I had the occasion to visit Juneau, the capitol of Alaska, last August, and within five minutes of seeing the city, declared that McCain's people must have lost their continence when they landed there, knowing that no way was this Sarah Palin thing going to end up well. Because honestly, the place is so small, so isolated, so everything that Washington, DC isn't, that there would have to be armies of people on hand to get Ms. Palin up to speed on how to run a vice presidential campaign. And in hindsight, it's a lot to expect of anyone that teams of condescending DC staffers wouldn't produce some bitterness. Just maybe not the kind of bitterness Palin is dishing out in her ghostwritten memoir.
But as anyone concerned with their public image realizes, as soon as one's message is out, all control is lost. McCain's campaign staffers pulled their hair out trying to control Ms. Palin, and now Palin herself has concerns that she will be unfairly depicted in the upcoming unauthorized biography of her by Joe McGinniss, author of several best-selling books, including Fatal Vision, Blind Faith, and Cruel Doubt, all non-fiction works about murders. He's written a few biographies before, but selecting Sarah Palin portends to be a very big seller indeed, even bigger than his book on Alaska and its oil pipeline. It would be cream on top for him if she'd, yanno, slap someone silly in public, but that's not likely to happen.
So he's done the next best thing and moved into the vacant house next door to her in Wasilla, Alaska. Because of course he couldn't find out anything about Sarah Palin from four houses away.
As odd as this situation sounds, it jumped over the line into wholly inappropriate once Todd Palin knocked on Joe's door to introduce himself. Unsurprisingly, he did not bring cookies. After what could be described as "an episode of the yelling kind," Todd left his new short-term neighbor, and here's where everything really started to go off the rails. Sarah remarks that he should have just talked to the sheriff about the moving in. The amount of horse hockey in that statement is preposterous, to start with. This ain't Cabot Cove, and Todd Palin is nowhere near being Jessica Fletcher. You don't just drop by to ask the sherriff—presumably a busy person—why your next door neighbor is an SOB without a BP oil accident-level of privilege.
Sarah Palin went straight to her Facebook page to insinuate the worst of motives for Wasilla's newest resident, writing that she worried about his line of sight to her pool and her daughter's bedroom. Joe fired back in the press that 1) he wasn't interested in writing about her family, and 2) he could barely see her pool.
What this meant to me was that Sarah was being disingenuous, and Joe had tried to see into her pool area. Creepy Number One, please meet Creepy Number Two. Look, a matched set!
But wait, things get more surreal from here. Todd Palin builds a fence between the homes. Joe says they're not Nazis, but they sure walk and talk and smell like Nazis. The Palins say that Joe is still trying to look in on them and now they're considering moving away for the summer. Seeing as Joe has taken out a 5-month lease on the house next door, someone should let the Palins know that staying away just for the summer won't be quite enough time.
And now the local media has gotten into it. The Mat-Su Frontiersman—someone needs to show the editor-in-chief and publisher the AP style guide to non sexist language—ran an oh-so-uninflaming article about the fair use of spraying someone with gunfire to protect one's property. Where's that sheriff again?
I suppose it was inevitable that Glenn Beck would jump into the fray, being the careful news journalist that he is. His comments are so inane and reductive as to not warrant being included here, but trust me, they're available on YouTube. Ms. Palin kept up her message that she was annoyed and feared the man next door, outlining a plot that sounded a lot like a horror movie or Law & Order SVU episode. The peeping Tom next door escalates to. . .sadistic murder, most foul.
I'm with others who question why one would need to live right next door to the person they're investigating, when it's pretty much common sense that the focus of their work would not be likely to enjoy such proximity. That commands a vast quantity of privilege in and of itself. But the Palin's response to what I presume is an adverse situation also reeks of class and race privilege, and the subtle hints of violence are just out-and-out unacceptable, especially for such a public figure—one who still keeps a foot in the public official arena, at that. So I will call this a match of the creepy-inspiring. Three rounds so far, and it's still a draw. But I can't think of a better example of polarizing figures in popular culture and politics framing each side of a discourse in the most impoverished terms possible.
There are, actually, three levels of problematic behavior occurring here:
- McGinniss's disingenuous justification of moving next to the Palin's despite any cultural history of celebrity stalkers. I don't think it's just me who hears about this story and thinks about David Letterman's stalker, Rebecca Schaeffer, or Jodi Foster's famous, president assassinating stalker.
- Sarah Palin's ridiculous accusations about McGinniss's motives for moving next door, regardless of how unfounded they are, or how they fuel an already angry, anti-media right-wing following.
- Irresponsible journalists on both "sides" who publish reductive or articles on the people involved in this mess, like how awful Joe's career has been or what a terrible person Sarah is.
What a fun time to live in Wasilla.