The Corner

NYT is Threatened By Sarah Palin

Wonder why middle America distrusts the media? Well, for starters they write about every religious or right-of-center gathering like they’re visiting The Lost Tribe of Borneo. Here’s the NYT’s mommy blogger Judith Warner on Wednesday’s McCain-Palin rally in Virginia:

“You can stand on my wagon, if you want.”

I tend, when I’m not in big crowds, to forget that I’m short. In Republican crowds, I find, I feel particularly small.

And dark. And unsmiling. And uncoiffed, unmade-up and inappropriately dressed.

For the McCain/Palin rally in Fairfax, Va., on Wednesday, the organizers had asked people to wear red. I – unthinkingly – had dressed in blue, which was somewhat isolating.

I was isolated, too, because, unable to find the press area in the crowd of about 15,000, I was out with the “real” people. Which meant that I could hear everything from the podium and from the onlookers around me, but could see nothing, not, at least, until the mom beside me stopped struggling to balance atop her Little Tikes wagon with two toddlers in her arms and another screaming at her feet, and offered me a go at the view.

(“It’s Sarah. Sarah’s going to be the vice president,” she had told the little girls, clad in their matching polka dot dresses. “Sarah Palin.”)

She was a nice woman. She told me history was in the making. She told me where to get lunch. She handed me back my reporter’s notebook when one of her almost-two-year-old twins, fixing me with a dark look of mistrust, took it away. “Liberal media, eh?” her solemn eyes glared. “Well, watch what you say about my mommy and Our Sarah.

Do not think for a moment that I was being paranoid.

Oh, she’s being paranoid all right. But for the sake of argument let’s say someone had actually made that remark about the liberal media laying off Palin, rather than laughably perceived in the eyes of a two-year-old — pretty much the definition of paranoia. To the extent that the remark may have been more cutting than simply a friendly joke,  perhaps Warner might remember that her paper rushed to print with a front page story on Sarah Palin being a fringe secessionist before having to retract the substance of it. But there’s more:

I should have been finding this funny. My whole plan, after all, had been to write something funny this week about the whole Sarah Palin phenomenon. I’d arrived at an if-you-can’t-beat-’em-laugh-at-’em kind of a juncture, I suppose.

I’d planned to make attending the McCain/Palin event a silly sort of adventure. I’d invited a friend who has six kids to come with me. I figured funny things were bound to befall us in Palin-Land, where, collectively, we’d have eight children between us (a funny thought in and of itself.) A Harold and Kumar Escape from the Barracuda sort of storyline was the idea – until my friend, done in by one too many sleepless nights, declined to accompany me, and I had to venture off alone.

And, forced to make new friends on the spot, discovered that the Palin Phenomenon is no laughing matter.

Oh so she had planned to mock them, and are instead shocked(!) to discover they take their politics and values seriously. There’s also this bit:

“I hope they brought their own Brie and Chablis with them,” [Fred Thompson] said, to raucous laughter, as I willed myself to disappear, remembering, with a shudder, that my children had demanded Brie for breakfast only that morning.

Who feeds their kids brie for breakfast? Is she trying for self-parody here? I can just picture mornings in the Warner household: “Mummy, if you don’t get those ghastly cheerios away from me and pop that brie in the oven yesterday, I simply refuse to go to my Mandarin lesson.” Of course, it’s not like brie is that foreign to most Americans anymore. Surely a normal person she would realize that Thompson was making a joke about elitism and laugh off the coincidence. But no, eating brie is apparently reverential to her and she’s offended. Now it’s time for some always productive psycho-analysis:

For those of us who can’t tap into those yearnings, it seems the Palin faithful are blind – to the contradictions between her stated positions and the truth of the policies she espouses, to the contradictions between her ideology and their interests. But Jonathan Haidt, an associate professor of moral psychology at the University of Virginia, argues in an essay this month, “What Makes People Vote Republican?”, that it’s liberals, in fact, who are dangerously blind.

Haidt has conducted research in which liberals and conservatives were asked to project themselves into the minds of their opponents and answer questions about their moral reasoning. Conservatives, he said, prove quite adept at thinking like liberals, but liberals are consistently incapable of understanding the conservative point of view. “Liberals feel contempt for the conservative moral view, and that is very, very angering. Republicans are good at exploiting that anger,” he told me in a phone interview.

So right after she pronounces judgment that conservatives are blind to the “contradictions between her ideology and their interests” she acknolwedges liberals feel contempt for and “are consistently incapable of understanding the conservative point of view” — indeed she’s spent all the previous paragraphs unintentionally demonstrating that in explicit detail. Given that these two propositions seem to be at odds with each other, it might occur to Warner that these right-wing rubes might be in a better place to decide what’s best for themselves and their families than say a New York Times reporter. 

Warner should feel threatened, not by Sarah Palin supporters, but by the fact that she’s so narrow minded that she can’t wrap her head around the fact that there are people out there — and lots of them — who disagree with her. America is a messy place ideologically and culturally, and it’s a glorious mess at that. That’s a fact that reporters should embrace and try to understand, not whine about how it makes them feel small. All of that verbiage and it never occurs to Warner that the reason she feels small around people who aren’t like her is because she is small.

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