The Bernie Sanders Show is interactive TV talk for the era of Facebook activism

The Bernie Sanders Show is interactive TV talk for the era of Facebook activism
The Vermont senator’s atypical online show, which is broadcast on social media and will soon tour the US to highlight big issues, is attracting a sizeable fanbase
By Adam Gabbatt
Apr 11 2017

Ask someone to picture Bernie Sanders and they’ll likely see him leaning over a podium. With his arms raised. Shouting.

So the Vermont senator’s latest venture may seem a little jarring. It’s a chat show.

There have been four episodes of The Bernie Sanders Show so far, with the most popular seeing Sanders and his guest, Bill Nye, seated on stylish red armchairs. A coffee table is in front of them and shelves of hardback books line the wall behind. 

Sanders has pages of notes resting on one knee. It could almost be a Sunday breakfast show. 

But the genial settings shouldn’t fool anyone. Once the show gets underway, Sanders is typically brusque.

“Let’s cut right to it,” he tells Nye as he starts their conversation. We have a president who doesn’t believe in climate change, Sanders says. He asks Nye what this means for the environment.

The Bernie Sanders show, which is filmed in the Democratic party’s DC-based studio, is atypical in ways beyond just presentation. Sanders has decided to bypass traditional media and broadcast exclusively on Facebook. And it is attracting – to borrow a Sandersism – a huge audience.

The first episode of the show featured the Rev William Barber, a protestant minister and activist who is a national board member of the NAACP. The conversation, aired on 16 February, focussed on grassroots mobilizing, and has been viewed more than 950,000 times.

But it was the Nye broadcast that really got the Sanders’ team excited.

“That was the moment when we really saw the power of this. We got 75,000 people watching at the same time and it got over 4.5m views,” said Josh Miller-Lewis, Sanders’ deputy communications director.

It wasn’t just the viewing figures that were positive. Sanders is probably the most popular politician among millennials, and they let him know.

“Both Bill Nye and Bernie Sanders are amazing people! It gives me hope to see the two sitting down with each other talking about scientifically-informed public policy,” one person wrote.

“Today is my birthday and I wouldn’t wanna spend it any other way,” read another comment.

Various other people wanted to buy Sanders a beer, or indulge in other similarly relaxing pastimes.

The bulk of the audience is 18 to 45 years old – the sort of people who fueled Sanders’ presidential bid – and the show seems to have borrowed some of the fan imagery that emerged during that campaign.

The Bernie Sanders Show logo features a stencil outline of the top half of Sanders’ face in a style very similar to the Sanders tattoos that adorn many supporters bodies. 

Miller-Lewis said Sanders himself is the brains behind much of the output.



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