Punchinello’s Chronicles

September 17, 2008

The Palin Phenomenon: Construction or Reaction?

Filed under: View from the Bottom — Punchinello @ 2:26 am
Tags: , , , ,

What’s the role of a journalist? Do they create stories or do they learn about a story and tell it to us? Do they report on a story or do they explain it? Are journalists supposed to be leaders or followers? Are journalists a cause or an effect?

Sarah Palin is the governor of Alaska, picked to be John McCain’s running mate. That’s the basic story. Following her acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention, a whole bunch of people have become interested in her views, thoughts, ideas, background, agenda, plans, family, and everything else.

The question is whether or not all those people became interested because of the media, or whether the media is reporting that a whole bunch of people are interested. I’m hearing about the Palin phenomenon and that it likely will be a bubble that bursts. Journalists and editorialist, two very different things, tell us that Ms. Palin will be a short-term wonder, like so many other news stories.

Oh really!

From having watched news change in the past couple of decades to mostly commentary and editorial opinion, I wonder. It seems to me that so many so-called journalists actually believe they have the power to create or destroy a story. They can create interest in Sarah Palin, then remove that interest. Is that even remotely their job, their business, or their function?

These editorializing journalists are upset. They wish Palin had “skyrocketed” across the American political scene earlier, so that after the obligatory few weeks of “notoriety,” she would sink back into basic anonymity. To them, it’s unfortunate that Barack Obama has been “in the news” for nearly a year and a half, and that’s why people are becoming bored with him.

How did Mr. Obama end up in the news for all that time? Who made the decision to write national stories about nothingness, empty air, and so forth? How did Mr. Obama become such a phenomenon if not because of the media? Ah, and that’s the point! The media created Barack Obama, but they didn’t “create” Sarah Palin! And they’re just mad, mad, mad about it!

Isn’t it these journalists that have continually jammed Mr. Obama down our throats? The more we see the man speak, the more we discover he’s not very interesting, has no real ideas, and never explains anything. That’s news, but nobody calls it news. Instead, they attribute Sarah Palin’s explosive popularity to being a “media phenomenon,” as if they created it all by themselves.

Conservatives are constantly amazed at the complete and utter lack of perceptive capability in the mainstream press. Ms. Palin isn’t a “phenomenon,” she’s an actual conservative speaking out about core conservative values. That’s unusual, odd, and certainly not something we’ve encountered all that much, but it isn’t some one-week wonder of a story.

Talk radio also became a phenomenon, as did Rush Limbaugh and other conservative talkshow hosts. The general media still believes this is just a fad and will go away when people get tired or bored with hearing “the same old thing.” What would hold people’s interests instead?

Core values aren’t a phenomenon. Religious faith, principles of science, fundamental principles, all are the foundation by which many people live their lives. Liberalism, based on feelings passing through in a biochemical wave, has no such long-term basis. To the liberal, a feelings-based values person, nothing at all lasts more than someone’s attention span.

The tremendous interest in Governor Palin and what she has to say isn’t a bubble. It has nothing whatsoever to do with the media journalists reporting on that interest. The media didn’t “cause” the public interest in Sarah Palin, like they caused the public awareness of Barack Obama. Since they didn’t cause anything, they don’t understand how it came to happen. They wish it would go away, and so they denigrate the entire story by calling it a phenomenon.



  1. Kind of interesting that interest in Palin has already started to subside.Probably because the more people find out about her the more they realize that she’s sort of a little extreme on the uber-conservative fundamentalist side. We’ll see how this all turns out.

    Comment by bobwilson1977 — September 18, 2008 @ 5:44 pm | Reply

  2. I don’t think that being conservative goes hand-in-hand with extremism or fundamentalism, nor that Palin is either of those. The media frenzy likely is dying down, but that bears little relationship with the actual level of interest in the country at large.

    I think the media will stop reporting as much, hopefully only reporting hard news stories, and that the reduction in stories will accompany their own “analysis” that the “phenomenon” is dying down. It’s just their attempt to reduce the conservative point of view to less than relevant.

    Comment by Punchinello — September 18, 2008 @ 10:14 pm | Reply

  3. I agree that Extremism and fundamentalism don’t necessarily go hand in hand.But I think there’s a limit to how far the general public likes to see candidates go in one direction, regardless of party or whether they’re liberal or conservative. There are certainly extreme liberals like Kucinich. There’s also extreme conservatives. At least in my opinion, Mrs. Palin steps a little too far into conservative territory. Not to say that what she might personally believe is bad, but she needs to make it more palletable to the general public.

    However, I think the bigger problem for her is the shady way that she’s handling the investigation regarding the “troopergate” story. Its generally not a good idea to make claims of being transparent and open only to then decide to refuse participation in a seemingly small case. Had she simply agreed to participate and get it over with, the public would probably be more forgiving. I remember when she came forth with the fact that her 17 year old daughter was pregnant out of wedlock, it actually worked in her favor as making her look ” more human”. It made her appear like she was ” one of us” who also make mistakes. That she isn’t taking the same route with this investigation is doing the opposite to the publics trust for her.It automatically makes the public assume that there’s some significance to the story.Perhaps there is. Honestly, I don’t trust her either.

    Anyhow, I think your analysis of reporting is spot-on. You do get this sense that the media in many ways tried to become “saviors” for the people.

    Comment by bobwilson1977 — September 19, 2008 @ 9:53 am | Reply

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