Hillary, the inevitable

The game is indeed rigged

It seems that Bernie Sanders just can’t catch a break. The democratic super-delegate system, a system in which unelected party-elites simply matter more than regular voters, is working heavily against the “man of the people”. The conclusion that this system constitutes an erosion of democracy has been drawn by disappointed voters world-wide, culminating in the hysteric outcries of presenter Joe Scarborough on MSNBC’s Morning Joe. The results of the Arizona and New York primaries have been under fire after Twitter exploded with rumours about possible election fraud: Anyone in the market for a 5-hour wait at the ballot box only to be given a provisional ballet due to some inexplicable mix-up regarding your registered affiliation? But besides these allegations, Bernie is facing an even more difficult problem to tackle, due to its structural and deep-rooted nature: that of a pro-Hillary Bias in the Western media.

Although the New York Times was heavily criticised for endorsing Hillary, surely large media outlets should be allowed to explicitly push for a candidate, when they base this endorsement on an honest belief in this candidate’s values and capacities. But we arrive at dangerous territory when the endorsement is of a more covert nature: When one candidate clearly gets more coverage than another for no apparent reason, when certain supposedly critical question-rounds are actually infomercials and when one candidate is callously presented as the inevitable, invincible nominee. This is no longer promoting an opinion, but becomes spreading a lie.

In some cases the pro-Hillary bias does not seem to be malignant or purposeful, but merely stems from a sloppy presentation of facts, an awkward choice of words or an accidental misquotation. But it starts to feel hostile when the problem is too systemic to pass for coincidental, or when a candidate’s team is even actively meddling with the reporting-process.

CNN, cleverly dubbed the “Clinton News Network”, has been accused of propping up Hillary by drastically limiting Bernie’s airtime, leading to the peaceful #OccupyCNN protests in Los Angeles this April. Decisiondata.org answered the question whether Bernie is the victim of a media blackout by studying hard numbers, looking at “popularity vs. mainstream media coverage by comparing poll numbers, Google searches per week, and mentions on mainstream media broadcasts.” They found that the candidates are not getting proportional media-coverage based on the interests of the public at all. In stead Bernie is getting the cold shoulder: He received a meagre third of the media coverage he “deserves”-, whilst Hillary has constantly been at the centre of attention, despite a lack of dramatic changes in polls and a lower search interest.

And what helps “crooked” Hillary enjoy the limelight so much more is the fact that she is oftentimes the one deciding where this light will be shining, and what will remain in the dark. Several instances have been documented that showed Hillary’s agency’s very tight grip on the large media-outlets, which happen to also be amongst her top contributors. During the Iowa Town Hall on CNN in January, one member of the audience introduced his — very softball — question with the phrase “I can see why they gave you this question”, sparking suspicions that Clinton had planted it (again!).

Journalists may go to extreme lengths to gain information, but this should never go at the cost of morality or integrity: When Hillary’s team determines what will be written in an article in exchange for the transcript of a yet-to-be-delivered speech, then we are talking about covert PR, not about information.

The “queen of chaos” has also been known to engage in a practice called “astrotufing”: According to Daily Beast, a pro-Hillary PAC has invested about $1 million in Mrs. Clinton’s social media presence, by manipulating data on Facebook, Twitter, Reddit and Instagram. The group created hundreds of fake accounts on these platforms, liking, sharing and retweeting pro-Hillary material and intervening in conversations: Arguably one of the more devious methods to fool the public into believing that Hillary is the inescapable nominee.

Alarm bells should go off when an article called “Bernie Sanders Scored Victories for Years Via Legislative Side Doors” — celebrating Sanders’ accomplishments — gets renamed “Via Legislative Side Door, Bernie Sanders Won Modest Victories” and demonstrates a rather skeptical view of his capacities. Headlines such as “Why Hillary isn’t pushing Bernie Sanders to exit race” (CNN), “Bernie Sanders pulls off shock victory over Hillary Clinton in Indiana” (The Guardian), “Hillary Clinton and Inevitability: This Time is Different” (the New York Times) and the general current description of the eventual presidential race as a sure Trump vs. Clinton story are dangerous. They subtly push readers into believing that Bernie Sanders is already out. Which in fact, he is not.

With the goal of 2026 pledged delegates to achieve as a majority in each primary in mind, the FiveThirtyEight tracking shows that Clinton is indeed ahead, with 108% of her target achieved as opposed to Sanders, who is at 92%. But what the media fails to factor in, is the fact that Sanders has either met or exceeded his targets in seven out of the last eight contests, whilst Clinton has actually lost six out of eight: Sanders has been catching up and there is nothing that suggests that he is about to stop fighting. Calling Clinton the inevitable nominee at this point is based on the presumption that the 469 super-delegates who pledged their support to Clinton in the past will actually vote for her.

So at this point in time, it is unsure who will be the democratic nominee. Even if probability suggests Mrs Clinton will most likely win thanks to the super delegates, a mere probability is far off from the widely advocated inevitability. By disregarding that distinction, the media are regurgitating a false line which might just end up becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy. The demonstrated pro-Hillary bias in the media limits the voters’ freedom to choose by slowly indoctrinating them, chafing away their free will bit by bit, and therefore undermining democracy.