What fuels the nation’s continued hunger for all things S**** P****? NYT’s Ross Douthat goes to the stats, but reaches the wrong conclusion anyway:
“Blaming the media and P**** for their increasingly toxic symbiosis risks understating the role that the public plays in generating demand for obsessive P**** coverage. The press wouldn’t go to well so often if people weren’t eager to drink.
“P****’s “very positive” numbers, while high, are not staggeringly so: Using this (admittedly) crude metric, she inspires slightly less devotion than George W. Bush and Hillary Clinton, and slightly more than Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney. It’s her negative numbers that are off the charts: No politician, from Bush to Barack Obama to Nancy Pelosi, is hated so intensely by so many Americans.
“And this is what’s so problematic, to my mind, about much of the P**** coverage: The media often acts as though they’re covering her because her conservative fan base is so large (hence the endless talk about her 2012 prospects), when they’re really covering her because so many liberals are eager to hear about, read about and then freak about whatever that awful, terrifying woman is up to now.
“My point isn’t that P**** isn’t a significant political figure, or that she doesn’t inspire ardent devotion from many conservative Americans, or that she doesn’t deserve a significant level of press attention: She is, and does, and does. But the most egregious, obsessive and pointless Palin coverage (of the sort we saw in the wake of the Tucson shootings) has less to do with responding to the scope of her appeal, and more to do with pandering to the millions of Americans for whom she’s become a hate figure, and who are always eager to be confirmed in that hatred.”
That’s where Douthat and I disagree – I understand why P****’s a significant media figure, as much as Rush or Beck or Hannity or Pat Buchanan or Pat Caddell or Keith Olbermann or James Carville. But why anyone takes her seriously as a genuinely significant political thinker is beyond me. And I think Douthat’s dismissively characterizing the most critical coverage as ‘pandering’ undercuts his own ‘significance’ argument. If he wants to talk about a significant political figure unfairly demonized by a media playing to a partisan audience, over a long period of time, he should chat up Hillary Clinton.