onto a Senate resolution that solely blamed Hamas for the conflict, but wondered if he would “go further.”

“Has Israel overreacted? Have they bombed U.N. facilities? The answer is yes, and that is terribly, terribly wrong,” Sanders said.

“On the other hand – and there is another hand – you have a situation where Hamas is sending missiles into Israel – a fact – and you know where some of those missiles are coming from. They’re coming from populated areas; that’s a fact. Hamas is using money that came into Gaza for construction purposes – and God knows they need roads and all the things that they need – and used some of that money to build these very sophisticated tunnels into Israel for military purposes.”


“As mayor of Burlington, Vermont, in 1988, Sanders was asked if he backed then-candidate for president Jesse Jackson’s support for the Palestinians during the first intifada. Sanders excoriated what he depicted as Israeli brutality as well as Arab extremism.

“What is going on in the Middle East right now is obviously a tragedy, there’s no question about it. The sight of Israeli soldiers breaking the arms and legs of Arabs is reprehensible. The idea of Israel closing down towns and sealing them off is unacceptable,” he said at a news conference, according to video unearthed by Alternet writer Zaid Jilani. “You have had a crisis there for 30 years, you have had people at war for 30 years, you have a situation with some Arab countries where there are still some Arab leadership calling for the destruction of the State of Israel and the murder of Israeli citizens.”

The Ha’aretz piece is comprehensive. I highly recommend reading it in its entirety.

Bernie Sanders is running for the nomination as this nation’s Democratic candidate for President. Clearly, it is important to know what he stands for, on as many issues as possible.

No candidate for president, ever, has run on a platform that every American agrees with, down to the last plank. No reasonable person would reject a candidate placing a foreign policy disagreement over all domestic issues. While it is completely reasonable to ask for a compromise, out and out rejection of this candidate, over this issue, stands out as novel and unusual.

On economics, Sanders comes closest to anyone on the left from the most liberal to the furthest reaches of the far left. Sanders represents economic views that, after two significant bubbles and a Great Recession, resonate with a preponderant majority of Democrats, in a complete break from the neoliberal policies of the 1990’s. Sanders is in favor of a return to Glass-Steagall, whereas Clinton is not. Sanders is in favor of breaking up the banks. Clinton is not, and she is unwilling to go into details as to what new regulations she would impose on the banking sector.

Incredibly, not only were there more questions about Sanders’ racial justice bona fides, but there continues to be much antipathy after he’s produced actual policy that goes farther than any white politician in American politics since the birth of our nation. It is noteworthy that even though she has yet to issue any policy paper on racial justice and, to put it kindly, was very prickly and defensive during her performance at her meeting with racial justice activists, curiously, Mrs. Clinton has neither come under the same level of public scrutiny or antipathy as Sanders. She has avoided any fallout whatsoever.

Sanders’ policy positions on global warming and the environment are much more in line with conservationists than any other candidate.

On money in politics, Sanders has stated that anyone he might nominate to the Supreme Court would first have to pass a litmus test on Citizens United. Hillary Clinton’s position on money in politics is far from being quite as defined and crystal clear.

Sanders has been a strong feminist and women’s rights advocate dating back to the 1960’s. On childcare, Sanders’ position is far more progressive than Clinton. He has called for a national childcare system paid for by taxing the wealthy.

On education, Sanders’ position is that public colleges should be free, whereas Clinton just wants to make university less costly. Sanders is committed to strengthening Affirmative Action as a part of his plan for racial justice, and has stated in connection to making higher education free, that Affirmative Action is separate and necessary to maintain.

To get back to the topic we started with, supporting Palestinians, Bernie Sanders has never refused to support them. No American politician, a sitting president or candidate, on the right or left, has ever proposed boycotting Israel or ending America’s relationship with her as a way to deal with a prime minister it dislikes. Why then are these special demands being placed on Sanders and not any other candidate?

The threat level a Sanders candidacy poses to conservative, neoconservative and neoliberal interests alike is palpable and well-understood. After all, each represents the interests of the established corporatocracy and oligarchy. But, remember, Chris Hedges sits far away and well to the left of all that. Or does he?

Bernie Sanders is running for President of The United States, and not as the president in charge of the resolution of the Israel-Arab conflict. It has been amazing to see how so many interest groups have special demands for Sanders that they don’t have of anyone else. If I were paranoid, I’d think they’re either antisemitic or in cahoots with the power and money behind those who back Hillary Clinton. Could either possibility be the case, especially from a pundit on the far, far left? Nah…

If anyone, including Hedges, thinks they are entitled to borrow a page from Black Lives Matter’s book and exploit some kind of vulnerability, then they are in for a huge disappointment. Sanders’ Plan for Racial Justice was never a concession to Black Lives Matter. None was needed because he had always been in lockstep with civil rights movements since the 1960’s. Bernie Sanders’ heart has always been firmly on the side of racial justice. His heart and mind were made up in the sixties, and his body of work, throughout his career, reflects that mindset. In Bernie Sanders, there is no weak candidate who is ripe to extract concessions from. Sanders is an American who is vying for America’s top executive job, and not a Jew who is responsible for the behavior of Jews in another nation.

The continued and incessant negativity from the mainstream press and added requirements on Sanders by special interests and activists serve only one purpose: ensuring he doesn’t get nominated. We see these forces at work through pundits like Chris Hedges and many others whose visibility and reach are higher, by far, than Hedges in their social media, public speeches and writings. Many of them still claim journalistic neutrality when any semblance of impartiality was long left behind and they are actively influencing public opinion through advocacy, and not media reporting.

We also see efforts to make an early impact by the heads of some labor unions. The head of the National Education Association (NEA) announced an early endorsement of Hillary Clinton over the loud protests of his membership. Over at the AFL-CIO and other unions, endorsements for Hillary Clinton are now being delayed due to vocal pressure from rank and file members and union activists.

When it comes to the left, there are only two candidates: Clinton and Sanders. There will be no close third choice even if Biden does enter the fray. A run by Biden would likely only take voters away from Clinton. Biden will have to defend a shared record with Clinton on incarceration, policing and banking – the very issues that drew voters away from Clinton and toward Sanders in the first place. Biden’s record is neoliberal on the whole, and no more representative of current populist sentiment than Clinton’s.

Bernie Sanders has been breaking in attendance rallies and fundraising. Sanders campaign manager Jeff Weaver announced today that: A short while ago, we flew past our goal of 1 million online contributions to our campaign Sanders raised more than $25 million over the last three months. This informs us far better on voter awareness and engagement, this early in the campaign, than current polling.

Chris Hedges’ rant against the left’s candidates is akin to a child’s tantrum. None of the candidates espouse his views exactly, so none will receive his support. As the voting public is swept up in this current cycle of polarization, a Pulitzer prize winning journalist should know better than to depart from a neutral role. What does Hedges want? If not Sanders or Clinton, then who? Trump? Cruz? Surely, as a socialist, Hedges wouldn’t pick Jeb Bush over Bernie? Is it some sort of anarchy he’s after?

It’s high time pundits resume their duty to explain how a given Democratic candidates’ policy prescriptions do or don’t serve the American public, especially the most vulnerable among us. Those who call themselves journalists need to be held to a much higher standard in a day and age where reporting and opinion seem to be one and the same in our airwaves and in our print. A presidential candidate’s foreign policy is important, but not over the welfare of our nation, or when the candidate’s views are actually far more in line with your own than all the other candidates.

As far behind as our nation is after the worst recession since the Great Depression, seven years of unrelenting obstructionism, and forced austerity from Republicans, the American people need to come first, even before one’s own long-held biases.

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