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Political InQueery: CreepMatch 2010

alaska state capitolI had the occasion to visit Juneau, the capitol of Alaska, last August, and within five minutes of seeing the city, declared that McCain's people must have lost their continence when they landed there, knowing that no way was this Sarah Palin thing going to end up well. Because honestly, the place is so small, so isolated, so everything that Washington, DC isn't, that there would have to be armies of people on hand to get Ms. Palin up to speed on how to run a vice presidential campaign. And in hindsight, it's a lot to expect of anyone that teams of condescending DC staffers wouldn't produce some bitterness. Just maybe not the kind of bitterness Palin is dishing out in her ghostwritten memoir.

But as anyone concerned with their public image realizes, as soon as one's message is out, all control is lost. McCain's campaign staffers pulled their hair out trying to control Ms. Palin, and now Palin herself has concerns that she will be unfairly depicted in the upcoming unauthorized biography of her by Joe McGinniss, author of several best-selling books, including Fatal Vision, Blind Faith, and Cruel Doubt, all non-fiction works about murders. He's written a few biographies before, but selecting Sarah Palin portends to be a very big seller indeed, even bigger than his book on Alaska and its oil pipeline. It would be cream on top for him if she'd, yanno, slap someone silly in public, but that's not likely to happen.

So he's done the next best thing and moved into the vacant house next door to her in Wasilla, Alaska. Because of course he couldn't find out anything about Sarah Palin from four houses away.

As odd as this situation sounds, it jumped over the line into wholly inappropriate once Todd Palin knocked on Joe's door to introduce himself. Unsurprisingly, he did not bring cookies. After what could be described as "an episode of the yelling kind," Todd left his new short-term neighbor, and here's where everything really started to go off the rails. Sarah remarks that he should have just talked to the sheriff about the moving in. The amount of horse hockey in that statement is preposterous, to start with. This ain't Cabot Cove, and Todd Palin is nowhere near being Jessica Fletcher. You don't just drop by to ask the sherriff—presumably a busy person—why your next door neighbor is an SOB without a BP oil accident-level of privilege.

cats in alaskaSarah Palin went straight to her Facebook page to insinuate the worst of motives for Wasilla's newest resident, writing that she worried about his line of sight to her pool and her daughter's bedroom. Joe fired back in the press that 1) he wasn't interested in writing about her family, and 2) he could barely see her pool.

What this meant to me was that Sarah was being disingenuous, and Joe had tried to see into her pool area. Creepy Number One, please meet Creepy Number Two. Look, a matched set!

But wait, things get more surreal from here. Todd Palin builds a fence between the homes. Joe says they're not Nazis, but they sure walk and talk and smell like Nazis. The Palins say that Joe is still trying to look in on them and now they're considering moving away for the summer. Seeing as Joe has taken out a 5-month lease on the house next door, someone should let the Palins know that staying away just for the summer won't be quite enough time. 

And now the local media has gotten into it. The Mat-Su Frontiersman—someone needs to show the editor-in-chief and publisher the AP style guide to non sexist language—ran an oh-so-uninflaming article about the fair use of spraying someone with gunfire to protect one's property. Where's that sheriff again?

I suppose it was inevitable that Glenn Beck would jump into the fray, being the careful news journalist that he is. His comments are so inane and reductive as to not warrant being included here, but trust me, they're available on YouTube. Ms. Palin kept up her message that she was annoyed and feared the man next door, outlining a plot that sounded a lot like a horror movie or Law & Order SVU episode. The peeping Tom next door escalates to. . .sadistic murder, most foul.

I'm with others who question why one would need to live right next door to the person they're investigating, when it's pretty much common sense that the focus of their work would not be likely to enjoy such proximity. That commands a vast quantity of privilege in and of itself. But the Palin's response to what I presume is an adverse situation also reeks of class and race privilege, and the subtle hints of violence are just out-and-out unacceptable, especially for such a public figure—one who still keeps a foot in the public official arena, at that. So I will call this a match of the creepy-inspiring. Three rounds so far, and it's still a draw. But I can't think of a better example of polarizing figures in popular culture and politics framing each side of a discourse in the most impoverished terms possible. 

There are, actually, three levels of problematic behavior occurring here:

  1. McGinniss's disingenuous justification of moving next to the Palin's despite any cultural history of celebrity stalkers. I don't think it's just me who hears about this story and thinks about David Letterman's stalker, Rebecca Schaeffer, or Jodi Foster's famous, president assassinating stalker.
  2. Sarah Palin's ridiculous accusations about McGinniss's motives for moving next door, regardless of how unfounded they are, or how they fuel an already angry, anti-media right-wing following.
  3. Irresponsible journalists on both "sides" who publish reductive or articles on the people involved in this mess, like how awful Joe's career has been or what a terrible person Sarah is.

What a fun time to live in Wasilla.

 

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Comments

9 comments have been made. Post a comment.

Can't Help But Giggle Despite How Scary Palin Is

Sarah Palin really scares me. She's been building up a lot of campaign money, has a platform on television she can use for a lot of hours of self promotion during a campaign, and has been building political capital amongst some of her like-minded politicians. If it were not for the Transocean-BP oil mess in the gulf she would be even more of a threat than she already is, and i'm sure she will still push for more drilling in Alaska. Despite all of how scary she is politically with her uninformed war advocacy and ultra right wing views, the things you've brought up in this post are hilarious. What a gold-mine for Saturday Night Live and all the comedians! Yes, it may well be very creepy and inspiring at the same time, but it sure has me giggling.

I see Sarah Palin straddling

I see Sarah Palin straddling the GOP/Tea Party fence in a way that other politicians are wary of doing, and I'm not entirely sure she's not playing the situation brilliantly. I'm pretty sure she's just trying to cover all of her bases—remember when Mike Huckabee was considered the most conservative candidate during the GOP primaries? He's been a bit outpaced by Sarah and Rand Paul now. I know they're getting a lot of news attention for their wild comments (I'll save those for another post), but I'm not sure Palin would win a national primary against the better moneyed old guard Republicans. Time will tell. But in the meantime, humor is a good venting device!

An alarming mix of humor, politics, pop culture, and queeritude. Author of Bumbling into Body Hair: Tales of an Accident-Prone Transsexual.

Mouth Shut = Slightly Less Creepy

I agree completely with this all-out creepyness that no one is innocent of.
Admittedly, I tune into to left-leaning news, and any reports pertaining to this story deals with (truthfully) how widely inappropriate the Palins' response is and comes to the defense of Joe McGinniss. The problem with the reporting is it completely relies on their viewers' (rightly) distrust of Sarah Palin in framing their arguments and fail to take the extra journalistic step into questioning why he needed to be so close to do research. Rather, it has turned into another "Sarah Palin is Crazy!" segment.
I don't see any real reason why he had to move *next door* to conduct his research, and would have preferred in the midst of the media frenzy simply kept quiet. If he had not "spoken out" I believe he would still have some sense of higher standing amidst the mud-flinging of the Palins.
Or, in the mode of score keeping:
Creepy Palins: 2; and Creepy Joe McGinniss: 1

I started off reading the

I started off reading the Washington Post's coverage of this situation when it first began, and from there, found only far-left and far-right articles, which is when I had the light bulb of realizing that both sides were playing some amount of games with the storytelling.

As for moving in next door, well, I don't actually consider that absolutely necessary, given what was an expected level of hostility from the Palins and distraction from his research. Although it is good free publicity!

An alarming mix of humor, politics, pop culture, and queeritude. Author of Bumbling into Body Hair: Tales of an Accident-Prone Transsexual.

Actually, I was listening to

Actually, I was listening to On the Media (I think - that or Fresh Air, but I'm pretty sure it was OTM) and the reporters they dug up to talk about this all said that, in fact, if he had the opportunity to move in next door and DIDN'T take it, that wouldn't be good investigative journalism. Investigative journalism requires that the journalist take every possible opportunity to get close to his or her subject. So McGinnis isn't doing anything wrong, by journalistic standards. I'm not sure why you think he tried to look into her pool area - maybe he did, maybe he didn't, but his being there doesn't seem to violate journalistic ethics.

No, he hasn't done anything

No, he hasn't done anything ethically wrong by moving next door, but according to the journalists I know, he really should have realized, given Todd's personality, and Sarah's red-hot celebrity status, that he'd encounter some hostility, and while that's fine for publicizing the existence of the book, it's not really going to advance his work. He made a comment last week that if she'd just have come over with a plate of cookies they could have had a nice chat and he would have put that in the book. Say what? She should bring him cookies? I'm no Palin fan per se, but I think his sexist attitude speaks volumes about his level of respect for her.
Meanwhile, the only reason I say he looked at her pool area is because he could report that he couldn't see it. Not to sound like Matlock, but I deduce that he must have at least glanced over there to register that it wasn't a viewable area.

An alarming mix of humor, politics, pop culture, and queeritude. Author of Bumbling into Body Hair: Tales of an Accident-Prone Transsexual.

Cookies, Books, the Pool and Moose Chunks

Joe McGuinniss also authored a book titled: " The Selling of the President, The Classic Account of the Packaging of a Candidate" (Richard Nixon). Since Sarah Palin had already posed for a photo clad in a stars and stripes bikini with a hunting rifle beside a pool, it would unreasonable to speculate that she might have other self-promotional photos taken there, but Joe McGuinniss renting a house with a view of her pool is still pretty creepy. i have to agree with this post's statement: "Creepy Number One, [lease meet Creepy Number Two." It would have surprised me if Todd Palin had brought over cookies, but i'd be less surprised if one of them had offered the other some moose-chunk stew. After all, Joe McGuinniss wants access and the Palins want good press. It still seems scary, creepy, conflicted, and something like like a soap opera scriptwriter might dream up. Truth is stranger than fiction - at least so far.

The Palin Rifle Photo...

is a fake, actually. Just to get that out of the way.

And yeah, pretty much everyone involved in this is at least a little creepy.

i Should Have Known - It Was Too Tame

i should have realized right away that the photo of Sarah Palin by the pool with a rifle was a fake - not because she wouldn't do that pose, but because the rifle and it's scope were way too small and there wasn't any dead caribou or moose in the photo. Thanks for pointing that out. i'd seen the photo a long time ago in the Village Voice long before the photoshopping of it came to light.