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Socialism Doesn’t Mean Living in a Cardboard Box

Every supposed ‘gotcha’ for Bernie is dumber than the last

Folks, I hate to be mad online. It doesn’t accomplish anything, and I’m sure this post will be no different. But sometimes the pressure is too great — someone else is so annoying — that to stifle your rage is a dereliction of duty. So here we go. I want you to take a look at this tweet: 

A little background here: Ioffe is a reporter for GQ, and when it comes to her Twitter account, a master of the self-own. In 2018, she defended a guy whose threatening, racist tirade in a busy New York eatery went viral (and then bizarrely claimed the folks telling her to log off had proved her point). More recently, when she implied that an article in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette was disinformation from Moscow because the paper tweeted it with an arrow symbol that she construed as a “Russian quotation mark.”

Her attempt to bust Bernie as a hypocrite for flying business class is a similarly sloppy “gotcha,” but she’s not the first to push this rhetoric against the left. It’s like when conservatives went after Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez for growing up in a house and going to college. If you’re a socialist, anything becomes a “gotcha.”

Let’s not kid ourselves: If Bernie were spotted flying between campaign events in a single-rider, pedal-powered gyrocopter that also projected rainbows wherever it went, his haters would still frame it as a betrayal of his supposed ideals. (It’s worth noting, too, that the selfie-taker in this case is a venture capitalist and probably just afraid of his taxes going up.) But it’s worth noting why this keeps happening. The fact is, the center and right are so high on their own supply of anti-communist memes about bread lines, gulags and brutalist architecture that when they conceive of someone advocating for the redistribution of wealth, they can’t picture anyone but a guy wearing a grocery bag as a diaper and living in a soggy cardboard box. Instead, Bernie is a senator with actual clothes who has to travel for work, often enough that he gets bumped up to a nicer seat now and then.

As it is, trying to shame socialists for the slightest whiff of extravagance (like when AOC dared to… follow the Congressional dress code?) is a bit like throwing a fit because you saw someone buy chocolate with food stamps. This doesn’t invalidate the program or the need it meets — you know, hunger — and neither does an image of the politician with an anti-inequality platform enjoying two extra inches of legroom on a plane legitimize the crushing wealth of billionaires. That’s not how this works!

Besides, if you really wanted to go in on Sanders, you’d point out how much he’s spent on private flights this primary season… except, whoops, the reason he has to rely on charter jets is our endless dumbfuck election cycle, which among other things requires candidates to travel between towns of approximately 12 people in states as distant from each other as Iowa and New Hampshire. Shame we don’t have a high-speed rail network, isn’t it?

Matt Bors’ now-famous “Mister Gotcha” comic sums it up well:

The gist, as ever, is that there’s no ethical consumption under capitalism. Airplanes are disastrous in terms of carbon emissions, but our wack country offers no viable alternatives for legislators representing states 500 miles away from the capital. Their relative comfort during these too-frequent journeys is such an infinitesimal matter that any serious commentator should be embarrassed to bring it up, and indeed, it is only the absolute clowns who do, airing their tired grudges in the process. When an old creepshot of Bernie seems more revealing and damning to you than a billionaire buying his way into contention for 2020, it’s not that you’ve lost the thread — it’s that you were never anywhere near it.

Next thing you’ll be running to tell me is that he occasionally goes to a café, where he buys a cup of coffee with money. Unbelievable.