‘Bernie Blackout’ Documentary Is ‘A Test Case About Corporate Media’s Impact On U.S. Politics’

‘Bernie Blackout’ Documentary Is ‘A Test Case About Corporate Media’s Impact On U.S. Politics’

Bernie Blackout
“Bernie Blackout — The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” is a new documentary on Vice TV that examines how corporate media impacted Bernie Sanders’ campaign. Image courtesy of “Bernie Blackout.”

Most everyone is at home now due to the coronavirus pandemic and worried or frustrated over healthcare, employment, and the direction of our future.

It’s fitting that a new documentary entitled, “Bernie Blackout – The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” debuts on Vice TV this week. It is a compelling work and will be yet another catalyst for consideration about just what type of world we want to live in as the aftermath of covid-19 unfolds.

Developed and directed by Pat McGee for Pat McGee Pictures, “Bernie Blackout” is a well-paced journey, not just behind the scenes of the rise and close of the Bernie Sanders campaign, but through the lens of the influence of mainstream media and their role in shaping popular opinion.

Made independently and self-financed by McGee, the documentary examines to what extent mainstream media work to reinforce the establishment of oligarchs and their agendas. As the film shows, just four corporations own 90 percent of the entire U.S. media landscape.

Pat McGee Pictures previously produced Viceland’s “American Relapse” and has sold documentary projects to National Geographic and A&E Networks.

The public is continuing to question the role ideological bias plays in influencing and challenging new ideas. The possibility of suppressing ideas is examined in a series of interviews conducted via Skype and Zoom with media experts including David Sirota, senior advisor and head speechwriter of the Bernie Sanders campaign, and former MSNBC anchor Ed Schultz. These shots are expertly interspersed with high-energy footage directly from the campaign featuring Sanders, philosopher Cornel West, and Congresswoman Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. With Public Enemy in performance, altogether they weave an arc that is engaging, emotional, and gripping, even though we all know the end.

Though the subject matter could easily take the tone of a conspiracy, “Bernie Blackout” is not taking that path. This is about data analysis and data usage. Anyone interested in bias, statistics, and perception would find it at least intriguing. 

I had the opportunity to catch up with “Bernie Blackout” Director McGee hours before the premiere to go a bit deeper into the process behind the films.

“Bernie Blackout” director Pat McGee at the opening night of the Montana International Film Festival, Billings, Montana, 2018. Photo by Kenneth Jarecke, courtesy of “Bernie Blackout.”

Lauren deLisa Coleman: So one could argue in watching this film that our current president also faced mainstream media issues yet still was elected into office. How might this film answer such a question?

Pat McGee: Well, actually, this film is not saying that the Sanders loss is the fault of corporate media, but rather that the film shows a test case of how mainstream media can influence the public. David Sirota points out there are also several key things that the campaign could have done to create a different outcome. This film simply shows the impact of media on politics through the case of one particular candidate. It’s a test case about corporate media’s impact on U.S. politics.

Lauren deLisa Coleman: How long did this film take to make, and how were you able to capture such timely information that was discussed, for example, just last week or so?

Pat McGee: First, this film is completely independent, and I self-financed it.  I just decided to go out and make this happen because I wanted to capture a moment of history. Once we received access from the campaign, we just went hard at shooting as much and as fast as we could. We were a small team. During it, I was pitching Vice some other things. I mentioned I was working on this. We talked for a while during the eve of Super Tuesday. A week later it was greenlit. It took about three weeks for a rough cut, and then about a week-and-a-half after that, we had a final. When we were editing this, Sanders was still in the race. The news about Tara Reade was breaking as we were editing, so all of this was able to be included in the documentary. 

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Lauren deLisa Coleman: So now that we’re in a pandemic, much of what Sanders talked about being needed for citizens is not being considered for implementation. What role do you see “Bernie Blackout” playing in the public’s mind?

Pat McGee: We’re in a time where news, corporate media, and mainstream media is viewed by younger audiences as suspect. They just don’t trust the punditry anymore. They can source facts and call out truths since they have access to so much more data than previous generations did. This with the rise of indie journalism is helping to create powerful change, in my opinion.

In terms of Sanders, if the whole country had shut down before Super Tuesday, it would have been very clear that his policies are needed now more than ever. To me, there was a false narrative created by the media about which candidate was most electable. If you look at Biden, there was an issue with raising money and drawing crowds at rallies, yet the media said he was the most electable. The end of Sanders seems to be more about a timing issue. Our films taps into the energy of the movement. Though it was said that the safe choice was Biden, it could be argued that the safe choice is someone who wants to make real and lasting change.

This documentary gives us all, whether for or against former candidate Sanders, a rare opportunity to look at analysis of historical events in nearly real-time. “Bernie Blackout” premiered on Vice on May 13. Check listings for continued re-broadcasts.