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Media blockade on progressives is helping rig the Democratic primaries again

If there are 200 on-air news personalities on cable news, it would be surprising if more than two voted for Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) in 2016. There is almost universal disdain for Sanders on television and in print. Anyone who denies that and says that Sanders gets us much positive coverage as everyone else is living in an alternate reality. Does anyone in their right mind really think that Sanders is treated the same as the other candidates? Of course not.

Just in the last two weeks, there have been two hatchet jobs on him in The New York Times and Politico. But that’s par for the course and happens pretty much every week. If there’s ever a positive article about Sanders, it’s passed around like wildfire online because it’s so shocking that you have to share it with your friends like other online curiosities that are hard to believe.

If you can’t see the disparity between the coverage of South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg (D), which is nearly universally fawning and obsequious, and the coverage of Sanders, which is universally contemptuous and disdainful, you’re so biased you can’t even see your own bias.

The people on TV don’t like Sanders because he represents change and they got into their positions of power in this current system — and the last thing they want to do is change it. These television anchors claim they have no perspective. Think about how absurd that claim is. Of course you have a perspective — it’s just that you have privileged your own perspective so much that you assume that it must be the norm for everyone. In reality, that is the deepest bias you can have.

The New York Times and The Washington Post are arguably worse. Their core assumption is that maintaining the status quo is not a perspective, so it is the correct baseline by which to judge all other perspectives. Anyone who wants to challenge or change the current system is treated as a radical and delegitimized. This is a form of deplatforming. You implicitly never share the opinions you don’t agree with while never acknowledging it and pretending that your perspective is the only legitimate one. This de facto deplatforming is in some ways more odious because it’s done in the dark of night without having the honesty to admit it.

On television, there are almost no on-air progressives. CNN at least had the decency to have one quota slot for progressives — Nina Turner. Now that Turner is on the Sanders campaign team, that opening has been given to Alexandra Rojas, executive director for Justice Democrats. I’m thrilled about that, and CNN should be praised for this hire. But the exception proves the rule. Progressives are at least 25 percent of the country (an unbiased look at the polling would actually indicate at least 60 percent of the country), yet we are seemingly less than 1 percent of the media. Furthermore, the other 99 percent are massively biased against us.

The right wing has broken through this establishment bias by yelling at the media for the last 40 years. Now, The New York Times and CNN are scared to death of right-wingers, and they will go out of their way to not only cover them but in fact twist coverage in their favor. How? They will take things that are demonstrable facts — Saddam Hussein did not attack us on 9/11 — and turn it into a “he said, she said” so as not to offend Republicans. In a world where lies and truth are equated, lies have an unfair advantage.

What’s the end result? Seven out of 10 Americans thought Saddam personally attacked us when we invaded Iraq. The media helped the Republican Party spread that lie because they were afraid to be objective reporters and tell the truth to the American people. This is a form of political correctness, where political neutrality is privileged over facts. The GOP has been using this to tilt the playing field to their advantage for decades now.

Imagine how absurd this would be in sports. “The Lakers and Celtics played last night. The Lakers say they won, and the Celtics say they won. I guess we’ll never know.” Except in this case, it’s even worse because this is not a two-team game. There is a third team, and that team is never even mentioned.

If politics were like a track race between three runners — progressives, the establishment and right-wingers — the mainstream media would say it was a tie between the establishment and the right wing. If you asked where progressives finished, they would write a derisive article about how progressives shouldn’t even be running (this is actually quite literal when it comes to coverage of Sanders).

And note to the media, who seem particularly thick on this point: Establishment Democrats are not progressives! No one fights progressive policy ideas more than corporate Democrats, especially Democratic leadership. If you think they are on our team, even though they oppose all of our policy proposals, you either don’t understand politics or again you’re so biased that you treat progressives as invisible, which is exactly my point.

In normal times, this would already be a disastrous phenomenon, but in the middle of a Democratic primary it is worse — it is part of how primaries are rigged against progressives. Do not feign outrage if you can’t, or choose not to, understand this simple fact. When everyone with a megaphone is screaming at the top of their lungs that establishment candidates are wonderful and progressives are unacceptable — and they don’t even allow progressives to defend themselves — don’t pretend that doesn’t have a giant effect on the election.

The DNC or the Russians couldn’t hope to rig an election anywhere near as well as the American media. If they make up their collective mind to dismiss a candidate, that person will have a nearly impossible job of breaking through. If they decide to shower that person with billions of dollars in free media coverage, such as the current president, then they will have an enormous advantage. The press is the megaphone. If you never pass it to progressives, you helped to rig the election.

If you can’t find a single progressive among the people in your newsroom or brag that you once allowed a progressive to write a column or appear on-air, you are the problem. And if you claim that you have given equal representation to progressive Democrats in this race, please stop — that’s embarrassingly untrue, and even you know it. There is not a single mainstream editor or TV producer who could say that with a straight face.

So, can the mainstream media at least not pretend to be outraged and offended the next time progressives attack them? What else are we supposed to do? You have a media blockade on us. You help our political opponents seemingly spread lies and won’t even hear us out. We are not the aggressors. You are. And you give us no choice but to attack you because you give us no outlet. Do you expect us to politely surrender and accept that you will forever privilege our two opponents — the establishment and the right wing? If that is your expectation, you are going to be sorely disappointed.

Trump calling the press “the enemy of the people” is outrageous because it is a government official fomenting potential violence against the press. The left wing, unlike Republicans, doesn’t want to destroy the press. We want to make it better. But if we’re being honest, progressives have no bigger enemy than the mainstream media that amplifies the message of our opponents and suffocates our own.

So, instead of doing what the right wing does and encourage people to hate you, we have a simple request: Put aside your bias and cover us. But my guess is this will fall on deaf ears and that the usual disdain and blockade will continue. And when progressives erupt in frustration, the media will be full of outrage and shocked disbelief. Then, when they say no one could have seen this coming, you can show them this article.

Cenk Uygur is the CEO, founder, and host of The Young Turks and co-founder of Justice Democrats.

Tags 2020 race Bernie Sanders campaign Elections Pete Buttigieg

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