Hot Sauce

Clinton stopped by the hip-hop radio station Power 105.1 the other day. It was a relatively uneventful interview considering the venue. But the last question sparked some controversy. AOL has a good explanation:

Radio host Angela Yee asked Clinton “What is something you always carry with you?” Clinton quickly responded hot sauce. Yee’s co-host Charlamagne Tha God warned Clinton that viewers would believe she was pandering to black people with that answer, but Clinton seemed to take it in stride. “Ok, is it working?” she asked.

Just as Charlamagne predicted, Twitter users as well as media outlets began to call Clinton out for “pandering.”

But many pointed out that Clinton has been a long time (pre-Beyoncé’s Formation) fan of hot sauce, a fact that has been heavily documented.

This goes back to an overarching theme of the primary thus far, Clinton’s pandering and Sanders’s authenticity. I think it’s rather obvious that it’s far easier for a male politician to be authentic and likable, and this incident has been pointed to as an example of that double standard. But even if you disagree with that case, it is pretty obvious that authenticity is path dependent. Once branded with the inauthentic label, it’s impossible to shake off. Here’s one representative account:

The ironic part is that she’s actually telling the truth…The collective Internet’s reflexive disbelief of her hot sauce confession is not just a lesson in how little the public trusts her, but also speaks to how surprising it is that she actually eats and is human.

The fact that she actually puts a bite of food in her mouth, chews it, and swallows is shocking.

The debunking of the “hot sauce pander” won’t reach the vast majority of people who heard the myth in the first place. And even when misperceptions are corrected, the negativity persists.

“Belief echoes are created through a largely unconscious process in which a piece of negative information has a stronger impact on evaluations than does its correction”

On the other hand, a lot of the idea of Bernie’s authenticity and coolness is not based in fact.When Sanders couldn’t name one David Bowie song–an artist that’s actually from his generation, no one cared. In fact, when he used Starman to close an Iowa rally earlier this year, it was treated with breathless press coverage.

The Hillary vs Bernie memes that play on Bernie’s authenticity and coolness read almost like fan fiction. Bernie Sanders is not cool or hip–he’s an old man who declared Phish: “One of the Great Bands in This Country.” But just as Hillary’s inauthenticity is impossible to shake off, Bernie’s authenticity also seems invisible.

Maybe the authenticity gap between Clinton and Hillary isn’t just a sexist double standard. But at the very least, once a gap is established it’s virtually impossible to close.

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