Friday, June 19, 2009

Palin and the Media

David Letterman’s comments about Sarah Palin’s daughter were undeniably in bad taste. Jokes about fourteen-year-old Willow Palin are clearly outside the pale, and even jokes about eighteen-year-old Bristol, while less offensive, still push the boundaries of taste and decency. While Bristol is of age, and something of a public figure (aside from her mother’s political involvement, she has given speeches and appeared on television), she does not court the spotlight, and hasn’t done anything newsworthy for quite some time.

Everyone knows about Letterman’s joke—that Willow, while in New York, would be propositioned by Eliot Spitzer and seduced by Alex Rodriguez. Letterman says that his intended target was Bristol, and I believe him, since the joke wouldn’t be funny unless it was.

And Palin responded angrily, accusing Letterman of joking about the statutory rape of her daughter and forcing him to apologize twice while leveling veiled accusations of pedophilia. Her outrage was understandable—whatever Letterman’s intentions, his joke ended up being about her young daughter.

Most people have made up their minds about whether Letterman’s joke was unconscionable (it was) and whether Palin’s response was excessive (it was). To me, the most interesting aspect of an overblown and generally unremarkable incident is the media’s attitude towards Palin concerning this incident.

Most would agree that Letterman’s joke was tasteless, and the Palin family was wronged. (Even most liberals seemed to agree with this view). And Palin’s response, if excessive, was at least understandable, given that she was the victimized party.

That wasn’t the media’s view. Palin’s response was worse than the original wrong itself, and served as more proof of her intellectual and moral failings. Andrew Sullivan said, essentially, that Palin had it coming for taking her family on the campaign trail. Keith Olbermann called Letterman “the victim” who “took the high road,” while Palin was “power crazed” and a “delusional lunatic.” Slate’s Dahlia Lithwick allowed that Letterman’s comments were “stupid,” but claimed that Palin’s were “stupider.” All this because Sarah Palin was angered by a vicious and careless joke.

It’s become a conservative cliché to rhetorically wonder what would have happened had a conservative said what Letterman said about a family member of a Democrat. But that misses the point. Letterman would never have made that joke about the daughter of a Democrat. But he also wouldn’t have made the joke about the daughter of any other Republican.

Remember Jenna Bush? She was the target of some late night jokes a few years back, after being arrested for underage drinking and trying to use her grandmother’s ID to buy alcohol. (I wonder how she possibly thought using her grandmother’s ID would work). She came in for her share of jokes—but they stopped quickly, weren’t nearly as cruel or relentless as the jibes about Bristol Palin.

Sarah Palin is different from most Republican politicians. Most Republicans are tolerated by the media, and sometimes even admired (John McCain in 2000 is an example). But liberal media types fear Palin because they think she represents (in a way no other Republican does) the most superstitious, uneducated, and stupid portion of the American people—and they realize that she came very close to becoming the Vice President of the United States.

In the typical liberal mind, Sarah Palin in the Oval Office would be a bad dream come true, as bad as having Rush Limbaugh there. Palin represents liberalism’s worst nightmare: a very conservative politician who is also popular, at least among a niche of the population. They are afraid of the possibility that Palin could win the presidency in 2012, and usher in a new dark age of conservatism. Thus, the wild and hateful comments about Palin. The media doesn’t hate Palin—liberals are afraid of her.

12 Comments:

At June 19, 2009 at 7:26 AM , Blogger Z-man said...

Sarah Palin IMO is a drama queen. Letterman's joke was in bad taste it's all agreed but I've heard worse, it wasn't that over the top people! It didn't have me rolling in the aisles, at best it was mildly amusing but the soapster is right, as usual the issue is FREE SPEECH and as such it ain't always pretty.

 
At June 19, 2009 at 9:17 PM , Blogger Beth said...

With regards to Palin's reaction, as a parent, if Palin did not defend her child in a strong fashion, I would have lost respect for her, but because she did stand up for her child, I commend her, shame on you guys for putting her down!

She put up with a lot of crap slung at herself, but when it is directed at her children, she did not have to take that, no parent should.

 
At June 22, 2009 at 1:47 PM , Blogger Z-man said...

What I REALLY have a problem with was when she tried to turn it all around and make Letterman into some type of pedophile, a comic sex offender so shame on HER!! You know you have a show to do or a radio show or a blog and so if you have any of these gigs you say alot of stuff and some of it is bound to be just plain wrong factually. He probably heard the news quick and saw Palin's daughter was at the ballpark and thought it was the 18-year old, is that so hard to fathom? Put it another way, the joke was tasteless, it was not tasteless-cubed and there IS a difference.

 
At June 23, 2009 at 6:15 AM , Blogger Name: Soapboxgod said...

I didn't have a problem with Palin herself going after him for, as Beth points out, a comment about her children.

What I DID have a problem with was the Republican establishment (you know the ones intellectually bankrupt at present) who made it into a political issue. And a political issue that failed to address what was the crux of the issue which indeed was the right to free speech.

 
At June 23, 2009 at 8:21 AM , Blogger Z-man said...

Soapie is right as usual, conservatives should be more concerned with the issue of free speech. In a sense the joke was more directed at Alex Rodriguez being such a horndog and yet he never even entered the fray, didn't demand any apologies. I really took it as a joke mostly about A-Rod but I'm also not a fully functioning conservative, I didn't get sufficiently outraged. Go figure.

 
At June 24, 2009 at 7:26 AM , Blogger Beth said...

For one thing, A-Rod is in the public eye and put himself there, so he knows that opens himself up for criticism and ridicule (with how much he makes, I think he doesn't care so much) but even if it were Palin's 18 year old daughter who was intended as the joke, that still is wrong since it is her mother and not she that is in public office, and unless the daughter starts doing speeches or stumping for her mom, I think politicians' children should be off-limits.

 
At June 24, 2009 at 12:20 PM , Blogger Z-man said...

True enough and I'm not saying nobody should have been offended but I don't see the political bias behind the joke the way others do. I think Letterman simply made a rather lame sex joke involving the daughter of a now famous politician and you know the funny thing of it is this all leads to self-censorship which ain't good either. Now Letterman probably won't make any Palin jokes ever again so it sets her up as some kind of sacred cow. I'm not saying you're all wrong on this Beth I'm just seeing it from another angle.

 
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