The Effect of Pantsuits on the Political Intellect

I am not in the tank for Bernie Sanders. I have some worries about him, particularly his immigration positions and his lack of a clear foreign policy. I haven’t yet decided whether I’m going to vote for him.

But take a look at this opinion piece in TIME, entitled “Bernie Sanders Is Wrong To Ignore ‘Black Lives Matter’”:

After protestors with the “Black Lives Matter” movement took the stage during a Bernie Sanders rally in Seattle Saturday to criticize the presidential candidate for not paying enough attention to issues of race, the Sanders campaign came up with a solution: It decided to shout down future protestors with the phrase, “We stand together.” This is the worst idea in the campaign’s short life.

This is a piece of disingenuous propaganda. Let me explain why.

Here is how the article proceeds: The author cites a single supposed fact (that the Sanders campaign “decided to shout down future protestors” and then spends the rest of the piece’s brief length sanctimoniously denouncing Sanders and the rest of “those who ignore race issues” for standing idly by as bodies pile up in the streets. She spents hundreds of words hectoring the Sanders campaign for questioning the tactics of BLM, which she feels are both urgent and necessary.

The problem, however, is that the author’s lone piece of factual evidence in her case against Bernie Sanders is almost comically misleading.

Here’s the story of what happened at the Sanders event, from the link in the article:

The opening speakers at the Sanders event in Portland were closely focused on being proactive about Black Lives Matter, even mentioning the arrest of a Portland Black Lives Matter activist earlier in the day at a protest event commemorating a year since Ferguson. Symone Sanders gave an emotional retelling of the death of Michael Brown… Symone Sanders told the crowd to cheer “We Stand Together” over and over if a disruption came in Portland, signaling that the campaign is preparing strategies to prevent Black Lives Matter from shutting it down again.

Symone Sanders is the Black Lives Matter activist that the Sanders campaign hired as press secretary after the first BLM disruptions. So, the slogan that the author uses to construct an argument that Sanders is “ignoring” BLM was introdued by a BLM activist, before a speech about Ferguson, in an event full of references to Black Lives Matter.

Now, say for some reason you think this is insufficient to counteract the perniciousness of Symone Sanders’s plea to counter disruption. Perhaps you think there’s no irony whatsoever in a white TIME writer chastizing a black female Black Lives Matter activist for being insufficiently concerned with Black Lives Matter. But even then, why would the author not at the very least think it was worth mentioning that a BLM activist gave the notorious instruction, and that BLM was a continuous theme at the event? It’s the author’s concealment of these facts that makes this piece propaganda. If she believed they didn’t hurt her case, she would mention them and explain why they didn’t matter. But she does not mention them. Instead, she pretends that the Sanders campaign is ignoring and silencing Black Lives Matter, when every fact contradicts this assertion.

To get a hint of the motivations for this duplicity, we might examine the author’s prior record. Darlena Cunha is a freelance writer who seems to specialize in producing bottoms for the internet’s content barrels. She is responsible for such finely-crafted gems as “Man, I Really Hate Wrapping Presents” and “Fashion Dare: I Wore a Scrunchie for a Week.” She curates some of the lesser top-ten lists (“10 Signs You’re A Clothes Hoarder (And How To Stop)”), as well as the dreary pop-culture-is-racist “think” pieces I recently experimented with myself, like “Miley Cyrus, White Feminism, and the Dance of Oppression.” She’s contributed to the set of Reasons People Hate Liberals with articles like “I Achieved The American Dream And It Was Awful,” and an article about how shocking it was when people shamed her for driving a Mercedes to pick up her food stamps. (She has also managed to undermine the left she claims to support with an article blaming her poor parenting techniques on her liberal political principles.) In short, she’s the hackiest hack who ever hacked up a listicle.

But for purposes of analyzing the Sanders smear, the tip-off in her oeuvre is something she wrote for Dame Magazine last month about Hillary Clinton’s pantsuits. It reads, in part:

Hillary took something that was meant to be pejorative and predatory and owned it. She turned what was meant to be a mean-spirited ad-hominem attack on her person into a well-loved phenomenon centering on her. That in itself is a feat to be recognized and lauded. Because the pantsuit is no longer an outfit. It is a signature, an embodiment. And it is one of Hillary Clinton’s choosing. She’s consciously made it into her brand in a fit of genius that can only be envied… To me, the pantsuit is a symbol of strength, of being true to yourself. Hillary Clinton is a pantsuit. And that doesn’t add to or take away from anything she does in the political sphere. It is separate from her decisions as a lawmaker, separate from who she is as a person, and yet it embodies the persona she at first had foisted upon her and then embraced and changed into her own true reflection.

The pantsuit was not just fashionable, but a veritable fit of genius! Well, I think we can see where Cunha might be coming from vis-a-vis Sanders v. Clinton… Anyone who thinks Hillary is the embodiment of triumphant female personhood might well think themselves justified in hauling out whatever feats of rhetorical legerdemain it takes to help destroy Hillary’s enemies. Of course, the pantsuit article is partially tongue-in-cheek, but what with the story about how Cunha’s mother and Hillary both grew strong at the same moment, and all the crap about how Hillary doesn’t get pushed around, I don’t think I’m in error in inferring Cunha’s loyalties.

The Cunha pantsuit article is actually an interesting example of the way Hillary’s refusal to be bossed around ends up somehow making her a feminist hero, even though we know full well that strong women are not automatically admirable. (Ann Coulter is a strong woman. So are Phyllis Schafly and Anita Bryant.) The logic of Cunha’s pantsuit article illustrates a myth that needs urgently to be undone. Bernie Sanders is a far superior candidate to Hillary Clinton where women are concerned, as hundreds of thousands of Iraqi widows from the war Clinton voted for can attest to. Yet Hillary is somehow the candidate of pantsuit-wearing righteous feminism.

It’s not worth taking Cunha very seriously. She clearly has little motivation for what she writes beyond the pursuit of clickiness, and this is TIME magazine we’re talking about after all. (The Onion nailed TIME perfectly with its headline “TIME Announces New Version Of Magazine Aimed At Adults.”) Her Sanders smear is ridiculous, though unfortunately it contributes to what is now a seemingly unstoppable media narrative that Sanders has some impossible race blindness that will inevitably doom him. We can assume that if Cunha’s in it for anything other than the couple of hundred bucks you get for writing these things, she’s just shamelessly serving as an unpaid surrogate of the Clinton campaign. If that’s the case, Cunha is nothing more than a pitiable example of what pantsuits can do to the political intellect.

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