Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Brent Bozell: Palin Movie vs. Media Mythology

The footage of Palin at a rally in Madison was impressive.
As founder and president of media watchdog organization Media Research Center, Brent Bozell probably understands media bias better than anyone. That's why we were eager to read his review of "The Undefeated":
The movie is not an attempt at objectivity. It's a campaign film, a longer version of the kind Harry Thomason and Linda Bloodworth-Thomason produced for Bill Clinton. You know, "I believe ... in a place called Hope." Or the one PBS darling Ken Burns made for Ted Kennedy in 2008. The only difference is that our media tend to greet liberal films with open arms and swooning heads, while similar conservative efforts are inevitably trashed.

Still, it would be nice if journalists would be open to considering as accurate the movie's version of Palin's life and career, since they often still confuse Palin quotes with Tina Fey satire ("I can see Russia from my house!"). The three phases of this movie are antidotes to media myth-making.

Myth 1: She's a bubblehead. The first part of the movie covers her time as mayor of Wasilla, Alaska. The film shows that Palin rebuilt Wasilla's infrastructure to attract national retailers, which helped grow the local economy. (Rather than give her any credit, reporters were more concerned with false rumors about her ignorant censorship/mistreatment of the town librarian.) As mayor and as governor, Palin governed in boring detail, not with Crayola crayons.

Myth 2: She's no populist. The media want Palin's post-gubernatorial book and TV deals to cancel out her appeal to fly-over country. The second part is where Bannon's real passion shows: the story of Palin's tenure as governor, especially her management of energy issues and her advocacy of a gas pipeline into Canada. This is a story that voters either forgot or never even heard about (and it's the one that's emerging again from her vault of e-mails). She was a hands-on populist executive, not the "Caribou Barbie" cartoon.

Myth 3. She can't appeal to the middle. This section's 2011 footage of Palin at a rally in Madison, Wis., against the union-thug takeover of the state Capitol was certainly impressive. Reporters are so enthralled by government and its employee unions that they can't envision a scenario where centrists or independent voters would vote in favor of taking out the scissors to slice government budgets with "draconian" cuts. But independents voted for conservative Gov. Scott Walker and other budget-cutters in 2010, and they loved Gov. Palin. Before John McCain selected her for the GOP ticket, she had an 80 percent approval rating.

Bozell does have a couple of nits to pick with the film. He doesn't think it is fair to other conservative candidates. What we believe he fails to grasp is that the documentary isn't about other conservative candidates. It's about Gov. Palin, and how she was singled out for special demonization by the media. He takes issue with Andrew Breitbart's characterization of Beltway conservative men as eunuchs. We suggest Bozell take that up with Mr. Breitbart. The filmmaker asked Andrew for his opinion, and he gave one of many opinions are expressed by conservative commentators over the two hour course of the film. Would Brent Bozell prefer that the makers of the documentary have edited Breitbart's comments to make them appear less confrontational? Had they done so, then the Andrew Bretbart seen on the screen would not be the real life Andrew Breitbart.

We would also ask Mr. Bozell where all these good Beltway conservatives were while their colleagues were trashing Sarah Palin over the past three years. Why did few of them, if any, stand up for her? She certainly had no problem defending conservatives, from Nikki Haley to Dr. Laura Schlessinger when they were unfairly treated. And that's the difference Bozell fails to see. That is what makes Sarah's spine stiffer than all those conservative Beltway men Bozell seems to be so concerned about.

Bozell also complains that, "The movie also implies that every other conservative in the race is 'the establishment.'" We have seen "The Undefeated," and that's not the impression we got from it at all. Implications are often in the eye of the beholder, and that seems to be the case here. while the documentary does make the point that not all who wear the mantle of a conservative are independent of the beltway establishment, to say that it implies "every other" conservative in the race is part of the establishment is simply ludicrous. But one point we'd wager even Mr. Bozell would have to agree with us on is that Sarah Palin stands further apart from the establishment than any of her peers. And this is, we believe, the point the filmmaker was trying to get across.

Still, Brent Bozell recognizes the significance of "The Undefeated." He concludes that the film is more than simply a documentary. "It's an event -- one that shows that Palin is far better prepared, at least technologically, to wage a primary campaign than any of her rivals. And she hasn't even announced." And on that we can agree with the MRC president.

- JP

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