The Magazine

R U Lovin’ Sarah’s Alaska?

From governor to TV star.

Nov 29, 2010, Vol. 16, No. 11 • By MATT LABASH
Widget tooltip
Single Page Print Larger Text Smaller Text Alerts

Only the hardest of hard-bitten cynics wouldn’t feel sympathy for Palin when Andrew Sullivan advances conspiracy theories that she is not the biological mother of Trig. Or when a noxious gasbag like Joy Behar expresses surprise that Palin’s book is a success since most of her base “doesn’t even read.” Or when a creepy finger-sniffer like McGinniss moves into a house next door to play Peeping Tom into her family sanctum, then publicly complains that he wants to be edited out of her show.

As Palin spies McGinniss next door upon the family’s return, she mutters that their activities are none of “his flippin’ business,” frets whether he’s taking pictures, mischievously conspires with Piper as to whether the girl should wave, and finally high-fives her daughter, congratulating Piper that they had had a good day on the water while he was “stuck inside writing an ugly book.” It’s a sweet little moment. But one that rings totally false.

For while Palin’s love and affection for her children are obvious, the reality-show cameras to which she’s sounding off about the invasion of privacy would seem to be more of a privacy invasion than anything McGinniss could concoct. Whatever her motivations are in doing such a thing—and only she knows them—the most judged woman in the world has now given America a ringside seat to judge the inner workings of her family as well. And judge they do.

After seeing a preview, I watched the season-opener again when the show premiered last Sunday. This time, while clocking real-time reaction to it on Twitter—the forum that has amplified Palin’s voice exponentially as she wages a one-woman guerrilla media campaign that seems to commandeer every other news cycle. 

The show broke TLC ratings records, pulling in 5 million viewers. A good many of those are doubtless Palin’s devoted fans. But Twitter reaction was running about 10-to-1 against her, as the online hyenas circled, then savaged Palin and her family. They reamed 9-year-old Piper for disturbing wildlife with “racist anti-bear calls.” They mocked Willow when a boy snuck upstairs as Palin busied herself on her BlackBerry. They came up with baby names for any forthcoming Palin children: Snausages, Musket, Hugh Betcha, Pander, and Mooseknuckle.

Does any of this matter to Palin? Probably not. She must be used to it by now. But her family is not acclimating so seamlessly to their new reality-television roles. Her daughters, just a few days ago, got in a widely reported Facebook scrape, with Willow electing to defend the family honor when the show was trashed by an old classmate for “failing so hard.” Willow, in turn, invited him to “stfu, Your [sic] such a faggot.” Willow has a lot of growing up to do. Literally—she’s only 16, and what 16-year-old would want those growing pains played out in public? Yet as Palin recently tweeted, citing Bristol’s response when asked if she was ready to face the pressure-cooker of Dancing with the Stars, “No matter [what] I do, they’re going to criticize, so I might as well DANCE!”

On Sarah Palin’s Alaska, shortly after she does a shot with Bill O’Reilly from the television studio that she’s had built into her house, Palin confides to the reality-show camera, in a rare moment of genuine self-reflection, “You know, having every word, every action scrutinized and in some cases mocked, I can handle it, you know. I kind of have asked for it, right?”

One could make a case.

But this doesn’t mean Palin won’t continue to express her thoughts. In fact, when surveying the two-year output of her books and tweetings and Facebook updates and speeches and television spots and reality-show utterances, where every minute issue of the day is remarked upon, every slight noticed, every petty retribution repaid, it’s hard to imagine she still has any thoughts that remain unexpressed.

But that’s what going rogue is all about. Letting it fly. Following your gut. Which has made Sarah Palin wealthy, and intensely discussed, and now has secured her a spot in the Reality TV Star pantheon. And good for Palin if she’s happy following her gut.

Though there’s no compelling reason to suggest the rest of us should tag along behind. 

Matt Labash is a senior writer at The Weekly Standard.

Recent Blog Posts