I was one of the 5 million viewers that caught Sarah Palin’s Alaska Reality TV show last night. As one would expect, Alaska effectively mixed a number of conservative informed Sarahisms with a scripted version of her common man family life. If you consider common having airplanes pull up to your dock to fly you off to Denali for a day, or a luxury RV trucking you around the Alaskan Outback or having a TV studio room in your home so husband Todd can video you for this afternoons Fox News segment, Sarah is pretty much like the rest of us.
As America’s foremost conservative political celebrity, Alaska keeps the myth of Sarah alive and well. America’s impish sweetheart, Sarah is the adoring girl next door who might become president. Alaska will showcase Sarah in a most positive light to reinforce her connection with the millions of hockey moms and Joe the wannabe plumbers who can’t get enough of the Momma Grizzly in Chief. The segment I watched followed Sarah and family through a typical week of quality family time and the demanding work political celebrity requires. Last nights segment showed Sarah and Todd scaling Denali, navigating cravasse laden glaciers, baking cookies, RVing around with the extended family (while ignoring each other as they texted on Blackberries) fishing for sockeye and watching momma grizzles (brown bears actually) defend their young. Alaska combines image interlaced with conservative messaging that is produced to give Sarah’s countrymen reason to pause to consider what her role will be in America’s most compelling tale of political theater.
I’m will attempt to record some of Sarah’s comments from the show that capture the spirit and thoughts of this great political thespian.
The following Sarahisms were spoken last night:
On a journalist who rented a house next door to write an unflattering book about Sarah.
“He spies on us. So Todd built this fence to block his view. See how easy it is to keep the undesirables out.” If only Sarah were governor of Arizona, Texas, New Mexico and California. Maybe we can make her Viceroy of Southern Territories, Prefect for The Gadsden Purchase.
Returning from a day of flying over Denali with family, disembarking plane and going into the house.
Said Sarah to her youngest daughter, “See the nosy journalist neighbor trying to get a good look at us. He was stuck in his house all day while we were out having fun.” Girls just wanna have fun.
On a gate that blocks access to upstairs rooms for baby Tripp.
“See this gate, it keeps boys out of upstairs bedrooms.” Kinda like closing the barn door after the horse got out?
On watching a mother brown bear chase off another brown bear getting too close to her young cubs.
“See how the momma grizzly protects the future of the species.” If only the oil companies would be so concerned.
On Todd landing a sockeye during their fishing expedition.
“Thats the way it should be. A man brings home the bacon to his family.” Whats TLC, Fox and Sarah’s PAC get paid with, chopped liver?
On Todd when he was video taping Sarah for a Fox News segment.
“Todd don’t speak much. He’s a man of few words but when he speaks he really got something to say. His words carry real weight. Still waters run deep.” So the First Iron Doggin Dude can actually speak! No Comment.
When Sarah was rock climbing, her progress was momentarily halted.
“I got to keep going. Nobody is going to rescue me.” At least she was attached to a safety rope. Thats more protection offered the millions of people falling through the cracks of America everyday.
Can’t wait till next week.
You Tube Music Video: Northern Exposure Theme
Risk: political theater
Everybody knows the story about Shoeless Joe Jackson. When the infamous Chicago “Black Sox” star Joe Jackson emerged from the courtroom after admitting his guilt for taking money to throw the 1919 World Series, a boy implored his hero to uphold the integrity of the game by asking, “say it ain’t so Joe.” A newspaper account reports that a shame filled Shoeless Joe admitted his guilt to the crestfallen young fan before walking away through a raucous crowd. The next day, Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis kicked Shoeless Joe out of the game and forever banned his name from inclusion in the Hall of Fame. Such are the wages for the actions of unscrupulous cheaters.
On learning the news about Keith Olbermann’s suspension from MSNBC I feel like that young adoring fan. I refuse to believe that my favorite news commentator would violate the sacred tenant of a free press and compromise his integrity by making financial contributions to candidates running for public office.
The reported amounts of dollars Olbermann reportedly contributed to 3 democratic congressional candidates is minuscule. Citizens are limited to a contribution ceiling of $2,400 per candidate and Olbermann allegedly hit that limit in support of two candidates from Arizona and one in Kentucky.
Its hard to believe that Olbermann would compromise his integrity for such a paltry sum. If these allegations are true, the greater irony is that as a result of his ill considered action, the priceless value of Olbermann’s nightly critique of reactionary republicanism is now jeopardized. The risk of losing a vital and robust voice of progressive politics on a major cable channel is a real possibility. This one really hurts.
Some have offered a defense for Olbermann by pointing to Fox News extreme partisanship and financial support of Republican candidates. Rupert Murdock reportedly made a $1 million contribution to the Republican Governors Association and point to Glenn Beck’s Tea Party activism or the use of GOP leaders like Karl Rove and Sarah Palin as paid political commentators. This argument misses the point about Olbermann’s trespass. Like the Juan William’s dust-up after his termination from NPR, Olbermann’s transgressions falls into the same category. Olbermann violated a term of his employment that prohibits news reporters from making contributions to political candidates. In my mind that’s a fair rule if a network wants to maintain a semblance of objectivity. We expect news professionals of Mr. Olbermannn’s stature to uphold a level of integrity that protects the sacred mission of the free press in a free society. Edward R. Murrow would expect nothing less. Olbermann’s violation of the rule prohibiting contributions to political candidates goes to the heart of a compromised free press. With no transparency or disclosure, Olbermann’s actions has demeaned the MSNBC brand by compromising its ability to present the news without fear of favor. There is no equivocation or quid pro qou when it comes to upholding the standards of excellence for ethical behavior.
We know where Fox News stands in its political deposition. We also know the space that MSNBC tries to occupy. Fox’s shameless partisianship is not the issue. Fox’s corporate rules of behavior and standards of ethics for employees is not the issue. The issue is MSNBC’s standards of ethics for its employees and how they enforce those standards when they are broken. If Mr. Olbermann violated that ethical standard he should in all good conscience resign from MSNBC.
Please, say it ain’t so Keith. Please.
You Tube Music Video: Ludwig Von Beethoven: 9th Symphony, 2nd Movement
Risk: free press, ethics, disclosure, transparency
The dismissal of Juan Williams from his correspondent position at NPR is a watershed event. Conservative pundits will be screaming about First Amendment rights and the abuses of government controlled media. Mr. Williams was fired by NPR for violating guidelines on a statement he made as a paid commentator on Fox News “The O’Reilly Factor.” When asked about the racial profiling of Muslim’s Mr. Williams stated:
“I mean, look, Bill, I’m not a bigot. You know the kind of books I’ve written about the civil rights movement in this country,” Williams said Monday. “But when I get on a plane, I got to tell you, if I see people who are in Muslim garb and I think, you know, they are identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried. I get nervous.”
At first glance it seems to be pretty innocuous stuff. Mr. Williams citing his unease at seeing a woman of the veil on an airplane is well within his First Amendment right to do so. The fact that I consider Mr. Williams fear to be based on a prejudice that prejudges someone based on appearances is beside the point. Its synonymous with police officers stopping motorists on interstate highways because of their race. The crime of driving while black should not be sufficient to infringe a persons right to privacy or impede their safe passage. Mr. Williams has the right to express those fears and prejudices and I will defend his right to do so.
Mr. Williams employer NPR also has a right to require that employees conform to certain guidelines that support the mission of a public news organization. NPR requires that its employees refrain from making public editorial pronouncements on public media outlets. It is understood that editorializing correspondents may injure or cause harm to the NPR brand as a trusted source of objective reporting. As such NPR is well within its right to protect its franchise by removing Mr. Williams from his position as a correspondent. Professional athletes and corporate executives all have clauses in their employment contracts that stipulate unbecoming conduct that hurts the company franchise is grounds for dismissal. NPR exercised that clause.
What is interesting about this event is the contrast of journalistic standards practiced by NPR and Fox. NPR receives some government funding and was originally chartered to assure that radio broadcast services would be available to the smaller rural markets ignored by commercial radio. Recently NPR programming consists of thoughtful up market features that has less mass appeal for profit oriented radio media outlets. Its news programing, All Things Considered and Morning Edition offered in depth reportage that is thoughtful, fair and balanced. It strives to be objective and for the most part is.
The contrast with Fox News is striking. Belying its marketing handle of “fair and balanced reporting”, Fox News is anything but fair or balanced. I find Fox News to be a consistent platform for the conservative movement and as such it’s reporting is hardly objective. Its commentators routinely express an opinion on the news that is editorial in nature. Fox News has built a profitable franchise on its editorial positions and its assemblage of commentators (Rove, Hannity, Beck, O’Reilly, Palin) that eagerly express the political bias of its corporate parent News Corp. Fox News correctness has been vindicated in the marketplace of ideas as its corporate sponsors and large viewer ship endorses its editorial positions.
The complex amalgam of the commercial viability of media channels, the branding of ideas, news as objective reportage, editorialism as a media commodity and the subtle distinction of opinion versus news are issues laying at the heart of Juan Williams dismissal from NRP. Though fired from NPR for expressing an opinion that NPR thought unfair and hurtful to Muslims, Fox News awarded Mr. Williams a $3 million contract to expand his presence with the fair and balanced network. Clearly the free market of ideas confirms that Mr. Williams prejudice and intolerance toward Muslims advances the commercial interests of Fox News.
Its alarming that the value of prejudice and intolerance is rising and that major corporate brands like News Corp find it so intrinsically linked to it he price of its stock as a publicly traded company. Truly a disturbing example of bankruptcy of the free market of ideas.
You Tube Music Video: Mott the Hoople, All The Young Dudes
Risk: free speech, commercial media, objective reporting, prejudice
The captain of Team Alaska has quit in mid season to the astonishment and dismay of many. At a press conference yesterday, the irascible Sarah “The Barracuda” Palin said she dished her last assist to the states inside big man Lieutenant Governor Sean Parnell. Fans and teammates of Sarah the Barracuda are miffed wondering how the talented point guard and team captain could just walk away after driving to the hoop for the last time.
Elected by fans only two years ago, the Barracuda has had enough. The game got to her; pointed elbows, hard fouls, and a nagging slew of injuries, stresses and minor hurts led her to chuck in the towel. According to some, “The Barracuda never seemed to live up to her self proclaimed abilities as a high scoring tough team leader who could always be counted on to be a game changer. The Barracuda said she would always bring her A Game; now she just quit and took the ball home with her. What a loser.”
In last Novembers contest against the powerful Chicago Machine, the Barracuda was outscored and outclassed by a much more seasoned team. During the contest, the Barracuda at times seemed confused and way out of her depth. It was readily apparent to many that she was not ready for prime time big time. Though she did well well with Hockey Mom’s, plumbers and guys named Joe who drank six packs of beer; her gaffs and inexperience showed on the court. This started a reversal of the Barracuda’s fortunes that she never really recovered from and her season went into a tailspin.
Though the Barracuda quit on Team Alaska she is expected to join Team Fox. Team Fox would love to have the Barracuda on its team. Filled with many liberal media pundits like Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly and Karl Rove; Fox is looking for a conservative voice like the Barracuda to create a more fair and balanced presentation of its news, reportage and editorial offering.
You Tube Video: Harlem Globetrotters, Sweet Georgia Brown
One of the more disturbing Gospel passages for me appears in the fifth chapter of Mark. It is the story of Legion; a man possessed of many demons. Legion lived amongst tombstones and took to cutting himself. The townsfolk were terrified of Legion and bound him with chains. Legion would break his chains and he could be heard howling and cursing his fate as he roamed the night in lonely exile through his mountainous domain.
One day Legion saw Jesus approaching the village and went to him begging not to torment him. Jesus saw that the man was possessed of demons and commanded them to leave the stricken Legion. When the illness left Legion the demons asked Jesus if they could inhabit a heard of pigs foraging nearby. Jesus consented and the pigs went mad and rushed off a cliff into the sea where all the pigs drowned.
Though the story may be the first accounting of a human sickness causing a swine flu infestation it always bothered me. Jesus’ consent to infect a heard of innocent pigs whose sickness compelled them to leap to their deaths is disturbing. Perhaps there is a cultural justification to the story for the prohibition of eating pork and the classification of pigs as haraam but upon rereading the story, it was the desire of the illness to enter the swine. The story is a wonderful examination of the non-discriminate nature of illnesses and disease. Jesus provides the reader with an important lesson not to shut out the ill and to take considered action to engage the malady to effect the cure.
Who amongst us does not have demons or illness lurking within? Indeed we are all Legion. As a person in recovery, I identify with Legion’s state of possession and find great comfort in Jesus’ example of the necessity to heal. He rebuked the use of chains, showed tenderness and empathy to the infirm. He effected the cure and commanded the ill to rejoin the the community as a whole and healthy human being. John Donne’s Meditation 17 is very similar in the importance of community in dealing with illness and tribulation.
Jesus’ understanding of illness and his example as a healer stands in direct contradiction to some of the inane proscriptions for dealing with the swine pandemic that have been put forward. Guided by fear and the desire to politicize the pandemic some politicians are using the swine flu as an opportunity to collect some political capital. The Stepford Republican Congresswoman Michelle Bachman; observed with great intelligence and insight that the the last swine flu outbreak occurred while another democratic administration held the White House. Ms. Bachman apparently suspects that the pandemic may be politically inspired and connected to the platform of the Democratic Party in some way.
Twitter and other social networking sites are alive with tweets proclaiming this is evidence of another terrorist attack. Ive seen a bunch of tweets stating this pandemic is clear evidence of Al-Qaeda activity in Mexico using our open borders to destroy America.
This type of thinking is very dangerous. I remember when AIDS first surfaced as a disease. Little was known about its origins and causes. What was known was that many Gay men were becoming infected with the disease and if I recall correctly it was referred to as the Gay influenza or virus. This categorization of AIDS stigmatized the disease and those who were infected. This stigmatization contributed to the spread of the disease because homosexuals who were infected with AIDS would avoid treating the disease because of guilt and shame. Non-gay men who were infected with the disease may have been slow to seek treatment because they believed themselves not to be infected because they did not engage in homosexual activities. In either case the misinformation, stigma and shame attached to the disease by people for the purpose of political gain were responsible for the spread of the disease.
The howling yodelers of Talk Radio and Fox News are also crowing about the political dimensions of the flu. Some want an immediate closure of our borders and question the political resolve of of the Obama Administration to live up to their pledge to protect the Homeland. Glen Beck of FOX TV states that President Obama is a prisoner of his liberal PC convictions. Beck cries through a river of alligator tears about the failure to close the borders is synonymous with an act of sedition that seeks to destroy America.
While Mr. Beck professes a great love for his country he demonstrates a poor understanding of what distinguishes America. Just lurking underneath the surface of Mr. Beck’s demagoguery is blaming Mexicans for the pandemic just as Ms. Bachman blame of democrats for the spread of the disease. Science instructs that illness is an equal opportunity malady. It does not discriminate on the basis of people place or color.
In Mark’s story about Legion, Jesus took action. Jesus didn’t say use a more study chain nor did he say build a wall around us to protect us from this scourge. No Jesus touched Legion. In story after story Jesus touched lepers, blind people, crippled and the dead to cure them. Jesus was available during his ministry to all people and allowed others to touch him so that their faith would free them from their demons. Jesus understood that a wall of ostracism is a poor defense from a pandemic. Ironically its isolation that incubates the disease of body, mind and soul. Jesus stressed that the ill be part of the community to witness and teach others about restoration, rehabilitation, the importance of action and the need to serve.
Politicizing problems obfuscates solutions. The mother of fear is ignorance and the thinking exemplified by Ms. Bachman and Mr. Beck is enough to create 10 pandemics of fear, suspicion and resentment. Little do they realize the real gold that can be mined through the challenge of tribulation. We’ll close with these words from John Donne’s Meditation 17.
Another man may be sick too, and sick to death, and this affliction may lie in his bowels, as gold in a mine, and be of no use to him; but this bell, that tells me of his affliction, digs out and applies that gold to me: if by this consideration of another’s danger I take mine own into contemplation, and so secure myself, by making my recourse to my God, who is our only security.
You Tube Video: Louis Armstrong, St. James Infirmary
Risk: isolation, politicization, ignorance