We’ll break you (though we never made you)

I’m sorry, but this column by CBS’s Jon Friedman just left me bug-eyed, slack-jawed, and at a loss for words.  (Wow, I think I feel this blog’s very first rant coming on…)

Below commenceth the Gospel According to Friedman, boiled down to its essential elements:

  1. Sarah Palin is skyrocketing in popularity and boosting the McCain-Palin ticket because the news media have made it so.
  2. Palin’s rise follows a familiar pattern; namely, that of the news media building up new and interesting public figures “to mythic levels” only to knock them down again.
  3. When the inevitable knocking-down comes around, according to the headline, “The Sarah Palin phenomenon is doomed.”
  4. There is nothing Palin, McCain, or anyone else can do about it.
  5. Oh, by the way, Charlie Gibson is not a complete tool, didn’t deliberately misquote Palin’s Alaska address on Iraq, and actually does have a clue what the “Bush Doctrine” is (despite what the man who actually coined the phrase says to the contrary).

The obvious question that leaps to mind:  where the heck was I when any news network was ever “building up” Sarah Palin to any level, let alone “mythic” ones?

Further pertinent questions below the break.

Friedman states as fact that the initial coverage of Palin was positive, when in truth it wasn’t much more than simply, frantically confused.  The McCain campaign kept such an uncommonly tight lid on the Republican veepstakes that no major news figure saw the final result coming.  There was even speculation that she hadn’t been vetted for more than a day or two (reports from correspondents who actually bothered to stop by Alaska found out later that McCain had been sending scouts Palin’s way since last May).  One well-respected correspondent was so thrown that he referred to her multiple times as “Susan Palin.”

In picking a running mate nobody in the media remotely predicted, the Republican campaign did something much more strictly forbidden than attacking the media.  McCain and Palin embarrassed them, which made it personal.  Combine that with Palin’s stemwinder speech at the convention following closely on the heels of her speech at the announcement of her candidacy, and you have a search-and-destroy mission.

Make no mistake:  no one in the news media ever made any effort to “build up” Palin. Ever.  The entire thesis of a familiar pattern to which Friedman attributes his colleagues’ baffling behavior depends on a phantom soft-coverage phase immediately following the veep announcement.  I’m sorry, but no honest person can make the case that such hype ever happened before the long knives came out.

Peppered throughout the column are little cheap (not to mention unsupportable) shots insisting that Palin fell on her face during Charlie Gibson’s interview (apparently Gibson is “as dignified a newsperson as America has now,” a smear for which all journalists should string Friedman up).  This, despite the multiple reports of selective editing of the interview itself (unedited transcript with highlighted cuts here), Gibson stripping Palin’s public statements of all context regarding the Iraq war, and demanding that she hew to a partial, outdated definition of the “Bush Doctrine.”

It’s really a much more economical use of space to suggest you just read the column to get a load of all  the head-shaking asininities oozing from this exercise in hackery (loath as I am to steer even the tiny trickle of Web traffic I get Friedman’s way).

In any case, for Friedman to claim that he and his fellow hired guns are responsible for the positive public reaction to Gov. Palin, and then to compound the hilarity by making ominous noises about how they will soon break her once the “media decides they are bored with her” (since, naturally, The Press giveth and The Press taketh away) is an exercise in arrogance that only someone living in his ivory tower — sorry, Black Rock — could possibly think he can get away with.

Jon and Friends may yet succeed in ripping Palin to shreds, but it certainly won’t be remembered as “building her up” before “knocking her down.”  The coverage has been all knockdown, all the time, right from the second she and McCain pantsed them all before the world.  In the meantime, Jon only looks like a frog stuck in the deep end of the pool as he maintains that he’s been in control of Palin’s public image all along.

Weaselly little moron.

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