IT'S NOT THE MEDIUM -- IT'S THE ELEPHANT
Via Steve Benen, I see that David Weigel thinks Sarah Palin is manipulating the media with her Facebook and Twitter manifestoes:
... The problem is that Palin has put the political press in a submissive position, one in which the only information it prints about her comes from prepared statements or from Q&As with friendly interviewers. This isn't something most politicians get away with, or would be allowed to get away with. But Palin has leveraged her celebrity -- her ability to get ratings, the ardor of her fans and the bitterness of her critics -- to win a truly unique relationship with the press. She is allowed to shape the public debate without actually engaging in it.
... I think what Palin's doing here is incredibly savvy. She knows that anything that goes out under her name will be accepted as fact by conservatives.... And she knows that liberals despise her and will pick apart everything that goes out under her name....
At the same time, I think that the media's indulgence of Palin’s strategy -- which often results in pure stenography of press releases that may or may not have been written by her -- is ridiculous, bordering on pathetic.
... Weigel's observation is an important one -- outlets need not treat barely-coherent Facebook messages from an unemployed politician as major developments. She's playing the media for fools, and too many major outlets are only to pleased to be the sucker.
But is she really playing them for fools? And in what way? By communicating? By communicating through this newfangled Intertube technology? Is that some special way she sidesteps accountability? And is it "truly unique"?
The fact is, a lot of Republicans right now are being given a virtually unlimited platform to hold forth -- with or without the wonders of social networking. John McCain is on political interview shows so often you'd think he was running the country. Dick Cheney, ditto -- and his many, many speeches are major news. These folks are getting pretty much the same deal Palin is -- via old-school channels of communication.
Palin's getting covered not because she's exceedingly shrewd but because she's a Republican. She's a Republican and she's pretty good copy, so the media just keeps handing her and McCain and Cheney (and Liz Cheney, for that matter) powerful megaphones. Palin's not doing anything all that clever, media-wise; she's just taking advantage of the desperate search for "balance" in a situation that seems, to the media, desperately out of balance -- simply because Democrats are in charge.
Believe me, if Republicans were running Washington and a former Democratic vice president were making inflammatory speeches and remarks accusing the current administration of treason, the story would be how outrageous and unseemly this was, not a serious examination of what the ex-VP was saying. If the most recent failed Democratic presidential candidate were desperately trying to get booked on Sunday chat shows every week, he or she would be shut out on a regular basis. If the most recent Democratic VP candidate were sending out angry Facebook posts and tweets, it would just be seen as immature and pathetic.
It's not the medium. It's not the message. The key factor here is the party of the messengers.