Sunday, November 28, 2010

Is Sarah Palin Being Defensive?

Despite herself, Lizzie Wurtzel confessed a grudging admiration for Sarah Palin. She was drawn to Palin because, to her mind, Palin does not take s#*t from anyone. Which is both true and fair. Link here.

Wurtzel is right to admire a woman who can stand up for herself and defend her dignity without engaging in histrionic displays, without pretending to be a man, without complaining about the injustice of it all, and without relying on a male presence to back her up.

One should mention that all human beings are constantly being put in positions where they need to stand up for themselves and defend their dignity from insults and indignities.

It is very difficult to do this, to assert oneself, while remaining dignified.

We also recall that Jaclyn Friedman recommended that women who are being shamed by others should respond by turning the tables, by shaming them. Link here.

Shame is a wondrous weapon, but it must be used judiciously. There’s shaming and there’s shaming. If you are going to do it as flagrantly and openly as Nicola Briggs did on that New York subway train, you have best be sure that someone has your back. Link here.

And it is also important to note that responding to a criminal assault is not the same thing as responding to an insult.

One can only wonder whether Friedman would agree that Sarah Palin effectively shamed the mainstream media when she chose an interesting way to respond to yet another of its attacks on her intelligence?

Several days ago on the Glenn Beck program Sarah Palin misspoke. She confused North and South Korea. She did it during an extended conversation about recent events on the Korean peninsula. Her error was only one of the many references Palin had correctly made to the two Koreas. Within seconds she corrected herself.

Of course, the mainstream media pounced on Palin and declared that the incident proved that she was too stupid to be president.

I will mention in passing that calling people stupid, demeaning their intelligence, is also a shaming tactic. It is not quite the same thing as the kind of shaming we are talking about here, because it does not involve defending your dignity. It is a gratuitous slur, not an assertion of dignity.

So, Palin chose to fight back, on her Facebook page, by posting the following parody. She, or one of her media advisers, wrote out a mock-Thanksgiving proclamation that might have been given by President Barack Obama. The statement contains a dozen or so of Obama's more egregious errors, errors that the media has happily ignored.

Here is Palin’s text: “My fellow Americans in all 57 states, the time has changed for come. With our country founded more than 20 centuries ago, we have much to celebrate – from the FBI’s 100 days to the reforms that bring greater inefficiencies to our health care system. We know that countries like Europe are willing to stand with us in our fight to halt the rise of privacy, and Israel is a strong friend of Israel’s. And let’s face it, everybody knows that it makes no sense that you send a kid to the emergency room for a treatable illness like asthma and they end up taking up a hospital bed. It costs, when, if you, they just gave, you gave them treatment early, and they got some treatment, and ah, a breathalyzer, or an inhalator. I mean, not a breathalyzer, ah, I don’t know what the term is in Austrian for that…” Link here.

The original post has links that will take you to Youtube videos of Obama making these verbal gaffes.

In truth, Palin was not primarily mocking Obama. She was shaming the journalists and media commentators who pretend not to notice when Barack Obama misspeaks, but who fly into full attack mode whenever a Republican makes even a minor error.

Palin is responding to an insult. She is shaming the journalists by pointing out, in a charming way, that they lack journalistic integrity.

Palin is being charming, not whiny or complainy, because in most everyday situations, you cannot defend your dignity by looking undignified yourself. A successful defense draws attention to the person you want to diminish and only to that person.

It all seemed pretty clear to me, almost to the point where it was not even very controversial.

Nevertheless, this morning I was reading conservative blogger Jennifer Rubin, currently with the Commentary blog, soon to be with the Washington Post blog. Here‘s how Rubin described Palin‘s mock-presidential proclamation: “More defensiveness from Sarah Palin. Not helpful for a presidential contender. Dead-on for a conservative community organizer.” Link here.

Respectfully, I disagree. To me Palin’s statement is anything but defensive. If you read down her post you will read the rationale for her action: “When we the people are effective in holding America’s free press accountable for responsible and truthful reporting, then we shall all have even more to be thankful for!”

Shouldn’t the press be held accountable for its own bias? Most of us leave the job to media critics, but is it really that bad for a politician to fight back, to defend herself with humor? Is it helpful to call her defensive for doing so? Would it be better if she just shrunk into the corner and took it?

The real issue is not whether this makes Palin a better or worse candidate. It concerns how you should defend your pride self-respect when they are under attack.

I will add that Rubin’s last phrase: “Dead-on for a conservative community organizer” is a bit too snarky even for me. It almost seems like Rubin feels a need to take Palin down a notch herself.


Anonymous said...

If Palindrome doesn't act to enhance her credentials with independent voters, who else will? The MSM? RINOs? I read Jennifer Rubin's comment and came to the same conclusion as you. The trick for her is to avoid any real missteps.

I was struck by an online video of Chris Christie on some night time talk show and how, for him, this might not be a mistake. He is risking the loss of his stature by doing what Palin must do.

So far Palin has demonstrated that she has opinions, some on some esoteric stuff like the economy and the Fed, she has been able to express her opinions in terms that all of us can understand, and as a result she is moving the debate in her direction as a result. Not bad for someone not in office. I think she will ultimately upstage her detractors and has a very real shot at being our next president.
Steve G

Anonymous said...

Pardon my spell checker.