With Sarah Palin's Alaska set to premiere on TLC next week, the show's PR machine has kicked into overdrive in an attempt to convince viewers it isn't "political," an effort that is undermined by the fact that the show, you know, stars Sarah Palin. Oh, and the fact that its website features a "Politics Blog" edited by a Republican political operative. And the overtly political content doesn't help, either.
The front page of the show's website sets the bizarre, hyper-defensive tone:
NOT TAKING SIDES (POLITICS BLOG): The Not Taking Sides blog will contribute to the overall conversation around Sarah Palin's Alaska, through a non-partisan political lens. While the blog will not address political issues or promote positions, consistent with the show's non-political nature, it will do what it can to support the political discussion that already exists.
Got that? The "politics blog" on the website for Sarah Palin's Alaska "will not address political issues," but will "support the political discussion that already exists." Do you have any idea what that means?
If you head over to the "politics blog" for the show that isn't about politics, you'll quickly -- and frequently -- be reminded that this is one of those "politics blogs" that isn't about politics. All three posts currently on the page assert that the show isn't about politics -- including the post announcing that a digital strategist for the National Republican Senatorial Committee will serve as the site's "politics editor."
What better way to show people that a politician's television show isn't about politics than to hire a political strategist to run a "politics blog" for the show?
The show's "culture" blog offers another insistence that this isn't a political show. The "media" blog engages in some Palinesque media criticism and asserts "Sarah Palin's Alaska seems to be a pretty apolitical program." But Sarah Palin's Alaska is a television show (and web site) featuring Sarah Palin, and it has a "politics blog" run by a Republican political strategist, so it's more than a little absurd to keep insisting it doesn't have anything to do with politics.
Now, I doubt Sarah Palin's Alaska will feature the former VP candidate holding forth on monetary policy, amusing as that might be. But Palin has indicated she's thinking about running for president, and carefully choreographed footage of rugged outdoor activity and loving families is a time-honored tactic of politicians trying to get elected to office. Basically, Sarah Palin got TLC to pay her $1 million an episode for the right to help her promote her brand, as Time's James Poniewozik explains:
Is Sarah Palin's Alaska a political statement? Come on! It's just a little reality show. A little reality show about the former vice-presidential candidate raising her family and shooting guns and celebrating "hardworking Alaskans" and encountering fierce mama bears and exploring the rugged wonders and boundless adventure of the largest state in this, the greatest country on earth! Who could possibly see that as a political statement?
[I]f Palin does have plans for 2012, one could well see this show, which often plays as if Reagan admaker Hal "Morning in America" Riney had gone into reality TV, as an attempt to broaden her appeal. If Palin's red-meat Fox News commentary is the sort of media you do to position yourself for a primary, then Sarah Palin's Alaska, full of folksy moments and free-range metaphors, is a general-election play.
But Poniewozik also reveals that there's straightforward politics present in Sarah Palin's Alaska as well:
Eventually, the Palins erect a 14-ft. privacy fence, which Palin, just as any other concerned parent would, analogizes to securing the U.S.-Mexico border. "I thought that was a good example, what we just did," she says. "Others could look at it and say, 'This is what we need to do to secure our nation's border.'"
The idea that there's no political motivation behind Sarah Palin's Alaska is hopelessly naive. Or it would be, if anyone really believed it.