Media Matters

Sarah Has the Liberal Media on a String

She's like catnip to them, doing her thing her way as they go bonkers.

By 6.1.11

Consider if you will what I wrote last November after the reviews came in for Sarah Palin's Alaska:

Let them sneer at reality television and social networking to their heart's content. The fact of the matter is these things mean a great deal to people. Whether we like it or not, who wins Dancing with the Stars means more to people than our monetary policy. Whether we like it or not, people define themselves by their Facebook status. All Palin has done is to tap into this new reality. She is merely using the social networking medium the way Ronald Reagan used television when he hosted General Electric Theater. While Palin espouses traditional values she is not taking a traditional path to the presidency. The question is whether she can carve out her own path to electoral success. 

Assuming Palin decides to take a run at the White House, she will undoubtedly do so with the knowledge that she will encounter enormous barriers along that path led by a liberal media (with a little help from some condescending conservatives) determined to keep President Obama in office. In fact, she should expect them to be a thousand times more arduous and vicious than those she faced in 2008. The difference now is that no one will stop her from clearing the brush. With her pioneering spirit, this time she gets to do things her way.

Well, now consider what Chris Cillizza and Aaron Blake of the Washington Post have to say about Sarah Palin's impromptu bus tour which commenced over the Memorial Day weekend. They write, "What's clear from her bus tour, though, is that if Palin runs for president, she'll do it one and one way only: hers." And why shouldn't she? Would we expect Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty and Ron Paul to do it any other way? This is her name and her tour on her terms. In the spirit of Frank Sinatra (and for that matter Nina Simone), she is going to sing "My Way" her way.

Come to think of it, Palin's bus tour evokes another Sinatra song. When you consider the behavior of the liberal media in covering her latest journey, Palin is not only resolute in conducting it her way but in doing so demonstrates that she has them on a string. How many private citizens are capable of getting a hundred reporters to follow their every move on a moment's notice? Justin Elliott of Salon complains, "What would in a just world prompt a round of self-reflection by the national press corps will instead continue indefinitely until Palin gets bored." Alright, but who exactly is stopping the media from covering Sarah Palin? It's not like there aren't other things happening in the world. After all, Congress is debating whether to increase the debt ceiling, Egypt's new regime is as cruel as the one that preceded it and, of course, Lady Gaga's new album has just gone platinum.

But the liberal media has a vested interest in covering Palin. They passionately supported President Obama's election in 2008 and will vigorously support his re-election bid next year despite their disappointments (i.e. not closing Gitmo, increasing troop presence in Afghanistan and compromising with Republicans on tax cuts). If Obama is to be portrayed as hero and champion for the downtrodden, then by necessity there must be a villain who is to be portrayed as a lightning rod of discontent. For the liberal media, Palin is their straw man to be feared, loathed and ridiculed. She is simultaneously viewed as a symbol of a value system that threatens their cherished beliefs while at the same time is viewed as someone not intelligent enough to be in the same room with President Obama whether or not she seeks his office. Even if she doesn't challenge Obama there will be plenty of Palin to kick around. But therein lay the contradiction. If Palin is someone who isn't worthy of serious attention then why go to all the trouble of turning her into public enemy number one?

Three and a half years after becoming a national public figure, the liberal media still haven't learned how to treat Sarah Palin as a rational human being with a different set of values from their own. For three and a half years, Palin has been the target of their slings and arrows. Over time, Palin has been better able shield herself and to choose her battles more carefully. During the course of these battles, Palin has learned how and when to pull their strings. If Palin can pull the liberal media's strings, then imagine what she could do with President Obama's thin lines?

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About the Author
Aaron Goldstein writes from Boston, Massachusetts.