From Justin Elliott over at Salon, I just learned about Brad Scharlott, a journalism professor at Northern Kentucky University who has written an as yet unpublished “29-page academic-style paper titled ‘Palin, the Press, and the Fake Pregnancy Rumor: Did a Spiral of Silence Shut Down the Story?'” Elliott thinks the paper brings shame on Northern Kentucky University; me, I don’t see that he said anything that is even remotely as wacky as what Donald Trump has been purveying on network TV over the last few weeks. I can’t say that I found Scharlott’s photographic evidence very convincing, or even that I agree with his conclusions. But I don’t think his piece is shameful or execrable either. Frankly, I’m glad to see that someone besides Andrew Sullivan is willing to hold Palin’s feet to the fire. Click here so you can read it yourself and make up your own mind. Here is the paragraph that stirred my indignation:
The rumor that Barack Obama was not born on American soil and thus is not eligible to be president is not a taboo subject at all in U.S. media. The rumor originated during his primary race against Hillary Clinton, and has been reported on frequently since then, even though authorities such as the U.S. Supreme Court and the state of Hawaii agree Obama has proved his citizenship. A search of the Newspaper Source database shows 121 newspaper articles since January of 2008 dealing with Obama’s birth certificate. The same database over the same period shows just three newspaper articles dealing with Palin’s alleged birth hoax.
Andrew Sullivan’s obsession with the circumstances of Trig’s birth (there are simply too many posts and stories to link to, but you can start here, with his Sunday Times review of Going Rogue) has been pointed to as evidence that the right doesn’t have a monopoly on nutso conspiracy theories. I agree that the left can be as conspiratorial as the right on some subjects (911 Truth and the Kennedy Assassination are two big ones) but I take exception to the idea that 1) Andrew Sullivan is in any way representative of the left; 2) That he is irrational or paranoid or delusional on the subject of Sarah Palin and Trig–he isn’t (though he’s less than chivalrous); and 3) That Sarah Palin hasn’t left herself open in a thousand and one ways to just the sort of speculation that he engages in.
My take, for what it’s worth (based solely on Occam’s Razor and no sleuthing of my own), is that Palin really did give birth to Trig, but not under the dramatic (and highly improbable) circumstances that she claimed she did. This is a woman who can’t tell the simplest story without puffing herself up; it’s easy for me to imagine how this time she went a bit too far. Like, for starters, that bit about her water breaking in Texas. The first time she added that detail to her narrative she must have thought it made her sound brave and hearty and gutsy, like a frontier mother giving birth behind the circled wagons during a shootout with Indians. When she realized that it made her look insanely irresponsible instead–like a highschool girl giving birth in the girl’s room at a prom–it was too late for her to retract it. The reason that it looks like she has something to hide is because she does. Not that Trig is her grandson, but that the official record contradicts her own account in innumerable ways. Once again, it’s not the crime, it’s the cover up.
I think Scharlott gets the “spiral of silence” wrong too. Journalists haven’t worried about reprisals so much as they’ve hesitated to violate their own canons of Political Correctness. Who wouldn’t feel squeamish going after a woman politician’s story about how she gave birth? It makes you look sexist, it makes you look like a cheap gossip, and it gives this anti-feminist politician the opportunity to get up on her high horse and accuse you of subjecting a woman to a different standard than a man. Why go there if you don’t have to? As a gay Catholic and an erstwhile Bush supporter Sullivan has long experience pissing people off; he’s learned not to give a shit about what anyone thinks about him. That might make him annoying to Sarah Palin supporters (not to mention Palin herself), but he’s a far cry from an Oliver Stone, a Charlie Sheen, or an Orly Taitz.