Friday, April 1, 2011

Sarah Palin vs. The Lamestream Media

Exciting news from America's favorite two-thirds-term governor:
I've given this a lot of thought, and I'd like to share my thoughts on the never-ending issue of media bias.
Too often the first instinct is to ignore blatant media bias, crudeness, and outright lies, and just hope the media instigator will grow up and provide fairer coverage if you bite your tongue and not challenge the false reporting of an openly hostile press. But I've never bought into that. That's waving the white flag. I just can't do it because I have too much respect for the importance of a free press as a cornerstone of our democracy, and I have great respect for the men and women in uniform who sacrifice so much to defend that First Amendment right. Media, with freedom comes responsibility.
Sounds good so far. A nice message about the importance of standing your ground and speaking your mind and—wait, what was that about the First Amendment?[1]

(Give me a minute…)

Yeah, I can't figure it out. In fact, the whole thing's kind of hard to figure out. She's trying to make two unrelated points at the same time—first, that Bill Maher is an ass (which is hard to argue with), and, second, that the news-oriented elements of the media are biased against conservatives, and I guess women too—and the overall result is a bit of a mess. Not that I'm complaining.
Friends, too often conservatives or Republicans in general come across as having the fighting instinct of sheep.
This is my favorite non-basketball-related line, because what? Which Republicans? These are the same people who used a bill to provide healthcare for 9/11 first responders as a bargaining chip, threatening to let it languish and die (so to speak) unless the Democrats gave them what they wanted.

Anyway, Sarah Palin will have you know that this negative stereotype she just made up most certainly does not apply to her.
I was raised to believe that you don't retreat when you're on solid ground; so even though it often seems like I'm armed with just a few stones and a sling against a media giant, I'll use those small resources to do what I can to set the record straight. The truth is always worth fighting for.
The "stones" she's referring to include Facebook (where she has almost 3 million fans), Twitter (where she has almost 500,000 followers (myself included)), two best-selling books (which have combined to sell over 3 million copies in less than two years), a reality show (which drew an average of 3.2 million viewers per episode), and what I assume is an open invitation to appear on any politically-oriented TV or radio show at any time. The "sling" would be Fox News, America's highest-rated news network, and her current employer.

Governor, I'm moderately familiar with King David. I've read about King David on Wikipedia. I like to think King David would've been a friend of mine. Governor, you're no King David.
The media has always been biased. Conservatives – and especially conservative women – have always been held to a different standard and attacked. This is nothing new. Lincoln was mocked and ridiculed. Reagan was called an amiable dunce, a dangerous warmonger, a rightwing fanatic, and the insult list goes on and on. (But somehow Reagan still managed to win two major electoral landslides…)
To the extent that Palin's missive makes any sense to begin with, this is the second-best illustration of why her reasoning is flawed. She claims conservatives are held to a different standard, then cites two (rather dubious,[2] but that's beside the point) examples of the standard to which conservatives are held, thereby proving exactly nothing. How were their non-conservative opponents treated? (Answer: Similarly.) How did they overcome such overwhelming negative press? (Answer: It probably helped that they also had plenty of positive press.) How is whatever mockery Lincoln endured in any way relevant to contemporary treatment of conservatives? (Answer: It's not. At all.)

The thing is, if she tried hard enough, I'm sure she could make a plausible argument that the media treats conservatives unfairly. But she doesn't do that, I assume because any empirically-observed bias would be, at best, slight, and would therefore undermine her implications that anti-conservative bias is both self-evident and substantial.
Let's just acknowledge that commonsense conservatives must be stronger and work that much harder because of the obvious bias. And let's be encouraged with a sense of poetic justice by knowing that the "mainstream" media isn't mainstream anymore. That's why I call it "lamestream," and the LSM is becoming quite irrelevant, as it is no longer the sole gatekeeper of information.
And this is the best illustration of why her reasoning is flawed. "Let's just acknowledge that commonsense conservatives must be stronger and work that much harder because of the obvious bias," she says, because what are you, some sort of liberal, who lacks the "commonsense" to acknowledge things that are obvious? Naturally, the main propagator of that bias is the "lamestream" media, which, Palin helpfully explains, is so named because "mainstream" is now a misnomer, what with the LSM's increasing irrelevance.

But then, if the mainstream media is no longer mainstream, what is it? And how can an entity that's "becoming quite irrelevant" also be a formidable enemy of conservatives? I mean, honestly. You'd think someone demanding better treatment from the media would try to make her internal contradictions a little harder to find. At the very least, spread it out over multiple paragraphs.
Let's keep pivoting around media bias, and not get distracted with the vulgar personal shots. Even with limited time we can try to call out lies and set the record straight, but always keep the ball moving. No one ever won a game only playing defense.
I have nothing to add to this, except that "Let's keep pivoting around media bias" edges out the sheep thing from earlier for my Favorite Palin Quote of 2011 So Far. While we're at it, let's post up on public-sector unions, and run a pick-and-roll against tax hikes, and execute Phil Jackson's triangle offense to defeat fiscal irresponsibility.
Today, our country is faced with seemingly overwhelming challenges. We have an unsustainable and immoral $14 trillion debt problem which, combined with a self-inflicted energy crisis, could bring America to her knees. The President of the United States is manipulating an energy supply by refusing to develop our U.S. energy resources. Shouldn't that be the media's focus today?
She goes on to suggest a few more things for the media to focus on, like the deficit, unemployment, home foreclosures, the Federal Reserve's recent decision to engage in some quantitative easing, rising gas prices, and our latest messy foreign entanglement.

I'm generally as skeptical as anyone of the media's ability (or willingness) to cover the important stuff, but I'm even more skeptical of Sarah Palin's ability (or willingness) to realistically characterize the extent to which everyone's out to get her, so I conducted a highly unscientific study.[3] I did some Google News searches, restricted to March 19 through March 24—after Maher's juvenile name-calling and before Palin posted her thoughts on Facebook—and got the following results:

Search Term Hits
"United States" "national debt" 646
"United States" energy 32,200
"Barack Obama" energy 10,500
"United States" deficit 4,230
"United States" unemployment 5,330
"United States" foreclosures 1,080
"Federal Reserve" "quantitative easing" 1,040
gas price "per gallon" 5,360
"United States" Libya 27,900
"Barack Obama" Libya 26,600
"Sarah Palin" "Bill Maher" 16

The table proves nothing, except that I've learned how to tinker with column width and text alignment within cells, but I think it does create a rebuttable presumption that the media is not neglecting the real issues to talk about Sarah Palin. The media can and does cover both, and then some, because the media is an expansive, nebulous entity. So expansive and nebulous, in fact, that it should probably be referred to instead as "The Media," with finger quotes and a half-ominous, half-sarcastic tone.

More importantly—and I've touched on this a few times already, but it can't be emphasized enough—Sarah Palin is part of the media. I have a pretty negative opinion of her as a politician, but I do agree that her views are sometimes mischaracterized. Why? Because when she feels her views have been mischaracterized, I hear about it through the media. And when she feels an issue is being neglected, she talks about it through the media. So excuse me if I don't have much sympathy for Sarah Palin here. My sympathies are with the person whose voice is being legitimately suppressed.

Who is that person? I have no idea. That's the point.

1. "First Amendment" is very high on my list of terms that create a rebuttable presumption that the speaker doesn't know what they're talking about. Also on the list: racism, socialism, political correctness, anchor baby, hipster, and rebuttable presumption.
2. I was negative-three years old when Reagan was first elected, and not quite one when he was re-elected, and even I know his opponents were hardly given a free pass by the media. Carter, of course, had spent four years making a mess of everything, and Mondale famously promised to raise taxes, which I'm sure wasn't mischaracterized or blown out of proportion at all.
    As for Lincoln, the only reason he was even mentioned is that he was a Republican 150 damn years ago, when the Republican Party stood for sweeping societal change and federal usurpation of states' rights.
3. Alas, data gleaned from a Google search is far from reliable, considering Google's secrecy regarding their methodology, and the fact that hit counts often behave in seemingly illogical ways (decreasing when the date range is broadened, increasing when the range is narrowed, changing when search terms are reordered, etc.).
    But I'm pretty sure it's still more scientific than Palin's methodology, which is to simply assume there's a perfect overlap between your political agenda and reality.


  1. "i've read about king david on wikipedia" - i laughed, not out loud though.

  2. "Anyway, Sarah Palin will have you know that this negative stereotype she just made up most certainly does not apply to her."

    Favorite line of this blog so far.