July 4, 2009
Palin: At the End of the Roll
(The write-up below was composed last September 13th in the aftermath of the Republican Convention, although for some reason I never posted it. It had to do with the disconnect between Palin’s lightweight personality and biography as compared to the aura and dramatic story lines spun up around and about her. I think what happened yesterday — telegraphed in various expressions of antipathy toward the media and her critics throughout Palin’s bizarre resignation ramble, is that “the roll” finally ended. In other words, I believe Palin had/felt so little “teflon” left that, as an accountable and now thoroughly scrutinized elected official, there was just no place left to hide.)
From The Get by Steve Coll at The New Yorker:
The occasion of the Alaska governor’s début before the national media called for a lightly edited, extended one-on-one, aired on a single night, so that American voters might assess the candidate’s answers and demeanor in full. Instead, apparently to maximize ratings and branding opportunities, ABC doled out Palin sound bites on six network broadcasts over two days, as well as in supplemental ABC Radio and Web releases. In the end, [ABC President David] Westin exploited the Governor’s moose-hunting, baby-juggling appeal as if she were a magnetic contestant on one of the network’s prime-time reality shows—“Extreme Makeover: White House Edition.”
Collusion is certainly part of the problem, and corporate media must be called on it (for what that’s worth).
But Palin — as this remarkably still-fresh, RNC-inspired illustration from the previous week’s New Yorker emphasizes — is a reality show. Sixteen days out, her visage continues to permeate the media sphere, as the electricity — primed by biographical fairy tales tightly bound to visual spin aimed at the right brain — continues to trump the reams of qualifying or damaging information that is streaming out.
The crossed arms on two screens and in the larger caricature reflects her inherent defensiveness and hostility. The fish “that big” and the hand gestures on “Bridge to Nowhere” call out the chronic double speak. The way the eyes track in relation to the angle of her head speaks to how well she knows where the camera is (while the disappearing neck telegraphs the underlying reality of “the empty suit.”)
In real life as well, one can easily sense all this, but still she rolls.
(Photo removed and post amended 12:15 am PST, 7/3/09)
(illustration: Steve Brodner/The New Yorker. September 15, 2008. Accompanying: Convention Wisdom by Nancy Franklin. p. 84)