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FDL Book Salon Preview: The Rogue – By Joe McGinniss (The Hate Continues)

1:41 am in Uncategorized by EdwardTeller

The Rogue - Searching for the Real Sarah Palin

The Rogue - Searching for the Real Sarah Palin

[This is the extended version of the preface to Sunday's Firedoglake Book Salon, which was limited to about 1,000 words.]

I. Longtime journalist and award-winning author Joe McGinniss’ newest book, The Rogue, is the latest – but by no means last – book about Sarah Palin.  Palin is not only the most famous Alaskan in history, she has uniquely combined political activity, celebrity, motherhood, grandmotherhood, a spousal relationship, borderline religious beliefs, professional victimhood, the American gossip universe, pop culture, legal obfuscation, new media and social networking.  Increasingly known for being thin-skinned and somewhat lacking in spatial awareness,  Palin, more than any American politician in a generation or so, almost begged McGinniss – or any investigative author – to move next door.  As I wrote here last year, a couple of days after McGinniss was able to do just that:

[A]uthor Joe McGinnis, who is writing a critical book about Sarah Palin, was looking for a place in Wasilla to rent this summer, as he continues his research. He was offered the house next door to the Palins’ Lake Lucille cult compound-in-progress. He wasn’t looking for the place. It came looking for him. What would you do?

Having spent time with McGinniss at the crucial point between when he moved in, and the Palins’ reaction to their new neighbor set in concrete the scene for how the book played out, I can say that Joe really was hoping to be able to just be their next-door neighbor.  He did not want to make waves, and was hoping to sit down with Sarah and Todd socially, perhaps professionally, and go through notes with them as work proceeded.  I’m not kidding.

What ended up happening was another over-reaction by Sarah, similar to many those of us who had been watching her for a long time had witnessed before.  Her facebook people went all professional victim for her and, to quote Palin in another context – “Game on!” Read the rest of this entry →

Saradise Lost & Found – Chapter 16: The Open Door Meme and Commentator Competence

2:24 pm in Uncategorized by EdwardTeller

A video posted several places on the web on Monday, The Battle Hymn of Sarah Palin, contains the line “Sarah Palin has the wisdom to walk through an open door.” In the video below on The Young Turks, Cenk Uygur and a colleague go through the entire song. Then they take a look at the lyrics:

The “open door” line actually has important context. This is from a week after the 2008 election, in one of Palin’s first post-election interviews.

So, these people, keyed up on their song, dedicated to “The Tea Party and all their patriots,” have – in this country western homily, in an evangelical church-attending, pre-2010 election environment – not only declared their fealty to the Palin-inspired meme that God will, as Palin beseeched in the November 2008 interview, “open a door” for Sarah, they’ve managed to sneak the metaphor past one of the sharper progressive commentators without notice.Cenk says, “I’ll tell you what, she can walk through a door – OK – she really can.”

Palin had said “God, if there is an open door for me somewhere – this is what I always pray – don’t let me miss the open door. Show me where the open door is. Even if it’s cracked open a little bit, maybe I’ll plow right on through. Maybe prematurely plow through it, but don’t let me miss an open door - in ’12 or four years later. …… I’ll plow through that door.”

Uygur’s misreading of Palin’s coded text, conveyed back through a couple of her acolytes, isn’t entirely surprising. But Cenk’s staff might have googled “Sarah Palin: God, if there is an open door for me somewhere” before producing their segment on the seemingly inane lyrics.

People, like Max Blumenthal, Outside atheist and anti-theocracy bloggers, and some of the Alaska bloggers, have made important observations about those November 2008 lines, and have followed their embedment into her riffs and into the reactions of evangelicals, fundamentalists and charismatic Christians and Christianists to Palin’s ascendancy. It was longtime anti-Christianist and milita movement expert, David Neiwert, who brought this video to light the other day at Crooks & Liars.

On one level, the Battle Hymn of Sarah Palin is hilarious. On others, it is clearly ominous to some of us. More people need to take her Christianist sub-texts seriously.  Here’s Blumenthal’s October 2008 report from Alaska.

She will be doing more coded messaging in the coming weeks, and will be trying to tie it into more statements designed to heighten media attention to her upcoming visit to Israel.  Additionally, Palin has to announce formation of an exploratory committee for the 2012 presidential campaign soon.  My money is on February 6th, the 100th anniversary of the birth of Ronald Reagan, the GOP God she invokes most often.

Whether Palin’s invoking the term “blood libel”  against those who questioned her role last week in the polarization of American politics was a considered move or not (she has highly educated advisors –  Jews such as Randy Scheunemann and Jessica Gavora, and Lebanese-American Rebecca Mansour, who are all familiar with the historical context of the term – so I seriously doubt the words were just thrown in there), the use of this loaded pejorative is not only one mere example of the loaded terms she is wont to use.

Palin is the most divisive and polarizing major American political figure since George Wallace.  And like Wallace and his coded resonance with white racists in the 60s, she uses many terms and code words that are only generally understood by her fundamentalist-evangelical-pentacostal brothers and sisters.  The media at large in the USA is indeed, as Palin terms it, “lamestream” when it comes to having a usable awareness of  both the language her religious followers use, and how they use it.  I’ve observed this as the case for well over  decade now.  I thought the general level of awareness of her theocratically driven views would grow.  It hasn’t.

There’s a danger in that, as the media fluffs her image, to bring in more hits to their sites, and more ad revenue.

Watching Max Blumenthal Grow to be a Major American Writer

2:14 pm in Uncategorized by EdwardTeller

One year ago, as Alaska’s fledgeling progressive blogging community was assisting one Outside writer after another come to terms with just who John McCain’s running mate, then-Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, was, I got a call from one more writer – Max Blumenthal.

David Neiwert had already alerted me that Max would be in Alaska to do research on Palin’s past ties to the Wasilla Assembly of God, and to Rev. Thomas Muthee. I wasn’t nearly as familiar with Max’ previous work as I was with David’s. I was familiar with his July 2007 video, Rapture Ready. I was also aware that Blumenthal had been a key figure in getting the truth out on the 2008 ABC "docu-drama," The Path to 9/11.

Max was able to spend well over a week in Alaska, dividing his time between Anchorage and Wasilla. While he was in Wasilla, he stayed with my wife and me. Our son had just left to go to college in California, and we were in a totally empty nest for the first time. Judy took him in as if he were another son.

Like I had done for a few other reporters, I went with Max to the Wasilla Museum, where Palin had caused an uproar among employees when she was the town’s mayor. I took him to the library, where Palin had let the employees know she wasn’t happy with gay-friendly books. Max noted shelves full of complete sets of the LaHayes/Jenkins Left Behind series. When he asked a librarian if the library had a copy of a book Palin had hoped to ban, Pastor, I Am Gay, by Rev. Howard H. Bess (a local Baptist minister and gay rights activist), Max was told that the library was very full, and didn’t have room for some books.

I also took Max to Chimo Guns in Wasilla, Todd Palin’s favorite gun store. Watching Max sincerely ask store employees and customers his simple, straightforward questions, I began to appreciate the genius Max has for quietly confronting the people he is interviewing, with a disarmingly modest demeanor.

Where I didn’t take Max was to the local churches, where he managed to film some very bizarre practices. As he suited up for his church attendance – putting hidden and not-so-hidden microphones and video cameras on his person, and practicing speaking in tongues by rapidly reciting the first names of Michael Jackson’s siblings, and other made-up words, I couldn’t help but laugh heartily. I realized then that not only is Max charmingly confrontative, he’s very brave.

Max’s two videos made in Alaska, Sarah Palin’s Secessionist Pal Speaks, and In the Land of Queen Esther, rank among the best material gathered about Palin last year. Combined with the work of the California-based Wasilla Project‘s work, Max’s videos helped damn Palin’s image to the truthful niche the McCain campaign should have seen as possibly looming, before she was chosen for the VP candidate slot.

As Max worked on Republican Gomorrah over the 2008-2009 winter and spring, he also began collaborating with Philip Weiss, perhaps the leading figure on the web in the realm of coverage of "American foreign policy in the Middle East, from the progressive Jewish perspective."

While Phil Weiss was in Cairo late last spring, covering President Obama’s speech at Cairo University, Max was in Jerusalem, making a video that was so explosive, it was removed from YouTube, the Huffington Post, and other web sites. The video, Feeling the Hate in Jerusalem on the Eve of Obama’s Cairo Address, is a set of interviews with young Americans and Israelis who have had too much to drink. Their expressions of hatred toward Obama are quite shocking. The fact that they were also into their cups made it convenient for YouTube, Vimeo and Huffington Post to censor Blumenthal’s work.

Blumenthal’s defense of the interviews makes for interesting reading, but the defense itself has been censored from some sites.

Over the summer, Max continued covering aspects of the intersections between politics, hypocrisy, religious superstition and secret or behind-the-scene connections amongst these and other elements of contemporary life. He’s been watching the Tea Party movement. He’s kept an eye on Palin’s sputterings and twitterings, even as he and I have witnessed the seeming demise of some of Palin’s most ardent supporters, most notably, mockumentarian, John Ziegler.

With the publication of Republican Gomorrah, Blumenthal has now emerged as a major writer. Recently it pegged number 15 on the New York Times bestseller list. Perhaps the best proof beyond the book itself that Blumenthal has emerged from the formative period of his writing and video and into maturity, is his short op-ed printed in the New York Times, recently. In it, Max explains how President Dwight Eisenhower was prophetic about how and why the GOP’s new right would depend upon the very elements Blumenthal covers so fully in Republican Gomorrah. Blumenthal notes that in a letter to an ailing Veteran named Robert Biggs, Eisenhower took the trouble to dissect the incompleteness and paranoia that was beginning to consume some GOP religious conservatives:

Eisenhower also recommended a short book — “The True Believer” by Eric Hoffer, a self-educated itinerant longshoreman who earned the nickname “the stevedore philosopher.” “Faith in a holy cause,” Hoffer wrote, “is to a considerable extent a substitute for the lost faith in ourselves.”

Though Eisenhower was criticized for lacking an intellectual framework or even an interest in ideas, he was drawn to Hoffer’s insights. He explained to Biggs that Hoffer “points out that dictatorial systems make one contribution to their people which leads them to tend to support such systems — freedom from the necessity of informing themselves and making up their own minds concerning these tremendous complex and difficult questions.” The authoritarian follower, Eisenhower suggested, desired nothing more than insulation from the pressures of a free society.

Alluding to Senator McCarthy and his allies, Eisenhower pointed out that cold war fears were distorted and exploited for political advantage. “It is difficult indeed to maintain a reasoned and accurately informed understanding of our defense situation on the part of our citizenry when many prominent officials, possessing no standing or expertness as they themselves claim it, attempt to further their own ideas or interests by resorting to statements more distinguished by stridency than by accuracy.”

I’m working my way through Republican Gomorrah. It is easy to read, because of the fluid narrative. It is hard to read, because it quietly, modestly asks the reader, without being at all explicit, "How did we let these dangerous people gain so much control over our lives?"

I’m now reading it side by side with Susan Jacoby’s The Age of American Unreason. They complement each other nicely.

Meanwhile, one of Max’s most endearing qualities, his understated sense of humor is developing too.