Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Palin's Year as a Publicity Saint

When John McCain chose her as his running mate, she was virtually unknown. Now, twelve months later, Sarah Palin is sifting through more than 1070 invitations for paid appearances and speeches as well as a file her lawyer describes as an inch and a half thick folder of offers for "network and pundit gigs, documentaries and business opportunities."

This makes her one of the 21st century's first publicity saints, a status I once explained to Marilyn Monroe.

"Why," she had asked, "do they print things about me that aren't true?"

"Because," I told her, "your name and pictures of you sell newspapers and magazines and, if there isn't any news, they'll use rumors and gossip, any excuse to print them."

In this era of disposable celebrities, many have been called to media sanctity, but only a few, most notably Barack Obama and the recently departed Michael Jackson, have been chosen. Palin's uniqueness is in achieving it with no visible talent as a politician or entertainer beyond her twinkly shamelessness.

Yet it would be rash to minimize this superstar quality, which can override all other considerations (i.e., Marilyn's meager achievement as an actress as well as the Palin wrecking of McCain's campaign) and keep the public endlessly enthralled.

Even the former Alaska governor's political obituary may be premature. Next month she will be making her first post-resignation speech at a Hong Kong conference of international global investment managers, following such previously enlightening lecturers--"notable luminaries who often address topics that go beyond traditional finance such as geopolitics"--as Bill Clinton, Al Gore and Alan Greenspan.

This will be followed by publication of her book next spring with what is sure to be a tumultuous media tour.

Meanwhile, Palin keeps the publicity pot stirring with her Facebook page, injecting herself into the debate on health care reform with a perky fact-free post on death panels for the aged and disabled and who-knows-what future political gems.

In his landmark book 1962 book, "The Image," historian Daniel Boorstin documented the coming of celebrities "well-known for their well-knowness."

More recently, another sage, Mel Brooks' Max Bialystock of "The Producers," put Palin's fame into more modern perspective, "When you got it, baby, flaunt it!"

Publicity sainthood is a self-fulfilling prophecy, so Palin haters will just have to grit their teeth for a long haul.


M. Joseph Sheppard said...

You just don't get it.Her appeal is not based on nothing as you state but rather on an ability to connect with "ordinary folks" not the liberal elitists like yourself (how is the Obama thing working out by the way?).You are also clueless-she did not "wreck" Mcain's campaign" it was dead in the water till she energized the base-compare her crowds to his.You have crossed over to being a cynic instead of the usual maturing with age from ultra-liberal to mature minded,reflective conservative (like I have thank goodness)

M. Joseph Sheppard said...

If you don't publish my comment it is a sad reflection on hypocritcal liberal censorship of any opinion (after you freely spout yours) which doesn't meet your Obama agenda (and yes I am a jew too so don't pull that one)

Holte Ender said...

The media habitually helps celebrities climb to the top of the "well-knowness" hill, and then delight as they slide down the other side. The way down sells more. She wants fame so badly, it will be her downfall.

jf said...

Michael: Here's Palin's problem.

From a Washington Post/ABC News poll conducted recently, 57 percent of respondants said she does not understand complex issues. She can't win the middle.


Fuzzy Slippers said...

Hi Michael, I just wanted to pipe up here and defend Mr. Stein (not that he needs defending, as you can see he published your comment). I've been reading his blog for a while and commenting on it for only a few months, but he's always posted my comments despite the fact that they rarely agree with his ideology or viewpoint and that I sometimes get too worked up and say silly things. Would that there were more liberals who were as open to opposing viewpoints.

As to Governor Palin, you're right, the McCain campaign was done until he announced her as his running mate. Palin wasn't to blame for McCain's loss; the people who didn't like her, weren't voting for McCain, anyway.

McCain lost that election because he's a decent, good man who refused to do what needed to be done in terms of shining a bright light on BO's connections in Chicago and his very radical agenda. He could have reached the American people despite the incredible pro-BO bias in the media. McCain allowed BO to change his tune or get away with far too much: single-payer healthcare, denouncing God then adding "God bless America" to his speeches, Bill Ayers, Reverend Wright, "guns and religion," dismissing that female reporter and calling her "sweetie," his horrible wife's anti-America and racist comments, his statement about spreading the wealth (he shouldn't have let that become about Joe the plumber), and on and on.

McCain should have gone after him, but he chose not to; he took the high road, and I think that contributed to his loss. While I respect this part of McCain's personality, I don't think he played the hardball he needed to in order to win. It didn't help that he was too far center for many republicans and not far enough left or right for independents who leaned one way or the other.

I like Palin, but I think she's too polarizing to make it to the White House. Likewise, "the great unifier" is too polarizing to stay there. 2012 will be interesting.