The Cold War is clearly over. In just a few decades, the media have dragged the U.S. from red, white and blue to just red. ABC, CBS and NBC have normalized the far-left views of socialist presidential candidate Bernie Sanders simply by refusing to say the word “socialism” -- ignoring it in 82 percent of stories.
Socialism, which used to be equated with “gulag,” bread lines and the deaths of tens of millions of innocent people, has become mainstream in the news media and an afterthought in their coverage.
So mainstream, that Democrats and socialists were indistinguishable even to Democratic National Committee (DNC) Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Asked in separate Hardball and Meet the Press interviews days apart to explain how the two groups were different, Schultz was unable or unwilling to answer.
The broadcast news networks exhibited a similar confusion in their coverage of self-described “socialist” Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. The networks never challenged those socialist views or suggested they were extreme, and refused to identify him as a socialist in 81.9 percent of stories (77 out of 94) during their morning and evening newscasts since April 1. That timeframe included the month leading up to Sanders’ April 30, announcement that he would campaign as a Democrat presidential candidate.
Instead of labeling Sanders as a “socialist,” ABC, CBS and NBC networks described him using terms like a “registered Independent,” “[o]n the left” and a “progressive alternative” to Hillary Clinton. The networks were more hesitant to describe Sanders as a “socialist” than even he was. After Sanders described his socialist views on ABC’s This Week, he told left-wing publication The Nation on July 6, “Do they think I’m afraid of the word [socialist]? I’m not afraid of the word.”
Sanders has been very public about his ideology. Sanders is so committed to socialism, The Guardian reported that he honeymooned in the USSR in 1988. Since his campaign began he’s even advocated for a “‘political revolution’ to take back American from the billionaire class.(sic)” Sanders has proposed “redistributing” wealth to the middle class, taxing the rich at 90 percent and making all public colleges and universities “tuition-free.” He also spearheaded efforts to raise the minimum wage to $15-per-hour, and contradicted economists by saying this would increase hiring.
The networks included zero criticism of Sanders’ views, even when they correctly labeled Sanders as a socialist. They also omitted criticism of socialism, even though that ideology historically led to the murder of 110 million people under totalitarian regimes including the USSR according to the late political scientist R. J. Rummel, unprecedented “plundering of the environment” according to economist Thomas DiLorenzo and has been an economic “formula for tyranny and misery” according to economist and AEI scholar Mark Perry.
“This is why socialism is evil,” economist Walter E. Williams wrote Feb. 18, 2014. “It employs evil means, confiscation and intimidation, to accomplish what are often seen as noble goals — namely, helping one's fellow man.”
Networks Unfazed By Sanders’ Socialism
In addition to refusing to label Sanders a socialist or challenge his views, the networks downplayed his support for extreme policies such as wealth “redistribution” through extremely high taxes and forcing billionaires to pay their “fair share” to reduce the “obscene degree of wealth inequality” in America.
Sanders is such an ardent socialist, that took his honeymoon to the USSR in 1988, The Guardian (UK) reported June 19, 2015. That was while he was mayor of Burlington. The excursion also served as a goodwill trip to the Soviet city of Yaroslavl where Sanders received a “rundown of central planning, Soviet-style, from Yaroslavl’s mayor,” The Guardian said. Following the trip, Sanders claimed the Soviet’s healthcare and housing seemed “significantly better” than in the United States, but admitted their cost was “much, much higher.”
Perhaps inspired by his time in the USSR, Sanders has repeatedly called for a “political revolution” in America and promised to achieve, “Health care for all, a fair distribution of wealth and income, a major federal jobs program, higher wages, reversing global warming and real campaign finance reform” in a statement July 11, 2014.
Instead of admitting socialism is an extreme ideology, the networks often resorted to innocuous alternatives to the term “socialist” when talking about Sanders. NBC Nightly News anchor Lester Holt described him as “an independent trying to mount a grassroots campaign on Clinton’s left” on May 26. Good Morning America co-host Amy Robach simply referred to him as Clinton’s “top Democratic opponent” on July 2.
CBS News congressional correspondent Nancy Cordes made him sound downright heroic, calling him a “crusader for income equality” on This Morning July 30.
Just a few days earlier, on July 23, This Morning discussed a series of policies Democratic New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio was pushing as part of his Progressive Agenda. Left-wing billionaire George Soros gave $159 million in donations and political contributions to Agenda supporters. Co-host Norah O’Donnell noted de Blasio’s proposals were “in line” with Sanders’ views, without making any connection to socialism.
De Blasio told CBS there were “questions that have to be asked” about capitalism and claimed it was important “to raise wages and benefits” for workers, to move toward greater “progressive taxation,” and increase the minimum wage to $15-per-hour. De Blasio also highlighted the “urgent need” to address income inequality and endorsed Pope Francis’ “uncompromising and consistent” views on climate change and “our consumer habits.”
Co-host Norah O’Donnell asked him, “So why not endorse Bernie Sanders?”
While O’Donnell recognized de Blasio and Sanders shared similar views about capitalism and wealth redistribution, neither she nor her co-hosts Charlie Rose and Gayle King labeled these views as socialist or challenged them.
NBC News White House Correspondent Kristen Welker glossed over Sanders’ radical views on Today July 18. Taking his candidacy at face value, she said Sanders posed a “serious challenge” to fellow Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, and added that he had “tried to paint himself as her more progressive alternative.”
Welker included a clip of a Sanders campaign speech. In it, he said the “changes we need in this country” require a “political revolution.” Advocating for a “political revolution” was not extreme enough to bump a candidate from being “progressive” to “socialist,” nor did it disqualify them from being considered “serious” to NBC.
Even when the networks labeled Sanders a socialist, they downplayed his extremism and failed to challenge his ideology by including critics of socialism, describing the economic toll his policies would have or discussing the travesties perpetrated by socialists throughout history.
ABC News’ Chief White House Correspondent Jonathan Karl admitted “he is a self-described socialist” on Good Morning America May 24. “That said, Bernie Sanders has quite a following among the real, you know, progressive left of the Democratic Party,” Karl added.
On Good Morning America July 7, co-host George Stephanopoulos said Sanders was “the socialist senator from Vermont” in a campaign story. That was the only mention of Sanders’ political viewpoint in the segment. Instead, ABC News senior national correspondent Cecilia Vega described his campaign in glowing terms saying that a Sanders’ rally in Maine “felt more like a rock concert” than a political event.
“Bernie-mentum [was] drawing larger crowds than every candidate running in the 2016 race for the White House,” according to Vega.
The networks not only ignored or downplayed Sanders’ socialist extremism during his campaign. They also ignored the “rape fantasy essay” that became public knowledge during that time. Many news outlets including the left-wing Slate website, publicized Sanders’ disturbing opinions about male and female sexuality which he had expressed in the alternative newspaper Vermont Freeman in February 1972. Back then, Sanders wrote that a woman “fantasizes about being raped by 3 men simultaneously” while a man “goes home and masturbates his typical fantasy” of sexually abusing women. The networks were silent on the subject.
Media ‘Mainstream’ Socialism in America
Sanders isn’t embarrassed by associating with socialism anymore, even though he once admitted the ideology was associated with horrible things including “slave-labor camps.”
He was afraid to call himself a socialist back in 1976, because he knew the ideology was viewed negatively.
“I myself don’t use the word socialism,” Sanders told the University of Vermont student newspaper the Vermont Cynic, according to Politico, “because people have been brainwashed into thinking socialism automatically means slave-labor camps, dictatorship and lack of freedom of speech.”
Sanders has promoted socialist policies though. He decried “casino-type capitalism, which is out of control,” in an interview with CNBC Chief Washington Correspondent John Harwood on May 26. He said “the major banks should be broken up,” demanded a $15 minimum wage and called for a “massive transfer of wealth” back to the middle class through “tax policy” (also known as wealth redistribution).
In that interview, Sanders said he thought a top marginal tax rate of 90 percent on the rich was appropriate. This would more than double the current top marginal tax rate in the U.S. of 39.6 percent. He claimed that rich people would admit they “had made a whole lot of money” and say, “Yeah, I'll pay my fair share.”
“Our nation cannot survive morally or economically when so few have so much while so many have so little,” Sanders said in a June 25 statement after he proposed a progressive estate tax on millionaires and billionaires. “We need a tax system which asks the billionaire class to pay its fair share of taxes and which reduces the obscene degree of wealth inequality in America.”
Sanders told The Washington Post, “Our economic goals have to be redistributing a significant amount of [wealth] back from the top 1 percent,” even if this results in slower economic growth. The Post reported on July 13, that Sanders said America needed “to move to a society that provides a high quality of life for all of our people.”
At a campaign event August 11, Sanders said that as president he would support legislation to “make every public college and university in America tuition-free.” But free money always costs something. And this proposal would cost nearly $82.3 billion, according to data from the nonprofit College Board and the Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics (NCES).
Sanders introduced a Senate bill on July 22, that would increase the federal minimum wage to $15-per-hour. At an April 22, rally Sanders claimed that was necessary for Americans “to live a decent life.” Contradicting economists, he said that raising the minimum wage would create jobs rather than cost jobs.
Experts disagreed. Former Congressional Budget Office (CBO) Director Douglas Holtz-Eakin and Manhattan Institute President Lawrence Mone said Sanders’ proposal would “hurt millions who would lose earnings because they cannot attain or retain a job.”
“Our research finds that raising the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2020 would cost 6.6 million jobs,” Holtz-Eakin and Mone wrote in Investor’s Business Daily August 4.
Perhaps Sanders was more outspoken about his factually challenged views because the media have helped make it more mainstream. The editorial board of The Star Ledger of New Jersey said Sanders “is positively mainstream,” and even claimed most Americans would find it “unthinkable” to reject the principles he promotes.
Gallup surveyed Americans in a June 2015, finding that nearly half (47 percent) said they would vote for a socialist presidential candidate. Research company YouGov released a May 2015 poll that revealed Democrats were equally split on whether they viewed socialism or capitalism more favorably. The poll also showed 18-29 year old Americans were more than twice as likely to view socialism favorably as Americans 65 years old and older.
Thanks to the media, the public may be more open to socialism, but it doesn’t change history. Socialism has been intertwined with oppression and human suffering around the world. R. J. Rummel, author of Death by Government, wrote on May 24, 2003, “Not all totalitarianism is socialist,” but the “worst of the totalitarian governments, however, by far have been the socialist.”
“Socialist self-righteousness” led to “to monumental democide” in countries including the Soviet Union, China under communism, Burma under state socialism in the 1960s through 1980s and Libya under Muammar Gaddafi. Totalitarian governments based on socialism murdered 110 million people from 1900 to 1987, according to Rummel.
In addition to killing people, socialism was also responsible for vast environmental destruction. “The socialist world suffers from the worst pollution on earth,” economist Thomas DiLorenzo wrote for the Foundation for Economic Education’s journal The Freeman on March 1, 1992. He added that “the plundering of the environment in the socialist world is a grand example of the tragedy of the commons.”
Economist and AEI scholar Mark Perry said socialism was a guaranteed “formula for tyranny and misery” because it disregards economic incentives and undermines basic economic institutions like private property and an effective price system. “Socialism does not work because it is not consistent with fundamental principles of human behavior,” Perry wrote in The Freeman March 1, 1995.
“Socialism is the Big Lie of the twentieth century. While it promised prosperity, equality, and security, it delivered poverty, misery, and tyranny,” he said.
Economist Walter E. Williams noticed the growing acceptance of socialism in spite of its damning history. He wrote on August 12, 2012, that even though socialism had “produced the greatest evil in mankind's history,” the ideology had become acceptable throughout American society.
“Whether it's the academic community, the media elite, stalwarts of the Democratic Party or organizations such as the NAACP, the National Council of La Raza, Green for All, the Sierra Club and the Children's Defense Fund, there is a great tolerance for the ideas of socialism — a system that has caused more deaths and human misery than all other systems combined,” Williams wrote.
Methodology: MRC Business examined the stories during the morning and evening news shows on ABC, CBS, and NBC from April 1, 2014, through August 17, 2015, that mentioned Bernie Sanders. This time period included one month of coverage leading up Sanders announcing he would run for president on April 30, 2015. Of the 94 stories, 17 mentioned Sanders was a socialist, and none included criticism of his views.
The cost of Sanders’ proposal to make tuition free at public colleges and universities was calculated based on data from the College Board and Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). The average in-state tuition at public colleges and universities was $3,347 per year at two-year institutions and $9,139 per year at four-year institutions during the 2014-2015 school year, according to the non-profit College Board. NCES estimated 6,655,000 students would attend two-year institutions and 6,566,000 would attend four-year institutions in 2015.