Janet Malcolm, professional assassin, has a NYRB review of “Sarah Palin’s Alaska” (now on DVD) that could serve as an entire seminar on the skillful disassemblage of a character. I’m not going to excerpt “Special Needs“, because it should be read as a piece — it’s only two pages, including one of Paul Krugman’s best quotes — but do yourself a favor, click over and read it.
All essayists are vaudevillians to some degree, and the temptation may be almost as strong for bloggers as for the executive editor of the NYTimes. But there’s no requirement that one be a ham. Go read a master artisan reduce the Liberals’ Worst Nightmare to one of Shakespeare’s “rude mechanicals”, a rustic shambling onstage unprepared, toting a genetically compromised political campaign on one hip as both prop and shield — and all without the (obvious) use of nicknames or in-jokes.
I don’t know if Palin employs a professional clipping service, but I wonder if even her in-house google-sweepers might bring Malcolm’s review to her attention. I hope that at least Joe McGinniss (who has his own history with Malcolm) reads it carefully. And I’m very, very glad that I’ll never be a Malcolm target!
Broken bottles fucking hurt. Just sayin’.
In Soviet America, you pay job!
Oh. No. They’ve finally run out of volunteer work at non-profits. I’m done. Goodnight.
She’s convinced it’s the wave of the future in human resources.
Question: has anyone ever referred to anything as “The wave of the future” if they themselves have to deal with it?
I’m not a big fan of this line of attack. What exactly is a woman in her position supposed to do? Hide her Down Syndrome child at home so people won’t say that she is using him as a political prop? Send him to an institution? Sarah Palin is despicable enough in her actions and policy prescriptions that we don’t need to resort to mommy-blaming to criticize her. She’s an idiot who knows nothing about public policy. Let’s focus on that rather than whether she’s a good mother or not.
Not carry her child like a sack of potatoes or pass him off to her daughters when her point is made. Palin has shown a lot of contempt for her youngest child.
Contempt? We can tell what is in her heart, now? So liberals are going to play “blame the mommy game” because it’s someone we despise? Are we going to conduct countertop inspection to check how many hours a day she spend with her baby and how many hours she fob him off to someone else? Seriously, I don’t see any upside to this. She’s stupid and ignorant. Why can’t we just focus on that?
This is going to backfire. It will make her look more sympathetic, and make liberals look like hypocrites who only pretend to care about women.
Barb (formerly Gex)
@ItAintEazy: Oh Christ, I give up. If the business class can just talk like this outright, and still get a significant portion of people to support policies benefiting corporations and the wealthy so they “create jobs”. They should have been more specific, eh? Like jobs that pay.
Unfortunately for employers there are laws that require them to pay people. Poor dears.
+? and not stopping soon if this keeps up
licensed to kill time
I loved this description of the Palin/Gosselin camping trip and it occurred to me that the sticky paste of anxiety is what fuels the brittle bravado of Sarah. It’s what makes her so wary and certain that ‘they’ are out to get her…that anxiety that deep down, she really isn’t good enough or smart enough or that people really don’t like her, gosh darn it. She’s faking it all the time and that must be like walking a highwire without a net while a watchful crowd waits for the foot to slip.
I almost feel sorry for her.
Barb (formerly Gex)
@licensed to kill time: No one can make us live honestly but ourselves. Her choice.
James E Powell
@licensed to kill time:
I could never feel sorry for Palin. She is mean-spirited, she promotes hostile ignorance, and her public career is devoid of any redeeming achievements. Since she became a celebrity, she has done almost nothing to advance the conservative causes that she claims are her mission in life. Instead, everything she does has the single purpose of promoting Sarah Palin.
Wrong time of the year of this I know, but this is wifey’s favorite Christmas carol. And it’s enchanting in Icelandic.
Yes, I know it’s OT but it might be worth it.
Villago Delenda Est
@James E Powell:
Exactly. Palin figured out that the VP candidate gig was, win or lose, a chance to cash in. So she’s doing so, with both fists grubbing as many ducats as she can get.
Totally amoral and lacking in any self restraint, at all. It’s obvious what her true values are. Using her own children as political props in ways that the Clintons and the Obamas wouldn’t dream of doing.
What’s sad is so few see through all this and have figured out that she’s blatantly in it for the money and the attention.
@Yutsano: Enchanting with hot Nordic blonde chicks singing it, too.
That reminds me of this anecdote about Adlai Stevenson:
@Yutsano: Here is my little girls version accompanied only by her guitar. She did it for me a few years back with a very moving photo montage.
Fucen Pneumatic Fuck Wrench Tarmal
sarah palin herself is irrelevant. the only thing that matters is the chunk of underserved electorate that she inspires. either they don’t see through her, or they do, and don’t care, because she is the only one carrying their banner, and to them that is enough.
WTF? That article was unbearably dull. I learned that Sarah Palin’s TV series was probably as idiotic as I’d thought, at the expense of 10 minutes of my life that I’ll never get back.
Thanks, Anne. I have no idea why you think it is such a devastating hit piece. (Or why you even drew out attention to it).
Yevgraf (fka Michael)
beautiful article, but your linkname is too obscure for many folks to hit. I’m going to redo it in a way that everybody will love.
‘Murkan Exceptionalism, bitchez….
Yeah, Unions suck. We need to aspire to the lifestyle of Mississippi.
Great article, and an exceptional post leading to it. Thanks, Anne!
Um…for the record, I’ve been long convinced that Sarah Palin is an arrogantly ignorant snowbilly grifter jackass, well before her “Palin: Alaska” TV series.
Nevertheless, I also think that Janet Malcolm “hit” piece isn’t anywhere remotely as devastatingly effective an assassination of Sarah Palin as you seem to think it is; if anything, Malcolm inadvertently captures the essence of just what so many people DO find attractive about her. A brassy snowbilly who’s sort of full of her own shit, but nonetheless game to do some outdoor stuff and not worry about her makeup, and actually be fun to hang around with for a couple of days. Except for the kind of person who writes reviews for the “NYT Review of Books”, or spends lots of time reading it every Sunday.
I didn’t see it as a hit piece, either. It was actually surprisingly sympathetic.
Reread what Anne wrote; then go read the Malcolm piece. You’ll see that Anne’s not referring to the Baby Jesus Trig. The “genetically compromised political campaign” is conservatism itself.
I’ll join the chorus of people who did not see it as a devastating hit piece. The Palins are an appallingly crass group of grifters and that comes through in the piece. The thing is, we, and everyone who would read that piece, already know that about the Palins. If anything, this piece humanizes her. Ultimately, this won’t change any minds and what I would consider a true, well done hit piece would raise doubts in the minds of supporters and destroy the person in the minds of the undecided. Palin’s clipping service could actually use this to say to her audience, “Look how the elitists talk about. Don’t you just hate them?” If it was intended as a hit piece, I think it missed.
@Suffern ACE: quoted
In a bit of irony, I just saw John Carpenter’s The Thing (on which I have come 180 and now love it) and I can’t do better than the famous You gotta be freakin’ kidding me line.
Davis X. Machina
This is good news, and bad news, in the light of the recent “Is economics a science? Is it even empirical?” debate that’s been making the rounds at places like Mark Thoma’s and Brad DeLong’s.
The good news is that at least some of the axioms of Econ 100 turn out to be empirically true. There is a price at which every market clears, and eventually the market find it.
Too bad the market is for labor, and the price is zero.
Chad N Freude
@Omnes Omnibus: I agree with this. I thought it was — dare I say the word? — balanced. The crassness, the stupidity, the inability to compete with another media phenom, balanced by a humane attitude toward children, “special needs”, and pregnant women in an excruciatingly difficult situation. Malcolm’s tone is witty and sarcastic, but I think Anne overstates the “skillful disassemblage of a character”.
@Ija: Your point is valid, but she does use the child in many of her appearances as a prop to show her wonderfulness, a kind of flag-waving, and I think that’s worthy of criticism.
@Davis X. Machina: The market price for labor may be less than zero. Barbara Ehrenreich’s “Nickeled and Dimed” in the future might be a fairy tale…a look back to the time when workers actually had dimes to fleece.
Yeah, I read Malcolm’s piece already. I think it was Sully who linked to it, & he also described it as a masterful hatchet-job full of withering scorn or whatever. And I’m just not seeing it. Not only is it not combative or even adversarial, it’s also not witty, funny, or particularly interesting. Clicked on the comments here to see if, maybe, someone had pointed out something I musta missed … doesn’t look like it.
That article was reason number one why liberals should own guns.
We need a fucking Revolution, and those sonsabitches doing that shit will the first against the bullet riddled wall.
Chalk me up as another who read it and didn’t get nearly the same thrill. I get that the review shows that the whole series pushes a particular brand of cultural resentment, but I didn’t find it cutting or witty.
This is actually a much better observation than anything in Malcolm’s piece. Well done.
@Ija: Ija, as other people have pointed out, neither the post or the article is contemptuous of Downs people or their families.
This is neither a hit piece or an example of journalistic assassination, but it’s a pretty damn good article that illustrates, to remarkably eerie effect, Palin’s brittle, reactive character. And it’s probably the only article in existence that makes Kate Gosselin look not-evil.
I’ve been trying to figure out why anyone would think that is a hit piece on Palin. It seems to hit mostly the other woman whining about everything. Maybe saying Palin owns a bear rug and a rifle and camps in the rain are hits to some people? It seems possible that progressives are maybe getting a little denatured and should go stand in the rain for a few minutes. We going to lose if this looks like a hit piece to most of us.
Also, moose tube steaks!
@Omnes Omnibus: Agreed. In the section about Palin considering an abortion the author ignores the hypocrisy but instead paints a sympathetic picture.
The issue is not that Palin made once choice or another, the issue is that she would deny to others the right to make any choice at all. She and her fellow travelers are working hard to pass legislation to subject women to invasive, unnecessary medical procedures, force them to discuss personal issues with strangers whose only goal is to talk them out of it, and, lose the ability to say “I’m out of town. No one knows I’m pregnant. No one would ever have to know.”
I think it is absolutely fair game to talk about Palin’s poor parenting. She made it an issue and continues to do so.
If she wants people to sympathize with her hard choices, then she needs to be called out on her outrageous hypocrisy when she condemns the choices of others.
licensed to kill time
@James E Powell:
@Barb (formerly Gex):
Guys, I said I almost felt sorry for her.
Parts leading up to the actual talking about the show were good. The part talking about the show, meh.
@Yutsano: Thanks! I’m a little low on the female versions. It’s lovely.
@nancydarling: Wow. Your daughter’s voice is amazing. Mind if I use it in my collection this Xmas when I inevitably post a zillion versions of it?
@asiangrrlMN: Feel free siangrrlMN. Also check out some of her other stuff, some original, some covers. Her voice reminds me a lot of Eva Cassidy, RIP.
I think Sarah Palin is doing what a lot of people do nowadays: spinning her (to some) charismatic personality to make money. I always thought Keven Federline was an arrogant punk of extremely modest talent, but F-me if he didn’t make a lot of money with his schtick (while bedding two lovely women). Paris Hilton, already equipped with sacks of money, has done largely the same thing: taken advantage of the fascination some people feel for her. Believe me, this is not said to defend Sarah. I truly detest her (insert usual BJ reasons here), but I am perhaps having something of an epiphany about her; namely, she is doing what lots of other people do or would do (making money in fairly easy fashion). Unfortunately, she is doing so in an especially acidic, divisive, mean-spirited fashion that is causin harm to our society. What do y’all think? For what it’s worth, I am more aligned to Ija’s thinking: picking on Palin for what may well be self-serving presentation of her sympathetic child does not serve our cause particularly well, even if her motivation is highly sketchy.
Chipping in to agree with “not a hit piece.” The whole Gosselin bit was a very… urban take. I’m a committed city-dweller myself, but I love camping and Malcolm came across as more snide towards nature than she did towards Palin.
I agree. Why did she waste a third of the essay talking about Kate Gosselin, who I know nothing about besides she has eight kids and divorced her husband? That part sounded like a review of I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here!, which probably doesn’t get the NYT Book Review treatment.
@ Chad N Freude:
I always thought Palin used Trig like a back-up flag lapel pin.
That editorial was crap. Gosselin is good because she demands central heating, pesticides, and hot dogs full of not-meat? Palin is bad because, not sure why, really… I suppose it’s because she was trying too hard to have an interesting tv show.
Complete waste of time, reading that.
Umm…NO. Not quite, anyway.
Janet Maslin and Sarah Palin are two sides of the same wooden nickel in this…this…OK, I have no idea what to call it. Maslin certainly stakes her turf in this piece, equally with Palin’s own. So Maslin’s crowd of Wall Streeters and NY literati cannot relate to Palin’s crowd of hardscrabble gun-toting numbskulls? So what? This is nothing we didn’t already know.
As for Gosselin, Palin deliberately baited her out there to provide an easy target for her own supposed “salt-of-the-earth” mystique. But that’s all it is–mystique, and prefab at that (Palin, from what I understand, actually hates the Great Outdoors as much as Gosselin seems to; I have heard Palin did not in fact kill the bear that provides her rug, and indeed may not even know how to properly handle a firearm either).
Even so, Maslin does not acquit herself well with this hit-piece. She does the exact opposite: in trying to smear Palin, she manages to elevate every stupid stereotype of city-dwellers that represents Palin’s stock in change.
On that note, I detest Sarah Palin, but if this article is any indicator, I’d dearly enjoy being a target of Janet Maslin’s arrogant wrath any day. I would be assured of getting the best publicity no money would be needed to buy.
Especially if I was named Sarah Palin.
Spaceman Spiff: This was Malcolm, not Maslin … but never mind. Your last 2 paragraphs really make an excellent point.