Shareblue Is Now Saying That ‘Bernie Bros’ Were Actually Russian Bots. Hold Me Back.

Caitlin Johnstone
7 min readApr 4, 2017
Five reasons David Brock’s latest manipulation makes me hate him even more than I already did.

The David Brock propaganda mill Shareblue has published an article titled “Watching the hearings, I learned my ‘Bernie bro’ harassers may have been Russian bots”. I’ve been pacing around all day trying to figure out a way to articulate my rage at the absolute gall of these horrible people to write something so immensely offensive to human intelligence, but so far all I’ve managed is a strange, guttural sound somewhere between a trumpet full of water and a goat getting kicked in the balls. I gotta try, though, so here is a list of reasons why the aforementioned article makes me hope someone replaces David Brock’s heart medications with caffeine pills.

1. “Bernie Bros” are a fictional invention designed to smear Bernie Sanders, and David Brock probably had a hand in its creation.

“Bernie Bros” are not, and have never been, a thing. This narrative that there was an army of white male socialists united by their love of universal healthcare and their hatred of women patrolling the internet like a band of roving dystopian marauders in a Mad Max film makes absolutely no sense and has no basis in reality. Are there jerks on the internet? Certainly. I interacted with countless obnoxious Clinton supporters during the election cycle who almost without exception resorted to ad hominem attacks when they were unable to defend basic facts about their horrible candidate, for example, and I know there were some assholes on the Sanders side as well. But to claim there was anything like a phenomenon you could pin down and describe in a way that applied to Sanders supporters but not Clinton supporters is pure manipulative falsehood. In fact, a survey conducted during the primaries season revealed that Sanders had some of the least aggressive supporters on social media out of all candidates, scoring a “very aggressive” rating about half that of Clinton supporters’. Even the Washington Post, which infamously ran 16 smear pieces on Sanders in 16 hours at the hottest point of the primary race, failed to find a shred of evidence that Sanders supporters were misogynistic toward Clinton on social media.

Despite the total absence of facts and evidence, the “Bernie Bro” narrative was regurgitated as fact by pundits and presstitutes throughout mainstream media, to the point where Sanders himself was being asked about it in interviews as though it were a real thing. As noted last year by Aussie journalist Michael Brull, this is likely because journalists would have been included in the targeted propaganda campaign David Brock’s Correct the Record was openly engaged in. Which takes me to my next point:

2. David Brock’s other organization, Correct the Record, is known to have employed actual, literal shills.

In a hellish irony that surely could not be by chance, we have undisputed proof that shills were indeed employed during the Democratic primary, but they weren’t hired by Bernie Sanders. A 2014 Mother Jones article details how Correct the Record had been employing an “army of nerd virgins” to attack anyone who smeared Hillary Clinton on the internet since 2013. MJ reports that these shills worked in an office building “around the clock”, and last year CtR announced a major budget increase specifically for targeting Clinton opponents on social media, citing “lessons learned from online engagement with ‘Bernie Bros.’”

So that is an extraordinary act of faux innocence, is it not? To be hired by a guy who hired shills, but to be all smelling-salts fainting at the thought of their existence on the other side.

So there’s that, but that doesn’t drill down to the truly teeth-grinding hypocrisy in this.

3. Russian trolls would not go around actively making Bernie Sanders look bad… but CtR shills might.

What the sweet little Shareblue lady fails to apply logic to, is how these “bots” that were attacking her so brutally were in any universe helping Sanders or hurting Clinton. That is not how the strategy plays out. You send concern-trolls out to do that job, not agitators. If those trolls were there to diddle the election, they were acting like shills that were sent out specifically to diminish the reputation of the people they were representing. It’s got a name — they’re called disruptors, which is another thing we know that the Hillary Clinton campaign employed.

That’s right, you dear little woolly-headed liberal, your boss may have even employed the very people you’re so upset about to go around being an asshole, being a “Bernie Bro” and harassing nice ladies like you who might otherwise have had a look into that Bernie Sanders guy and liked what they saw. I’m sorry to be the one to tell you, but your boss is, to put it mildly, a thug. David Brock does those kinds of things. Next time you catch him at the water cooler, ask him what he meant when he said in his “apology” to Bernie Sanders that his drive to get Hillary Clinton in the Whitehouse “led me to take too stiff a jab.” Ask him exactly what he meant by that, and watch his body language carefully.

So yeah, I totally agree that what happened to you was deeply unsettling, and in the bigger picture a violent impediment to real human relations, and zooming out even further, I would even go so far as to say that such deliberate acts of aggravation, provocation and divisiveness are a crime against humanity. So maybe you could bring that up with Brock next time you see him around the office?

4. There is zero evidence that there were any pro-Sanders Russian shills.

Adrien Chen has an excellent thread on Twitter in response to this insipid Shareblue article in which he reviews an investigative piece he wrote for New York Times Magazine in 2015 about the Russian Internet Agency, where trolls are paid to manipulate public perspective in a pro-Russia direction. Chen reports that the Agency is the only specific organization that has been identified as being behind Russian trolling operations, that it had only 300 employees, only a small fraction of which was dedicated to English-language trolling, and none of whom ever tweeted pro-Sanders material. Despite Chen’s article being used frequently by proponents of the Russiagate hysteria, much to his irritation, there was nothing in any of his investigation to indicate that Russia had the budget or ability to impact the election in any meaningful way with online shills, much less hijack the Sanders movement as the Democratic party is now trying to claim.

“In general I would not take seriously any claims about Russian trolls and bots unless they list specific accounts/pages to back it up,” Chen tweeted.

5. Shut up about Russia.

For fuck’s sake, America. Jesus. A nation with an economy the size of Italy’s did not take over your nation’s government; if you believe that it did, you are stupid. Yes it is that simple, and if you disagree, you are wrong. Russiagate is a political IQ test, and Democrats are failing it spectacularly. There is no evidence that Russians even hacked the WikiLeaks documents last year, much less colluded with the Trump campaign to hand him the election. Sanders supporters were not tricked into hating Hillary Clinton by Russian bots, and the Sanders supporters criticizing her on social media were normal, sane human beings who rightly didn’t want her to be president and didn’t think she could beat Trump. If you can’t tell you’re being manipulated with this crap, if that is not intensely, blatantly obvious to you, you are stupid.

I am getting so sick of this shit. Watching an entire nation get crazier and crazier is deeply disheartening. Hopefully there’s only so far the American psyche can be twisted before it breaks, and maybe then reality will be able to get a word in edgewise amid the constant deluge of propaganda.

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