To what degree is Sarah Palin trolling us?

Sarah Palin tries out her ultimately discarded catchphrase, "I'm a bad wittle sublimation of wacism."

Sarah Palin sublimates a nation’s racism in her adorable voice.

As the respectful absence of Combat! blog reminded us, yesterday was Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. I celebrated the way Dr. King called on us all to do, by remaining silent, but every American observed the holiday as he or she saw fit. Sarah Palin, for example, called on President Obama to stop playing the race card. As usual, she used Facebook to communicate her argument, but she was uncharacteristically to the point:

Happy MLK, Jr. Day!

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

Mr. President, in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. and all who commit to ending any racial divide, no more playing the race card.

That was the whole thing, and it raises an important question: to what degree is Sarah Palin trolling us?

First of all, props to Palin for saying “Happy MLK, Jr. Day” instead of “racial greetings,” as the War on MLK Day wants you to. She’s not falling victim to our politically correct society, but literally everyone else, white and black, is. Dr. King was very clear when he said that he dreamed his children would not be judged by the color of their skin: he wanted us to ignore race entirely. Yet Barack Obama continues to be black and the president, thereby throwing it in our face that he is the first black president.

He keeps playing the race card. Nobody liked the Affordable Care Act, but we passed it without a peep because Obama is black. Same deal with Benghazi and NSA spying—other administrations would have been criticized for these failures, but no one dares say anything to this president because he keeps playing the race card.

The absurdity of this argument hardly needs sarcasm to accentuate it. To call on the president to stop playing the race card is questionable, but for a white lady to do it on MLK Day—to make it the center of her MLK King Day message—is utterly nanners. It’s almost as if Palin were trying to get a rise out of us.

This suspicion puts us in a difficult position. To the extent that Palin is a recent candidate for the vice presidency and political leader to millions of Americans who wish politics were more like a cooking show, we should take what she says seriously. But to the extent that her career is obviously organized around appearance fees, we should ignore her. Sarah Palin is clinging to fame. She says what she thinks will be most repeated, and therefore we should try not to pay attention.

In internet terms, Palin is a troll. Like Paulo Coelho novels, trolling is a behavior that passes for clever among dumb people wherein you say something not to convey information but to elicit a response. A classic one is the Xbox 360 troll, where you say, “Why do they call it an Xbox 360? Because when you see one, you turn 360 degrees and walk away.” Then, when someone points out that turning 360 degrees faces you in the same direction as before you turned, you laugh because you tricked them.

That’s it. Notice the two key elements of trolling: the other person is paying attention to you—often because he is angry—and you have not necessarily outsmarted him. Unlike other tricks of wit, trolling does not generally depend on demonstrating intellectual superiority over the other person. The deception is only that the troll is pretending to be a stupid person, in the hopes that the trolled will react with outrage.

That’s why trolling is dumb: rather than mimicking the behavior of a smart person, as in wit, the troll need only say something stupid. That stupidity then rises to the level of cleverness when someone else points it out, because—ha!—you were only acting stupid. Trolling is to badinage as prank is to farce.

So when semiprofessional honky Sarah Palin tells the president to stop playing the race card on Martin Luther King Day, to what degree is she consciously replicating the behavior of an idiot? Here the operative word is “consciously.” The fatuous irony of her statement is obvious. No one whose job it is to keep Palin from saying stupid or self-destructive things would let this one slip by.

Maybe Palin is typing her missives directly into Facebook herself, and so she really is the victim of her own stupidity on this one. Or maybe she is stupid like a fox. After a brief career saying idiotic things by accident as a candidate, she has settled into a long career saying idiotic things on purpose as a personality. The rest of us are just trying to get across the bridge, and there she is, riddling her ass off.

Combat! blog is free. Why not share it?
Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Reddit


  1. I lament, democracy operates on the lowest appreciation wit. Our distinctions of high-brow/low-brow or reasonable/unreasonable are misdirections. There’s a whole bunch of people who absorb the emotional tone of this Palin message without critically thinking about, and that is why it was posted. Palin is an emotional tone excrement device, the Rush Limbaugh v2.0.

Leave a Comment.