Ed Driscoll

The Gray Lady Versus Sarah Palin

Roger L. Simon explores “The New York Times, Sarah Palin, and the ‘Gravitas Gap:’”

The New York Times Magazine has a lengthy cover profile of Sarah Palin coming out Sunday, and already available online, titled “The Palin Network.” While its principal takeaway appears to be Palin’s admission she is seriously mulling a presidential run — an acknowledgment she has evidently also repeated to Barbara Walters on ABC — that was not what interested me in the article.  That Palin is at least considering a candidacy at this point should surprise no one.  The article by Robert Draper was much more fascinating as a snapshot of where the New York Times is at this moment regarding the former Alaska governor.

Now we can take it as a given that the powers that be on 44th Street would prefer China’s Hu Jintao — possibly even Hugo Chavez or Ahmadinejad — for U.S. president to Sarah Palin.  Nevertheless, they have a problem.  Is it better to tear down Palin unmercifully now, as was done by most of the MSM earlier, or to give her a pass for the time being, so that she might actually get nominated to be branded later, when it counts, as a dangerous extremist, not to mention an illiterate moron?

This is a tricky problem indeed for the “objective journalist.”  For the most part, Draper does an elegant job of splitting the difference, noting on the one hand that no one could any longer “underestimate” Sarah Palin, while only a few paragraphs before reminding us the dullard used the word “refudiate,” instead of “repudiate,” in a Twitter posting.  (Could that simply have been a typo?  Draper — who undoubtedly never makes them — was mum on the subject.)

But how does Draper finally resolve the conundrum?  Since the advent of the Internet, we have been teaching each other how to read articles in papers like the Times.  In think pieces — now often called “news analysis” — six or eight experts are consulted on a subject.  Quotes from these experts are then ordered somehow mysteriously to endorse the author’s point in the last paragraph. (Similar techniques are used for populist “man-on-the-street” stories.)

To further decipher the story arcs of the Times’ pre-programmed narratives, click here for my interview with William McGowan, the author of the new book, Gray Lady Down.