Right now, many Bernie Sanders supporters still have not come to grips with the fact Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic nominee for president. Others have sworn never to vote for her and are reviewing third-party options, some are considering writing Bernie Sanders in, and some have refused to vote at all.
At the DNC, a number of Bernie Sanders delegates walked out of the convention and promised to leave the Democratic Party. Like myself, I imagine that many of these individuals were independents who registered Democrat in order to participate in the primary process, while a smaller percentage were members of the party prior to Bernie Sanders entering the race.
These individuals firmly believed in their candidate, and some allowed emotions and the echo chamber effect to override the reality that Hillary Clinton won the primaries fair and square. A major contributor to this problem was the media sources many of Bernie Sanders supporters subscribed to. Instead of carefully considering demographics, regional politics and name recognition, they instead bought into the narrative spun by the “alternative media” that he was crushing Hillary Clinton – or that he would win by default just as soon as she was indicted for her emails or Benghazi.
A great example of this was the wildly popular Facebook group “Bernie Sanders Dank Meme Stash” whose creator was taking payments from overseas websites to allow their links to be posted in the group. These stories were wildly inaccurate, plagiarized from other sources, or even came from domains that were also promoting Donald Trump. Sometimes it was almost impossible to tell if the source was liberal or right-wing conservative, because the conspiracy rhetoric was almost exactly the same.
Then there is the staunchly pro-Bernie/anti-Hillary Reddit sub /r/politics which currently has the following links on their front page:
Washington Examiner: Sanders delegate: ‘If Hillary doesn’t win, that’s Hillary’s fault’
Common Dreams: DNC Betrayed Bernie Sanders and the Rest of America
Breitbart: When the Clintons Loved Russia Enough to Sell Them Our Uranium
Western Journalism: Prominent Democrat Joins Chorus Of Critics Saying DNC ‘Rigged’ Election For Clinton
Three out of those four links come from alt-right websites, but they were up-voted to the front page by a combination of Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump supporters because it went with their anti-Hillary beliefs. Other domains allegedly engaged in “vote brigading” to artificially push their articles to the front page, which caused some to be banned across all of Reddit, according to some sources.
What all of these “alternative media” sources had in common is that they were concerned more with getting as much web traffic as possible, facts and statistics be damned. If polls showed Bernie Sanders being down 10 points ahead of a primary in a state he would go on to lose by 25 points, US Uncut and others would first tell their followers not to trust the polls, and then claim the election was rigged once the results were in. Anything from the mainstream media was dismissed as being in the pockets of Hillary Clinton and the DNC, which then created a lack of urgency to get out and vote.
In other words, these bloggers spun an alternate reality for Bernie Sanders supporters because the facts didn’t matter, but profit did. It’s not hard to do either. First you create a large enough network of pages like Occupy Democrats or my former colleagues at Forward Progressives did. Then you post links from your websites, factual or not, and start cashing in every month.
Just to be on the safe side, if anyone tries to fact check you or call you out for lying, send a small army of trolls to try to silence them by either cyber-stalking critics or engaging in mass false reporting on Twitter or Facebook. So far this year, I’ve spent about as much time banned on Facebook on my personal account as I have unbanned, which speaks to how bad it can be in an election season.
With a large enough echo chamber, it’s not hard to see why so many Bernie Sanders supporters are unable to see why he didn’t receive the Democratic nomination. When you separate yourself from anyone who disagrees with you and surround yourself with people who are the same politically, that disconnect can be really hard to overcome. The “alternative media” may not have been the main reason why Bernie Sanders lost, but it certainly didn’t help him win.