Monday, June 6, 2011

Why is the Media Trying to Make Me Like Sarah Palin?

I am not a fan of Sarah Palin. Not that I dislike her as a person -- I don't know her. But she is a politician with possible aspirations of being President of the United States. As such, she suffers from the same terrible flaws that our current president did when he was running. Very little actual time spent in the trenches of government (Obama was a first time senator, Palin was governor of Alaska) and a foreign policy portfolio that is emptier than PNC Park when the Pirates are in town. For me, these were critical flaws that made supporting Obama impossible and should be doing the same for Palin. There's just one major difference: the media is spending an inordinate amount of time trying to make me like her.

The media is absolutely obsessed with making Sarah Palin look bad. Slate has a running feature called Palinisms which chronicles the supposedly dumb things she says (nothing in there about 57 states, near as I can tell). The major media outlets run with any story that may cast her in a bad light, uniformly bypassing the "layers of fact checkers" which supposedly gives them a sense of superiority in their war with bloggers. All this negative press would be enough for me to get over her terrible accent and feel sympathy for her. But it goes beyond that: she keeps being shown to be in the right in these hatchet job stories.

First there was the famous "I can see Russia from my house" line. Actually, Tina Fey said that in a Saturday Night Live sketch. What Palin actually said was, "They're our next-door neighbors, and you can actually see Russia from land here in Alaska, from an island in Alaska." Turns out that she was right. It soon became conventional wisdom however that the Fey quote was really Palin's and a cottage industry in trying to make her out to be stupid was born.

The Left blogosphere erupted when Palin, while addressing a crowd in October 2010, stated it was too early to "party like it's 1773." Media types, including Gwen Ifill of PBS, rushed to point and laugh. Of course, it then dawned on people that Palin was addressing a local Tea Party group and well, the Boston Tea Party happened in... I'm sure you can figure it out.

Later, Palin used the term "blood libel" in reaction to another media uproar: the idea that conservative talk show hosts and politicians were responsible for inciting violence after the shooting of Gabrielle Giffords. Palin herself was mentioned as a perpetrator after it was revealed that she had used campaign materials that contained crosshairs. This was quite the double whammy: not only was Palin an instigator of violence, but she misused a loaded term while defending herself! There were three problems with this: one, Palin was not the first person to employ crosshairs (or the last). Two, there's a lot more evidence that the Left is responsible for violent acts than the Right. Three, it turns out that Palin not only used the term correctly, but that she wasn't the first. Earlier uses didn't seem to stir up much reaction though. It's like there's an agenda out there or something.

The latest controversy was over Palin's comments during a trip to Boston about Paul Revere's famous ride. In them, she spoke the following words:
He who warned, uh, the ... the British that they weren't gonna be taking away our arms, uh, by ringing those bells and, um, by making sure that as he's riding his horse through town to send those warning shots and bells that, uh, we were gonna be secure and we were gonna be free ... and we were gonna be armed.
First, let me point out that I love how the writer left all the "uhs" and "ums" in there. Quotes are usually cleaned up to make the speech sound more cohesive) unlike a transcript which is supposed to be verbatim. More importantly however, it turns out that once again, Palin knows more about history than the people mocking her.

I'm sure I'm leaving out all sorts of other episodes in this vein, but this is plenty. All these "Palin moments" are having the effect of making me sympathetic to her. On a basic level I don't like it when I see a bully plying his trade. I root for the underdog. I understand on a gut level that the media doesn't like Sarah Palin. I understand even that they fear her running against Obama in 2012. I get it. I think she's unqualified to be President. If she got the Republican nomination, there's a 98% chance that I would leave the Presidential ballot blank. But there used to be a 100% chance back before the media started working so hard to make me like her.

(Crossposted at Say Anything)

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