Friday links! Rule of the commentariat edition

It’s been a bonanza week for news commentators, with earthquakes, tell-all books, people saying “negro” two years ago—everything that makes a vibrant political discourse thrive. The big news, though, was that a certain someone jumped from national electoral politics to the big show: cable news commentating. When Bill O’Reilly welcomed Sarah Palin to Fox News, he told her that she had acquired a powerful tool, a bigger megaphone that she could at last use to shout back at her critics. The implication was that being a Fox commentator was a position of greater power than being governor of Alaska. And was he wrong? Sarah Palin is more popular now than she was when she had the full might of the Republican Party behind her. Rush Limbaugh has outlasted the Contract With America, three Presidents and presumably dozens of minor coronaries. And Glenn Beck can’t think. Powerful men all, and it’s hard to argue that they wield less influence over the American people than do Pelosi, Boehner and Reid. Perhaps that is as it should be. I, for one, welcome our new and increasingly bloated masters, and urge them to form a new government of Real Americans and questionable analogies to Hitler just as soon as they can. Won’t you join me in considering the beautiful world they’re creating? No? Okay, back to cat videos, then. I’ll see the rest of you after the jump.

First and foremost, possibly even before breathing and human compassion, here’s Sarah Palin being interviewed by Glenn Beck. Props to Ben Fowlkes, Mike Sebba and virtually everyone else I know for sending me the link. If circumstances somehow prevent you from viewing this video at work, quit your job. If you quit by firing a gun into the air and are now temporarily deafened, I can tell you that the interview begins with Beck explaining that he has chosen his location based on its proximity to the Statue of Liberty and the former location of the World Trade Center. (Also, presumably, to Fox News studios, and to god knows what massage parlor, but moving on.) The next thing he says is, “Sarah, I want to read to you what I wrote last night in my journal, because it’s about you,” to which Sarah Palin replies, “Mmm.” The interview continues at that pitch of insanity for roughly an hour, during which these two charlatans agree that the most difficult aspect of their lives is that people are so untrustworthy. Fifty years from now, when Sarah Palin is completely senile and talking to the soda machine in her nursing home, this is the conversation she will repeat.

Later in the interview, Beck asks Palin to name her favorite Founding Father—which is just the kind of hardball journalism that put the man on top of the heap. Palin initially says, “all of them,”—the same answer she gave Katie Couric, infamously, when asks what newspaper or magazine she reads—then settles on George Washington. Chris Matthews, whose voice still throws me into mild panic, opines that it’s the answer of a kid who hasn’t read the book. Sam Stein, on the other hand, believes it’s indicative of Palin’s systematic and intentional vagueness. “It’s not trying to get in trouble, is my opinion,” says Stein, in a textbook example of why it’s considered rude to quote someone verbatim. But which Founding Father, besides maybe Jefferson, could possibly have gotten Palin in trouble? Matthews suggests that she should have appealed to the Tea Party by going with Tom Paine, which would be a terrible idea, since Paine’s atheism was so public as to nearly get him tried for freethinking. Hamilton is out, too, since he believed the United States should have a king and championed the National Bank, which runs pretty much opposite to Tea Party quote-unquote thinking. John Adams advocated for a strong federal government, too, and Ben Franklin was cozy with the French. That leaves John Hancock, famous primarily for his ability to sign his name. Keep reaching for the stars, Sarah.

Palin is new at this whole commentating game, so she can be forgiven the occasional misstep. Give her a few years and she’ll be right there at the forefront of right-wing political philosophy with Rush Limbaugh, who has stripped conservatism down to its barest essence: not giving a rat’s ass about anyone. The 59 year-old radio host and hair nest sufferer (warning: gross) responded to the Haitian earthquake by arguing that “we’ve already donated to Haiti; it’s called the income tax.” He also speculated, after the White House set up a system for donating to the relief effort through its website, that aid money would be diverted to Barack Obama’s reelection fund. The important thing, during this time of crisis, is to remember that our morality does not depend on whether or not we help our fellow man; it rests entirely with our patriotism and defense of the free enterprise system. Ask any clergyman.

Are you sad yet? Does the fact that A) Fox News is by far the most popular media outlet in America and B) it is a dedicated, 24-hour propaganda organ for the Republican Party, which has C) organized its political philosophy in such a way as to actively discourage charity worry you? Well, Combat! blog has good news for once: we still have this guy. Like Frankenstein if they had put a really good brain in him, Fareed Zakaria’s terrifying face speaks reason once again. His premise—that the purpose of terrorism is to make people scared—is so simple and right as to be utterly forgotten at this point, and his indictment of our response to the comically inept Underwear Bomber is spot-on. Granted, he’s no former vice presidential candidate being interviewed by the world’s most beloved fat, crying Mormon, but he is right. That still counts for something. Props to The Cure for the link, props to Zakaria for making so much sense in it, and props to you, dear reader, for making it this far. I know Fridays can be rough. Easier days are ahead, though, and while the rest of us are nursing our hangovers with Emergen-C and episodes of Rome, Sarah Palin has to go to church. So there is some justice, after all.

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  1. To answer your questions, no I’m not worried about Fox because cable news is to the 21st century what AM radio was to the late 20th. It doesn’t surprise me in the least that the radical right has burrowed into yesterday’s medium and dominated because any medium (be it AM radio, or cable news, or the electric Ouji Board) can never be used to explore, converse or report if you’re an authoritarian right-winger. The medium is the message … and only the message. It is a one-way communication device for the purpose or rallying and amplifying the same thing over and over again.

    One hopes the democratizing influence of new media will continue to outpace the right-wing’s begrudging efforts to communicate with people. I don’t know what comes after the Internet Age, but I’m pretty sure we’ll have reached it when is the number one web site in the country. In their enduring quest to hurl us forward into the Middle Ages, Palin & Company will never subject themselves to the kind of openness and mutuality central to all authentic human communication. Consequently, they will always be left out of any evolution in human communication (Palin’s Facebook page notwithstanding).

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