Hampton Think - October 15, 2020

While socialism is being discussed more often, there’s a huge disparity between its acceptance among the U.S. population and the representation of socialists among pundits at the biggest news outlets in the country. There are almost no pundits employed in corporate media who feel comfortable openly identifying as a socialist and calling for socialism as an alternative to capitalism.

Ever since the Great Recession in 2008, and accelerating with Sen. Bernie Sanders’ 2016 presidential run, there has been a resurgence of popularity and interest in socialism in the US, and an increasing skepticism of capitalism. A 2019 Pew poll (6/25/19) reported that 42% of respondents had a favorable view of socialism, with particular sympathy shown among people who are Black (65%), Latino (52%), have family incomes below $30,000 (50%) or are between the ages of 18-29 (50%). In a 2019 Gallup survey (12/18/19), 38% saw socialism positively—more than the 34% who identify as conservatives (Gallup, 7/27/20). Gallup (11/25/19) noted that Millennials were especially attracted to socialism, with slightly more viewing socialism positively than capitalism.

Democrats across the country view socialism more positively than capitalism, with a large majority willing to vote for a socialist as president. Despite questions of what the term “socialism” means to Americans, this growing interest has provoked articles decrying the “problem” that socialism doesn’t freak out Democratic voters the way it does other Americans (Slate, 2/24/20). The Columbia Journalism Review (5/8/18) noticed that while “the radical left in the U.S. has felt invigorated in recent years,” it still hasn’t “earned left-wing voices column inches in most mainstream outlets,” with coverage limited to being “about those voices, rather than by them.”

Looking at the representation of socialism among the hundreds of pundits in corporate media, one can be forgiven for almost thinking socialist pundits don’t exist.

The New York Times opinion writer Elizabeth Bruenig appears to be the only pundit employed by corporate media who both explicitly identifies as a “socialist” and makes arguments for some form of socialism in the U.S. (Washington Post, 3/6/18).

Laurence O’Donnell, host of MSNBC’s Last Word, identifies as a “practical European socialist,” and argues that “we’re all socialists now,” because even Bill O’Reilly is in favor of “socialist programs” like Social Security and Medicare. The MSNBC host claims to “embrace” the label in order to “counterbalance” the excessive influence of McCarthyism in the U.S. (LA Times, 3/16/13), but it’s difficult to discern a distinctly socialist perspective in his commentary.

Straightforward advocacy of socialism is something you very rarely see in corporate media (Washington Post, 3/6/18). ...
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