January 13, 2011

Palin’s speech yesterday made me groan. Damn. I’m going to have to write about her again. That’s what I thought. Then I read William Rivers Pitt’s piece called “Poor, Poor Sarah,” and I no longer need to write. Rivers Pitt said everything I wanted to say about Palin’s speech. One of the comments advised us to ignore Palin. I was going to write about her because I think she’s dangerous to ignore. Her brand of jingoism feeds too many too well, and as much as I’d like Palin to fade away, her visibility requires critiquing.

I also agree with another comment that Palin fits the description of a narcissist. I condemn her for taking advantage of the Tucson shootings to advance her own media image. Several posters also mentioned this concern. Here are two other reasons I think Palin’s dangerous: 1) She lies, and 2) she does not take responsibility.

maureen dowd nails mcPain

March 27, 2010

(This is a draft I started 7 Oct. 2008, but given Palin’s media appearances, it’s probably not a bad thing to remind us that Palin is bad news. Here’s a more recent Dowd article: “Now, Sarah’s Folly.” My favorite line: “Caribou Barbie is one nutty puppy.” )

I’ve decided that McCain-Palin is much more easily pronounced as “McPain.” That works for me. But check out Maureen Dowd’s op-ed in the New York Times on Palin’s debate performance. In “Sarah’s Pompom Palaver” (4 Oct. 2008), Dowd uses “jingoism,” which is exactly what frightens me most about Palin (“With her pompom patois and sing-songy jingoism, Palin can bridge contradictory ideas that lead nowhere…”), but focuses on Palin’s lingo — painful stuff. Just twist your brain around this one:

At another point, she channeled Alicia Silverstone debating in “Clueless,” asserting, “Nuclear weaponry, of course, would be the be-all, end-all of just too many people in too many parts of our planet.” (Mostly the end-all.)

anti-intellectualism is not a virtue

November 7, 2008

I woke up this morning thinking that on some levels, the state of our nation is due to rampant anti-intellectualism. So let me just say this: It is not OK to have a president who says, “This foreign policy stuff is a little frustrating”  (23 April 2002) and “Rarely is the questioned asked: Is our children learning?” (11 Jan.  2000). It is not OK to have a vice presidential candidate who thinks Africa is a country and not a continent or who believes the First Amendment guarantees the press will not criticize her. Our educational system continues to slip further and further into a pedagogy that fails to inspire and challenge our students. Reform tends to focus on K-12, but I think our colleges and universities need to be rethought — fundamentally. The teachers who work in the K-12 system graduate from these colleges and universities. Why should K-12 change when the places that educate the teachers and administrators keep up the status quo of mediocrity?

sarah palin – fascist?

October 11, 2008

The McPain campain‘s incitement of hate and verbal violence from its supporters should come as no surprise. (See the disturbing footage of the Bethesda PA rally both at the Keystone Progress blog and on YouTube, where McPain supporters yell at Obama supporters with “Get a job!” and “Commie faggots!” I wonder if McPain supporters ever figured out that they were taking off work like the Obama supporters and should have been yelling at themselves, “Get a job!”)

Palin is a jingoist, no doubt. Extreme nationalism, excessive pride in belief that one’s country is superior to all others, belligerent foreign policy — those are elements that define jingoism, and I think Palin’s comments testify to that. But does that make her a fascist? Jeffrey Feldman says “no” in his article, “Palin Rallies Ignite Widespread Talk of ‘Fascism.'” While I appreciate Feldman’s caution in slinging such an incendiary term, a caution he shares with the not-so-nice George Orwell (in 1944, Orwell stated in “What is Fascism?” that the term had become meaningless, applied to groups as varied as Catholics, communists, and conservatives), I still think Palin is fascist. As much as I admire Orwell, I’m about to ignore the admonition at the end of “What is Fascism?”: “All one can do for the moment is to use the word with a certain amount of circumspection and not, as is usually done, degrade it to the level of a swearword.”

Well, maybe I am trying to attend to Orwell’s advice because here I am — trying to prove why I think Palin is a fascist. Feldman concludes that Palin’s crime is not fascism but populism: “Despite all these questions and concerns, I have not concluded that Sarah Palin’s past or recent campaign events represent the emergence of fascism in American politics. In particular, Sarah Palin does not bring anything even closely approaching a comprehensive totalitarian nationalist ideology to the campaign trail. … What she does bring is a noteworthy skill with extreme, often violent populism.”

I think Feldman is wrong. Populism — even “violent populism” — is just too tame a term for what Palin espouses. The glaring omission in Feldman’s article is any reference to Palin’s connections to the Alaska Independence Party, connections which have been well-covered in articles such as “Meet Sarah Palin’s radical right-wing pals” by Max Blumenthal and David Neiwert, and “The Palins’ un-American activities” by David Talbot. Oh, heck — go read “Sarah Palin: The view from Alaska” by Nick Jans, which has nothing about the Alaska Independence Party but exposes Palin as a poseur. Here’s the end of his article:

In the end, Palin’s attempt to cash in on the Eau d’Alaska mystique as she supports its destruction sickens those of us who do love this land, not for what it will be some day, after the roads and mines and pipelines and cities and malls are all in, but for what it is now. What we see before us is the soul of an ambitious, ruthless, Parks Highway hillbilly — a woman who represents the Alaska you probably never want to meet, and the one we wish never existed. That said, we’re all too willing to take her back. The alternative is just too damn frightening.

Palin’s connections to the Alaska Independence Party and her statements during recent rallies qualify her as fascist. Several definitions of fascism fit Palin, but I’ll focus on Umberto Eco’s criteria. Wikipedia has a good list of these criteria taken from Eco’s essay called “Ur-Fascism”, published in The New York Review of Books, 22 June 1995. They include fear of difference (“Ur-Fascism grows up and seeks for consensus by exploiting and exacerbating the natural fear of difference“) , disagreement is treason (“The critical spirit makes distinctions, and to distinguish is a sign of modernism”), pacifism is trafficking with the enemy (“It is bad because life is permanent warfare“), obsession with a plot (“The followers must feel beseiged. The easiest way to solve the plot is the appeal to xenophobia”), selective populism (“…the Leader pretends to be their [the People’s] interpreter. Having lost their power of delegation, citizens do not act; they are only called on to play the role of the People. Thus the People is only a theatrical fiction”), and reliance on Orwell’s Newspeak (“All the Nazi or Fascist schoolbooks made use of an impoverished vocabulary, and an elementary syntax, in order to limit the instruments for complex and critical reasoning”). Sounds a lot like Palin.

I’ll just finish with the ending of Eco’s article:

Ur-Fascism is still around us, sometimes in plainclothes. It would be so much easier for us if there appeared on the world scene somebody saying, “I want to reopen Auschwitz, I want the Blackshirts to parade again in the Italian squares.” Life is not that simple. Ur-Fascism can come back under the most innocent of disguises. Our duty is to uncover it and to point our finger at any of its new instances–every day, in every part of the world.

palin-biden debate – can’t imagine

October 1, 2008

I pride myself on a decent imagination. But tomorrow night’s vice presidential debate between Sarah Palin and Joe Biden has stripped my imagination of all its octane. I have no clue. Can’t picture it. This morning as I drove my son to school, I told him that Palin has been held captive the last couple weeks and is being fed mind-altering drugs. Her brainwashing will be complete just in time for tomorrow night. No one’s letting her go out on that debate stage without ensuring she won’t make huge gaffes, like…”The Constitution? What Constitution would that be, Gwen?”

1st debate: mccain-old, obama-smart, palin-muzzled, biden-yeah!

September 27, 2008

Looked as if McCain would run scared and not face Obama for the first debate. But that honor was given to Palin, whose stand-in was an obnoxious Rudy Giuliani. I don’t know who muzzled Palin: did she? But someone knew she’d make a fool of herself and the GOP. McCain said during the debates that his partner was a maverick just like he is. Hmm. Must by nice to believe one’s own hype. McCain was condescending to Obama. Chuck Dodd (NBC Political Director), one of the commentators with Brian Williams, said afterwards that McCain clearly disliked Obama — that something about Obama bothered McCain immensely. I think it’s that McCain has tried to become president how many times? Let’s see. Looks like this is only the second time, but why does it seem he’s been trying to be president forever? I think he wants it so badly that he cannot stand the sight of a younger politician with a meteoric rise. And that’s the source of his condescension towards Obama.

Palin was strikingly absent. Giuliani must have been schooled by McCain’s debate coaches, because he continued the condescension by saying that McCain just gave Obama a foreign policy lesson. Must be Giuliani’s deep knowledge of the subject, just as he’s so eloquent about community organizers. Not! Biden’s quick response to Brian Williams after the debate was sharp, critical of McCain (“John’s dead wrong”) and supportive of Obama’s points.

From McCain/Palin, look for more big, emotional phrases — like, “I believe in America” — with no practical plans to ensure there will be an America in the next decade. God help us if McCain/Palin steal this election!

The other very scary thing about McCain is that he talks about Iraq as if it were the Vietnam War. The exact same phrasing from that time: We will win this war. We will not come home defeated. Every time he talked about Iraq, I flashed back to talk about Vietnam. Biden must be close to McCain’s age but from Biden, I don’t get that stuck-in-the-past frozen-ness that I hear from McCain. From Biden, I get a reverence for the past and a willingness to learn from it to keep moving in the present and beyond.