The Defiant Stance


I think Sullivan’s reader gets this wrong:

Part of Sarah Palin’s irresistible appeal to her fundamentalist base is her ability to look at the camera with utter conviction and declare black to be white.

Fundamentalists can recognize a truly audacious and talented liar from miles away. Instead of running the other way, as you might expect, they gather around the powerful liar, for they know that their own lies will be respected and protected by a leader who understands the paramount importance of preserving their whole system of denial.

This is wrong on two counts, I think: the who and the what.

First, assuming this person is referring to Christian fundamentalists, which s/he pretty clearly is (read the rest of the post at the link above), there’s the problem of overspecificity.  Palin’s appeal isn’t just to Christian fundamentalists.  They are only one pillar of her support in the GOP.  The other, equally important, pillar is neoconservatives, who, by and large, are neither particularly Christian nor fundamentalists (except in a political sense).

The second and much bigger problem is in what Palin’s appeal is.

It isn’t the lying itself that draws Christian fundamentalists.  It’s the willingness to stand in the mainstream media spotlight, shake a fist, and insist on the reality they believe is true.  It’s a classic speech act: “by saying something we do something.”

Reality hasn’t been breaking fundamentalists’ way for the past, oh, hundred and fifty years.  (Fundamentalism itself arose in reaction to modernism and the scientific vision of reality it presented, remember.)  Those chickens just started coming home to roost, politically, for American fundamentalists about fifty years ago, and their resentment has been building ever since.

Living in a democratic society, seeing that society base policy on what you believe to be utter non-reality, and lacking the votes to do much about it is a frustrating experience.  Ask any liberal about the past 8 years.  If you also happen to feel (rightly or wrongly) that your particular vision of reality made a signal contribution to creating that democratic society, being unable to halt its shift away from that vision of reality has to be even immensely more frustrating.

What the fundamentalists want at this point, what they have a psychological need for, is to see people in the public discourse defy that shift.  To deny that new reality and affirm the old.  To, as Bill Buckley said, stand athwart history, yelling “Stop!”  And to suffer for it.

They don’t want a liar.  They want a media messiah; someone to give prophetic voice to their vision of reality.

Sarah Palin pluckily, and with a shimmer of plausibly self-deniable sex appeal, satisfies that need.  They don’t love her because they think she’s lying when she “looks at the camera with utter conviction and declares black to be white.”  They love her because they believe with utter conviction that she’s telling the truth.  She’s the one accurately identifying black as black and white as white, while the modern world has gotten the two hopelessly mixed up.

So the what of Palin’s appeal isn’t lying; it’s martyrdom.  She’s the one speaking the rude truth.  And getting punished for it.

“I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.”

Nobody stirs the passions like a martyr.

It’s the neoconservatives, the other pillar of her support, who value her for her ability to look straight into the camera and lie with utter conviction.  They recognize the lie, but it’s a lie that serves their purposes, and that makes it virtuous.

Update (7/2/09 4:19 pm): Regarding my point that fundamentalists value the punishment of Palin for her defiant stance, Ed Kilgore agrees:  “To her supporters, mockery is like nectar.”

via TWI


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10 Responses to “The Defiant Stance”

  1. Gunner Sykes Says:

    I value your ability to lie and misinform. Really, I do.

  2. jazzbumpa Says:

    What the hell is Gunner talking about?

    My challenges to Gunner –
    1) Identify the lie.
    2) Specify the misinformation.

    Naked assertions don’t take you very far if people bother to think.

    J. U. –
    You make a good point. If the quoted commenter’s first paragraph were about fundamentalists, and the second about the neocons, I think she would have nailed it.

    Another part of Sarah’s appeal is build on testosterone. I saw conservative commentators on TV, and acquaintances of mine drooling over her. Simultaneously comic and tragic.

    • urbino Says:

      If the quoted commenter’s first paragraph were about fundamentalists, and the second about the neocons, I think she would have nailed it.

      I agree. That would have been much better.

  3. Gunner Sykes Says:

    What, you don’t know he’s lying?

    Sad indeed.

    My challenge to jazzbumpa:

    Learn to read critically.

  4. jazzbumpa Says:

    I am overwhelmed by the force and logic of Gunner’s argument.

    I must sign up for a class in remedial critical reading, and then go hug a squid.

  5. Palin Packs It In « Hungry Hungry Hippos Says:

    […] another one of Sullivan’s readers said some things relevant to my last post on Palin, and I largely agree with them.  I don’t buy the “empty vessel” notion, […]

  6. jazzbumpa Says:

    Hey – looks like Krugman’s a liar, too.

    But, I guess we knew that.

  7. Gunner Sykes Says:

    I am amused by the fact that you buy the unwarranted and unfounded assertions in the blog piece, yet harp about “proof” when my statements are supported by the lies and misinformation in the piece itself.

    Fine idea about the squid.

  8. jazzbumpa Says:

    What I see in this post is analysis and interpretation, leading to some conclusions

    A lie is – you know – a deliberate untruth.

    You might say, Urbino, you’ve got the facts wrong, and then set them right.
    Urbino, your thought process is flawed, and then explain why.
    Urbino, your conclusion isn’t worth a load of dingo’s kidneys, and then explain why.

    Flinging brickbats from the peanut gallery is not a method of rational discourse. If you want to be taken seriously – a proposition that I rather seriously doubt – then act serious, and present some actual ides in a rational and thoughtful way.

    Otherwise, you’re just a troll.

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