BROOKLYN – Nestled between a craft beer brewery and a vintage clothing store in the hip neighborhood of Williamsburg sits a trendy little coffee shop. Inside you’ll find fair trade cold brew on tap served up with piping hot free wifi for the Millennial creatives clacking away at their Apple Macbook computers.
All seems normal. But there’s something even more noxious than civet coffee brewing here:
For the past several months, I’ve received reports about innocent women, persons of color, and respected veteran journalists being harassed online by Bernie Sanders supporters. This gang of vicious white males call themselves the “Bernie Bros,” and they refuse – to the point of digital violence – to allow any dissent about their favorite candidate to appear on the internet.
When approached by dogged investigative reporters about their Bro problem, the Sanders campaign steadfastly refused to take any responsibility. In a classic stonewalling tactic, campaign manager Tad Devine repeatedly told reporters that “we don’t know what you’re talking about” and “please stop e-mailing me nonsense, Carl.”
But last month I received a huge tip that the Sanders campaign has been actively recruiting white males to harass Hillary supporters online.
My anonymous source pointed me to this Williamsburg coffee shop where, if I played my cards right, I could link up with paid Bernie Bros and embed myself in their cyberbullying cell. To do that, I needed to go undercover as a Millennial.
For my disguise, I used shoe polish to color my trademark reporter’s mustache jet black then painted my fingernails red and my lips a neon green (Millennial men have no issue with wearing makeup). I pierced my ears so I could wear a set of Dukakis ’88 earrings (Millennials call such jewelry “swag”).
Instead of my usual clothes, I donned the Millennial uniform: a sauce-stained T-shirt with the logo of the popular comedy website “Funny or Die”, raw denim, and a “snapback” style baseball cap (an old No Labels piece of nostalgia I had lying around).
To get inside their heads, I devoured Millennial culture websites like Thought Catalog, Reddit, and Suicide Girls. It was a tortured afternoon, as I warped my mind to instinctively laugh at someone saying “the cake is a lie” or to not be scared if someone wore Joker makeup, two things these communities universally love.
With my mental conditioning complete, I cased the coffee shop. I plopped myself down at a window seat, pulled out my iPad, and read articles from Elite Daily to blend in. The hardest part was not betraying my age with frequent bathroom use, and the 3 mocha ice blends I downed didn’t make things any easier. My face was red and glistening with perspiration by hour 2.
Any one of the Macbook Millennial men in the shop could have been a Bernie Bro. There was the man wearing comically oversized Beats-style headphones, compulsively checking Facebook every two minutes – was he waiting for a message from Sanders HQ about which women to harass? There was the tattooed Barista who kept glowering at the tip jar whenever I ordered a mocha – was he signaling the Bernie supporter secret handshake of entitlement?
Then there were the two guys sitting in the corner having a freewheeling conversation – did I hear them mention my Twitter account? Had they found me? Was my cover blown? I felt I needed to abort the mission!
My heart started palpitating when a young lady in gauge-style earrings and a “#FeelTheBern” t-shirt approached me.
“Hey, are you alright?” she asked, some type of code for Sanders Stasi coordinators.
“Yeah, just feeling the Bern!” The words tasted bitter on my tongue.
“It’s just that you look like you’re in a lot of pain,” she said.
“Nah, just a real bad K2 synthetic weed hangover,” I said, affecting the hideous mumble of a Millennial.
“Um, okay. Well, that’s cool that you’re into Bernie too. You know, WilliamsBern is having a volunteer meeting slash party a few blocks from here tonight. You should come help out.”
I was in.
There’s a feeling that one gets when they visit the battlefield memorials at Antietam or Gettysburg, sites of great human loss. It’s an eerie silence of sorrow in these places, one that shakes you to your core. What I felt standing in front of this Williamsburg loft was not dissimilar; hundreds, if not thousands of online attacks on WoC, intersectional feminists, and Hillary Men were planned and carried out in this dwelling.
I turned on my secret recorder, slipped it into my purse (Millennial men all carry purses now), took a deep breath, and pressed the buzzer.
As I climbed the stairs my heart trembled at the pounding beat of the latest Pitchfork-approved techno band. Truly, I was Daniel about to enter the Lion’s Den, and there was no turning back now.
I clutched my purse tightly and opened the door. My nostrils were accosted by the sticky stench of fruity craft beer and electronic cigarettes. Inside was one of the most confounding apartments I had ever seen. It consisted of one large, messy room that served as a combination kitchen-dining room-foyer-living room-dance floor. Instead of proper bedrooms, these Bernie savages slept in small lofted treehouses so shoddily constructed that they had curtains instead of doors. I crossed myself and said a small prayer that I would make it back to my respectable studio apartment alive.
There were about 30 Bernie Bros congregating in this steamy loft. Some were drinking beers and conversing loudly, others were stuffing envelopes, and others still were skulking over stickered-up laptops, hunting for women to harass online.
Tellingly, only about 10 of the Bernie Bros were men. They were obviously the ringleaders of the operation. The rest were women who had likely been gaslit by these charismatic cult-leaders into supporting Sanders’ cyberbullying campaign. I wondered if these poor young ladies were even allowed to know there was a fellow female on the ballot.
I began to fortify myself with heavy microbrews, quite higher in ABV compared to the honest Michelobs I prefer. I needed to mimic the slurring incoherence of a Millennial harassment sympathizer, and Insidious Racist Uncle’s Staph Infection IPA at 9.2% alcohol by volume would help me.
I worked my way into the inner sanctum, where a man in a repulsive shirt that simply read “Neil DeGrasse Tyson Like A Boss” was holding court. During a break in conversation, I made my way in.
“Hello, I’m Cal Dunkler, entitled Millennial, and I don’t think women should necessarily feel safe online.”
“Uh, I don’t know about that,” he replied.
Sensing I hadn’t earned his trust yet and would have to butter him up to find out more about the harassment farm, I sidestepped.
“Well, whatevs man. I’m just happy about free college. I haven’t seen a candidate this exciting since Gary Hart, definitely,” I said.
“Gary Hart, he ran in uh, 1988?”
“And ‘84, totes. I remember posting about his comeback on Compuserv. Yeah, been a long strange ride, like Pink Floyd said.”
I could feel him softening. He was ready to fall into my web and tell me everything about the dark campaign of terror he helps run.
“Have we met before? Are you a volunteer?”
“I’m a 30-year veteran of harassing women and PoCs online both inside the Beltway and out,” I said confidently.
“What? That’s not good,” he said, feigning disgust.
“Yeah, they really like to tell us what’s good and bad, those elites in the media.” I took a sip of what I guess was my 8th or so surprisingly-easy-to-drink IPA. “So since we’re such good friends now, could I see your invoices to the Bernie campaign for attacking women on Twitter? I, uh, I lost mine and need to copy yours.”
“Do you need to sit down or something? You’re getting pretty wobbly, bud.”
Oh great, just as he was about to crack, my darned Hellenic Inner Ear kicked in. Plus I had to urinate.
I pushed past him and made way for the bathroom, but I lost my balance and tripped over a table stacked with papers. The party came to a halt as everyone stopped and stared at me sitting on the ground clutching my dizzy head.
“Hey man, are you okay? Let me help you up,” taunted these vicious bullies.
I managed to steady my vision long enough to see that I was covered in envelopes. Each one was stamped with a Bernie logo and… had a name and an address on it. I had to hold back a gasp. These were clearly the names of brave journalists, pundits, activists, and civilians who dared speak out against Bernie Sanders. My God, these innocent people were being doxed!
I said a silent prayer for these poor, ignorant souls who were waiting to be assigned to a harasser who would bend their reality and clog their mentions and emails with ad hominem attacks and tedious infographics on free college.
I kicked away the extended hands of these cruel Bernie Bros and scrambled to my feet. I clutched a stack of envelopes and waved this smoking gun in their faces.
“YOU MONSTERS! YOU GODDAMNED MONSTERS!” I screamed. “YOU BLEW IT UP! YOU BLEW UP THE DISCOURSE!”
“Uhh, hey man, did you want to help stuff envelopes or something…”
“STUFF THIS, MISOGYNIST TROLL!” I pulled my press pass out of my purse and shoved it in this punk’s face. “Carl Diggler, Veteran Journalist. And I’ve got all of you Bernie Bros on tape conspiring to harass women online, conspiring to trigger my Repetitive Bladder condition with your IPAs that go right through you, and conspiring to make a mockery of the winners and losers of the week!
“I am officially liberating all of the brainwashed women in this loft being held captive by you insidious Bernie Bro trolls. You ladies can sleep in my hallway tonight, and my editor will find homes for you in the morning.”
I turned to the men, whose faces had stiffened into rictuses of guilt. “And as for you entitled Bernie brats, I want all of your business cards and receipts for the cyberbullying payments you receive from the Sanders campaign right this second, so I can name and shame you in my explosive exposé and finally win that Polk Award!”
The next thing I knew, I was being hauled out of that loft by four Bernie Bro he-men who had made the transition from cyberbullying to actual bullying. These thugs manhandled me down the stairs so roughly that my defensive urination instinct kicked in. I desperately cried out to the women upstairs that I was here to liberate them, but they clearly didn’t hear me over my maltreatment.
The Bernie Brutes tossed me onto the sidewalk and slammed the door shut. On the street I heard through the window the bro I talked to earlier saying in an affected voice, “I’m Carl Dunkler and I’m a veteran journalist,” followed by laughter.
I picked myself up and headed home to file my bombshell story.
Carl “The Dig” Diggler has covered national politics for 30 years, and is the author of “Think-ocracy: The Rise Of The Brainy Congressman”. Got a question for the Dig? E-mail him at [email protected] or Tweet to @carl_diggler.