You may have heard the term “BernieBro” being thrown around on Facebook and Twitter lately, usually during discussions about the candidacy of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. Robinson Meyer of The Atlantic invented the term late last year, in an article describing what he saw as a collection of conversational and argumentative tics frequently exhibited by Sanders’ supporters (“The Berniebro talks a lot about DC insiders”; “The Berniebro knows the media is complicit in keeping Clinton the Democratic front-runner”) but he didn’t settle on a concrete definition. So what is a BernieBro? Language is a malleable thing, so for now we’ll defer to the definitions laid down by other outlets. Here’s what we know about the BernieBro so far:
- Slate’s Amanda Hess defines the BernieBro as “a white, male Bernie Sanders supporter who haunts Internet comment sections” but who also capable of “orchestrating pile-ons on Hillary Clinton’s Facebook page and firing off tweets reducing Clinton and her supporters to their vagina.” Later on, Hess notes that “Everything that Bernie Bros have been accused of doing is something I’ve seen from One Direction fans on Twitter.”
- The Baffler’s Amber A’Lee Frost refers to the BernieBro as “the supposedly sexist, white, and male Sanders fan who is polluting his campaign with unrestrained hatred of women” but dismisses the term as a exaggerated fantasy concocted by the Democratic establishment: “While sightings of the species are remarkably rare (even in this age of screengrabs), the feminist pundit class insists that Bernie Bros are everywhere.”
- The Cut’s Rebecca Traister describes the BernieBro as a subset of “a small group of writers ... [who] have big voices and impassioned followers [whose] disregard for their feminist peers packs a particular wallop because many feminists regard them, usually, as the good guys — men with whom we see eye to eye.” She also refers to Meyer’s characterization of their enthusiasm as potentially “loose,” “careless,” and “unfair,” but argues that “they exist because they describe a dynamic—sexist condescension and dismissal of feminist argument—that is happening online.”
- Alternet’s Adam Johnson claims that while “BernieBro” once referred to “a cohort of intense, sexist Bernie Sanders fans on social media who harass journalists they deem not adequately pro-Sanders,” it has since morphed into “an overused smear” and “the worst kind of thought-terminating political label.”
- Mashable’s Emily Cahn* says the BernieBro is “young, white and predominantly male” and is frequently responsible for sending “messages [which] are oftentimes derogatory and misogynistic [and] geared at Clinton supporters (or anyone who disagrees with Sanders for that matter).”
- The Intercept’s Glenn Greenwald calls BernieBro (well, the narrative, if not the actual term) “a cheap campaign tactic masquerading as journalism and social activism,” a “smear,” and “a blatant, manipulative scam.”
It’s possible, of course, that there is no real definition of the BernieBro, at least one that everyone can agree on. After Greenwald’s article came out last week, Meyer argued on Twitter that the “BernieBro” in fact referred to three different phenomena:
The “Berniebro” story is confusing to follow, and controversial in part, because it has stood in for three different but related ideas.
The “Berniebro” of the stormy present is a misogynist troll who attacks visible women online for various perceived but baseless crimes.
Let us know what you think about the BernieBro—including whether or not he is even real—in the comments below.
* This post originally identified the author of Mashable’s piece about Bernie Sanders’ supporters as Emily Cohn. In fact, the author is Emily Cahn. We thank Emily Cohn, who works at Tech Insider, for pointing out our error.