Brand building through storytelling

Bamboozled by a fake blogger

The more I learn about Sarah Palin, the less I trust her. I wonder how I ever fell for that carefully crafted image of the good ol’ gal whose squeaky-clean ethics and unquenchable courage propelled her from unassuming hockey mom to vice-presidential candidate and—if her adoring fans have their way—contender for the Oval Office in 2012.

But I’m not here to tell you why I’ve hardened my heart (although, if you ask, you might get an earful). I’m actually rushing to Sarah’s defense. Remember those mouthy McCain staffers who claimed—anonymously, of course—that she thought Africa was a country? Well, guess what! It’s not true. It’s a fiction planted on the blogosphere and lovingly watered by scandal-mongering cyberpundits until it spread like kudzu through the mainstream media. Which just goes to show that the press, the supposed defender of truth and justice, can be anything but.

As reported in yesterday’s New York Times, a couple of pranksters dreamed up a blog by an imaginary conservative policy wonk, Martin Eisenstadt (they chose the name because “all the neocons in the Bush administration had Jewish last names and Christian first names”). Mr. Eisenstadt supposedly hailed from the Harding Institute of Freedom and Democracy (no such place). He was impersonated on YouTube with all the gravitas befitting his stature as a pillar of Republican thought.

I remember the day the news broke that unnamed McCain staffers were dishing dirt about Palin. By this time I sort of wanted to think the worst of her, just as, back in high school, I had wanted to believe the whispered slurs about a certain mean girl with a wardrobe fit for Seventeen and the worshipful attention of every boy in sight. But I just couldn’t buy the Africa smear. While Sarah Palin may be ruthless and wrong-headed, she clearly isn’t stupid. So why were so many people crowing, “Have you seen the latest bone-headed gaffe from Sarah Palin?”

I’d call it sexism, but the truth seems more perplexing than that. Palin’s image is partly about old-fashioned sex appeal (oh, that big hair and flirtatious wink). Guys salivate over this woman, and she knows it. In fact, it was partly her reassuring feminine charms that moved Republican insiders to push her onto the ticket (for more about this, see a fascinating New Yorker story).

Oh, by the way. Just in case you’ve wondered, there’s a real woman writing this blog, thinking with my fingers as I try to understand what puzzles and intrigues me.

Click here to read my post “Dear Governor Palin,” which I wrote in a mellower mood, and here for “The plus side of Palinania.” I’ve got to hand it to Sarah Palin: she has burrowed into my head like the enthralling, complicated heroine of the political novel someone’s bound to write one day. 

 

Posted by Rona

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