Where Did the Bernie Sanders Movement Come From? The Internet.

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By Peter Beattie, ex-lawyer and current PhD candidate in political psychology, forthcoming book “Crooked Timber and the Broken Branch: Why Democracy Is Not Working”

A year ago, almost no one predicted that Bernie Sanders’ campaign would ever pose a serious challenge to Hillary Clinton’s nomination. Even fewer thought that a balding, white-haired, disheveled democratic socialist septuagenarian with a Brooklyn accent would become the clear favorite of young voters – particularly young female voters. Sanders seemed to come out of left field, and his gradual rise to virtual parity with Clinton in national polls has perplexed pundits – causing many to grasp at straws, while others ended up with their foot in their mouth. Hindsight being 20/20, today it may seem as though Sanders’ formerly-unexpected popularity should have been more widely expected – but how? How did Sanders go from a marginal, small-state senator on the sparsely-populated Left of the US political spectrum – with a widely-agreed-to-be negligible chance of challenging Clinton – to coming uncomfortably close to upsetting her?

One hypothesis that can be disregarded is that the legacy media did the work of getting his message out. Last year, Sanders was effectively absent from television news, America’s go-to source for political information. This year has been marginally better, but he still received less than half of Clinton’s coverage. (Trevor Noah suggested that to get more TV coverage Sanders should try dressing as Trump’s podium.) Nor did he get much help from newspapers (or Politifact). And the commercial theory of media bias – that the media slavishly focuses attention only on what its audience is interested in – doesn’t seem to fit the data.

On the internet, however, Sanders has received roughly equal coverage since late 2015, with a slightly more positive tone overall than Clinton. But that’s including news websites; on social media, Bernie is “breaking the internet”. He dominates on reddit, facebook, twitter, and instagram (though Cosmo, while agreeing on objective metrics, points out that Clinton wins on instagram aesthetics, like posting cute animal photos). No wonder Clinton recently introduced to her social media strategy some tried and tested policies from countries around the world, by hiring some help.

I first became interested in the internet-Sanders connection while doing survey research on the relationship between economic knowledge and candidate preference. Unexpectedly, I found that degree of reliance on the internet for political information predicted greater support for Sanders over Clinton, even after controlling for the demographic usual suspects. With help from Matthew Zuk and Michael Tesler, I then looked at the correlation between Sanders’ share of state votes and statewide internet access: it was a moderate-to-strong .687 (p < .01).


Screen shot 2016-05-25 at 2.39.34 AM

To see whether this correlation held at the county level, I used data from the National Broadband Map (NBM), along with county-level voting data from the caucuses and primaries that have taken place. Unlike the statewide Census data, which asked people whether they access the internet, the NBM data only measures broadband internet availability, without a measure of actual use. Nonetheless, on the county level, broadband availability is still significantly correlated with Sanders’ vote share, albeit weakly at .167 (p < .01).


Screen shot 2016-05-25 at 2.42.47 AM

However, this correlation may be deceptive: thanks to the “digital divide”, internet access also correlates with education, income, age, and race. To see whether there is any statistically significant effect of internet access after controlling for these demographic usual suspects of candidate preference, I created a model using education (percent of county with bachelor’s degree), income (median), age (percent Millennial), race (percent Black), population density, whether the county had a primary or a caucus, and broadband internet availability to predict Sanders’ share of the county vote.

Combined, these seven variables explained nearly 60% of the variation in Sanders’ vote share across 2,190 counties; all were statistically significant, except for population density and age. As would be expected, a higher county median income and a greater percentage of Blacks in the county population predict fewer votes for Sanders, while having a caucus (versus a primary) and higher levels of education predict more votes for Sanders. Even after controlling for these factors, broadband availability still significantly predicts a greater vote share for Sanders.

Impact of Broadband Availability with Moderating Variables

Screen shot 2016-05-25 at 2.44.36 AM

The graphs above display the model’s predicted effects for broadband internet availability on Sanders’ vote share, with differing levels of the other four significant variables. Reflecting Sanders’ poor performance in southern states with higher percentages of Black Democratic voters, he does worse as the percentage of the Black county population increases; yet as levels of broadband availability increase, so too does his vote share. (The digital divide is particularly apparent in the South.) Sanders has done better in states with caucuses versus primaries, but in both primaries and caucuses he does better as broadband internet is more widely available. Sanders fares worse in wealthier counties overall, but as median income decreases, the effects of broadband internet availability on his vote share increase. A similar pattern is seen with education: when a quarter or more of the population has a bachelor’s degree, broadband availability has no noticeable effect – but as levels of education decrease, broadband availability plays a larger role, mimicking the effect of education.

But… what is causing what?

Even with fancy models and statistical controls, this is merely a story of correlation – which may imply, but never prove, causation.

One hypothesis is that young people simply like to use the internet – and their preference for Sanders is unrelated to their internet use, owing instead to Sanders’ promises of free healthcare and college, and not to send them off to war. Younger generations, after all, are more liberal than older generations. But if that hypothesis were correct, we would expect to see the effect of broadband availability being swallowed by another variable: the percentage of the county population comprising internet-addicted, Bernie-Sis-and-Bro Millennials. Instead, the Millennial population percentage is statistically insignificant, while internet availability remains significant. It would seem that even “the Olds” are feeling the Bern from the internet.

Another hypothesis is that some other, unrecognized variable highly correlated with broadband availability is driving voters to support Sanders. This hypothesis cannot be disregarded.

A third hypothesis is that the internet provides a significantly different ecology of information than television and newspapers – and this can produce different effects on the formation of political opinions. The vast breadth of the internet provides a far greater variety of facts (and lies), arguments (both sound and specious), perspectives (worthwhile and worthless), and interpretations (considered and kooky) than any television station or newspaper could hope to offer. Those who turn to the internet for political information have a greater chance of being exposed to ideas one may never find in the legacy media.

This point is obvious enough, but since we are talking about “unknown unknowns” here, an example may be helpful. Stephanie Kelton is a Sanders economic advisor, and a member of the Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) school of economics. Want to learn something about this influence on Sanders’ likely economic policies? A LexisNexis Academic search of newspapers for the phrase “modern monetary theory” turns up 40 results (most from foreign papers), and a search for broadcast transcripts nets only 6 results. Meanwhile, a Google search for the same phrase turns up 71,100 results. Regardless of what you think (or more likely, don’t think) of MMT, it is incomparably easier to learn about this influence on Sanders’ economic ideas from the internet than through newspapers or TV.

In fact, there is a large body of research within political economy of media providing strong theoretical reasons to expect quite different effects from exposure to the internet as opposed to newspapers or TV. Take the anti-Sanders World Socialist Web Site: it reaches over 1 million people per day, nearly 40% from the US. Can you imagine a World Socialist TV channel or newspaper reaching 400,000 Americans? If you can’t, you already know something about political economy of media.

If the legacy media is like a small boutique shop for political information, the internet is the world’s biggest outlet mall, surrounded by endless miles of bazaar itself surrounded by endless miles of makeshift kiosks and garage sales. The internet is the closest thing humanity has to a free market of ideas. And it seems – with no small irony – that the candidate who went from rags to riches in this free market was the democratic socialist.

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  1. Michael C.

    The premise makes a lot of sense and gives a good explanation of interest in Sanders. Another factor adding to this interest is that young people in general are not prone to joining groups, and who joins groups that have nothing to offer them anyway? Millennials are smart and not the slackers the media portrays them to be. They don’t watch main stream media news, and when they do they see it for what it is– corporatized propaganda. They see a system that has eroded prospects for a good future, and rightfully to them, the Democratic Party is just another segment of that system. The system has burdened them with large student debt and little prospect of getting out from under it because of lousy job prospects. It fails to address in any meaningful way the catastrophe of climate change, which they know is real. Young people are much more savvy at critically parsing the media than they are given credit for.

    I also think some older people have watched the Democratic Party devolve into a more and more corporate party over the years and are tired of giving support to a party that produces no results. It has been exposed more than ever before due to the Sanders campaign, I think a development that even Sanders is surprised by. That is why early in his campaign he discussed the corrupt system in general terms, and now is talking about the corrupt Democratic Party apparatus more specifically.

    The fact that more people are independent than in either party is in many ways an unplanned result of a smaller and smaller group in each party trying to retain power for a smaller and smaller group of special interests. Where does that leave the rabble? You just don’t join groups that offer no reason to join. Since both parties do all they can to stifle democracy, why be a part of something that doesn’t heed your desires. You don’t join irrelevance. The whole system is being exposed as never before. It really would be the time for a third party if the left would get itself together.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      Because 9/11.

      Younger people have had a steady stream of government lies and bad behavior with the explanation 9/11 for 15 years. It might not make the Maddow Christie is Fat Pravda Fun Show, but Hillary’s main message is only she can save us from the mysterious 9/11 other which is both impotent and all powerful.

      Shared traumatic experiences are important. Hillary isn’t reaching younger people with her guns pitch either. Why? The simple answer was she and the Democrats did nothing. Columbine was 19 years ago.

      Hillary is running on the lies the last 15 years. There is no example of good government in the lifetimes of millennial.

      1. anonylisa

        This is exactly what I try to explain to my mom. She remembers the good old days of the Dem party. I watched Columbine happen my senior year (in fact my last day of high school was cancelled due to a bomb threat panic). Then 9/11 in college. My entire adult life has been fear mongering and lesser evilism. I wacthed the nation succumb to this fear and the elites give away our privacy and liberty. Then the preventable economic crisis that the elites used to loot the 99%. I challenge her to name one truly good bill (not full of 1% gifts and loopholes) in the last 15 years and she couldn’t. I know repubs are worse, but she can’t understand why I don’t support the party. My answer is that the Dems have done little to earn my loyalty.

        1. sd

          We have 3 seniors in this household all of whom support Sanders. Maybe it helps that we are news junkies. We’ve noticed that friends – who do not read or follow the news – support Clinton.

          So there seems to be a corollary that active information recipients seem to favor Sanders vs passive information recipients who seem to favor Clinton.

          1. RUKidding

            Your experience mirrors my own both with myself and D-voter friends and acquaintances. Most people don’t really know what the issues are with Clinton bc of the bullshit and hype over Hillary promulgated deliberately by the M$M and the R-Tribe. Most D-voters, with some justification, just roll their eyes over the various ginned up hysterias over Hillary. What they don’t realize are all the really big issues, although one would think that the very very obvious buy-off of Wall St would give some pause (but mostly doesn’t).

            I still keep hearing about how faaaaabulous everything was under Bubba. Yeah, well, keep smoking the joint, my friend, bc that’s only high you’ll get if Clinton wins.

            Sanders is far from perfect, but he’s a damn sight better than the Clintons. Most D-voters just don’t get how craven and venal they’ve become (or always were).

            1. jrs

              As for those waiting for Trump to hit Hillary oh maybe he will with something substantive someday … waiting for Godot.

              But now all Trump’s got is pointless garbage from decades ago. The real critique of Clinton was of course from Sanders (see who donates to her – she’s for sale) and without Sanders no real critique gets made, though Trump blows useless hot air.

          2. Damian

            Clinton supporters are extraordinarily thin skinned as well – it is my experience.

            When pressed beyond vague generalizations, they don’t have answers and become very, very testy, especially older women – as in – back off bud.

            They usually get their data exclusively from the MSM.

            1. NotTimothyGeithner

              When they can’t say anything about Clinton, it undermines their views of themselves in relation to those dumb republicans and rednecks who know nothing. They don’t like being exposed as no different than the average Palin supporter except by virtue of birth.

          3. john frank

            @sd your friends must be ‘low information voters’ – I thought those were the Fox News watchers. I never thought of Clinton voters as that.

        2. NotTimothyGeithner

          This is one of the problems with “Trump is so scary” meme. Climate change, drugs being fed to children by the AMA, Saber rattling, poverty, student debt, a lack of Healthcare especially mental, financial predation, and so on are already scary. If Hillary wants the pomp and circumstance of office, let her earn it, but right now, she’s running on experience of being wrong all the time.

        3. Steve in Dallas

          Good post! One suggestion… it’s a mistake to say “economic crisis that the elites used to loot the 99%”. Yes “elites”… and yes “loot”… but not “99%”. Numerous studies and the independent media made very clear by 2010 that the top 7% of Americans “profited from the economic crisis” (i.e. the top 7% of Americans not only increased their ‘net’ wealth but increased their ‘rate’ of wealth accumulation… because of the, not “preventable” but, precisely manufactured and controlled crisis). The same reports also talked about the increasing ‘rate’ of economic/social devastation moving down through the remaining 93%, work class slobs. Very frightening numbers. But who wants to talk about the bottom 93%, let alone the bottom 75%? Nobody.

          Yes, the bottom 95% (i.e. the ‘working’ class) desperately need allies in the top 5%, hence the appeals to the 99%. But lets not all kid ourselves… the top 5% are ruthlessly jealous of their historically unprecedented wealth/power… they are furious that the bottom 95%, to them an enemy horde of despicable lazy worthless work-slobs, are getting restless with crazy irrational ideas of getting a ‘fair share’, let alone ‘justice’. Class warfare started raging decades ago… when the top 5% became highly organized and started to viciously attack the bottom 95%. By now the top 5% have completely captured our economic/political/social institutions… while, comparatively, the bottom 95% haven’t even started to organize… worse yet, the bottom 95% still do nothing but lust/celebrate/admire/trust their ruthless enemy, the 5%.

          1. different clue

            ” It isn’t class warfare till the lower class fights back.” Till now, we have had one-sided upper class aggression and predation. Now bits and parts of the lower class are beginning a tentative halting fightback.

            Your points about the upper 7% are well taken, but ” the 1% and the 99%” sounds better and is more motivational. How to reconcile those two things?

          2. Tim

            The 6.999999999999% pulled away from 93% by stock ownership. Lucky them that’s the same pot the .0000000000001% pull the strings at the Fed to ensure it was the primary recipient of the Fed’s juicing of the economy.

            It’s the .0000000000001% that are corrupted and driving our kleptocracy, the rest of everybody is just washing around in their wake for better or (mostly) for worse

          3. Lambert Strether

            If we think of a pyramid of 0.01% (not 1%) then 20% servicing the 0.01% and then 80% doing wage work, then the 7% is the part of the 20% whose merit/credentials/income/reproductive fitness etc are not merely aspirational. That seems about right.

      2. swendr

        There is no example of good government in the lifetimes of millennial.

        Same for x-ers. What’s the last good thing, maybe the Nixon era’s EPA in 1970?

        Every generation of youth has had a subset of people genuinely interested in justice for the poor and disenfranchised. They’ve just utilized different strategies. The boomers liked to get wild and fuck in the streets with the most radical among them setting off bombs (almost a daily occurrence in the early ’70s). No wonder the establishment backlash was so strong.

        X-ers had no roadmap for constructive political engagement thanks to boomer parents who maybe dropped out for awhile, but then got jobs and forgot about all that foolishness. Most x-ers were left behind, jobless or underemployed through the Reagan recession AND the Clinton “boom”, but the best they could manage was to embrace the loser lifestyle, smoke weed, and listen to Sebadoh, though I will give us credit for getting our shit together enough to shut down the WTO in Seattle in 1999.

        Young people now are starting to realize that the only revolution that can have lasting effects is within politics with actual engagement at the local level. Nothing is more boring or frustrating than attending your local legislative district’s Democratic party meetings, but that’s where things really get going. If you don’t take the time to find out who’s who in the local political establishment, you’ll fall for the shills every time.

        It was a mistake for youth to forsake the real levers of power exposed by the American political process and get wild in the streets. By all means, get wild in the streets. Just make sure you use that opportunity to build up your political infrastructure. Heck, build a viable third party if you think you’ve got the juice, but just remember that you’ll need a lot of allies within the existing parties to reform the rules that make independent parties nonviable by definition in America.

        1. Anonylisa

          ugh…so long before i was born (1981) was the last time we had a decent bill.

          so then i think, did we ever?

      3. Bev

        Only the truth can set you free:

        Architects & Engineers for 9/11 Truth (AE911Truth) is a non-profit, non-partisan organization of architects, engineers, and affiliates dedicated to researching and disseminating scientific information about the complete destruction of all three World Trade Center skyscrapers on September 11, 2001, with the ultimate goal of obtaining a truly independent investigation and supporting the victims in their pursuit of justice.



        On September 11, 2001, the three worst structural failures in modern history took place when World Trade Center Buildings 1, 2, and 7 suffered complete and rapid destruction.

        In the aftermath of the tragedy, most members of the architecture and engineering community, as well as the general public, assumed that the buildings’ destruction had occurred as a result of the airplane impacts and fires. This view was reinforced by subsequent federal investigations, culminating in FEMA’s 2002 Building Performance Study and in the 2005 and 2008 reports by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

        Since 9/11, however, independent researchers around the world have assembled a large body of evidence that overwhelmingly refutes the notion that airplane impacts and fires caused the destruction of the Twin Towers and WTC 7. This body of evidence, most of which FEMA and NIST omitted from their reports, instead supports the troubling conclusion that all three skyscrapers were destroyed in a process known as “controlled demolition,” where explosives and/or other devices are used to bring down a building.


        Fraction Magic – Part 1: Votes are being counted as fractions instead of as whole numbers
        By Bev Harris

        1 – Summary –
        This report summarizes the results of our review of the GEMS election management system, which counts approximately 25 percent of all votes in the United States. The results of this study demonstrate that a fractional vote feature is embedded in each GEMS application which can be used to invisibly, yet radically, alter election outcomes by pre-setting desired vote percentages to redistribute votes. This tampering is not visible to election observers, even if they are standing in the room and watching the computer. Use of the decimalized vote feature is unlikely to be detected by auditing or canvass procedures, and can be applied across large jurisdictions in less than 60 seconds.

        GEMS vote-counting systems are and have been operated under five trade names: Global Election Systems, Diebold Election Systems, Premier Election Systems, Dominion Voting Systems, and Election Systems & Software, in addition to a number of private regional subcontractors. At the time of this writing, this system is used statewide in Alaska, Connecticut, Georgia, Mississippi, New Hampshire, Utah and Vermont, and for counties in Arizona, (upcoming) California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin and Wyoming. It is also used in Canada.

        1. Bev

          Pardon me, this article is about the importance of social media to Bernie Sanders’ magnificent rise. So, among many other social media influences, is this perfect meme created by Lee Camp, picked up by Tim Robbins and others:


          How appropriate, from the star of the Divergent movies:


          Shailene Woodley Verified account @shailenewoodley Apr 26
          Shailene Woodley Retweeted Lee Camp [Redacted]
          #ExitPollGate #FeelTheBern buckle yer bootstraps ladies and gents. our work is just beginning.
          Shailene Woodley added,
          Lee Camp [Redacted] @LeeCamp
          #Bernie supporters – let’s get #ExitPollGate to trend on Twitter! The exit polls show election fraud. #BernieOrBust


          Tim Robbins: We Need to Fix Our Broken Election System
          Richard Charnin


          Election Fraud: Response to Joshua Holland
          Richard Charnin

          Last week, actor and activist Tim Robbins tweeted on the exit poll discrepancies. And the media presstitutes went after him with a vengeance.

          Bernie starts checking Kentucky today. So happy.


          #EXITPOLLGATE: Where Are the Exit Polls from Kentucky Primary, and Should We Expect Any in California?
          by Dawn Papple


          The Democratic Primaries: No more exit polls, Kentucky and Oregon recap
          Richard Charnin


          Now, we need a perfect meme that can be twitterized for Bev Harris’ find on the illegal code that fractionalizes voters able to swing entire states in seconds.

          Your Suggestions:

        2. Bev

          Have ya’ll seen this:

          Maybe tonight on Jimmy Kimmbel’s show or before California’s primary, Bernie will have results from reviewing Kentucky voting machines and ballots. Maybe we can get rid of those evidence-missing/hiding e-voting machines and put better people in power.


          5/26/2016 at 09:05:54
          Sanders-Trump Debate in CA?
          By Meryl Ann Butler

          In a primary season full of surprises, the possibility of a Sanders-Trump debate looms on the horizon.

          Last night on Jimmy Kimmel, Trump had astoundingly sane and reasonable things to say. He noted that he and Bernie Sanders were both fighting a “rigged system.” Trump cited the Democrats’ use of superdelegates, noting that “I think it’s very unfair what’s happening to Bernie Sanders.”

          Hillary Clinton recently backed out of her commitment to debate Sanders in California before the primary.

          Kimmel read a statement to Trump from Sanders, suggesting a debate between the two. Trump was agreeable, with a caveat.

          Kimmel noted that Sanders would appear on his show tonight.

  2. par4

    Why “democracy” is not working? That’s easy to answer. It’s a f*#king republic not a democracy. It’s right there in the pledge of allegiance.

    1. inode_buddha

      Aha! So *that* is the reason why we have such corruption, regulatory capture, third-world elections, and fraud! (I’m trying to figure out if you’re being deliberately obtuse)

      1. hunkerdown

        Actually, you’re right. Republicanism is, in its entirety, a condescendingly justified form of elitism, the fanciful belief that the rule of men isn’t so bad when you can fail to renew their contract after they’ve finished looting you and get to keep the proceeds.

        Conway’s Law predicts, correctly, that any system invented by elitists will incorporate unaccountable elites.

    2. Peter Bernhardt

      Um … well, even if we do have a republican form of government (a good thing, btw), that doesn’t mean we should not expect free and fair elections, does it? Michael C is absolutely correct in his use of the word.

    3. Linda

      Why cant a republic also be a democracy? .”Republic” simply means a government beyond/without monarchy.A democracy would, by definition, be such a “republic’, would it not ? But I get you -Whenever I need to research something and its not in the bible, the pledge of allegiance is my go-to source

  3. Peter Bernhardt

    I remember, back in the 90’s, when we all first learned about this thing called the internet, thinking, “Wow, this thing is going to make it so much easier for people to learn about the world we live in.” A real democratization of access to information. And yeah, it’s taken awhile for people to develop a bit of skill in handling the massive amount of data we now have at our fingertips, sort out the wheat from the chaff. But it’s no coincidence that this incredible and unique election season has come upon us as the internet, particularly social media, now come to play such an integral role in how we distribute and share information. It’s also no coincidence that an ever growing portion of the voting population are sophisticated in the effective use of these tools.

    Does anyone else recall that entertaining commercial that came out at tail end of the Clinton presidency (when most of the new voters in this year’s election were mere toddlers)? A young hipster was showing Bill how to use email and surf the web. A presage of things to come. Ironic, ain’t it?

    One of the many bad things Ronald Reagan did was to end the fairness doctrine in 1985. Between then and now, corporate media had practically total control of the flow of information. Since the 1990’s, their hegemony has been slowly chipped away due to the rise of the internet. And now corporate media is fighting for its very existence. They have lost not only their audience, but their credibility as trustworthy sources of information.

    Who needs the fairness doctrine when no one is watching anymore and we can find the truth elsewhere? Imagine, as just one example, how the narrative would have played out differently about the Nevada Democratic convention had it not been for the recordings of the event captured by so many people and now easily available on Youtube? The MSM’s disastrous attempt to help the DNC spin a different narrative has now blown back so forcefully that its chair’s career is now effectively over.

    1. Steve in Dallas

      Wow… totally disagree. Here in Texas I see no indications that people are ‘informed’ by anything BUT corporate-controlled media (i.e. the “MSM”). My experience would indicate that ‘independent media’ such as NC is maybe reaching some (small?) fraction of 1%. Please see my post on this subject below…

  4. Benedict@Large

    The Sanders movement came from the Thom Hartmann Radio Show, which uses both the AM band and the internet for it’s broadcast. Almost every Friday for a decade and more, Bernie did a one-hour unscripted call in as a sort of over-the-air town hall. Thom’s show over the years has reached an audience well into the millions, and by far, Breakfast/Brunch With Bernie was his most popular segment. THIS is what the beltway/MSM crowd totally missed (and still misses). People have, for most of that show segment, been calling in and asking Bernie to run for President. Bernie’s constituency didn’t just pop out of nowhere. By the time he announced, he already had several million supports who already knew the work involved and the time and money required.

    Bernie’s success then is hardly the result of a solid one-year of smart campaigning. Not the result of pie-eyed young people suddenly awakened. Not any of the reasons the media is now only beginning to guess at. Bernie’s success is the result of at least a decade of campaigning, first by a loyal fan base urging a most reluctant future candidate, and then by a candidate stepping in as the leader to a force that had long before took its roots.

    1. Christopher

      Thanks Benedict, now that is a reason that makes sense. Bernie is authentic and the populace is ready for that kind of candidate.

    2. RUKidding

      That’s interesting, and I confess that I didn’t know about that. I’m sure that radio show played a role. I have always felt – but had no credible info – that Sanders has always been more well-known than given credit for.

      Commenters here have pointed to other issues that appeal to Sanders’ supporters, no matter what age.

      I’ve been well-aware of Sanders all along. I’ve had some issues with his voting records and so forth, so I was somewhat skeptical about his decision to run for office. At this point, I’m well in favor of what he’s doing.

      There’s no doubt that the M$M has pretty ignored Sanders all along, which I’m sure has been a conscious decision. The M$M lives in Versailles on the Potomac/Manhattan and really has no clue what the proles are doing, how we live and learn. They think if they spoon feed us their pablum propaganda, we’ll all just go along.

      Nice to see how that’s not working, at least with a significant portion of the populace.

    3. fresno dan

      I had no idea – thanks for that history!
      And I think it shows how important it is to have sources of unfiltered information…

    4. Uahsenaa

      I would add that even before he declared, Bernie was going around Iowa and New Hampshire giving speeches, many very small at first, going to where people already were, rec centers, farmers markets, outdoor festivals. These speeches were recorded and posted online, shared among sympathetic people.

      As you point out, the man did the hard work of building an audience over time by going to where they were and speaking to their concerns. There’s nothing clever about it; it’s just good old fashioned persistence. Which gives me hope for the likely coronation of Hillary, because any one setback is not going to put a dent in that sense of working to build a movement.

      Then there’s the simple answer to the “how did this happen?” question: Sanders simply said out loud what many people already knew to be true and what so many of our public figures have gone out of their way to obfuscate over the years in order to maintain access to the great graft.

    5. anonylisa

      I listened to that for years. I explain to my family that that is why I trust Bernie. Not because I am a fan of late. I have been listening to him every week for an hour for years. He is consistent and on the right side of the issues. Between Tom, Bernie, and Ravi I saved a lot of money in the financial and housing collapse. I pulled out of stocks because of their sound reporting.

    6. Arizona Slim

      Bernie also started with a YUGE e-mailing list. It was originally used to send his Senate office e-newsletter, the Bernie Buzz. ISTR reading that it was one of the largest Senatorial mailing lists.

      I was on the Buzz for many years. Last year, I was switched over to his Presidential campaign list and you know what? I’m glad that switch was made. I’ve really enjoyed being part of the political revolution.

    7. perpetualWAR

      I wouldn’t credit one media show with Bernie’s candidacy. I went to a lecture at Seattle’s town hall, where Bernie was the main draw. People in the audience were yelling out “Run, Bernie, Run!” So, there were many indicators for Bernie to see he had a real opportunity to just pick up all the power that was just left lying on the ground. Because Bernie knew of Occupy and all the subsequent left movements challenging TPTB, he observed that there was an immense amount of power to be simply scooped up and that’s precisely what he did.

      Go #Bernie!

      BTW, yesterday I found an article on Bloomberg exposing the Maiden Lane Fed holdings were making the US taxpayers were purchasing junk bonds…..and who was at the end of that 2010 article calling for the Maiden Lane holdings to be audited and exposed? One Bernard Sanders, “little know Senator from Vermont.” So, Bernie has been fighting for us all along.

      1. Heron

        Yeah I’d say it’s a combination of things like this. For instance, he was a favorite on the Daily Show; one of the few tv “news” progs with a huge millennial following. As a result of stuff like this, and the radio show above, and podcasts, and his presence on the speaking circuit, and his public support for the Occupy and post-Occupy movements, Sanders had a level of support and popularity among young, often down-trending middle-class, lefty politicos(both activist and pol junkies), and that translated into the surprising showing we’ve seen. I’d agree that the internet is def a part of this, and the essay above is great initial work on the topic, but my gut feeling here is that it’s a more complex phenomenon involving all the ways news consumption is different for this age cohort than past ones, plus the shifting class situation in the US.

        And the class thing really can’t be ignored. It’s notable to me that among the southern black and latin@ communities, who have been on the business end of economic oppression and dislocation for decades, Bernie support is thinner but, among middle and working class pops either facing or concerned with economic dislocation and across ethnic demos(black lives matter is p huge for Bernie for instance), Bernie does very well. This, again, is just my gestalt sense from the sort of people, commentators, and activists I’ve seen backing him, but the presence, or fear of, economic transition, and not necessarily actual deprivation, seems to be the big ideological driver of his support.

    8. ckimball

      Yes, the Hartmann show for years educated, reasoned and investigated.
      Posing the question of the disappearing commons to privatization and
      the undermining of the middle class.
      Then, in the Seattle area along with other talk show slots
      disappeared, to be replaced by sports network broadcast and analysis.
      Bernie felt steady as a rock.

    9. notlurking1

      Buddy I think your on to something…….used to listen to that radio segment also…….

    10. Maude

      Bernie was also one of the early adopters of twitter (and facebook I think) and his audience from Thom Hartmann amplified his message at least over the past 5-7 years that I am aware of. His choice of Stephanie Kelton as an advisor was how the MMT crowd mostly got behind him. They are an active group.

      Because the media is very self-involved, they of course missed all of this as they examined their own navel lint or fawned over the latest ratings buzz.

    11. Steve in Dallas

      Two things…

      1) Why hasn’t anyone mentioned that Bernie was the force behind Audit the FED… the real mechanism by which the elite looted all of us (i.e. the world)?

      2) Tom Hartmann’s great show The Big Picture is produced by RT. Facetiously speaking… Shouldn’t most Americans refuse to watch Russian propaganda? Will a Killary administration prevent Russian media in the U.S. … as she claims Putin is shutting down all free media in Russia?

      At https://www.rt.com/shows/big-picture/

      The hottest political show in the US finds new home with RT. The Big Picture with Thom Hartmann tackles the latest in political news, debates, commentary and more. From local, to national and international nothing will escape Thom Hartmann view. Thom Hartmann is a NY Times bestselling and 4-times project Censored winning author of over twenty books and America’s #1 progressive radio host. His program is heard daily on hundreds of stations; including SiriusXM, DirectTV, Dish Network, Dial-Global, Pacifica, and Free Speech TV, broadcast live from the US and on five continents. Watch The Big Picture with Thom Hartmann on RT America weeknights at 7:00pm and 10:00pm Eastern Time.

      1. Treadingwaterbutstillkicking

        RT is practically the only alternative network out there with A.J. gone. Redacted Tonight has had some killer pieces on the election, especially regarding possible election fraud, voter suppression, and the truth about Hillary Clinton. The irony is not lost on me.

    12. Treadingwaterbutstillkicking

      I’ve been watching Brunch with Bernie for years.

      Bernie, there, was at his relaxed, yet often fieriest best. More often than not too he would stay long after his allotted time just to answer the endless questions posited to him by his many fans/nation of constituents. Thom used to be really good then too.

      Note I said “used” to be.

      After Bernie announced his run for the presidency I initially thought that Thom was just trying exceptionally hard to appear “even-handed” or “balanced.” Unfortunately, and despite all the shenanigans from the establishment dems, the DNC, the MSM, etc., Thom has maintained the Trump is the next Hitler/anybody but Trump/Hillary is better than Satan meme. Thom will grudgingly accept a few negative comments from those he figures are his equals (Thomas Frank, Nina Turner, etc.), but when a guest dare say anything about Hillary being worse on foreign policy or corruption or voter suppression or Wall Street or any other issue, he might argue with them for a few seconds, but now tends to either shout them down or shut them off.

      For him it’s Democratic party unity blah blah blah, no matter how many times we’ve been sold down the river by those running the party.

      Now I usually watched The Thom Hartmann Show on Free Speech TV which already seemed to me to have been infiltrated by Dem establishment types with the “Stephanie Miller Show,” A 3 hour long morning identity politics extravaganza hosted by one of the sourest hosts I’ve ever seen, a sort of Rachel Maddow without the funnies. That show has been 100% Clinton, Trump is Satan since forever.

      Democracy Now is the only consistent program I can watch anymore and that network will not get another dime from me. We need to keep supporting alternative media in this country, but not the faux alternatives selling us snake oil glossed over with identity politics issues.

  5. sandra

    Really, it is so amazing to keep reading these articles that read like the author came from Mars yesterday: No clue what is going on in the country. Dumbfounded that a message resonates because it expresses the truth that millions of people see instantly. No clue. Still and again, How is this happening? Why?
    With no media coverage, people fill stadiums and stand in line for hours. It’s the internet, let’s make some charts. Nothing to do with substance. Finally some journalists realize and admit that the Republican Party did nothing for their base for years. They seem unable to bring themselves yet to see that it is the same for the Democratic Party. So busy with their corporations, they did nothing while the corps cheated the people out of their homes, their livlihood, their water and more. Where do these people keep coming from who cannot see what is in front of us?

    1. Benedict@Large

      Finally some journalists realize and admit that the Republican Party did nothing for their base for years. They seem unable to bring themselves yet to see that it is the same for the Democratic Party.


      Adding to my point where the media still can’t get its head out of the beltway, away from the day-to-day drivel of the horserace, and out on the main street where homes are (still) being cheated from common working people, and there’s a guy out on the radio talking adult to adult that it does have to be like this, and we can fix it; he knows because we’ve done it before.

      It’s not that hard to see. They are simply being paid not to.

    2. J Bookly

      Yes, absolutely. When I realized nobody had my back anymore, it changed everything. I am now receptive to messages that 20 years ago I would have considered “radical.”

      McLuhan said the medium is the message, but I still think the message is the message. When the message you get from the mainstream media is infotainment or propaganda, with only a shaky connection to your real concerns, you start looking elsewhere. That’s how I discovered this blog and other reality-based information sources.

    3. hunkerdown

      What is “the base” and who are they? The classes and identities the Party takes pains to never kick strikes me as a good working indicator of *who*, at least. By that measure, the professional class *are* the Party’s base, so “professional” journalists would be daft to claim that the Democratic Party Inc. isn’t serving it. The curated collection of victims, poster children and other pathos objects are only “the base” in the pedestrian sense.

      (Just now I looked up “base” on Dictionary.com. I got “base” as basis, “base” as vulgar, followed by “triangulation”. In algorithms, there is truth!)

  6. m

    As one of those younger female Bernie people, I found out about him via youtube vids. There are a slew of him from the 90s slamming Greenspan & trade deals. Always liked him and watched him since, thrilled he is running & sick of hearing he cannot beat Hillary.

        1. he

          +1 for Grayson. I just got an email from the execrable Harry Reid attacking him for being a hedge fund operator. To me, all that means is that he’s not at the top of my donation list.

  7. Minnie Mouse

    There is an across the board main stream media blackout of discussion of certain issues, most conspicuously absent is any more than superficial mention of trade policy, TPP, TTIP,TISA etc. However, information and discussion is widely available on the internet even to us old fuddy duddies who experienced the disastrous fallout of trade policy screwups.

  8. washunate

    I tend to agree with the other commenters that this feels more oblivious than insightful, like someone trying to straddle both sides of the fence, acknowledging the reality of widespread Sanders support while nonetheless treating the whole corporate Dem establishment system as being legit rather than a fundamental blight on our body politic. I sympathize with the pressure on academia to churn out stuff for the sake of churning out stuff, but this feels both trivial and not necessairly valid (we are talking pretty small sample sizes and a huge number of variables not taken into account, after all).

    To me, what is fascinating is not how the internet created dissatisfaction with government (it didn’t, btw), but rather, how Sanders supporters pwned the internet in the face of the biggest political machine of our time. The basic mechanics of establishment American propaganda don’t work well in an environment with real-time accountability, input from the unwashed masses, and a cumulative history that can be documented and accessed (relatively) easily. Seeing establishment pundits and politicians get visibly upset with the internet’s stupid reliance on quaint things like facts and what somebody said yesterday has been a ton of fun. Basically, outside the echo chambers and affluent bubbles in our system, no one likes our leaders specifically or the direction of the country more generally. Especially younger Americans who grew up in the heaviest propagandizing and so are pretty resistant to deceptive sales pitches.

    1. Peter

      Apologies for the miscommunication – I certainly don’t consider the corporate Democrat establishment system to be legitimate. The variable I would most liked to have taken into account is whether one’s personal economic situation has been improving or degrading, which median income can’t cover. Even then, for those whose personal economic situation has been degrading, one would need an explanation, most likely provided by some form of media, as to why – and those who expose themselves only to corporate media outlets will likely get some ridiculous interpretation like Republican obstructionism to all of the fantastic things Obama would have liked to do, or the zombie idea that corporate tax rates or government regulation is hurting the economy… it’s almost exclusively on the internet (or Pacifica radio stations) that one can learn that neoliberal economic policies are the more likely culprit.

      1. washunate

        Thanks for the reply. I want to emphasize up front I agree the internet is important and fundamentally different from other media platforms. I just think it’s a leap to present it as an origin story.

        I think this is where I would offer a different opinion:

        it’s almost exclusively on the internet

        I would counter that reality is where one learns that our system sucks. That’s where the fiction peddled by the intellectual class hits the wall of overpriced stuff and pompous authoritarians – the daily grind of crap jobs and overpriced housing and predatory medicine and rent-a-cops and all the rest. Now there is a little bit of people not realizing how bad it is out there, and the curious can discover on the internet what they haven’t experienced in person. But that’s rare; the general public knows they are getting screwed, and the affluent know they are being purposefully obtuse to the consequences of the screwing. It’s a willful ignorance more than a genuine lack of understanding. People don’t need to know anything about MMT, for example, to know that a) they’re getting screwed, and b) there are better options. This whole mindset of lack of information in the face of obvious truths we have known for years is what sandra was railing against up above.

        As far as data, I think the biggest problem is that key parts of the Clinton coalition correlate positively with less access to and/or usage of the internet. That is something unique to the Clinton brand, a remarkable relationship that the Clintons have built up with institutional leaders in the Democratic party over many years. By the time that is corrected for, there is so much judgment and variance involved for such a small correlation that I just don’t know what meaning remains.

        Perhaps a compromise headline I could agree on is this:

        The internet is one of the few places where the establishment is forced to acknowledge the existence of a widespread desire for change driving the Sanders candidacy

        Good luck and see you around.

  9. ke

    Don’t get me wrong, you can have a very good dc product multiplying false assumptions, but it has to reside in the NOT preamp counterweight. From a political perspective, the gals running RE out of NY are the counterweight, and they have been grooming an army of young women at university. Bernie is popular because he is their feminist, and like all the candidates, represents the ongoing interests of RE inflation and bankruptcy preference.

    Take a look at BlackLivesMatter under Obama. Politics is like a revolver, spending “special” peer pressure social groups. It takes all kinds.

    AI isn’t being grown on a.c. by accident, and I don’t drop my babies into the black hole by accident.

  10. hemeantwell

    Want to learn something about this influence on Sanders’ likely economic policies? A LexisNexis Academic search of newspapers for the phrase “modern monetary theory” turns up 40 results (most from foreign papers), and a search for broadcast transcripts nets only 6 results. Meanwhile, a Google search for the same phrase turns up 71,100 results. Regardless of what you think (or more likely, don’t think) of MMT, it is incomparably easier to learn about this influence on Sanders’ economic ideas from the internet than through newspapers or TV.

    Most useful part of the article. Nicely illustrative of the conceptual braking system that is the core of the MSM.

  11. Steve in Dallas

    The ‘internet’ is NOT the ‘good guy’ that this article suggests. The internet is ‘why’ the MSM is now so completely/overtly corrupt, nothing but elitist propaganda/manipulation. All the professional/principled/disciplined/ethical journalists jumped to the internet in the late-90s/early-00s in an attempt to escape the traditional, then less-pervasive and more covert, MSM corruption. Very unfortunately, as the few informed 1% so clearly observed, and totally contradicting the ‘free market law of rational/informed consumerism’, the ‘public’ (i.e. the 99%) did NOT (repeat: “did NOT”) follow the good ‘independent’ journalists/news/information sources to the internet. This elite consolidation of ‘the news’ was a classic and VERY successful example of a precisely-managed trick-and-trap operation (e.g. Arianna’s sellout of the HuffingtonPost was a blatant example of this highly organized trick-and-trap operation in action… NOTE: I can count on my hands how many times I’ve been back to the HP since Arianna screwed the many good independent journalists who made the HP what it ‘was’).

    Here in Dallas I have yet to meet a single person familiar with the ‘independent media’. When I ask them if they’ve heard of NakedCapitalism or dozens of other sites, including the once-good/independent HuffingtonPost, I always get a “no”. When I ask them if they trust the mainstream media, and I name a full spectrum… CNN, FOX, NPR, MSNBC, CNBC, FT, WSJ, NYT, WaPost, etc., they say “sure”. When I ask if they have or would ever consider watching/reading other non-independent news from other people’s perspectives, like RT, they are instantly offended and get angry. I have ‘surveyed’ equal numbers of young and old and see no difference in their general reactions/attitudes, other than the younger are more willing to engage in conversation while the older immediately get very angry and aggressively terminate any and all discussion.

    That ‘consumers’ still (completely?) trust the MSM (e.g. election coverage? terrorism events? filthy rich people and corporations over-taxed? protecting people from their evil governments and/or social rebels with ruthless cold/hot wars? endless corporate/global mafia mergers/acquisitions/monopoly? Russia/Syria/EU/Greece/Venezuela/Brazil/etc.?) and they (the 99% ???) still (completely?) distrust all other sources of ‘news’ (derisively labeled ‘alternative media’) is proof 100% that human society/culture is nothing but manufactured. Where was it that I read… in the late 80s the people of the Soviet Union had zero trust in their MSM. Here in Texas such ‘reality’ has not even started to sink in. If I put a BOYCOTT the MSM sticker on my bumper I would be lynched. And BTW, the ‘working class’ (bottom 95%) still (completely?) trusts the ‘money-makes-money class’ (top 5%)? Have the 95% even started to realize that the 5% long ago decided the 95% are their enemy, to be crushed with any and all means available?

    I will never, under any conditions, not even if another 9/11 occurs, turn on the MSM. They will never register me in their audience ratings. The MSM is a bunch of highly-organized criminals who purposely/consciously/methodically deceive the public for private gains over the public interests. The public MUST take back control of its government and immediately indict/prosecute/convict/punish the MSM’s mafia-culture of elitist/conformist/organized thieves. By now, any U.S. citizen not willing to put a “BOYCOTT the MSM” bumper sticker on their car is a hopeless fool. Like William Black’s explains (paraphrasing)… “Gresham’s Law, of letting cheaters prosper, destroys the lives of honest people… criminal bankers must, not only be stopped, but must be severely punished, for our systems of civil law and basic justice to remain”… just like the criminal bankers, the criminal MSM must be stopped and punished.

    If the internet was even slightly more effective at informing people… Sanders would win in a landslide… the Arab Spring would have strengthened secularism in the MENA instead of destroying it… tens of thousands of global bankers would be rotting in jails.

      1. ke

        So, nothing short of shorting out Wall Street is sufficient, into its own field.

        Unless youve been in R&D, real R&D, with real people, there is no way to fathom the process. The experts took over R&D, and now look at the State of Infrastructure. Public, private or nonprofit, the attitude is the individual is powerless, so only a community to raise a child, so the community can assign your children debt for crappy infrastructure which will be all that remains. Not everyone misses a sign like that, Cant wait until they get a full load of Grace, and all her sisters out there.

        1. Steve in Dallas

          Here’s another thought… maybe it’s all about reading?

          I also have yet to meet someone here in Texas who ‘reads’. At work I have told all the marketing/sales/management people 1) “we MUST do ‘market research’ or else our new product(s) will not have a chance to get off the ground” and 2) “we have to be willing to read… spend hundreds, if not thousands, of hours reading/researching… before we will be qualified (or deserving) to sell our products to customers (partners?) in the market”.

          These marketing/sales/management gurus are, of course, extremely offended and literally laugh at me when I say these things. Multiple times I have tried to demonstrate ‘market research’ by spending days reading/collecting/sending hundreds of articles/links/contacts/etc. to them (all of them). One time they let me give a presentation to introduce/review my preliminary ‘market research’… didn’t help… started nothing… years later… they still have read nothing… they don’t read… they know nothing… they’re looking at their phones constantly… but they don’t read… or learn… and they are definitely not qualified or deserve to sell anything.

          The internet is amazingly powerful… but I have not yet seen any advantages gained/utilized by the working class. Working class slobs have NOT become more informed/enlightened/empowered… quite the opposite… they’ve lost almost all of their economic/political/social independence/resources since the dawn of the internet.

          1. ke

            So, technology is not the answer, but the experts at reinventing the wheel, with crappier derivatives, said you are supposed to operate how, because their robots paying people is the answer. Truth, crazier than fiction

    1. jrs

      No the internet is not why the MSM is so completely corrupt. Correlation is not causation. And it’s not that hard to drive good people out even without the lure of the internet to offer them carrots rather than sticks. Sticks would more than suffice, the power to hire and fire. Journalists need unions badly. Media consolidation is why the media is so corrupt, it’s so corrupt because it’s all owned by a handful of giant corporations. Possibly lack of fairness doctrines and so on also plays in, I’m not sure. And the corporate ownership of public broadcasting definitely plays in.

      The internet is neither the cause nor the full solution. We actually do need good media. The internet alone is not enough. But we won’t get it until we break up media consolidation (and perhaps other things as well) and actually have a real competitive media.

      1. ke

        I read…union…competitive…and I don’t wonder what a Texan thinks of that. Who is seceding from who?

    2. jrs

      Maybe “breakup the MSM” would be better – ie end media consolidation. A slogan much like: “Break up the Banks”. Though I’d break the banks up and turn them all into credit unions as well if was in charge #FullSocialism

      1. ke

        I thought that suggestion would wake people up and get traction when Yves was talking about it, long time ago in internet 7/24 make work non news world, to keep everyone distracted.

    3. Beth

      Here in Dallas I have yet to meet a single person familiar with the ‘independent media’.

      Let’s meet for coffee sometime.

  12. Tim

    Two election cycles from now, live media via cable or satellite television will be the minority. It will be a pay for access show by show, channel by channel a-la-cart TV world. This will drive more people to the internet for their news, and the big media pay to play will have to fight it out with the “free” blogs such as NC.

    The truly old, still think you can’t believe anything you read on the internet. The younger generations know what the author describes. Mountains of good and bad information, but in general, even with confirmation bias, you know the truth when you see it, and when you see enough of it, your perspective will change.

    The revolution of the information age and it’s increasing impact on politics is far from stagnating. Stay tuned

  13. RBHoughton

    One opportunity for the American people to become well-informed is the rise of digital TV services. TRNN has started their’s and it provides the antidote to Fox and CNN.

    I really hope these services become widely available.

    They do not have to broadcast all day and night – just the usual newshour is enough – then the power of the MSM to control what the people know is broken.

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