There’s a ton of sexism directed at Hillary Clinton online, but most of it isn’t coming from BernieBros

The depths of the Internet are a festering hellhole of racism, sexism and generalized harassment. Without the social constraints imposed via face-to-face communication and aided by the anonymity that many forums provide, people are free to say most if not all of the terrible things they are thinking.

Especially on Twitter, many of those terrible things are about politics, which means that a lot of garbage is directed at Hillary Clinton.

Since Clinton is currently in a primary campaign against Bernie Sanders, it’s sometimes simply assumed that online discourse in the context of the former Secretary of State is limited to supporters of one of the two Democratic candidates. This assumption is…faulty, to say the least.

To take one example, earlier this month John Lewis made news when he remarked that he never met Bernie Sanders during the Civil Rights movement, and was endorsing Hillary Clinton. Lewis, being a black man in the news, inevitably set Twitter abuzz with reams of racist drivel. Blue Nation Review writer Leela Daou, rightfully appalled at this racist drivel, compiled a collection of tweets in a post titled “NEW LOW: Civil Rights Legend John Lewis Getting Trolled by Bernie Supporters.”

See the problem?

Attributing these tweets to Bernie supporters and Bernie supporters alone was a massive stretch at best. The most egregiously racist tweets in Daou’s post were from users with account names “Milo Yiannopoulos” (a reference to the uber-conservative Gamergate icon who writes for and “RINO Hunter” (Twitter handle: @nvr2conservativ). It’s safe to say that these users aren’t democratic socialists. Most of the rest of the tweets in her post are from people defending Lewis from unnamed and un-cited accounts, which are nevertheless presented as being associated with people who will eventually cast a ballot for Bernie Sanders.

This isn’t to say that no Bernie supporters tweeted any bad tweets about John Lewis. This is to say that the evidence provided was remarkably thin, and was certainly insufficient to support the underlying assumption — repeated frequently — that a large and perhaps representative swath of Sanders’s supporters reflexively react to criticism of Sanders and support of Clinton with overt bigotry.

Today, an analysis published in the Washington Post blew a hole in that assumption. Using data collected from Twitter, researchers Rebekah Tromble and Dirk Hovy found that the overt sexism directed at Hillary Clinton is very real…but only 14.7% of the gendered terms directed at her are coming from people who can be identified as supporting Bernie Sanders. As one might imagine, the vast majority of the sexist vitriol directed at Clinton is coming from people who are politically conservative in general and supporters of Donald Trump in particular:

To be clear, as the analysis shows, there definitely are users who support Bernie Sanders and say sexist things about Hillary Clinton. There were also Clinton supporters in 2008 who said incredibly racist things about then-Senator Obama. By itself, as Glenn Greenwald has argued at length, this says more about the Internet than it says about the general sentiment of people who happen to be supporting particular presidential candidates. As the researchers note:

Hillary Clinton, via Wikimedia Commons

Hillary Clinton, via Wikimedia Commons

Thus, while we do find some evidence of Bernie Bros’ bad behavior, abuse against Clinton by Sanders supporters — both male and female —seems relatively limited. Clinton certainly faces a barrage of negativity and a heavy dose of sexism on Twitter. But that mostly appears to come from the right.

And though any and all instances of sexist slurs deserve condemnation, Sanders’ keyboard warriors accounted for just 89 such tweets during the New Hampshire primary. That is a mere 0.17 percent of all the tweets mentioning @HillaryClinton that we examined.

Sexist mob, indeed.

To be clear, this is only one snapshot of online discourse, looking at a specific type of communication on a specific medium using specific criteria during a limited timeframe. As Tromble and Hovy qualify, they only examined tweets directed at Hillary Clinton specifically — not Hillary Clinton’s supporters — which almost certainly leaves out much of the intra-ideological debate taking place between supporters of both candidates. That debate is often, for lack of a better term, extremely online. When someone supporting Hillary Clinton says that an individual supporting Bernie Sanders said something sexist or racist, I’m not about to tell them that they’re making up their personal experience.

Nevertheless, the plural of anecdote is not data. All too often, a small collection of disgusting tweets is taken as being representative of Sanders supporters as a whole. When the vast majority of those tweets aren’t even coming from Sanders supporters, that can’t even be called painting with a broad brush; it’s more like painting with the bucket.

Jon Green graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. He worked as a field organizer for Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and a Regional Field Director for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Jon writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @_Jon_Green, and on Google+. .

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18 Responses to “There’s a ton of sexism directed at Hillary Clinton online, but most of it isn’t coming from BernieBros”

  1. Junie says:

    FACTS ABOUT BERNIE: Bernie is actually a “Social Democrat” if going by strict definitions. What this means is that he supports policies and an economy that focuses and works for the people first and foremost, not to further enrich the pockets of the mega corporations. He is concerned about workers being properly paid for their work put in (and not taken advantage of because they have no choice and need the job), kids (especially those who are left behind due to the color of their skin), access to health care even if you are poor and not see people die from a treatable illness because of poverty (something that affects especially the minority and those who STILL faces severe discrimination in this day and age).

    Providing free education to those who are academically capable is an investment on the people (and it will benefit the economy too producing more local people with the skills and qualifications to be employed to do the jobs). Providing basic access to healthcare for all is a basic human rights, and it will also help the economy and workers are more healthy. Putting more money into the pockets of middle to low income families will drive consumption up (rather than having the super wealthy stashing it overseas to avoid paying taxes), and create a healthier society with less frustrated people and reduce crime rates. An economy that is based on compassion and puts humanistic and socialistic concerns as the primary focus, rather than profit at all cost, is what Bernie is proposing. He is not trying to undermine democracy in any way to set up an autocratic government. That is a lie propagated my the corporate owned media that would want to continue to benefit by paying their workers slave wages, and from the deregulation thanks to the Clintons during Bill’s presidency.

    With higher taxes, the already highly profitable companies will make less profits yes, but they will certainly still remain highly profitable and will not close down. Certain carefully balanced penalties can be imposed on big profitable businesses that wishes to sell locally but export jobs, while rewarding companies that produces jobs locally, and/or invests in R&D.

    With a stronger middle class, consumption will increase, and the American market will be even more “valuable” to businesses even if they have to pay higher tax. Wall Street speculations are more like gambling dens (manipulating the economy to their own profit) and do not really produce anything useful, and they deserve to be taxed.



    Economists Who Bashed Bernie Sanders’ Tax Plan Admit They’re Clueless: “We’re Not Really Experts”

    Hillary Clinton Emails: Secret Negotiations With New York Times, Trade Bill Lobbying Revealed In Latest State Department Release

    New York Times Invents Left-Leaning Economists to Attack Bernie Sanders

    170 Prominent Economists Back Bernie Sanders’ Plan to Rein in Wall Street

    Hillary Clinton says outsourcing jobs is good for America (top 1%)


    Also See:

    Even without the cooperation of the corrupt majority corporate run congress, Bernie can still get a lot of things done! A vote for Clinton is to say “No we can’t, Change is too hard!”

    Hillary Clinton’s Email About Gay Parents Should Seriously Trouble Her LGBT Supporters

    Bernie Sanders Was For Transgender Rights Before It Was A Thing

    Hillary Paid Herself $250000 From Campaign Funds

    Her shock when he says he supports Bernie Sanders (the “socialist”, rather than Hillary, on Fox News) is priceless!

    Why I Switched My Support From Hillary Clinton to Bernie Sanders

    Hillary Calls for Michigan Gov’s Resignation an Hour After Her Spox Slammed Bernie for Same (This pretty much sums up her dis-ingenious campaign)

    Racism is still alive. Black lives DO matter, and the things BLM activists are doing may look excessive, but I find it necessary if they are EVER to be heard by the government. Things are desperate now, and the Clintons has a hand in the current sad sate of things for African Americans due to the policies that they have pushed. Bernie have repeatedly highlighted how Black people in America is oppressed. Just look at the % of black vs white jobless rate, and % of black vs white people being jailed for weed possession. Something needs to be done. “Enough is Enough” as Bernie says.

    Clinton confronted for calling black kids ‘super predators’

    Activist Ashley Williams Confronts Hillary Clinton On Calling Black People Super Predators

    Prominent Black Activists Want to Set The Record Straight On Hillary Clinton!

  2. Junie says:

    Bernie is accused of sexism for speaking up when he was being interrupted? Well, by that same ridiculous account, Hillary is anti-semantic for interrupting a Jewish person. Bernie have done a lot for women and civil rights in general over the decades. On the other hand, Bill IS one of the biggest sexist with his record of treatment of women. Too bad the Clintons are too rich and powerful to jail.

  3. kladinvt says:

    Enough of the name calling and victimization meme, how about just releasing all of those Wall Street transcripts and let the voters know what she really said to the Big Banks.

  4. Voodoo Chile says:

    It should have been obvious right from the beginning that the most left-leaning political demographic in America isn’t primarily made up of sexists and racists, and that the attacks Clinton receives from the right are different than those she receives from the left. And yet the Clinton campaign, her surrogates, and her supporters (examples: Albright, Steinem, Amanda Marcotte, Joan Walsh, the ladies at Shakesville, etc) have decided to conflate these two camps of Clinton critics and double down on their claims of racism and sexism when called out on it.

    This tactic they chose – to smear the left flank of the Democratic party as woman-hating white supremacists is short sighted and will cause divisions in the party that will last for quite some time.

  5. NWNative says:

    The Internet is the wild wild west. There are no rules. Everyone is a potential victim and everyone is a potential perpetrator. Comments can be made from 1 of 7 billion people world wide. It is ludicrous to lump all supporters from one campaign or another into a group and call it good. There are no exemptions from harassment online, I don’t care what gender you are or whether you are running for president.

  6. 2karmanot says:


  7. gratuitous says:

    Strange; it’s almost as if there is a concerted effort from outside the party to make the race for the Democratic nomination more divisive, and to drive wedges between different party factions. I wonder why that would be???

  8. Fonz Solo says:

    Hillary cant win nationally. A vote for her is a vote for the repub party.

  9. Catherinenvaughn3 says:

    ❝my .friend’s mate Is getting 98$. HOURLY. on the internet.”….two days ago new McLaren. F1 bought after earning 18,512$,,,this was my previous month’s paycheck ,and-a little over, 17k$ Last month ..3-5 h/r of work a day ..with extra open doors & weekly. paychecks.. it’s realy the easiest work I have ever Do.. I Joined This 7 months ago and now making over 87$, p/h.Learn. More right Here:;/460➤➤➤➤➤ http://GlobalSuperEmploymentVacanciesReportsJobs/GetPaid/98$hourly…. .❦2:❦2:❦2:❦2:❦2:❦2:❦2:❦2:❦2:❦2:❦2:❦2:❦2:❦2:❦2:❦2:❦2:❦2:❦2:❦2:❦2:❦2:❦2:❦2:❦2:❦2:❦2:❦2:::::;/460………

  10. Faggory Daggory Doo! says:

    it is Berniebros, its no different than the stuff GamerGate has done. dont fall for their tricks.

  11. Black Women 4 Bernie says:

    Hillary camp invented the Bernie Bros mess and she did the same against Obama in 2008 called them bros too….smh… scorched earth campaigning is all she knows how…she better hope she does not make it to the General because I along with many Bernie supporters would rather eat glass than vote for her…I will write Bernie in and encourage him to run independent…her nasty tricks will win battles but her disgusting low down ways have assured that Hillary will lose the war. She is not fit to lead.

  12. John Smith says:

    More accurate to say Karl Rove hirelings. Who really does benefit from those morons?

  13. timncguy says:

    I’m not sure how much validity you can take from this analysis. If I understand it correctly, it only looked at twitter for a specified time period and then only at tweets directed at Clinton herself. It did not address tweets about Clinton addressed to others. I have found much more venom in the comment sections of web sites that I have encountered on twitter.

  14. Knottwhole says:

    Drop the BernieBro crap Jon. You’re better than that.
    Just say “Sanders supporters”.

  15. goulo says:

    I think you’re completely missing the point of the post (or intentionally mischaracterizing it). The point is that it’s invalid (and intentionally misleading and deceitful) to attribute the bulk of the sexist comments to Sanders supporters, and to insinuate that sexist comments are typical of or representative of Sanders supporters.

    “Why do no you say that NO, one degrading comment is too many!”

    Probably because it’s already blatantly obvious that Jon does not approve of degrading comments, especially when the post opens with:

    “The depths of the Internet are a festering hellhole of racism, sexism
    and generalized harassment. Without the social constraints imposed via
    face-to-face communication and aided by the anonymity that many forums
    provide, people are free to say most if not all of the terrible things
    they are thinking.”

    An then in the second paragraph, he directly calls such comments about Clinton “garbage”.

    Was it REALLY unclear to you that Jon thinks such comments, which he called “garbage”, are bad? Did he really need to even more explicitly say “And by the way, racism, sexism, harrassment, etc are bad, m’kay?”

  16. hurin says:

    When Trump wins, and you ask why. Go to the nearest mirror and look at it, there is your answer.

    You can’t win an election by accusing the majority of being racist or sexist.

  17. Meg says:

    Excuse me? what you are saying is an excuse that 14,5% of the TOTAL sexist comments towards Hillary which is coming from Bernie’s BRO is not too many????? .. NO, it is still too many and yes it is VERY UNACCEPTABLE. Do you really compare yourselves to Republicans and feeling better that they are worse? Why are you scooping so low? Why do no you say that NO, one degrading comment is too many! As a Hillary supporter, I received several degrading comments, and in response I wished them evolution. I wish you too.. to understand even one misogynic comment is too many! The same thing that I believed strongly that even one racist comment is too many .. Hillary 2016 :)

  18. hurin says:

    Social Justice Vocabulary:

    Sexism = A man disagreeing with a woman
    Harassment = Disagreeing with a Social Justice Warrior
    Racism = Disagreeing with someone who’s skin is darker than yours
    Mansplaining = Woman being offended at a man pointing out she said something stupid
    Racist = Any white person
    Rapist = All males unless the male is a muslim

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