Sarah Queen of Cons

Game Change‘s central moments, its main reasons for existing – the behind the scenes exchanges being revealed to and visualized for the world for the first time – had already been brought to center stage, to the main window, had already been extensively critiqued and counter-critiqued, by the time those of us in the nether rings of mediatized power were able to receive Julianne Moore’s Sarah Palin’s display of painfully embarrassing ignorance about national-level political history.

We had already had plenty of time to wonder (actually to wonder again, since most of us had already started wondering about these things four years ago) about what possibly we might be seeing.  Did Palin really not seem to know, for example, that the British Queen does not run the British government?  If so, how do we or any of the witnesses know beyond doubt whether whatever such display was in each instance 1) more an expression of an actual lack of knowledge, 2) more a transitory lapse, 3) more a miscommunication or misreading on someone’s part, 4) or more the result of an intentional act of dissimulation, disdain, defiance, or refusal rather than of incapacity – the last explanation being what Palin herself claimed as an excuse for her notorious muffs of Katie Couric’s elementary interview questions.  Staying on the question of Britain, though the same comments will apply to virtually every example of the famous knowledge gaps, defenders will point to Palin’s public statements of admiration of Margaret Thatcher from prior to the 2008 campaign, then turn the attackers’ own incredulity against them:  Of course, say the defenders, Palin knew what the British Prime Minister is – or that Africa is a continent, or that “the Fed” is short for Federal Reserve, not federal government, and so on.  So who, then, really is being naive? The Palinists or those willing to believe unbelievable statements about her – or take representations of her at face value?

No resort at that point to whatever public record will or can return some inarguable proof one way or the other – because that is not how knowledge of the universe, of human experience, of private or public history ever works, whether it’s Palin’s knowledge of universe, experience, or history, or some witness’s knowledge of Palin’s knowledge, or our knowledge or assumptions about Palin or witnesses.  We do not and cannot know what Palin knew, and not just because perceptions and recollections are unreliable and subjective, and not even because it is entirely within the realm of everyday human experience for someone to seem to know something one day, not to know it another day, and to know it again and seem obviously always to have known it on yet a third day, but because the truer truth is that we do not possess a common and inarguable understanding of knowledge and understanding, or even of what we mean by the word “we.”

The decision on such truth, on the functional parameters of such truths, is in the end always a political decision, rarely or never a derivative of mere fact, and the relative uncertainty of the factual is all the more problematic, more self-defining and self-constituting, in regard to any political decision on political truth. The power to shape such definitions, to determine when and how they will function, is already power itself – what in part was meant in Shelley’s claim that “poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world,” but which, as it underlies all discourse, appears everywhere in discourse, sacred and profane, artistic and even scientific, historical and political.  Palin was and to some extent even today, well past her moment, remains fascinating to all of us citizen-poets in this age of accelerated self-organizing massification of meaning-creation and -administration because the question of Palin was already a set of questions about who and what we are, and about how we agree to speak about who and what we are as co-definitional of who and what we are.

The answers on the Palinist side happen to constitute an alternative to the decision for Obama.  The political system was already in the process of validating the latter, and all of the Free World was in the process of acclaiming it, as the creators of Game Change seem aware, though they take the result as a new and disturbing question about the media and democracy, rather than as a further extension of what democracy always has been, for better and worse.  Put differently, the primary reality was that McCain never had much of a chance.  His and his team’s accurate estimation of that reality led them to make what appeared to be a risky decision.  Subsequent events underlined and confirmed, rather than overturned, the primary reality.

It turns out that Palin’s reported possible/impossible misunderstanding about the difference between Queen and Prime Minister was already a for her typically borderline schizophrenic hallucination of a deeper and insuperable truth.  By the time she was asked to join the the wrong team representing the wrong choice and destined to lose, the Free World had already begun to acclaim the rightful bid to its constitutionalized monarchy, under the rules of a game that is less a game than a secularized religion whose liturgy and doxology neither are nor can be easy to change.  They called her a modern day Joan of Arc, and they might have called her a Mary Queen of Scots – in some senses, in terms of  political result, if not human cost, as far as we can tell, the comparisons are justified.

36 comments on “Sarah Queen of Cons

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  1. I’m particularly taken with the whole third paragraph. Again, you put into words just right an idea that we all have some vague sense of wanting to be articulated. Thank you for articulating it. Some might think we’re beating a dead horse here, but I would vehemently disagree if it were necessary. It’s not because the argument against that mistaken notion can be found within the post itself.

  2. Joan of Arc, they have tried to hang her ‘in effigy’ , Ithink that was Boedicia’s fate, burn her in her Church, but she wasn’t home, accuse her of inciting murder, not once, but twice, including in claims disproven by the very Secret Service, that is the penalty for Crimethink, speaking out against the Red Queen insanity of the regime, algae as the solution to the energy crisis.
    literally scoffing at the existential decision that Israel has to make, as food becomes unaffordable, this is Minitrue at it’s weakest actually, the previous offering was equally slanderous, but dramatically it serves more of a purpose,that’s probably in development as we speak.

  3. I mean seriously, saying that ‘our biggest enemy was not AQ or Hezbollah, but cynicism’ I had a wry chuckle at that, and when she suggested partitioning Iraq into three bloody segments, ‘thank god we dodged a bullet, there;

  4. We can not know what Palin knew—- but we got to know a fuckload about just how much she didn’t know that she didn’t know……..

    Sure I defended her against all those early attacks from Colin and the other liberal mediums…. but I’m a better American than they are, stands to reason, i would.

    • Yes, we got to know a lot about her, little of it good. Truth to tell, I do tend to think the portrait of her as painfully ignorant is probably more accurate than not, but I think she’s on balance actually more nuts than stupid – weirdly wired cerebrally, otherwise built mentally more like an actress, “the greatest actress in American poiltics” as Harrelson’s Schmidt says about her. That would mean that for her more than for most people it’s possible for her to “know” in 2007 that Margaret Thatcher was PM, and that PM was the top job, but not actually still to “know” it at a critical moment in 2008. In other words, she picks up her lines for the role, but a lot of it won’t settle very deep. Or maybe she studies for the test and then forgets it.

      I still wonder if under a different arrangement of incentives she might have ended up playing the “independent conservative progressive” role with her career instead of the Our Lady of Perpetual Toxic Resentment role she’s ended up in.

  5. other liberal mediums

    Good one. Did you make that up, Frog?

    That would mean that for her more than for most people it’s possible for her to “know” in 2007 that Margaret Thatcher was PM, and that PM was the top job, but not actually still to “know” it at a critical moment in 2008.

    It concerns me that your insight here might come from exposure to my ADD but I’m also not actually concerned. I really do think Sarah has significant ADD issues. Sarah, Glenn Beck, and Scott are in the same club. The thing that confuses people is that only 25% of ADD adults are also hyper-active. In any case, my brothers and sisters need to do not just a little yoga but lots and lots. It’s either tons of yoga or drugs. Otherwise, the “5 ADD tendencies” run wild. They are 1) relating to reality very negatively 2) an intense need to be right 3) thinking that change in relation to seeing another person’s point is giving in 4) low self-observation 5) an inability to recognize the accommodations of others.

      • Right, because of yoga. In the great book “Is It You, Me, or Adult ADD,” it’s explained why extreme amounts of exercise help ADD, and I know yoga is even better. So, the ADD is “more obvious to” me, yes, but the energy is there, and you being exposed to that energy, even if it doesn’t cause you to think consciously of Sarah and me together (good thing), it (our connection) still could be the reason why you’re coming up with some particularly insightful ideas about Sarah (that I recognize as a kind of “there but by the grace of yoga go I” type things.)

  6. You should pick up more Latin, this seems very much like Procopius Secret History on Justinian, where he accused the sovereign and his consort, of everything including being demons.

  7. Scott Miller: other liberal mediums

    Good one. Did you make that up, Frog?

    I think that it was Nancy Reagan who might have, when telling people which ones to say “no” to

  8. While you’re beating this dead equine of agitprop, ‘unexpectedly’ you haven’t dealt with the revelations coming about the President legal mentor, Derrick Bell, which has shaped what he lectured on, (the only decent piece Cantor ever wrote)
    and what is currently Justice Department and administrative policy. ADD, I don’t think so, she is very detail oriented, as the emails show, the only true part of the ‘narrative’ probably came after they hacked her emails, and broke her contacts with those back home, that probably disoriented her for a while,

    • Actuallly, being detail oriented is a sign of ADD. It’s called “hyper-focus” and because ADD people can and do hyper-focus it confuses people who think of ADD as being inattentive. ADD should really be called VAS–Variable Attention Disorder. That comes from the aforementioned great book.

  9. Bell is the Jeremiah Wright of Legal theory, he believes cannot ever be objective, the US Govt like Pharoah is always ill disposed against minorities, hence all security forces must be scrutinized, Holder’s ‘nation of cowards’ fits into it, so does protection of te Black Panther doing their own ‘Mississippi Burning’ in Philly,

  10. miggs, Oliver Wendell Holmes also believed that objectivity in law was unobtainable…………
    My question was about what you meant about Bell and DoJ policy that Bell (if I understand you) formulated or was formulation in accordance with Bell’s ideas……
    any chance for a real and direct answer ?
    if not, at least throw me a link to something that’ll help me to grasp what you’re getting at.


    • see above.

      Interesting that Critical Race Theory may have been a direct response to Critical Legal Theory. Did you ever read any Unger? I know I’ve mentioned him in these parts before. When I was referring a post or three ago to emblematic scenes of post-structuralist criticism I was thinking in part of his classic depiction of the disagreements over reproductive rights as irresolveable confrontations between crucially non-overlapping, differently configured worldviews. Unger went too far for those who insist on systematic and more or less unitary explanations for and responses to oppression and inequality.

      • Thanks, now I know why Obama simply had to have Breitbart assassinated….. this is just so shocking….

        Don’t know of any link between Critical Race Theory & Critical Legal Theory except on first superficial contact it looks like the same old mess of assumptions, easily going beyond what’s credible and useful and ending up in circularityland…. sorta like accidentally tripping over your own ill-tied shoelaces and coming up with yet more proof that society is ordered for you to fail.

        Haven’t read Unger and if you’re advancing his work, I’m equally sure that he isn’t one of the folks that tries to take it too far.

        • Mmmm. not sure how you’d react to Unger, but you might say that he self-consciously sought to “take it too far,” since like Bell and most radical theorists, he takes it virtually as a given that we’ve gotten something very wrong, or haven’t yet gotten it right, or maybe that there’s something that for discoverable reasons we seem to resist getting right. So, briefly in defence of the CRTists, “useful” or adequately useful looks very different depending on where you sit in relation to the system as it is. The difference I was alluding to is that for Unger, apparently, something significantly better eventually had to be sought elsewhere than in the existing legal system: As I understand it he went off to Latin America and tried to make new things happen there. The CRTists insisted that direct interventions in the system had to and could be made, and needed to be justified by a critique grounded in material facts. Sometimes you can’t even get “credible and useful” reforms except in response to a more radical, even revolutionary impetus. That might be especially or uniquely true for racial politics in the U.S.

  11. If objectivity is indeed unobtainable, then what rules in it’s stead, ‘Rule by the Strong’ the point championed from Thrasymychus to Hobbes, a Leviathan to remedy a world ‘that is nasty, brutish and short,’

  12. unotainable does not mean that it’s not to be sought, miggs.

    most legal theorists hold that justice on this earth is unobtainable, and that we design and construct legal systems and follow codes of law as our best hope of approximating justice.

    ( and BTW, Hobbes’ thinking is that rule by the strong is what we form societies to avoid,,,,,,do try reading Leviathan some time, it’s about as different from the popular notions of it as can be….and it’s not the fault of the young reader that’s it’s ill-understood….Hobbes was one of the few philosophers who deliberately avoided clarity)

  13. Well I was going on general principles, a lot of problems began by enphasizing ‘the popular will,’ as was Rousseau through Marx, rather than the liberty interests of Locke, now that might not have been possible in pre Revolutionary France or Russia, but ‘the road less travelled’ should be taken,

    The modern incarnation of the Hobbesian Leviathan, will soon be on display in about two weeks, in the Panem of the Hunger Games, which deserves at least as much attention as Avatar got here.

  14. Hobbes would be not be anyone who would put much stock in “the popular will”……fucking far from it, my man.

  15. You know what I mean, that’s why the tale of the ‘Instigators’ seems bitter sweet to me, the best piece by far, in that selection.
    I read Souief, and Al Aswani, and a little Mahfouz, justice would demand that Nour should be ahead, but that isn’t the way life works, Timeservers like El Baradei, and the other career Bureaucrats, name escapes me now, are the best chance, and then ‘it’s turtles straight down’

  16. To claim one’s own identity, by those who have appropriated it, yes that’s the definition of propaganda in my book. It’s easier to go with the flow and except the ludicrous lie, I suppose you sell a few more posters that way.

    • Anyone deploying Palin’s talking points – her “concerning issues” has already disqualified herself from serious discussion. Don’t have the time or inclination to consider each item in detail, but, “just for starters”:

      a debt crisis that has us hurtling towards a Greek-style collapse

      If there ever is a collapse of the US economy, it won’t be “Greek-style.” Greece does not have its own currency. The U.S. does – it floats on the market and can still be borrowed at historically extremely low interest rates. There is no debt crisis. There may be a debt problem in the long-term, but to call it a “crisis” is to abuse the term.

      “entitlement programs going bankrupt”

      Foolish. There is a long-term financing problem. Every attempt to deal with it is demagogued by Palin and her allies.

      a credit downgrade for the first time in our history,

      Caused by the game of chicken with the debt ceiling and the refusal to negotiate on fiscal policy that Sarah’s best pals insisted on.

      a government takeover of the health care industry that makes care more expensive and puts a rationing panel of faceless bureaucrats between you and your doctor (aka a “death panel”)”

      “Expense” was already exploding, but general rates of increase have slowed down – as reflected among other things in a dramatic slowing of Medicare cost growth. The Republican non-policy amounts to a massive “death panel” that rations care in the extreme by denying millions access, and otherwise re-locates “rationing” to insurance companies – out of sight and out of mind as far as the more privileged are concerned.

      $4 and $5 gas at the pump exacerbated by an anti-drilling agenda that rejects good paying energy sector jobs and makes us more dependent on dangerous foreign regimes

      the statistics on drilling in the U.S. expose this notion of an “agenda” as propaganda. Nor will our dependency on the market – rather than “regimes” – be altered significantly under any real world program.

      , a war in Afghanistan that seems unfocused and unending,

      Is she completely unaware of current policy – whose overall direction of accelerated withdrawal is supported by the overwhelming majority of citizens and somewhere around half to three-quarters of the Republican presidential candidates, the exception being Romney, who isn’t telling, but almost certainly will end up taking all sides of whatever issues are raised by it.

      a global presidential apology tour that’s made us look feeble and ridiculous,

      that never occured

      a housing market in the tank, the longest streak of high unemployment since World War II,

      As a result of policies and a financial collapse that preceded the arrival of the current administration.

      And she goes on and on… High School debaters call that tactic “the spread,” where you aren’t capable of supporting any particular argument successfully, so you just throw up a whole bunch of bad ones. From someone bidding to participate in the national debate, it’s embarrassing.

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