Friday, July 10, 2009

(and then stumbles around again)

After all the harsh things I've said about Peggy Noonan, it's unsettling to find myself nodding in agreement with approximately two-thirds of today's Noonan column on Sarah Palin. To Noonan, Palin is no working-class hero ("The elites made her. It was the elites of the party, the McCain campaign and the conservative media that picked her and pushed her. The base barely knew who she was.") Palin is someone "with no proper sense of inadequacy" (ouch). And as for that long-awaited Palin intellectual spurt? "Mrs. Palin's supporters have been ordering her to spend the next two years reflecting and pondering. But she is a ponder-free zone." That's exactly right. Palin doesn't want to increase her knowledge base. She doesn't think she needs to. She doesn't think anyone needs to.

But then there's this from Noonan, who begins by paraphrasing, in a rather stilted way, a pro-Palin argument:

"Turning to others means the media won!" No, it means they lose. What the mainstream media wants is not to kill her but to keep her story going forever. She hurts, as they say, the Republican brand, with her mess and her rhetorical jabberwocky and her careless causing of division. Really, she is the most careless sower of discord since George W. Bush, who fractured the party and the movement that made him. Why wouldn't the media want to keep that going?

Apart from the obvious point that Noonan didn't always feel that way about W -- to say the least -- does she really believe this crap about the media?

Saying Palin gets coverage because the political press hates the GOP is like saying Amy Winehouse gets coverage because the tabloids hate music, or the Gosselins get coverage because the entertainment press hates reality TV. There's a much simpler explanation: The media covers train wrecks because people enjoy watching train wrecks. (See Jackson, Michael, later years of.)

Actually, it's a bit more complicated than that. Polls show that a lot of people (us smirky sophisticates) loathe Palin but can't turn away when she's in front of a camera -- while a lot of other people (the folks in her base) deeply admire her. So, for the press, covering Palin is win-win. Everybody watches.

If the press just wanted to trash the GOP, there'd be endless rehashings of the Bush years in print and on TV. There'd be lots of stories about hate-spewing right-wing talkers such as Michael Savage (instead, he and other wingnut bloviators operate under an MSM cloak of invisibility, while the existence of Rush Limbaugh is acknowledged only on rare occasions, other than onKeith Olbermann's show). The tales of Larry Craig, David Vitter, Mark Foley, and Ted Haggard wouldn't have disappeared down the memory hole.

Sorry, Peggy -- this is Palin-level anti-media paranoia on your part.

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