“This place is toxic … Let’s just leave all that sh*t outside, mmm-kay??” It was my news feed’s equivalent of Howard Beale yelling that he was mad as hell and not gonna take it anymore. More than 24 hours after the Nevada Democratic caucus, my Facebook friend had seen enough mudslinging between supporters of Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders—as had 87 other people who “liked” the comment. Sure, social media has further enabled the armchair political analysts of the world, and politicians are fair game for the usual criticisms, jokes and memes, but if my Facebook and Twitter feeds are any indication, the invective being thrown around has reached a fever pitch, even as the caucus smoke has cleared.
Most of my network seem to rally for Sanders, so I see less insults directed at him (his unkempt hair notwithstanding). But one repeat attacker actually said “Americans are lazy and stupid” in regard to Sanders supporters’ dismissal of the usual reasons for championing Clinton. And if those same supporters are male, they’re automatically “Bernie Bros” (read: douchebags), according to numerous asides. The sexism seems more pointed on the anti-Hillary side. One Bern-feeling person posted a “Wicked Witch of the Left” meme, and another used metaphors from a Clinton speech to make a gross and unrelated parallel to the stained dress of Monica Lewinsky.
Some attacks begat more attacks, but also some thoughtful counterarguments. When one Facebook friend got nasty toward the Sanders constituency for allegedly bashing Clinton, he got called out by another FB user for becoming “the very thing you so passionately loathe.” And then there was this gem: “Nobody is really talking issues ... ‘She’s a crook’ vs. ‘Shut up, it’s her turn’ is all I hear. Not ‘I prefer this position because …’”
That last comment made me question my own thoughts about the race. It was exactly the sort of dialogue we should be having.