A misunderstanding of social media is driving media elites to keep pushing an easily disprovable stereotype
by Keith A. Spencer
Part 4 - The reactionary mind at work
After reading all this, someone with a personal story of a (purported) Sanders supporter being cruel to them online might still object. The Bernie Bro is real! This anecdote proves it.
But to say "a single candidate's follower was mean, therefore I don't support this candidate's policies regardless of their actual political implications," is a rhetorical fallacy. There are definitely individual assholes out there. Likewise, assholes can believe in good causes, and nice people can support terrible causes. It is a reactionary mistake to oppose a candidate — who represents a set of specific political positions poised to help or harm different social classes — on the basis of another's individual behavior.
That means that the normalization of the BernieBro also diminishes the experience of those who are bullied by other candidates' supporters.
A video went around of an Elizabeth Warren supporter accosting two Sanders fans at the Iowa caucus; yet it didn't get a lot of play because it didn't reinforce existing stereotypes that we have about Warren's supporters. Plenty of stories about online bullying by other candidates' supporters are ignored because we lack a comparable stereotype to bundle them.
It would be one thing if Bernie Sanders — or any popular politician — told their supporters to be angry and menacing and threatening online, and then that behavior was reified on Twitter and in real life. But that has not happened with Sanders, nor with anyone else among the current crop of Democrats. You cannot draw a line from Sanders' rhetoric to any of the stereotypes of BernieBros, because his rhetoric and voting records speaks to him being an egalitarian, a civil rights advocate and a compassionate progressive voice.