Fully committing to the patently false idea that Sanders’ supporters are uniquely nasty, TIME reported on Clinton’s recent New Hampshire speech thusly:Dubbed? Who dubbed? Are there guys who've adopted that term for themselves or is this the way Clinton supporters have decided to collectively insult male Sanders supporters? It's weird to be reading this so soon after Gloria Steinem — in her ham-handed effort to help Hillary — said that young women who are for Bernie are going where the boys are.
Clinton also called attention to a collection of male Sanders supporters dubbed ‘Bernie bros’ who launch vitriolic attacks on Clinton supporters online in solidarity with the Senator’s cause. Though the Sanders campaign has distanced itself from the “bros,” Clinton suggested that Sanders supporters made it difficult for women to speak freely about his wife’s campaign online.
Bloggers “who have gone online to defend Hillary, to explain why they supported her, have been subject to vicious trolling and attacks that are literally too profane often, not to mention sexist, to repeat,” Clinton said Sunday.
My ancient ear isn't well-tuned to the nuance of "bro," but to me it feels like a sexist insult, perhaps a mild one, like calling young women, "chicks." But I sense that "bro" refers to a particular type of man, and yet, I'm not picturing the type of man who'd be hanging out in a left-wing political campaign (which is another reason why Steinem's remark didn't work very well).
I'm seeing at ThinkProgress: "Bernie Sanders Tells Berniebros To Knock It Off — ‘We Don’t Want That Crap.'" Does that mean Sanders acknowledges the existence of a cadre called "Berniebros" (or Bernie Bros)?
He told CNN on Sunday that the so-called “Berniebro” phenomenon is “disgusting” and that “anybody who is supporting me that is doing the sexist things — we don’t want them.” The “Berniebro” phenomenon, where a mob of online Sanders supporters attack politicians and writers who express views critical of the Vermont senator or supportive of his Democratic rival Secretary Hilary Clinton, launched numerous thinkpieces from journalists unfortunate enough to encounter them online. At their worst, Berniebros have accused Clinton supporters of voting “based on who had the vagina” and have invented novel sexist terms such as “clitrash.”Did Sanders use the term? Did he reject supporters who converge on his critics and defend him vigorously or just the pricks who transgress by indulging in genital metaphor? Here's the transcript from the CNN show, "State of the Nation," boldface added:
TAPPER: Have you heard about this phenomenon the Bernie bros, people who support you, and sometimes attack in very crude and sexist ways Clinton supporters?Tapper does say "Bernie bros," but he then gives a particular description of behavior, so when Sanders says "Yes, I have heard about it," I'm not sure if Bernie is just talking about the behavior, rather than acknowledging the term.
SANDERS: Yes, I have heard about it. It's disgusting. Look, we don't want that crap. We can -- and we will do everything we can, and I think we have tried. Look, anybody who is supporting me, is doing sexist things is -- we don't want them. I don't want them. That is not what this campaign is about.
I'm still trying to get to the origin of the term. Are there men who embrace the term, who proudly call themselves Bernie bros, or is that what their opponents say? If the latter, it's a sexist insult, and I'm disappointed in Bernie for not resisting it. Also, why should Bernie play into Hillary's game of broadly characterizing all criticism of her as sexist? He should have been specific, denouncing only the crude insults. I guess he sort of gets to that when he says he doesn't want anybody "doing sexist things."
I see back on January 28th, there was a BBC piece that said: "Some say Sanders is the symptom, not the cause - the 'Bernie bro' is just an old troll with a new name." That doesn't answer my question. A Slate piece by Amanda Hess on February 3d — "Everyone Is Wrong About the Bernie Bros/How a necessary critique of leftist sexism deteriorated into a dumb flame war" — goes into a lot of detail:
Over the past few weeks, the political press has been following an elusive campaign animal. Known as the “Bernie Bro,” he typically presents as a white, male Bernie Sanders supporter who haunts Internet comment sections...."Known as" — see what I mean?! Who is lumping these people together and naming them? Unless these men group together on their own, how does it make sense to say how he "typically presents"?
Or maybe the Bernie Bro is just a fantasy. On Sunday, the Intercept’s Glenn Greenwald diagnosed the Bro talk as a “cheap,” “false,” “handy, all-purpose pro-Clinton smear” meant to "inherently delegitimize all critics of Hillary Clinton by accusing them of, or at least associating them with, sexism.”...That's the most accurate-sounding thing I've read yet. Back to Hess:
The Bernie Bro first emerged in a lark of an Atlantic piece published last October. Robinson Meyer's short and sweet portrait identified a particular strain of Sanders supporter, an individual who is so obsessive about his candidate that he has lost all self-awareness—the type of dude who rants about his relationship with feminism and writes on Facebook as if he is “declaiming in the Roman forum.”Aha! The origin. It's Robinson Meyers: "Here Comes the Berniebro/Look, there is a systemic crisis occurring. On Facebook." Meyers seems to have come up with this term as an insult. Let's see how sexist it may be:
The Berniebro is not every Bernie Sanders supporter. Sanders’s support skews young, but not particularly male. The Berniebro is male, though. Very male.Meyers proceeds mostly to mock Bernie's political positions, through the rhetorical device of putting the ideas into the head of a man you're nudged not to respect.
The Berniebro is someone you may only have encountered if you’re somewhat similar to him: white; well-educated; middle-class (or, delicately, “upper middle-class”); and aware of NPR podcasts and jangly bearded bands....
The Berniebro really isn’t that bad, though. I mean, you maybe support many of Bernie’s policies, and you’re glad he’s pressing Hillary. But why oh why are the Berniebro’s posts always at the top of your Facebook timeline? And why is he writing in that tone? Is the Berniebro talking to his friends or is he declaiming in the Roman forum?Now, Meyers is just bitching about Facebook. Does that make him a Facebookbro? Look at your own problem, man.
The Berniebro, now that you think about it, was the kind of person who’d show up to a college party in a toga.Aha! Here's where the "bro" suggested itself to Meyers. Are we talking about intra-male anxieties related to fraternities?
Back to Amanda Hess:
As the meme gained momentum...Presumably with those who were using it as an anti-male insult...
... some popularizers stopped bothering to marshal any kind of evidence that Sanders supporters were sexist. The argument bottomed out with a Mashable article branding Sanders supporters as “a sexist mob” while doing little to justify the claim beyond conjuring the word “Reddit.” On the other side, Greenwald centered his debunking of the Bernie Bro narrative on the shakiest specimens of the genre. He chose to ignore the most substantive accounts of Bernie Bro behavior, like this piece from Sanders supporter Kathleen Geier, who says that a fellow #Berner accused her of “angling for a job in the Clinton administration” when she took note of anti-Clinton sexism online.The Geier piece is: "A plea to my fellow Bernie comrades: It’s time to start taking left-wing sexism seriously/I'm a pro-Sanders feminist, but I'm dismayed at the sneering condescension shown toward Clinton supporters." I'm fine with calling out anti-female sexism within the left-wing crowd. In fact, I'm been very fine with this for over 40 years.
Geier does say "Bernie bros" (all the way back in November), but she also says "Hillarybots." She's upset that Hillary supporters are attacking her as anti-feminist. She co-wrote an anti-Hillary book that Garance Franke-Ruta said was written by “feminists against women in power.”
Geier says that both sides of the Hillary vs. Bernie fight want gender justice and only disagree about how to get there. She criticizes "pro-Bernie knuckleheads" ("a distinct minority of Bernie supporters") for "their haughty dismissals of the value of the first woman president as 'mere' symbolism, and their portrayal of feminist Clinton supporters as dumb, shallow chicks who care only about dumb, shallow chick stuff."
And she turns around and criticizes Hillary supporters who "impugn the feminism of women who support Bernie": "that is gross and completely unacceptable."
She invites everyone to tone it down.
For those of us who back Bernie, a debate about whether (some) Bernie supporters are sexist or not is absolutely not the one we want to be having. The first rule of advocating for any cause is “don’t be an asshole to potential converts,” but unfortunately a few pro-Bernie types are gleefully abandoning this principle... When you’re arguing the case for Bernie, lay off the petulant sniping and ugly personal attacks, and stick to policy and ideas.So, her use of the "Bernie bro" meme is pro-Bernie. She's afraid of the vigor of male Bernie supporters. Back off on criticizing Hillary or it will hurt us. I think maybe Bernie himself thinks this. I have been puzzling over why he pulls his punches. In the debate last Saturday, there were a few points where he could have gone in for the kill and he wouldn't do it.
Back to Amanda Hess:
One persistent critique of the Bernie Bro phenomenon is that it’s unfair to single out Sanders supporters when Clintonistas are just as obnoxious.... The problem here, as one Sanders supporter put it, is that “there’s just more of us on the internet in general so it probably just seems like we’re disproportionately trollish.”... Is the Democratic Party’s primary flame war the Internet’s fault?...And that's how Hess brings it in for a landing. There's some vigorous speech on the internet. Some of it is comically or passionately mean and veers into insults and sexual banter that's excluded from traditional political discourse. Noted.
I don't support Clinton or Sanders, so I have some distance from this. I'm not drawn into the anguishing over what works and what backfires. It's interesting to see people try to wrangle others on the internet and get them to behave. That's an old topic that I'm not going to rehash here.
I wanted to know where "Bernie bros" came from, how prevalent it is, what it means, and whether it is a sexist insult.
I think Robinson Meyers started it and used it with a comically anti-male edge. Not a terribly sharp edge, but it became a meme, useful as a way for Bernie supporters (and, it seems, Bernie himself) to try to tame and control other Bernie supporters and, obviously, useful for Clinton supporters as well.
Clinton would love you to think that any stepped-up, impassioned attack on her will only reflect badly on you.