10/13/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Palin, Satire & False Equivalence via the 2004 Presidential Election

gina gershon sexy star spangled bikini hot body long legs luscious thighs pumps cut abdominal muscles ripped abs sarah palin parody shotgun weapon hunter global warming polar bear shit anchorage alaska landscape vice president beauty queen funny or die video photo

The fate of our country is in the hands of Tina Fey

Yesterday I was faced with the choice of whether or not to post to TreeHugger a clip from Gina Gershon's Funny or Die video satirizing Sarah Palin's views on global warming. On one side were the questions of 1) would viralizing the piece only contribute to the "culture of distraction" to which Al Gore referred in his TED-Talk sequel to An Inconvenient Truth, (2-minute video version here) and 2) would doing so aid and abet a campaign already reducing the presidential election to gutter sleaze? In the middle was the notion that such a post would impartially spread the word about Gershon's video. On the other side lay the fact that in doing so I, and we at TreeHugger, might be in some way signing on to Gershon's speech act and one that in the content of it was fairly insubstantial as far as commentary goes. Clearly John Stewart's team had not been involved in writing for Gershon.

I decided to run with the post. Hell, I felt I owed it to a nation's citizenry that hadn't been done right by their right-leaving government on the 7th anniversary of 9/11 and this would show them. Not. Okay then, why not indulge myself, a poor guy who's got a now annually somber occasion for a birthday such that it is having been born on September 11th, 19 -- (inaudible) Chop-logic; remembering the dead is but one key opportunity to celebrate life, I say. I found myself without a good excuse to post the sketch. I didn't even find it all that clever. However, there I was going ahead putting together the post.

One commentor-hater suggested that TreeHugger was publishing trash while another pointed out that similar videos lampooning Obama were non-existent on the site. In writing the post, I had used neutral language which simply and plainly said what the clip was. I had neither lauded nor derided this piece of satire. Then I was suddenly struck as a feral wolf is sometimes struck with a mess of buckshot: my gosh, why had I even questioned doing the post? Sure, my intentionality and the reader's reception are elements in creating meaning *1980s critical-theory-flashback* but facts are facts. And when facts can't speak for themselves, one is left either 1) to play the Talmud card sitting by with the knowledge that The Truth has been spoken if not heard or 2) to use Satire.

Satire is the good guy's tool for dislodging entrenched power that is corrupt. Witness the rise of Stewart and Colbert of course. Further, those among us who subscribe to a reasonable sense of ethical and responsible fair-play, and who do not see themselves as sinking to the same gutter level as the McCain Sex-Ed ad, turn to this outrage-leveraging tactic to stand up for what is right. If it ain't on the side of The Good, it ain't satire -- it's a low blow. I argue that arriving at The Good is not a matter of opinion, but one of exercising sound judgment. Which is why we don't satirize Obama and must satirize Palin for her choice of conduct and record of actions.

The selection of Palin by McCain Cheney and the convention sheep who not for a moment stepped back to say, "we don't like this, we're not going to ratify this nomination and by the way get us someone qualified" is yet again another Republican outrage. I will not go into what the HuffPo choir already knows full well, suffice it to say clearly Ms. Palin was chosen to fill the role of toadie to the masters behind the American banana-republic. Yet we, the champions of good sportsmanship, internally referee ourselves to stay on the sidelines by "sticking to the issues" lest we play into the hands of those intent on distraction. Palin is an issue: she represents the product of unsound and perhaps corrupt judgment and therefore Palin has no legitimate role to play in the governance of this country. Furthermore, we should say so however we can.

The earlier metaphorical buckshot triggered me to revisit a favorite article with which I took solace in the the wake of the 2004 presidential election results when it was written. Eric Alterman post-mortem analysis of the media's role in the race, Think Again: Phony "Balance" Benefits Those with the Most to Hide, centered on the notion of "False Equivalence." He wrote:

In a nutshell, false equivalence amounts to little more than a reporter holding up the actions on both sides as equally blameworthy, when it's obvious that no clear equivalence between the two exists... In an Oct. 27 story in the Journal headlined "As a Final Gambit, Parties are Trying to Damp Turnout," the piece attempts to make the case that both parties were trying to convince voters to stay home on Election Day. The comparison? The Republican effort to forcefully and physically check the registrations of those who show up to vote, and the "Democrats' attempts to sow doubts about Mr. Bush's character and his fealty to social conservatives." It's hard to see how negative campaigning - if "sowing doubts" can even be elevated to that level - is in any way comparable to physical intimidation at polling places, but to members of the press, it appears to be all a matter of interpretation.

Alterman goes on to conclude:

Reporters, editors, and producers have done the country a gross disservice by constantly attempting to balance coverage to try to make each side appear just as culpable as the other, making it nearly impossible for their audience to draw any real distinction between the two. In the end, the inability of the media to weigh its coverage based on the facts created a morally neutral fantasy world in which all things were rendered equal, offering aid and comfort to the side with the most to hide--and the side that was willing to go the furthest to hide it.

The satirization of Palin is nothing for which anyone need be culpable, rather such acts are a responsible method to conduct truth. The fate of our country is in your hands Tina Fey...


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