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November 13, 2008

The Palin Thing

I haven't had much to say about Sarah Palin for several reasons.

Primarily, I found the focus on her a time wasting and disproportionate distraction from far more important election issues. She wasn't the candidate for the presidency, though the Obama campaign and the media sought to inflate her role because it served their interest. If the role of the VP had truly been as central as they claimed, Joe Biden should have received far more coverage than he did.

The annoying thing about all the media fuss over Palin is that had John McCain been elected, Palin would quickly have receded into the background as Vice Presidents always do. That said, the stunning carelessness and dishonesty with which she was covered is notable. Today's news is a case in point:

It was among the juicier post-election recriminations: Fox News Channel quoted an unnamed McCain campaign figure as saying that Sarah Palin did not know that Africa was a continent.

Who would say such a thing? On Monday the answer popped up on a blog and popped out of the mouth of David Shuster, an MSNBC anchor. “Turns out it was Martin Eisenstadt, a McCain policy adviser, who has come forward today to identify himself as the source of the leaks,” Mr. Shuster said.

Trouble is, Martin Eisenstadt doesn’t exist. His blog does, but it’s a put-on. The think tank where he is a senior fellow — the Harding Institute for Freedom and Democracy — is just a Web site. The TV clips of him on YouTube are fakes.

And the claim of credit for the Africa anecdote is just the latest ruse by Eisenstadt, who turns out to be a very elaborate hoax that has been going on for months. MSNBC, which quickly corrected the mistake, has plenty of company in being taken in by an Eisenstadt hoax, including The New Republic and The Los Angeles Times.

Is this supposed to be an excuse? These are professional journalists we're talking about. As I noted yesterday, they seem to apply one standard when covering Republicans and another when covering subjects for whom they wish to provide political cover.

A study by the Culture and Media Institute revealed a shocking pattern to media coverage of Palin:

ABC, NBC and CBS news shows are covering Palin intensively, and they are running 18 negative stories for every positive one.
Network coverage of Palin has moved beyond criticism to outright ridicule. Strikingly, all three networks have repeatedly aired clips of Palin being parodied by a comedy show, NBC’s Saturday Night Live, leading to concerns that many Americans are confusing the real Palin with SNL’s figure of fun. When have comic impressions of a political figure ever qualified as hard news?

CMI reviewed network news coverage of Palin for the two weeks beginning September 29 and ending October 12, the period before and after the October 2 vice-presidential debate. We found that ABC, NBC and CBS have been stridently critical of Palin. Before the debate, the networks characterized her as a dunce whose shortcomings were dividing the GOP. After Palin laid to rest concerns about her competence by performing well in the debate, the network narrative changed: Palin became a demon, victimizing Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama with unfair criticism

Such bizarrely biased coverage is even more striking when analyzed statistically:

ABC was hardest on Palin, with 9 negative stories (60%), 6 neutral (40%) and no positive stories.

NBC ran 15 negative stories (54%), 13 neutral (46%) and no positive stories. CBS ran 14 negative stories (54%), 10 neutral (38%) and 2 positive (8%)

The Pew Center for Excellence looked at coverage of the candidates and (like the Washington Post) found a "gaping hole" in coverage of the vice presidential race - the media focused extensively on Palin while virtually ignoring Joe Biden, despite his repeated campaign trail gaffes. If being "a heartbeat away from the presidency" was truly such an important campaign issue, what can explain such imbalanced coverage?

What explains the many times the media outright manufactured stories out of thin air, such as the time CNN's Drew Roberts confronted Governor Palin with an insulting and deceptively edited quote from Byron York at the National Review:

Griffin: "The National Review Online has reported that Sarah Palin is either incompetent, stupid, unqualified, corrupt, backward, etc".

Palin: "Who wrote that? I'd like to talk to that person"

Griffin: "I don't have who wrote it."

Amazing. So we are to believe you intentionally confronted the VP nominee with a quote that was deliberately edited to say the exact opposite of what the author originally intended it to convey. And yet, during this process, you didn't take the time to note which "conservative" at the National Review it came from?
The actual quote, from Byron York at The National Review:

"Watching press coverage of the Republican candidate for vice president, it’s sometimes hard to decide whether Sarah Palin is incompetent, unqualified, corrupt, backward, or — or, well, all of the above. Palin, the governor of Alaska, has faced more criticism than any vice-presidential candidate since 1988, when Democrats and the press tore into Dan Quayle. In fact, Palin may have it even worse than Quayle, since she’s taking flak not only from Democrats and the press but from some conservative opinion leaders as well…."

Griffin's dishonest rephrasing of the York quote, in addition to being calculated to embarrass and unnerve Palin on air, was flat out dishonest. It is notable that CNN never did issue a correction despite repeated requests.

Is it any wonder that critics of Governor Palin continue to repeat oft-debunked items like the frankly silly Bush doctrine or rape kit stories?

The truly frightening thing is that people vote based on the information they hear and see on the news and in their newspapers. And all too often, the news they hear and see isn't "vetted" by the professional journalists we rely upon to inform us.

I resent being forced into defending a politician I don't have particularly strong feelings for one away or another. But when even Camille Paglia (that right-wing extremist!) is moved to her defense, it's a pretty fair bet something was disturbingly wrong with the shallow, vapid and gushing election coverage we were handed:

Pursuing the truth about Ayers, I recently rented the 2002 documentary "The Weather Underground," from Netflix. It was riveting. Although the film seems to waver between ominous exposé and blatant whitewash, the full extent of the group's bombing campaign is dramatically demonstrated. It's not for everyone: The film uses gratuitous cutaways of horrifying carnage, from the Vietnam War to the Manson murders (such as Sharon Tate's smiling corpse, bathed in blood). But the news footage of the Greenwich Village townhouse destroyed in 1970 by bomb-making gone wrong in the basement still has enormous impact. Standing in the chaotic street, actor Dustin Hoffman, who lived next door, seems like Everyman at the apocalypse.

Ayers comes off in the film as a vapid, slightly dopey, chronic juvenile with stunted powers of ethical reasoning. The real revelation is his wife, Bernardine Dohrn (who evidently worked at the same large Chicago law firm as Michelle Obama in the mid-1990s). Of course I had heard of Dohrn -- hers was one of the most notorious names of our baby-boom generation -- and I knew her black-and-white police mug shot. But I had never seen footage of her speaking or interacting with others. Well, it's pretty obvious who wears the pants in that family!

The mystery of Bernardine Dohrn: How could such a personable, attractive, well-educated young woman end up saying such things at a 1969 political rally as this (omitted in the film) about the Manson murders: "Dig it. First they killed those pigs, then they ate dinner in the same room with them. They even shoved a fork into a victim's stomach. Wild!" And how could Dohrn have so ruthlessly pursued a decade-long crusade of hatred and terrorism against innocent American citizens and both private and public property?

"The Weather Underground" never searches for answers, but it does show Dohrn, then and now, as a poised, articulate woman of extremely high intelligence and surprising inwardness. The audio extra of her reading the collective's first public communiqué ("Revolutionary violence is the only way") is chilling. But the tumultuous footage of her 1980 surrender to federal authorities is a knockout. Mesmerized, I ran the clip six or seven times of her seated at a lawyer's table while reading her still defiant statement. The sober scene -- with Dohrn hyper-alert in a handsome turtleneck and tweedy jacket -- was tailor-made for Jane Fonda in her "Klute" period, androgynous shag. Only illegalities by federal investigators prevented Dohrn from being put away on ice for a long, long time.

Given that Obama had served on a Chicago board with Ayers and approved funding of a leftist educational project sponsored by Ayers, one might think that the unrepentant Ayers-Dohrn couple might be of some interest to the national media. But no, reporters have been too busy playing mini-badminton with every random spitball about Sarah Palin, who has been subjected to an atrocious and at times delusional level of defamation merely because she has the temerity to hold pro-life views.

How dare Palin not embrace abortion as the ultimate civilized ideal of modern culture? How tacky that she speaks in a vivacious regional accent indistinguishable from that of Western Canada! How risible that she graduated from the University of Idaho and not one of those plush, pampered commodes of received opinion whose graduates, in their rush to believe the worst about her, have demonstrated that, when it comes to sifting evidence, they don't know their asses from their elbows.

Liberal Democrats are going to wake up from their sadomasochistic, anti-Palin orgy with a very big hangover. The evil genie released during this sorry episode will not so easily go back into its bottle. A shocking level of irrational emotionalism and at times infantile rage was exposed at the heart of current Democratic ideology -- contradicting Democratic core principles of compassion, tolerance and independent thought. One would have to look back to the Eisenhower 1950s for parallels to this grotesque lock-step parade of bourgeois provincialism, shallow groupthink and blind prejudice.

I like Sarah Palin, and I've heartily enjoyed her arrival on the national stage. As a career classroom teacher, I can see how smart she is -- and quite frankly, I think the people who don't see it are the stupid ones, wrapped in the fuzzy mummy-gauze of their own worn-out partisan dogma. So she doesn't speak the King's English -- big whoop! There is a powerful clarity of consciousness in her eyes. She uses language with the jumps, breaks and rippling momentum of a be-bop saxophonist. I stand on what I said (as a staunch pro-choice advocate) in my last two columns -- that Palin as a pro-life wife, mother and ambitious professional represents the next big shift in feminism. Pro-life women will save feminism by expanding it, particularly into the more traditional Third World.

As for the Democrats who sneered and howled that Palin was unprepared to be a vice-presidential nominee -- what navel-gazing hypocrisy! What protests were raised in the party or mainstream media when John Edwards, with vastly less political experience than Palin, got John Kerry's nod for veep four years ago? And Gov. Kathleen Sebelius of Kansas, for whom I lobbied to be Obama's pick and who was on everyone's short list for months, has a record indistinguishable from Palin's. Whatever knowledge deficit Palin has about the federal bureaucracy or international affairs (outside the normal purview of governors) will hopefully be remedied during the next eight years of the Obama presidencies.

Pursuing the truth... what a concept. Why is it only now the country seems to be waking from a long sleep? Yes, we can think for ourselves.

And maybe we'll even learn to stop hating each other in the process. Right now, I'm not hopeful.

Posted by Cassandra at November 13, 2008 08:19 AM

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This has always sounded like an organized conspiracy to me. Connecting the numerous dots suggests that the entire Palin character assassination was the sum of it's parts. This cannot have been, arguably, a loose association of kooks doing their a bit of anarchy for their Messiah.

Follow the money! This may well turn out to be a modern fairy tale nightmare featuring Winkin, Blinkin, and Nod.

Paglia has it absolutely correct.

Posted by: vet66 at November 13, 2008 11:44 AM

So does this Eisenstadt hoax mean that Carl Cameron is sent down to the minor minor media leagues or simply doesn't get a Christmas ham this year?

Fascinating eh! Even Fox News got hoaxed and badly too. Of course, FNC had its own share of Obamanons just not as many as MSNBC and the other nutcase media outlets!

Posted by: DougW at November 13, 2008 11:53 AM

I have to admit to being close to exhaustion in the Palin department. I'm still not entirely clear whether:

a) "Eisenstadt" is the one who actually told the media that Palin didn't know Africa is a country

b)someone else told the media that Palin didn't know Africa is a country and Eisenstadt just claimed credit for saying it.

In a way that seems like a microcosm of Palin stories: there's never any clarity, never any resolution. The stories that get debunked still get repeated and in the meantime another 3 spring up.

I sincerely hope I manage to stay alive for another 20 years because I figure it will be that long before someone can write a thorough, objective analysis of what the heck happened when Palin appeared on the scene. Yes, Palin had weaknesses but how did people come to believe that someone who was a successful Governor was not just flawed but a dead loss, so incredibly worthless she wasn't even qualified to be Vice-President?

And I really, really can't wait to read the part of the analysis that deals with how so many women - especially Institutional Feminists - were willing to tolerate and even encourage misogyny in order to benefit a male candidate. I have to agree with Reclusive Leftist about this: she calls the women who bought into the anti-Palin (and anti-Clinton) misogyny "Stockholm Syndrome feminists." (Okay, starting to froth at the mouth, time to wrap it up.)

Thank God for Camille Paglia. She has an earlier essay on Sarah Palin that I like even more than the one you quote. (It has an incredible discussion of abortion.) My favorite line from that earlier Paglia is:

A feminism that cannot admire the bravura under high pressure of the first woman governor of a frontier state isn't worth a warm bucket of spit.

Posted by: Elise at November 13, 2008 12:25 PM

Well Doug, the paranoia and bias aimed at Fox News rivals that aimed at Palin.

I've long since lost count of the "enlightened" who rush to inform me that Fox is just a 'right wing mouthpiece'.

"Oh!", I say, "So you've watched it?"

"No", they always reply. "I don't need to."

Evidently they don't "need" any evidence either, except that of their own preconceived opinions! Wouldn't want to find out Fox has the most politically mixed audience of any news network.

Or that they invite a more balanced lineup of guests, by party. Because you know, they'd really, really hate to be confused by evidence that contradicts what they've already decided :p Fox can be annoying at times but at least you get a cross section of views.

Elise, I agree about Paglia. I don't always agree with her on everything but I always listen to her, even when she upsets me, because she is at the least intellectually honest.

Posted by: Cassandra at November 13, 2008 12:41 PM

Meanwhile, Andrew Sullivan is still trying to get mileage out of hating Sarah Palin. When is that guy's 15 minutes up?

Posted by: spd rdr at November 13, 2008 01:06 PM

I've always said, "If you can't set a good example, you can still serve as a bad one."

Does the US media realize what a laughingstock it's become overseas?

Posted by: BillT at November 13, 2008 01:10 PM

I love what she said about Palin representing the next big shift in feminism. I've said that myself. I think that's one of the most important things about Palin; that she shows young women that Feminism doesn't have to be tied to all the rest of the politics of the left, as is regularly taught in Women's Studies classes in college. I love that she represents a different, conservative kind of feminism; a woman who has it all; a great job, a loving husband and family, 5 kids, traditionally male hobbies (hunting/shooting), and a pro-life stance. I think Palin is great, as an example of conservative feminism, regardless of whether or not she appeals to me as a serious candidate.

Posted by: Leofwende at November 13, 2008 01:45 PM

I don't think of Gov. Palin in association with feminism. I just think she's a great lady, admirable in many ways. If this proves to be what 'feminism' comes to mean, and she is the kind of lady it starts to produce, good for it.

If not, good for her.

Posted by: Grim at November 13, 2008 01:52 PM

Grim, I think of Sarah Palin as a feminist because she describes herself as one. And gave a very good stump speech (which seems to have been largely unreported) about women's rights.

Tomato Nation says:

If you believe in, support, look fondly on, hope for, and/or work towards equality of the sexes, you are a feminist.

There's room in that definition for all kinds of feminists which is at it should be. I hope not that Palin "proves to be what 'feminism' comes to mean" but rather than she proves to be what 'feminism' means once again, what it meant before it became a wholly owned subsidiary of the Democratic Party.

Posted by: Elise at November 13, 2008 02:37 PM

Grim and Leofwende have indentified exactly why Sarah Palin was attacked the way she was. The ideoligical Left identified her for what she was instantaneously, and the message went out. And they had to destroy her.

Fair-minded, rational people like Greta van Susteren and Camille Paglia think for themselves and offer their own analysis. The rest fall into line and manufacture the ideological, reactionary nonsense that these days passes for news.

This is the future of Mainstream news; totally Orwellian in nature.

Posted by: Don Brouhaha at November 13, 2008 02:38 PM

For clarity, the hoax was that this "Martin Eisenstadt" falsly claimed credit for being the source. *Not* that he was the source and the claim was a hoax.

Who the actual source is is still unknown.

But I have to agree with Melissa Clouthier on this.

The stupid staffers aren’t the problem. The problem, in this case, as it has been this whole campaign, is John McCain.

The silence from John McCain regarding campaign staffers savaging Sarah Palin is deafening — including his refusal to directly address the charges during his appearance on the Tonight Show. What rock is Senator McCain hiding under and why can’t he show himself for a moment to defend his running mate?

Welcome to being a friend of John McCain, Sarah. Don’t worry! The stab wounds will heal.

Once again, John McCain’s actions betray the character traits conservatives abhorred about the man during his years in the Senate: He would spit in a friend’s eye to win the favor of an enemy.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at November 13, 2008 03:10 PM

Well, it looked right in Preview? The last 3 paragraphs are supposed to be blockquoted as well.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at November 13, 2008 03:11 PM

> a shocking pattern to media coverage of Palin:


Are you reeeeeeally "shocked"?


Posted by: Obloodyhell at November 13, 2008 03:45 PM

> Standing in the chaotic street, actor Dustin Hoffman, who lived next door, seems like Everyman at the apocalypse.

And yet I will still bet you that Hoffman voted for Obama.

Posted by: Obloodyhell at November 13, 2008 03:48 PM

"And yet I will still bet you that Hoffman voted for Obama." - OBH

Cognitive dissonance. Writ large. It's Sept. 10, 2001 in America, and all is well.

Posted by: Don Brouhaha at November 13, 2008 03:59 PM

Palin: Anonymous person claims she said Africa was a country


Obama: Actually says there are 57 states.

Reaction: Move Along Folks, Nothing To See Here. Move Along...

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at November 13, 2008 06:12 PM

I have been amazed at work just how effective this media caricature of Palin has been. Otherwise seemingly half-intelligent people have told me they wanted to vote for McCain but could not bring themselves to because of Palin and McCains age.

Sometimes when an impression is made on people it sticks. For those who want her in 2012 she may be damaged goods.

Posted by: Pile On at November 13, 2008 07:18 PM

Evil must be hated by the virtuous for the virtuous to pursue the Good.

That means there are going to be two sides and only one of them are going to be moving towards God's goals.

I have said, here and in other places, again and again that the MSM needs masters to tell them what to do. If you or Bush won't manipulate and bend the Main Sewer Media to your aims, then somebody else surely will. The MSM are cowardly, stupid, gullible, and intensely easy to manipulate, coerce, intimidate, and bribe.

Such an organization is the perfect target for propaganda, subversion, and various other espionage and sabotage operations. You only have two choices here. Destroy the MSM's credibility and ability (their logistical ability) to influence AMerican opinion or subvert the MSM's capability towards your own ends through intimidation, coercion, deception, and outright bribery.

To me, those are the two choices now. And alternative media will not be sufficiently powerful to deThrone the MSM until Pajamas Media is fighting with Daily Kos to get access to the White House press rooms after access has been totally denied to all newspapers, networks, cable news, and anybody else that would classify.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at November 13, 2008 08:16 PM

Sometimes when an impression is made on people it sticks.

For strong willed individuals like McCain, torture and various other methods of coercion are very hard to make effective.

But for those who attacked Sarah Palin? They can be manipulated, intimidated, deceived, and coerced with extreme ease. THeir "opinions" don't matter a whole lot of beans because they'll change them the minute a charismatic person tells them to.

If their propaganda filled brains are too locked up and fortified, then all you need is enough psychological shock and pain.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at November 13, 2008 08:24 PM

Is this supposed to be an excuse? These are professional journalists we're talking about. As I noted yesterday, they seem to apply one standard when covering Republicans and another when covering subjects for whom they wish to provide political cover.

Here in Chicago there was once a news agency called I believe the Chicago News Bureau. Their beat was Chicago itself, and it fed the local newspapers. It was the training ground for generations of local reporters and legends abound of what went on inside it's walls and what it's reporters did on the streets of Chicago to get the story. Fresh-faced and self-important J-school graduates got short shrift there.

Up on one wall they had what passed for their motto: "If your mother says she loves you, check it out."

What has changed in journalism today is that no one does this anymore. When a rumor reaches someone's ear and that rumor fits the narrative they wish as their meta-story, they don't check it out. They publish it. Oh, they label it as rumor, so that theoretically they aren't responsible. But the job they're supposed to be doing is to check it out - to see if the rumor's true and then either print the truth or expose the rumor monger. Not anymore.

Posted by: RonF at November 14, 2008 10:24 AM

"If your mother says she loves you, check it out."

Years ago, the motto became, "Never let the facts get in the way of a good story."

Today, it's, "If the facts don't support the story, invent some that do."

Posted by: BillT at November 14, 2008 12:47 PM

Well, it looked right in Preview? The last 3 paragraphs are supposed to be blockquoted as well.

Cass's semi html parser breaks html codes when you do a line break. You have to reapply them. But the preview doesn't do that ; ) Why? Probably because the preview doesn't automatically parse line breaks into BR BR code.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at November 14, 2008 02:33 PM