The internet is Berning

    Hillary Clinton is a high-level Illuminati witch, a Satanist and the most corrupt politician of 2015 – if you listen to the internet. The Berning rage against Clinton has received widespread media attention because of the Bernie Bros, the #NeverHillary movement and sensationalized articles that gain traction on Facebook and Twitter, but have little basis in fact. There is a way to elevate the conversation using social media, and it follows an age-old adage your parents should have told you at bedtime: Be better than Trump.

    Trump uses social media for attention, misinformation and aggression. On a Northwestern level, he is the equivalent of Facebook comment thread lurkers edging to get the last word in on a hot-button issue. If you haven’t noticed these people on your timeline, that’s a blessing. Social media has risen to new heights in this election cycle: Hashtags and Facebook trends reflect, and sometimes even drive, the conversation around politics. It means that candidates can be called to task in 140 characters or less, but it also creates more opportunities to distract and obfuscate information about the issues we should be talking about.

    The constant social media commentary on the election creates a noisy buzz that to some extent needs to be tuned out. As college students we are part of the most liberal voting demographic in America. In the recent Illinois primary, Clinton won a substantial majority in Evanston’s First Ward, where Northwestern and much of its student housing are located. In Evanston, Hillary won 13,312 votes (54.44 percent) to Sanders' 11,089 votes (45.35 percent). Social media is an echo chamber. Articles shared on Facebook are just like normal economic goods: they follow the law of diminishing returns. Northwestern students likely have a social network of other young, liberal college students – making it hard to see how repeatedly posting to the same audience will enlighten or sway their opinions.

    Clinton isn’t a new target, but she’s an easy one. Criticisms range from valid – her role in supporting the Tough on Crime bills in the 1990s – to assertions that she’s shrill, untrustworthy and in need of an exorcism. These sentiments are old, but the internet gives them a new lease on life, dragging up spectres from her past and crying “inconsistency!!!” when they don’t match her positions today, two decades later. It is a level of scrutiny that Sanders doesn’t experience, despite having supported bills that go against his socialist, power-to-the-people values – namely voting for the Tough on Crime Bills and using funds from the NRA to get elected to the House. Although Sanders is older than Clinton, and has been in the House 10 years longer than Clinton has been in the Senate, no one knew or paid much attention to him as a person until very recently.

    The claims of Clinton supporters that the more rootless accusations against her are tinged in sexism – how many male politicians are raked over the coals for insincerity? – are brushed aside by Sanders supporters. Weinberg senior and co-president of Northwestern Students for Hillary Dani Ripka does her best to stay out of the social media fray, which she thinks fixates on issues that aren’t relevant to Hillary’s candidacy. “She might not be that likeable, but I’m willing to give that up to have someone who’s competent,” Ripka said. “The president needs to be respected.”

    PBS NewsHour political correspondent and former adjunct Medill professor Kwame Holman believes that the political climate that causes this kind of sentiment isn’t new and that people should approach it skeptically.

    “Remember your scholarship, remember your training,” Holman said. “Rely on good sources, and base your understanding on solid information, not just what somebody says on the internet.”

    Bernie Bros are an example of the lowest common denominator on social media because of their pedantic championing of the candidate – they are the unenlightened masses of the Sanders contingent. “They are not 'woke'” as Bernie Sanders supporter and Weinberg senior Caroline Naughton put it. Naughton says she posts about Bernie or the election roughly once a day, but focuses on issues rather than Bernie himself to avoid making the same mistakes as the Bros.

    “The Bernie Bros focus on attacking the opponent and obsessing over Bernie,” Naughton said. “It’s unifying for them, but it’s not the message that Bernie wants to get at – it’s a distraction.”

    I believe the #NeverHillary movement is the most destructive election content online. It is self-indulgent and should not be entertained because the odds of Sanders winning the Democratic nomination are slim and getting slimmer. Ignore his recent slew of wins in Hawaii, Alaska and Washington – Sanders trails Clinton substantially where it matters: the big delegate states. Sanders himself will probably endorse Hillary if and when she wins the primary to keep Trump out of office and gain himself a cushy place in the Clinton administration. Naughton said that Trump and Bernie are both anti-establishment, so it’s not a stretch to see why Sanders fans would choose Trump as a viable alternative. “I believe in [Sanders’] nomination and don’t even want to think about that, but sometimes Bernie supporters get defensive and say I’d never vote for Hillary,” she said.

    This is a flawed policy on every level: Trump is a balloon man full of hairspray and hatred and the antithesis of the progressive policies Bernie stands for. His presidency would erase everything the Democrats have accomplished during the Obama administration, and then some. He is a threat to women's’ rights, America’s most vulnerable citizens and the values that America was founded upon. To vote for Trump, or to abstain, is not only a vote of no-confidence in the establishment, but a conscious decision to support a man whose ideology, and toupee, is hideous and destructive. That's what we should be tweeting about, not Clinton's tone.


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