James McPherson's Media & Politics Blog

Observations of a patriotic progressive historian, media critic & former journalist


  • By the author of The Conservative Resurgence and the Press: The Media’s Role in the Rise of the Right and of Journalism at the End of the American Century, 1965-Present. A former journalist with a Ph.D. in journalism, history and political science, McPherson is a past president of the American Journalism Historians Association and a board member for the Northwest Alliance for Responsible Media.

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Posts Tagged ‘Bristol Palin pregnancy’

Bristol Palin’s realism, like, kinda trumps her mother’s

Posted by James McPherson on February 17, 2009

Bristol Palin tells Greta Van Susteren that expecting young people to be sexually abstinate “is not realistic at all.” In the meantime, her mother warns us about trumped-up dangers that don’t exist regarding the Fairness Doctrine–the reinstatement of which I’d rank in likelihood somewhere below the returns of John McCain’s integrity, the Soviet Union, Elvis, the passenger pigeon, or Jesus Christ astride a unicorn. 

First, Palin the younger: “It’s just, like, I’m not living for myself anymore. It’s, like, for another person, so it’s different.” (Note: Those quotes come from the Fox transcript; they are not an attempt to make the young woman look stupid just because she happens to speak like too many of my students.) She calls having a child “very overwhelming,” despite the fact that she has help with the baby from her parents, her sisters, aunts, and “especially my grandma.”

On a less hopeful note, Bristol says, “I hope that people learn from my story and just, like, I don’t know, prevent teen pregnancy, I guess.” Gee, maybe we could make teen sex illegal. After all, the “war on drugs” has prevented teens from smoking pot, and raising the drinking age to 21 stopped teenage drinking, right?

Palin also discussed her future with the baby’s father, Levi Johnston: “Eventually, we’d like to get married. We’re focusing on, like, getting through school and just getting an education and stuff, getting a career going.” My prediction is that the likelihood of a wedding will correspond with the likelihood of her mother becoming a credible presidential candidate for 2012. I could be wrong, but if Sarah Palin’s campaign looks like a nonstarter I’d be willing to cast a small wager that Bristol and Levi never tie the knot.

Palin also criticized the way she was portrayed by the news media and the amount of attention she got, and for that I sympathize. I didn’t agree with folks who said she “deserved” to be hounded because Sarah Palin used Bristol and the rest of her family as props during the Republican Convention and at other appearances–that’s what politicians do, and the choice was Sarah Palin’s, not her daughter’s.

But I would point out, now that Bristol is giving tips on what’s realistic, she might note that it’s also unrealistic to expect to fade away from sight if you’re giving interviews to a national television network–even a network that most Americans don’t trust. (Fox News is of course the official network of the Republican Party, and Van Susteren has apparently become the official reporter for all things Palin–as she notes, without irony, “You will not see this anywhere else.”) And since Bristol seems to be bucking the official Republican stance of abstinance-only sex education, she might also encourage consideration of whether it’s “realistic” to:

  • expect that after corporate tax cuts fail to forestall the biggest economic disaster of our lifetimes, the best way to fix the disaster is more corporate tax cuts;
  • expect those who head unregulated economic insitutions to do what’s best for people who have no power over them;
  • believe that the best way to find and punish a mass murderer hiding in one country is to attack another country;
  • expect people whose country we invade under false pretenses to view us as liberators;
  • expect the police or the media to pay as much attention to a missing black boy as a missing white girl. OK, Democrats seem to be at least as clueless as Republicans about that last one .

Sarah Palin took an opportunity at the end of her daughter’s interview to “submit” to some questioning, urging Barack Obama to veto the economic stimulus bill, and then warning of another fictitious danger that has become popular on right-wing airwaves despite the fact that it is an incredibly bad idea that has virtually no chance of happening:

Hey, another thing, though, that, Greta, I would add, too, is not–it’s not just a stimulus package that we need to keep our eyes and ears open about right now in America, but it’s this fairness doctrine. It’s these attempts in Congress that are being discussed at this point to shut down voices that are asking the tough questions. I know that you’re asking some tough questions, Glenn Beck, Hannity, Bill O’Reilly — you guys are asking tough questions about what’s in this package and about what government is doing. Now, if there’s any attempt to quash any of these voices, that’s a scary thing for our democracy, for our country. So we have to keep our eyes open and ears open also for that kind of discussion.

Yep, those Fox folks ask the “tough questions.” If you doubt it, look below the fawning interview of Palin–who almost entirely refused to answer any media questions–by Sean Hannity during the presidential campaign. And by the way, if the Fairness Doctrine actually comes back, I’ll volunteer to take a turn at babysitting Sarah’s grandkid myself.

Posted in Politics, Women | Tagged: , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

GOP VP nominee not Palin’ by comparison to Biden

Posted by James McPherson on September 3, 2008

From “bullshit” to bull moose: In her speech earlier tonight, Sarah Palin showed that she can not only shoot down and field dress the meat, but she can also pitch that red meat to the Republican base. She has no apparent qualms about doing what good VP candidates are supposed to do, attack the other side. Joe Biden won’t be the only VP pit bull–with or without lipstick–in this campaign.

Palin gave a good speech, with the usual convention-sized helpings of exaggeration and mischaracterization sprinkled with lie or two (she should quit repeating her false-but-appealing “bridge to nowhere” story, or that’s where it the bridge may help take her campaign). Palin did well what she had to do, though now that she’s “out there” without days to prepare for each appearance things may get tougher. On the other hand, Jay Rosen offers this somewhat depressing quote in considering the apparent McCain-Palin strategy:

Strategy: Comes from Bush, the younger. When realities uncovered are directly in conflict with prior claims, consider the option of keeping the claims and breaking with reality. Done the right way, it’s a demonstration of strength. It dismays and weakens the press. And it can be great theatre.

Rosen discusses how the GOP might reignite the culture war (it’s best strategy in the past couple of presidential elections), and elements of that war could be seen tonight. There wasn’t much on abortion–after all, Palin’s warmup act was pro-abortion, pro-gay civil unions, pro-gun control Rudy “9/11” Giuliani (I would like to see Rudy try to wrestle a rifle from Palin). But there has been plenty in recent days from the GOP (and its Fox News mouthpieces) about “elites” (a funny term for a ticket with at least 10 houses between them) and about that old Republican favorite, “the liberal media.”

It also was interesting to hear Palin and other speakers during the evening talk about the need for “change” from Washington politics. They obviously hope that a fair number of Americans will forget that it’s their president–the one McCain votes with most of the time–who has occupied the White House for the past eight years, and that their party controlled Congress for almost that entire time (while holding enough seats to sustain George W. Bush’s vetoes for the last two years, after the electorate kicked many–but not quite enough–of them out of office).

McCain himself was a Senator for all of that time, though he hasn’t showed up for the past five months. Giuliani made fun of Obama for voting “present,” but it has been quite a while since McCain could even say that much.

One media problem the McCain camp is trying to head off, fresh on the heels of the Bristol Palin pregnancy: the latest National Enquirer story about an alleged Sarah Palin affair. This is the sort of story that many of us would consider to be unlikely and irrelevant trash–but the exact thing that many conservatives recently criticized the mainstream media for not following up after the Enquirer reported similar allegations about John Edwards.

Unfortunately, as long as the major media let bloggers and tabloids dictate news selection, the GOP will have a case against the press–but it’s not a case of bias, as Republicans now pretend, as much as it is a case of laziness and sensationalism. And the Democrats can made the same case.

A even more ludicrous complaint from the McCain folks is that criticism of Palin’s obvious lack of experience is somehow sexist. That’s just stupid, especially since the GOP has been citing Obama’s lack of experience for months. Using their own reasoning, one would be forced to assume their criticisms stem from racism.

Tomorrow night is McCain’s turn. Any bets on how many times his years as a POW will come up?

Thursday elitist note: Vanity Fair estimates that Cindy McCain’s outfit from the other night cost approximately $300,000. Most of those “small town Americans” that the Republicans keep talking about that didn’t pay that much for their houses. And most of them only have one house.

Posted in History, Journalism, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Lies left and right: Kos, Drudge and Little Green Footballs

Posted by James McPherson on September 1, 2008

While I try to give people a variety of perspectives through my links at right, the Drudge Report and Little Green Footballs–two of the most popular conservative sites–have never been among them. That’s because I consider those two sites, while sometimes insightful, to be overly hateful and to have too little regard for truth. In short, they have carried blatant lies, either through intent or through a reckless disregard for fact. Both have unveiled big stories, but if you’re willing to print anything you’re more likely to occasionally stumble on a titillating bit of truth.

As of today, the Daily Kos–perhaps the most popular liberal blog on the Web–is gone for the same reason. A Kos writer with the name ArcXIX (another gutless wonder of the kind common to cyberspace, hiding behind a fake name) claimed that Sarah Palin’s youngest child is, in fact, her grandson, and the child of her daughter. The original link and yesterday’s followup from the same writer seem to be disappearing from many places (perhaps indicating how faulty the claims were), but the writer states unequivocally: “I’ve known liars in my life. … Well, Sarah, I’m calling you a liar. And not even a good one. Trig Paxson Van Palin is not your son. He is your grandson. The sooner you come forward with this revelation to the public, the better.” [bold type in original]

The writer goes on to offer a combination of highly questionable logic and photographic “evidence” that is obviously faulty to almost reasonable person who has had either a teenage daughter or a pregnant wife, or anyone who has worked in or around politicians (I once was a political reporter, and had two teenage daughters). Even granting the remote chance that the writer’s claim is true, there is absolutely no strong (let alone conclusive) evidence to support it.

As a result, even though I’ve never met ArxXIX or Palin (despite the fact that she and I were born less than a hundred miles apart), I have no trouble saying this: “I’ve known liars in my life. Well, ArcXIX, I’m calling you a liar. Or an idiot. Or probably both, since you’re not even a good liar. Based on the best “evidence” you’ve offered, you do not ‘know’ that Palin is a liar. You may suspect it, and you certainly hope so, but you don’t ‘know.’ The sooner you come forward with this revelation to the public, the better.”

That hasn’t kept the rumor from whirling around the world, of course, picked up by other liberal bloggers too stupid to realize that such garbage–like the rumors that claim Barack Obama is a Muslim–harm the credibility of those who spread it, while detracting from the multitude of meaningful reasons that a progressive should vote against McCain/Palin.

Unfortunately, the fact that the girl is now pregnant may add even more fuel to the rumor. But I would still argue that the girl’s unfortunate pregancy, despite what her status as an unwed mother-to-be might say about conservatives and birth control, is largely irrelevant to her mother’s somewhat limited qualifications to be vice president. And totally irrelevant to the Kos report.

I do not blame bloggers for heated rhetoric, literary exaggeration, or unintentionally getting things wrong on occasion. I certainly have made mistakes (and tried to correct them as soon as they were pointed out). Nor do I blame bloggers for the assortment of nutcases both liberal and conservative who contribute comments in response to posts. But operations with the scope and reputation of the three mentioned above should be able to do better than most with their posts, rather than seemingly seeking ways to be worse.

There are other sites that I read from time to time but avoid linking to because I am turned off by their constant whining or exaggeration. And of course I have deleted other sites in the past. Some bloggers stop writing after a while. Others just become monotonous. For example, one site that started out with the expressed interest of bringing people together, and which once offered meaningful commentary on a variety of political issues, became a tedious and often irrational all-PUMA-all-the-time site.

Worse, that site and some others engage in the practice of commonly deleting comments from those who disagree with them, regardless of how politely or logically those comments are offered. One bragged yesterday: “The Confluence is a refuge and a haven. And any comment that threatens our identity will be modified or deleted.” As I’ve noted repeatedly, I’m a believer in open discussion, not in paranoid conspiracy theories.

None of the sites mentioned here will miss having me offer direct connections to them; all have far larger readerships than this blog, in large part because they have chosen to appeal so strongly to their perceived political bases. Still, I will continue to add or delete links as they seem to meet the primary goal of this blog–to serve the needs of my students. And I hope you enjoy the variety.

Afternoon note: Today Kos himself starts out a post about the pregnancy with the words, “I don’t think the evidence is there to claim Trig is Bristol’s son, as some have speculated…” So I’d ask why, Kos, has your site done more than any other to promote the claim? After all, the most quoted of the “some” you refer to is in your own stable of writers.

Posted in Education, History, Journalism, Media literacy, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »