I miss Sarah Palin. I was bummed when she decided not to run for
president the last time around. It would have been hard to find a
challenger to Barack Obama less funny than Mitt Romney (notwithstanding Barrett Foa's outstanding "I Believe" Romney-musical
spoof), and because the president himself isn't exactly a barrel of
laughs, we ended up with one of the unfunniest (and also angriest) White
House races in history.
That opportunity is lost, but it's still fun when Palin injects
herself into the news. She's done so this week by jumping to the defense
of Duck Dynasty's patriarch Phil Robertson, who remarkably got
himself suspended from his own smash-hit reality TV show by extolling
the virtues of the vagina over the anus in the pages of GQ
(in an interview by the always-excellent Drew Magary). Robertson was
professing, one might even say over-professing, his ignorance as to the
appeal of gay sex – he put it this way:
It seems like, to me, a vagina – as a man – would be more desirable
than a man's anus. That's just me. I'm just thinking: There's more
there! She's got more to offer. I mean, come on, dudes . . . But hey,
sin: It's not logical, my man. It's just not logical.
There's more there. Take that, anus! Robertson went on to
provide a less bizarre, more Biblical explanation for his opposition to
homosexuality. Then, in a separate piece on the GQ site, he also offered a 20th-century America version of Holocaust denial.
He said that as a young person in pre-civil rights Louisiana, he
"never . . . saw the mistreatment of any black person" and that black
people were happy (happier?) back then:
Pre-entitlement, pre-welfare, you say: Were they happy? They were godly; they were happy; no one was singing the blues.
After all of this came out, A&E suspended the show
more or less immediately amid a blizzard of "That guy we just spent
years turning into a rock star sure as heck doesn't represent the views
of our ad-sales department!" denials. This of course immediately
inspired howls of protest from Duck fans and conservative politicians alike.
Sarah Palin, ably staying in character in her new role as a
professional media ambulance-chaser, was one of the first to rush to
Robertson's defense. She posted a photo of herself with the Robertsons and tweeted the following:
Free speech is endangered species; those "intolerants" hatin' &
taking on Duck Dynasty patriarch for voicing personal opinion take on us
Conservatives have always had trouble grasping the difference between
public censorship and private enterprise. With a few exceptions, like whistleblower laws and National Labor Relations Board protections
against being fired for off-site discussions about work conditions
(exceptions that, in almost every case, conservatives bitterly opposed),
there is no legal or constitutional right to free speech on private
You can be fired for calling your boss a dick, and you can just as
easily be let go by a profit-seeking media company for imperiling its
relationship with advertisers. And incidentally, this is the way true
conservatives, and especially true hardcore speech advocates, have
always wanted it.
Could you imagine the uproar if someone passed a law saying that Martin Bashir couldn't be bounced from a broadcast job for saying Sarah Palin was a good candidate to have feces shoved in her mouth? Now that would be censorship.
Remember, nobody heard a peep from Sarah Palin about free speech after that episode.
Bashir earlier this year tiptoed across the line in an angry diatribe
about Palin's invocation of slavery imagery, which she had somewhat
amazingly used to describe the suffering (presumably white) middle
Americans will feel when they are forced to pay for the "free stuff" the
Obama administration is handing out, i.e. health care:
Our free stuff today is being paid for today by taking money from our
children and borrowing from China. When that money comes due and, this
isn't racist, so try it, try it anyway, this isn't racist, but it's
going to be like slavery when that note is due. Right? We are going to
be beholden to a foreign master.
And it is in a way, it is slavery in a way, because it is making all
of us subservient to the government, and it was never about health care.
It was about control.
Palin's mind is amazing. Slavery was purely a private-enterprise
abomination. It had nothing to do with being subservient to the
government. It was the opposite of that, actually. She was also wrong in
the sense that the health care program isn't "free stuff" (even those
who will receive subsidized care will be paying in one form or another
for their policies).
So she pulled off a Friedman-esque anatomical impossibility there, getting three feet in her mouth at the same time.
First, she was wrong about slavery. Then she was wrong about health
care. Then, thirdly, she was almost insanely insensitive and
inappropriate in her use of the word slavery at all, comparing white
middle class angst over having to partially subsidize health care for
their poor (and mostly nonwhite) neighbors to being whipped and tortured
across generations of institutional racist terror.
Bashir reacted to this by telling a story about slaves who were
forced to defecate in each others' mouths, and then suggested that
Palin, having "scraped the barrel of her long-deceased mind," was a
"good candidate" for the same treatment. Soon after, he was essentially
forced out of the network.
Again, Palin had no problem with that. In fact, Palin lauded the network once Bashir was out:
It was refreshing to see though, that many in the media did come out
and say, 'Look, our standards have got to be higher than this . . .'
The thing is, Robertson's ouster by A&E was exactly the same sort
of move – a network sucking it up and distancing itself from an on-air
figure because of controversial speech. But because Robertson's views
were ones Palin apparently agrees with, suddenly she wasn't talking
about anything being refreshing, but instead cried that "free speech is
an endangered species."
Palin's inability to grasp the difference between a first-amendment
violation and corporate calculation is amazing because she literally
just published a book on the subject. Her newly-released War-on-Christmas diatribe, Good Tidings and Great Joy, is
all about the efforts by evil Jesus-hating atheists to sue the
Christmas out of our public lives. (It's one of the funniest things ever
written, by the way. I would write a review but I don't think I could
make it all the way to the end without a cardiac episode).
In writing this new book, Palin presumably spent the whole of the
last year or so staring right at the issue of what may be said on
private property versus what may be said on public property – the
difference between putting up a nativity scene in front of a courthouse
and putting one up on your lawn. Yet as this latest controversy shows,
the underlying issue is still a total blur to her.
Of course, Palin has a long history of getting things not just wrong,
but exactly wrong. In the book, for instance, she describes buying her
husband Todd "a nice, needed powerful gun" in the wake of the Sandy Hook
shootings and resulting anti-gun fervor. She described this warm act as
a "small act of civil disobedience" that was "fun."
As Alex Falcone for the Portland Mercury noted in this humorous review, this gets the term "civil disobedience" perfectly backwards:
Not only is that a hilarious re-purposing of a term with a noble
history, it's also a perfect misuse of BOTH WORDS. Buying guns is both
legal and dangerous, making it an act of uncivil obedience.
Anyway, this whole episode speaks to a bigger dilemma facing the
Republican Party. Like Palin, the party itself hasn't seemed to grasp
the fact that the country's broad rejection of its base's more extreme
views on things like race, class and gender isn't some injustice to be
railed against, but plain demographic truth.
If your "moderate" presidential candidate from 2012, the guy who was
bashed by the party base for being insufficiently hardcore, is a guy who
essentially said, after a failed speech to the N.A.A.C.P., that all black voters want is "free stuff," then you're just not going to win a lot of elections in a country that's going to be majority nonwhite within a few decades.
Similarly, if your party's political rhetoric is full of suggestions that poor people are poor because they don't like to work,
well, you're not going to win a lot of votes from poor people, who also
happen to be increasingly many in number. That's not a misunderstanding
or an injustice, that's just a fact.
Whether or not Robertson and his entertainingly hairy family should
have been fired is beside the point. The point is that A&E realized
there was no way to make the numbers work if they had a guy who thinks
black people were happier before civil rights as a front man.
It surely wasn't personal, but just a business decision, and not a
terribly hard one, either. It's weird that the Republican Party has such
trouble making the same kind of call in choosing its leading
Stacy Burke is a semi-well-known Fetish Model, Actress, Web-Mistress, Wrestler, Stunt Woman, Ex- Hugh Hefner Girlfriend, Promoter & Merchandise Designer. She LOVES home brewed Beer and Music, Especially Surf Punk!!