Inspired by Brad Scharlott‘s pseudo-academic essay “Palin, the Press, and the Fake Pregnancy Rumor: Did a Spiral of Silence Shut Down the Story?”, Salon’s War Room has gone on the offense against Sarah Palin birthers. Click here for what they call their “definitive debunker.”
As someone who is constitutionally immune to Conspiracy Theory, I have to admit that I’m a bit troubled by how equanimous I’ve been in the face of Sarah and Trig Truthers. Not that I put any stock in their theories; I don’t. As I’ve written before, I believe that Sarah Palin is a compulsive tale-teller, that she drags her family before the cameras in a shameless way, and that, Katie Couric and Charlie Gibson or not, she’s basically been given a free ride by the MSM. But none of the evidence I’ve seen thus far (certainly not Scharlott’s photographic analysis or his calendrical hermeneutics) have convinced me that Palin faked her pregnancy or that her daughter Bristol gave birth to two babies in less than two years. Palin’s habitual grandiosity and untruthfulness suffice to account for the oddest parts of her entirely unbelievable story about how Trig came into the world; most of the Conspiracy Theorizing is just wishful thinking. If only her base realized how bad she is, the thinking seems to be, then surely they would abandon her.
I’ve done a little soul-searching and I think it’s a good thing that I did. Someone who presumes to expose conspiracy theories should understand why they pose such a great temptation, even to reasonably thoughtful people. A writer who argues at book length, as I do in my forthcoming THE NEW HATE, that Conspiracy Theorists are fearful and resentful and prone to magical thinking, should be aware of his or her own susceptibilities, the better to guard against them. I have a lot of resentment and fear about Sarah Palin, I do. Something in me believes that it would be poetic justice to see a politician who purveys as Manichaean and conspiratorial a view of the world as she does get hoist by her own petard. It’s infuriating how she’s able to have her cake and eat it too, purveying the most retrograde sexist trash while being celebrated as a new kind of feminist–can’t people see that she’s not even a good mother? More and more right wing voters may be coming to that conclusion, even without any fantastic revelations. As the Palin family becomes increasingly indistinguishable from the Kardashians, fewer and fewer Americans seem to want them in the White House. That’s Democracy in action and it’s a good thing.
Still, in the same way that the ACLU defends Nazis and other despicable types that no one else will touch with a ten foot pole, debunkers of all stripes should be rising to Sarah Palin’s defense. Just as 911 Truthers play into the right’s hands by distracting attention from the very real crimes of the Bush administration, Trig Truthers distract from Palin’s appallingly shallow economics, her Dominionist theology, and her self-aggrandizing vacuity. They even make her look just a tiny bit sympathetic.
As for those, like Andrew Sullivan, who aren’t Conspiracy Theorists by a long shot, but who are stubbornly holding out for either a confession that she lied or a mea culpa for her phenomenal irresponsibility–well, they’re going to be waiting for a long time. If they’ve helped dampen her presidential expectations in the meantime, then we owe them a debt of thanks.