A Break in the Media Onslaught Against Sarah Palin?

By Dave Andrusko

If even marginally true, the headline in POLITICO–‘”Lamestream media’ defends Palin”—would clearly demonstrate that you know what has frozen over. And while this is an exaggeration, and unlikely to last longer than a flower in the Antarctic, that any “mainstream” journalist would conclude “these character assassinations go too far” says something that inspires hope.

Molly Ball’s conclusion is an extrapolation of two recent accounts in the New York Times, the bulletin board for those who despise Palin, and other actions taken that together suggest that Joe McGinniss’ new book about the pro-life former Governor of Alaska and 2008 GOP vice presidential candidate is beyond the pale.

You may remember there was some uneasiness when McGinniss rented the house next to the Palins, the better to “report” on Mrs. Palin for the book he was writing. Even some of the professional Palin-haters thought this was tacky, not to mention a blatant invasion of privacy.

Janet Maslin, a terrific writer, reviewed McGinniss’s “The Rouge:

Searching for the Real Sarah Palin” for the Times. Maslin hated the book and loathed McGinniss. Here are a couple of representative quotes from her review:

“Although most of ‘The Rogue’ is dated, petty and easily available to anyone with Internet access, Mr. McGinniss used his time in Alaska to chase caustic, unsubstantiated gossip about the Palins, often from unnamed sources like ‘one resident’ and ‘a friend.’”

And in chasing down rumors, after his conduct hit bottom, he dug deeper. Referring to one “source,” Maslin writes,

Mr. McGinniss eggs him on with the kind of flagrantly leading question he seems to have habitually asked.

Ms. Ball summarized the review thusly:

Reviewer Janet Maslin called ‘The Rogue’” a work of ‘caustic, unsubstantiated gossip,’ accusing its author, who rented a house next door to the Palins for a time, of sloppiness, attention seeking and a lack of neighborliness.”

Ball offers other examples of welcome fair-mindedness from unexpected sources. They include the unwillingness of some newspapers to publish “Doonesbury” strips which “weave excerpts from the text into the strip’s narrative” (with McGinniss’s permission), some unflattering reviews of a ghastly British “documentary” (described by Variety as “sarcastically toned, strategically timed character assassination”), and a respectful (as much as can expected in the Times) analysis by Anand Giridharadas of a fascinating speech Palin gave to the Iowa Tea Party.

Of course it’s likely that the typical wintry-blasts of over-the-top criticism will soon overpower these springtime whiffs of warm air. For Palin is an irresistible target: a conservative, pro-life feminist, who didn’t make the right “choice” when she found out that her son,Trig, would have Down syndrome.

But we can hope—even when the usual suspects are asking for “civility” at the same time they stick rhetorical shives in their opponents’ backs–that this pause in cruelty can gradually become an extended wait and then a complete halt.

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