Elizabeth Warren unmasked

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Can the Mainstream Media See Elizabeth Warren Clearly?

On August 27th, Senator Bernie Sanders put forth a plan to reform the media, protect independent journalism, and safeguard the free press. This is very much in line with his critique of media concentration going back to his time as mayor of Burlington, Vermont in the 1980s. He was also one of only 16 House members who opposed the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which helped to rapidly increase media consolidation.

The presentation of this plan to save journalism followed a back-and-forth between his campaign and journalists at several mainstream media outlets over his suggestion that the viewpoints and interests of the owner of The Washington Post (and those of the owners of other mainstream media outlets) might affect their coverage of his campaign. The executive editor of The Washington Post called Sanders’ suggestion a conspiracy theory. Sanders responded by clarifying that he wasn’t saying that Bezos directly controlled every editorial decision at the Post, just that writers and editors are influenced by the owner of the newspaper in what they cover, and especially in what they don’t.

An illustration of a key absence in media, for instance, is that while every major newspaper has a business section, none have a labor section. In essence, Sanders made the same critique that Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky made in their 1988 book, Manufacturing Consent. In that seminal work, they propose that the media in the U.S.:

“are effective and powerful ideological institutions that carry out a system-supportive propaganda function by reliance on market forces, internalized assumptions, and self-censorship, and without overt coercion.”

He also could have mentioned such glaring examples of executive editorial control as retaliation against a Washington Post journalist over a Bezos op-ed, 16 stories in 16 hours, limitations placed on Post employees, Phil Donohue, Ed Shultz, Rupert Murdoch, or even Citizen Kane. The idea that a billionaire would buy a newspaper in the nation’s capital to influence the editorial direction for their own financial interests is hardly controversial.

But, really, arguing over what constitutes concrete evidence of editorial coercion is relatively uninteresting.

However, looking in good faith at the pushback on Sanders from some mainstream journalists does yield worthwhile insights about their mindset and their understanding of what constitutes progressivism. Dave Weigel, Washington Post reporter, is one of the journalists who’s been pushing back on the notion that media ownership might impact some coverage of the Sanders campaign. The reasoning behind his incredulity provides a lens into his understanding of another presidential candidate, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren.

Weigel said on Twitter:

the argument about corporate media suppressing left-wing ideas doesn’t scan with the positive coverage Warren’s been getting.”

Essentially, his premise seems to be that Warren and Sanders are so similar that if their coverage is different, it must be for reasons unrelated to their politics. Previously, I had been thinking that the conflation of their politics by people in the media was conscious and deliberate, but now I’m beginning to see it as a more unconscious form of manufactured consent, a la Herman and Chomsky.

Krystal Ball, of the Hill’s The Rising, recently quoted Naomi Klein, who called mainstream journalists view of Warren identity politics for journalists. She conceives of Warren as a political mirror who reflects the aspirations and self-conceptions of journalists, academics, and the rest of the professional managerial class. They take her at her word about what her politics are because they see themselves in her.

Even as Weigel walks to the edge of credulity regarding slanted coverage of Sanders, he’s unable to consider that perhaps Warren is not exactly who she portrays herself to be. In this light, Warren’s rise as a critic of corporate power—Amazon in particular—makes the “Bezos is trying to suppress a political threat” stuff confusing, unless you go all-in and insist that Warren doesn’t mean and/or wouldn’t implement the agenda.” Essentially, Weigel never engages that possibility in relation to facts that contradict her self-portrayal.

The only interview in which I’ve seen Elizabeth Warren receive any follow-up questions regarding publicized aspects of her biography was on hip-hop morning show, The Breakfast Club. The hosts asked Warren both about her lengthy history as a Republican and the 20 years during which she claimed to be Native American. During the questioning, she is visibly uncomfortable, folds her arms against her chest while unconsciously shaking her head, no. These topics are the most obvious ‘difficult areas’ for Warren’s candidacy.

In response to Trump’s relentless trolling over her claims to be Native American, Warren took a DNA test to prove her heritage. This, despite having no lived cultural experience to justify claiming to be Cherokee. One would expect her to have strong answers that put these questions to rest, but her answers beg further questions.

For instance, she points to a Boston Globe article which she says proves that she didn’t receive any professional benefit from declaring herself a minority in the period of Affirmative Action. I’d suggest that it doesn’t prove that at all. The article she highlights doesn’t mention the designation on her Texas bar registration as American Indian and, while the piece does talk about Harvard using her to represent racial diversity in the Law School, her peers are less than convincing when they declare that her claimed heritage had nothing to do with her hiring and that the only relevant thing was her gender.

Much of the mainstream media now act as if her explanations have put to rest all questions about her heritage. The degree to which those explanations matter seems to decrease in proportion to how much one identifies with Warren. Conversely, powerful elements within the Native American community are not nearly as satisfied.

The same is true of how dubious one finds her explanations for leaving the Republican party. This is complicated by her offering more than one reason for her change in party registration.

On the Breakfast Club, she declares that she just wasn’t political while registered as a Republican. This explanation contradicts her advocacy for deregulation in speeches she delivered before conservative groups like the Federalist Society. It also presents questions, largely unasked, about what she voted for prior to her party change in 1996. Her usual explanation for that change is that her research into bankruptcy helped make clear that the Democrats had become better stewards of the market.

I guess she missed larger issues such as Reagan’s negligence of the AIDS epidemic, the racist Republican response to the crack epidemic, the war crimes of Iran Contra, and responsibility for Central American death squads. No, it was her understanding of bankruptcy that moved her to change party. What does that suggest about her predictive ability—that policies she advocated for turned out to be so damaging that she was forced to switch to the party ostensibly advocating the opposite?

The only explanation for her switch that doesn’t prompt further questions is that she changed parties after the

One could theorize that Warren’s rise in the polls shows a degree of apathy on the part of Democratic voters about Warren’s claims to be a racial minority and her former Republican registration. I’d suggest, rather, that it reflects apathy on the part of the specific demographic offering her the strongest support, well-off white college grads, which just so happens to be the demographic most represented by our media.

To go even further, one aspect of this that has received little inspection is the degree to which Warren’s rise in the polls may be completely dependent on the media acting as PR for her campaign. “I have a plan for that,” her campaign’s marketing pitch, has been breathlessly shared by a media that never seems to investigate whether all these plans will work.

For instance, looking at Warren’s approach to maternal mortality suggests a deep cynicism in her attempt to avoid centering universal healthcare as a solution. Her fixation on bad individual actors and means-tested policy in response to the issue, single-point prescriptions which she oddly calls systemic and universal, indicates that she may not understand the concepts. And even a cursory look at her plan to offer monetary rewards or exact penalties from hospitals for the wide-ranging complications that result in deaths in a mere .000225% of births, makes it clear that her policy will have no direct impact on maternal mortality—systemically. The media doesn’t even begin to consider the obvious disconnect.

Right-wing media can drive stories into the mainstream during the general that “the left” press has already dismissed during the primary. It also suggests that when mainstream Democratic Party-centric journalists say that Warren and Sanders are similar or want the same things, they are unconsciously projecting how they’d like to portray their own politics, rather than reflecting reality.

It’s not clear how Sanders, a lifetime socialist, and Warren, a self-described “capitalist to her bones” who was a Republican until she was 46 years old, can be considered similar. When journalists say that Warren and Sanders basically agree on everything, they’re implying that they share similar goals, which is inaccurate. While they may both focus on reducing the unequal concentration of wealth and power in the U.S., they attribute the reason for that unequal concentration to vastly different causes, and thus offer very different solutions.

If Warren wavering on her commitment to Sander’s Medicare for All bill were not enough to make one skeptical of the idea that she and Sanders are similar, the fact that he’s consistently fought for the same economic policies over decades, a period during which Warren was advocating for the current economic order (which she only now finds problematic) demands greater examination of the premise.

For Warren, it would seem that offering workable plans are less the point than presenting the idea that she’s actively engaged in all of these topics (for which she never advocated prior to running for president or bothered to support by co-sponsoring related legislation proposed by her colleagues). For example, Warren is now offering plans to end for-profit prisons and decrease incarceration, but she never co-sponsored similar legislation offered by Sanders in the Senate. In fact, a video recently surfaced of Warren meeting with criminal justice activists. When asked how she would deal with decarceration, Warren offered nothing on criminal justice reform, but rather her housing ideas! Interestingly, she released her criminal justice plan three days after that meeting.

She doesn't answer the questions

There’s a “what-came-first-the-chicken-or-the-egg” quality to Warren’s coverage in the press. However, one Twitter thread looking at coverage, which repeatedly declared a surge in support for her despite a lack of corresponding data, makes a strong case for her numbers hatching from the support of journalists. If that’s true, it suggests that potentially dangerous information and questions are more likely to rise when they will have a more damaging effect on her campaign.

This article should be read at its source since I left out quite a bit to comply with fair use and I didn't include all of the links.

The two articles I suggest reading are the ones about how native Americans are not happy with Liz and especially the one in the Federalist Society to see who and what Warren supported back when she was a republican. And watch the last video that shows how she never answered the questions and instead responds totally off topic.

Bottom line for Liz....

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Warren became a democrat when the democrats became the republicans and the republicans went insane. .

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Pricknick's picture

Definitely not a highlight.

Russia’s current presence in Syria and its recent attempts to interfere in US elections demonstrate that Russia will continue to have a major role on the world stage.

https://feelthebern.org/bernie-sanders-on-russia/
We can do better than bernie. We just lack the resolve.
The propagation that russia, china and all others are the problem is the fallacy that dooms bernie and us all.
Thanks snoop.

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14 users have voted.

Regardless of the path in life I chose, I realize it's always forward, never straight.

@Pricknick when it comes to other countries. But, aside from Tulsi (who is IMO not as good, nor as deep, as Bernie on domestic policy), where's the candidate that would constitute "doing better"? Maybe Howie Hawkins, but he's not even part of the conversation yet.

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Wally's picture

@Pricknick

Kinda funny it doesn't list any leadership or sponsors. At least it notes it has no official relation to the Sanders campaign. I think we can all do better by going directly to the source: https://berniesanders.com/

I probably share many of your criticisms of Bernie's foreign policy vision, but it doesn't make much sense to label him a "neoliberal," especially when that's a characterization usually applied to domestic policies. In any case, he's certainly not a neocon and the likes of the Kagans (including the wife of Robert Kagan - Victoria Nuland) surely won't find any place in his administration unlike Biden, Warren and all the rest of the candidates except Tulsi, who is being ignored and hated on by the DNC and MSM and really has no chance of the winning the nomination.

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longtalldrink's picture

even more than Hillary...I guess because she has the "Aw shucks" charm that Hillary lacked? The PTB are hoping to drag her on (without really having to answer those pesky policy questions" until the "super delegates" get a chance to weigh in. This is why neither she nor Bernie got any real time on the 3rd debate. It's called delay tactics. They don't want her to have to answer any "real" questions until she gets a solid following...and that looks like the white college educated crowd. The one's who don't really want to shake things up, but want to keep the status quo and their privileges. THAT'S her base.

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16 users have voted.

Well done is better than well said-Ben Franklin

@longtalldrink @longtalldrink The Breakfast Club clip referenced is the only time I’ve seen her questioned really seriously. While it’s not a Biden level disaster, she comes off poorly. She doesn’t have good answers and is clearly not expecting to be asked.

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10 users have voted.

changes in the DNC and the party. She can only do that if she challenges the party elite openly, which she will not do. We don't need another candidate who does not see the corruption and who actually is courting the corruption by working behind the scenes with Hillary... who has the finger on the superdelegates.

I'm done with that crap.

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18 users have voted.

"Without the right to offend, freedom of speech does not exist." Taslima Nasrin

EW's high whiny voice can really wear you down after a while.

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5 users have voted.

@laurel For me, it's just a few seconds.

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