With a glut of March primaries right around the corner, there's still plenty of time for the Democratic presidential nomination process to match the clownscape of the GOP field. If it does, it'll have less to do with the candidates and more to do with the zealots on both the Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders sides who, at their worst, are busily engaged in verbal shovel fights while circulating everything from obvious propaganda to unhinged conspiracy theories.
Regarding the latter, you've probably seen some of the theories popping up in your Facebook feed recently. Specifically, a site called The Free Thought Project posted an article this week, titled “Hillary’s Top Donor Just Bought The Onion — Started Publishing Propaganda Immediately,” in which the author insisted that a deal between Univision and The Onion proves that the popular satirical comedy site is in the tank for the Clinton campaign.
Yes, The Onion.
No, this isn’t a joke.
The article by Claire Bernish elaborates upon a story originally published in Glenn Greenwald’s The Intercept, which detailed how Univision purchased a 40 percent stake in The Onion back in January of this year, ostensibly to expand its English-speaking reach. The chairman of Univision, Haim Saban, along with Saban's wife, Cheryl, have raised over $2.5 million for the Clinton campaign. Cheryl Saban, for her part, sits on the board of the Clinton Foundation, according to The Intercept.
Is this a little too cozy a relationship between a major broadcast outfit and the Clintons? Sure, but at no point in The Intercept's investigative report did they prove any editorial interference from Saban regarding The Onion's choice of topics or angles. Zero evidence.
But that's where The Free Thought Project's article comes in.
Bernish points to a February 16 bit in The Onion titled, "Female Presidential Candidate Who Was United States Senator, Secretary Of State Told To Be More Inspiring," as evidence of editorial glad-handing between The Onion and Hillary Clinton.
Bernish writes that the comedy piece contains "a blowhard list of hollow career accomplishments wholly lacking in substance and ethical accountability." Yet The Onion post merely notes that Clinton built "a successful legal career, became the first female senator elected in the state of New York, oversaw the Department of State during a period of widespread international tumult, and, if elected, would be the first female president in American history." All of this is objectively true -- even a raging GOP Hillary hater would concede that she's successfully managed to reach a station in life that bests other women in public service.
On top of all that, it's a comedy article. In The Onion, no less! There's no indication whatsoever that The Onion wouldn't have published such a blurb, with or without the Univision deal.
Furthermore, there have been four Hillary-based articles in The Onion since the Univision deal was closed back in mid-January.
Two of those articles can be summarized as not-very-flattering to Hillary:
--Clinton Aide Told To Leave Behind Weak Volunteer Who Collapsed During March To South Carolina (Feb. 12, 2016)
One article is more or less neutral:
And finally, there's the single positive article that was savaged by Bernish in The Free Thought Project. So, that's two anti-Hillary articles, one neutral article and one pro-Hillary article published since the Univision deal, which, taken as a whole, totally undermines Bernish's premise that as soon as the Univision deal was closed, The Onion started immediately publishing pro-Hillary propaganda. This is objectively untrue.
Likewise, The Onion has published four articles about or mentioning Bernie Sanders.
Three of the four articles could be characterized as pro-Bernie:
By the way, that last one could be added to the list of anti-Hillary articles, but we'll be fair and simply chalk it up as pro-Bernie since it highlights the contender's growing momentum. Oh, and there's one neutral article -- the aforementioned "PBS Moderators" item.
So, if The Onion's goal was to telegraph a pro-Hillary slant in order to satisfy the politics of Haim Saban, it's doing a terrible, terrible job of it.
Meanwhile, guess who else made a big stink about the connection between Univision and the Clintons? Donald Trump. It looks as if The Intercept and the Bernie people have an ally in the bewigged GOP frontrunner.
In the final analysis, there's a way to promote your favorite Democrat without totally shredding your candidate's Democratic opponent, weakening him or her for the general election. This goes especially for Alex Jones-style conspiracy theories that serve only to reignite the nonsense from the middle 1990s. Instead, supporters from both factions are providing red meat for the Republicans who will surely exploit the in-fighting -- especially during the general election.
Additionally, we already know that Karl Rove's American Crossroads and other nefarious PACs are attempting to infiltrate Bernie groups as a means of injecting anti-Hillary agitprop into the proceedings. The GOP's gambit is that either Bernie becomes the (allegedly) easy-to-defeat nominee, or, if Hillary wins the nomination, her Democratic support is eroded by disillusioned Bernie supporters who will refuse to vote for her in November -- poisoned by articles found in The Intercept, US Uncut or The Free Thought Project.
And, one last time... it's The Onion! Sheesh. Some people need to step away from the comedy before they hurt themselves. Or others.