At the Riverside Church in New York City on August 28, Sen. Bernie Sanders argued that mainstream media doesn’t discuss relevant issues or provide thoughtful analyses that move the country in a positive direction.
“Now in my view the hardest part of politics and something Dr. King certainly knew has to do with courage, has to do with imagination, has to do with the need to think big and not small. It has to do with the need to escape the limitations and constraints of the status quo, which means you can turn the TV and watch it hour after hour, channel after channel after channel, and not see one relevant piece of information, and you have to understand that. It has to do to with rejecting as normal what we see everyday around us,” said Sanders. “It has to do with the need to maintain a deep sense of outrage at what we see around us in this country and around the world.” It has to do with the need to understand that the emperor in fact has no clothes and the need to have the courage, and it takes courage to ask the questions and provide the analyses not often done by mainstream media and politicians.”
The mainstream media doesn’t have the imagination or incentive to conduct analyses on America’s most pressing issues. Sanders’ statement that the “emperor in fact has no clothes” refers to Hans Christian Andersen’s fable. In the story, an emperor affirms he is wearing a beautiful suit, but in reality he has nothing on. People believe and follow him until a child calls him out for not wearing anything. By using this reference, Sanders argues that the mainstream media is not as powerful as it may appear.
He states that it takes courage to speak out against naysayers in mainstream media that suppress anything revolutionary. Progressive solutions like single-payer health care are reduced by corporate policy wonks who misconstrue or ignore the plan’s details. Activists are often denigrated as “purists,” and their criticisms are conflated as “attacks.” Sanders’ supporters are repeatedly called Bernie Bros or the “Alt-Left.”
Sanders has previously cited mainstream media’s disconnect from the country’s working, middle class, and low income voters. His book Our Revolution contains a chapter titled “Corporate Media, a Threat to Democracy.” He writes, “When there is very little coverage of the suffering of the 43 million Americans living in poverty, or the thousands of Americans without health insurance who die each year because they can’t get to a doctor when they should, corporately owned media is telling us that these are not issues of major concern.”
In an interview in November 2016, he told Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman, “There are a lot of people hurting in this country. And their pain doesn’t get on CBS or NBC.” In June 2016 he tweeted, “What the mainstream media has got to understand is that they are far removed from the reality of where many American people are.”
The 2016 election made mainstream media’s disconnect from the lives of ordinary people apparent. Democrats blew the 2016 presidential election, but the mainstream media has portrayed the party’s loss as a public relations problem rather than a policy-based problem. In the mainstream media’s view, the country’s problems are due to Trump’s erratic behavior. Sanders’ criticisms point out the reality that despite the lessons Trump’s election taught, media elites relentlessly obstruct change to preserve the status quo.