In a post about the Pozner incident, the show's social-media strategist Brian Reich wrote, "We canceled the interview because our planned conversation became, perhaps inadvertently, political." As Pozner pointed out on her blog, the idea that "I'm just too 'political' ... for a show about a former Governor and potential future Republican presidential candidate" is pretty ludicrous. But when I spoke to Reich, he acknowledged that "too political" isn't really the whole story. He explained to me that "the response to her blog post was ridiculously negative — and not negative in the appropriate ways, negative in ways that go way beyond what we're comfortable with." He added that ever since a gunman sparked a standoff at the Discovery Channel headquarters in September, "everyone at Discovery and TLC is very anxious about security issues." So basically, they were worried that if they let Pozner talk on the podcast, a pro-Palin wingnut might try to bomb the building.
North's post brings into stark relief how certain segments on the right are using fear and intimidation to create a chilling effect over media content.
Tailoring programming choices to quiet inappropriate responses that make media staffers uncomfortable — while alluding to the Discovery Channel gunman? That's as close to a definition of a "chilling effect" over media content as I've seen in a long time. Self-censorship based on fear and intimidation may be an understandable reaction to threats of violence. Yet it sets a scary precedent for art (though I'm using that phrase very loosely when it comes to reality television), entertainment, and even news media.
If you've been paying attention to Sarah Palin's Alaska, you probably know that the folks behind the show are obsessed with pretending that the show doesn't have anything to do with politics. That obsession took an amusing turn this weekend as media critic Jennifer Pozner, author of a new book about so-called "reality television," was invited to participate in a SPA podcast -- then abruptly un-invited.
Brian Reich of Sarah Palin's Alaska explains:
We canceled the interview because our planned conversation became, perhaps inadvertently, political.
Jennifer is a media critic, not a political critic.
[W]e were fully aware of Jennifer's views related to show.
Jennifer did not mislead me or my team with regard to what she had written in the past or planned to discuss on tonight's podcast. Moreover, we do not consider Jennifer to be a political commentator, or even to have a political view to offer in relation to the show. Her expertise is in unscripted television and that's what we had intended for her to talk about in relation to Sarah Palin's Alaska.
Because of her blog post earlier today, this has turned into a politically charged conversation. As such, in the interest of fostering a constructive and compelling dialogue about what people see on tonight's episode, we have decided to not to go forward with the interview with Jennifer Pozner.
So, according to Reich, Pozner is not a "political critic," did not mislead SPA about her views abut the show, is not "a political commentator," and doesn't even "have a political view to offer in relation to the show." Nevertheless, SPA cancelled Pozner's appearance because her blog post created "a politically charged conversation."
Yeah, sure. That makes sense.
More likely: SPA pulled the plug because of Pozner's position that SPA is "the first show to allow a politician to use the unscripted television format to craft their image and get their message out in a way that flouts advertising and campaign spending regulations (since a "show" isn't considered a political ad)." Reich's initial post explaining the un-invitation of Pozner didn't mention anything about that, but he later added an update acknowledging: "When we spoke with Jennifer in advance of scheduling the interview, she told us that she planned to discuss the unique way the series is allowing a politician to construct a message outside of political advertising."
Reich claims Pozner's blog post referring to Sarah Palin's Alaska as "a series-long unpaid political advertisement" caused "a politically charged conversation." But Reich acknowledges that Pozner had written similar things in the past and had told SPA she planned to discuss that point on the podcast. And Reich says Pozner is not a "political critic" and that "we do not consider Jennifer to be a political commentator, or even to have a political view to over in relation to the show." So if, as Reich says, Pozner is to blame for causing a "politically charged conversation," that isn't because Pozner is a political actor, but because she planned to discuss the political nature of the show itself.
As Pozner put it:
As the author of a book about manipulations and bias in reality television, I am too "political" for a reality show that functions as a series-long unpaid political advertisement for the potential future President of the United States of America. And to foster compelling dialogue: uninvite the independent media critic, pronto.
Is irony alive and well? As Palin herself might say: Oh, you betcha!
Scott Henderson, the non-political political blogger for politician Sarah Palin's television show's web site (whew!) takes issue with my recent post, complaining that I quoted him "selectively and out of context" and adding:
… he chose to quote from my recent piece about politicians and hunting. Well, "quote" is a pretty loose use of that word. He actually quoted advantageous pieces of the post to make it say what he wanted it to say. If you read his quotations without reading the original piece, you wouldn't have even known it was about the historical relationship politicians – including Teddy Roosevelt and John Kerry - have had with hunting."
But in my post, I quoted Henderson writing: "Whatever the reason, politicians of all stripes in America like to show up in the media with rifle or shotgun in hand while in pursuit of prey." So, yeah, I think my readers probably would know he wrote about the relationships politicians have had with hunting.
Not that it really matters. Taking something "out of context" means more than simply leaving out some surrounding material. If it didn't, everything would be "out of context." Taking something "out of context" means that relevant context has been omitted in order to change the meaning of the passage in question. None of the "context" I supposedly left out has any bearing on the validity of my portrayal of Henderson's post. In fact, it is entirely consistent with my point, which was that in detailing politicians' efforts to appeal to voters by hunting, Henderson undermined the claim that there's nothing political about a politician using a television show to portray herself as a hunter. Maybe that's why his response fails to even allege that anything I wrote was inaccurate. He just complains that I didn't quote more of his work. Maybe I would have, had it been more interesting.
Particularly hilarious is Henderson's complaint that I used ellipses in quoting from his post, as though there's something improper about using ellipses to denote excised text. Newsflash: That's why ellipses exist!
Some friendly advice for Mr. Henderson: Next time you want to complain about being taken out of context, you might want to demonstrate that the meaning of your words has been altered rather than lashing out at properly-deployed punctuation.
Despite featuring a "politics blog," the website for Sarah Palin's Alaska has repeatedly (and incredibly) insisted that the television show featuring the potential Republican presidential candidate doesn't have anything to do with politics. That's obviously false even if one applies a narrow definition the word "politics" -- the show has featured Palin's anti-tax rhetoric, and the website has acknowledged "Sarah Palin will make remarks during the show that will be explicitly and implicitly political." But there's a broader political aspect to the show as well, as I've explained:
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.
Here's a preview of last night's episode that supports that point:
This Sunday's episode of Sarah Palin's Alaska features Sarah hunting caribou with her father and a family friend on the tundra of Alaska. …
[F]or a political figure, hunting takes on a whole different level of meaning. …
Maybe it's that hunting shows support for the Second Amendment and is an implicit nod to the NRA and its supporters. Maybe it's that hunting can also be a tip of the hat to the common man and woman. Whatever the reason, politicians of all stripes in America like to show up in the media with rifle or shotgun in hand while in pursuit of prey. …
As America has become more urban, politicians hunting has evolved from regular everyday occurrences into the quintessential photo opportunity. …
During the 2008 presidential campaign, Sarah Palin wasn't a stranger to the campaign hunting photo-op with some people voicing support and others panning the gesture. For those who doubted the authenticity of the hunting photos, tuning in this Sunday at 9/8c on TLC might help clear up those rumors.
So: Politicians, including Sarah Palin, have long used the "hunting photo-op" in order to appeal "to the common man and woman." Sarah Palin is a politician who is thinking of running for president, and is using Sarah Palin's Alaska to demonstrate the "authenticity" of her love for hunting. Nope, nothing political there!
And who wrote that preview that so thoroughly undermines the claim that there's nothing political about Sarah Palin's Alaska? Why, the good folks at Sarah Palin's Alaska!
And one other piece of evidence of the political nature of the show, from Sarah Palin herself: "You'll also see us hunting at the edge of ANWR, where you can see the uninhabited lands that warehouse billions of barrels of American energy supplies underground just waiting for the political will to allow responsible resource development."
Los Angeles Times blogger/former Bush spokesman/de facto Palin aide Andrew Malcolm ignores the former half-term governor's dreadful poll numbers to ask: "Will the good news never end for Sarah Palin?" The truthful answer to that question is, of course, "yes." Malcolm's answer, on the other hand ...
She's got a hit cable TV show.
Depends on how you define "hit." Three million people watched the second episode -- in a country of more than 300 million people. Of those who watched the first episode, 40 percent decided not to watch the second. Is that a "hit"?
Polls of Republicans show the former Alaska governor is currently a most popular candidate for the party's 2012 presidential nomination.
Palin is "a most popular candidate"? What does that mean? It means not even Malcolm thinks he can claim Palin is the most popular candidate. In other words, it means that even after two years in which the news media has hung on her every Tweet, Sarah Palin hasn't been able to separate herself from the likes of Mike Huckabee, who most Americans probably couldn't pick out of a police lineup. More good news for Palin!
With Malcolm's spin on Palin's behalf reaching Baghdad Bob levels of transparency and absurdity, maybe it's time to start calling him Anchorage Andy?
Sarah Palin's "unprecedented negatives" are starting to spread to her TLC reality show, Sarah Palin's Alaska.
Her show's first episode drew five million viewers, making it the highest-rated premiere the network had ever had. The ratings for Palin's second episode fell off a cliff on Sunday, indicating that viewers were curious about her program, but disinclined to stick around:
Sarah Palin's Alaska fell 40% on Sunday night to 3 million viewers.
Not many were in the key adult demo either. Only 885,000 viewers were ages 18-49, dropping 44% from last week.
In fact, the median age of the show is 57 -- that's 15 years older than TLC's average.
Compare Palin's ratings to that of AMC zombie thriller The Walking Dead, which on Sunday drew 4.8 million viewers for its fourth episode, half in the lucrative 18-49 demo.
Sarah Palin's Alaska just doesn't seem to be the kind of horror show Americans are interested in.
Much has been said of the fact that News Corp honcho Rupert Murdoch's Fox News currently employs several Republicans eyeing a race for the White House in 2012. Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum and John Bolton have all expressed such interest.
As Media Matters noted last week, the GOP shadow primary being waged within Fox News has resulted in at least $40 million in free airtime for those considering a bid, not too mention the paychecks they receive from the network.
But Murdoch is doing a bit more to help at least one employee/would be Republican nominee -- namely, as her publisher, bankrolling the upcoming book tour of a certain former half-term governor that "disproportionately dotes on the primary states."
As Frank Rich wrote in Saturday's New York Times, Murdoch has emerged as Palin's chief backer appearing to take sides in the looming primary despite pointed criticism of Palin from the likes of Fox News contributor and former Bush advisor Karl Rove and others (emphasis added):
Thanks to the in-kind contribution of this "nonpolitical" [TLC reality] series, Palin needn't join standard-issue rivals like Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, Haley Barbour and Tim Pawlenty in groveling before donors and primary-state operatives to dutifully check all the boxes of a traditional Republican campaign. Palin not only has TLC in her camp but, better still, Murdoch. Other potential 2012 candidates are also on the Fox News payroll, but Palin is the only one, as Alessandra Stanley wrote in The Times, whose every appearance is "announced with the kind of advance teasing and clip montages that talk shows use to introduce major movie stars." Pity poor Mike Huckabee, relegated to a graveyard time slot, with the ratings to match.
The Fox spotlight is only part of Murdoch's largess. As her publisher, he will foot the bill for the coming "book tour" whose itinerary disproportionately dotes on the primary states of Iowa and South Carolina. The editorial page of Murdoch's Wall Street Journal is also on board, recently praising Palin for her transparently ghost-written critique of the Federal Reserve's use of quantitative easing. "Mrs. Palin is way ahead of her potential presidential competitors on this policy point," The Journal wrote, and "shows a talent for putting a technical subject in language that average Americans can understand."
With Murdoch, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity on her side, Palin hardly needs the grandees of the so-called Republican establishment. They know it and flail at her constantly. Politico reported just before Election Day that unnamed "party elders" were nearly united in wanting to stop her, out of fear that she'd win the nomination and then be crushed by Obama. Their complaints are seconded daily by Bush White House alumni like Karl Rove, Michael Gerson, and Mark McKinnon, who said recently that Palin's "stock is falling and pretty rapidly now" and that "if she's smart, she does not run."
Last week, I noted that the web site for Sarah Palin's Alaska seems to exist primarily to argue (unconvincingly) that there's nothing political about a television show about a politician, even if that show has a web site that features a non-political "political blog" run by a Republican political operative.
Since then, Sarah Palin's Alaska's non-political political blog has featured a post claiming "The show has nothing at all to do with the 2012 Presidential campaign." Another new post begins: "let's breakdown the game film and determine what was political and what was not political." Wait: I thought there wasn't anything political about the show?
That's how absurd the claim that the show doesn't have anything to do with politics is: The people making it can't help accidentally debunking it. One post admits "Because of what she does for a living, Sarah Palin will make remarks during the show that will be explicitly and implicitly political."
And sure enough, not five minutes into the first episode, Palin and family launched pre-emptive attacks on a journalist who has not yet written a book about Palin. Or, as the show put it, a "hit piece" from a "some dude" who is "out to get" Palin. Twenty minutes later: Another attack on him. Half an hour in, viewers were treated to some brief anti-tax rhetoric.
So why do Palin's people keep insisting the show doesn't have anything to do with politics, despite the obvious fact -- and their own admissions -- that it does? I suspect it's about avoiding accountability. If Sarah Palin does run for president, she'll probably want to avoid questions from legitimate journalists for as long as possible. After all, when she ventures outside the protective embrace of Fox News, she faces tough questions like "What newspapers do you read?" Insisting that she isn't doing anything political will make it easier for her to continue to avoid such challenges -- as long as people go along with the charade that a politician with a television show promoting her brand and attacking her perceived enemies and talking about politics, all while thinking of running for president, isn't doing anything political.
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.
It seems Fox News contributor Sarah Palin was in Homer, Alaska for several days taping Sarah Palin's Alaska, her TLC "reality" show.
In a moment of true "reality" the former half-term Governor of the state was greeted at the boat harbor by a 30' x 3' foot banner posted on the shop of a local businessman at the top of the boat ramp which read "Worst Governor Ever."
As Shannyn Moore writes on Huffington Post, the large sign was made by Kathleen Gustafson "a teacher married to a local commercial fisherman" who felt Palin "had let the state down by becoming a dollar-chasing celebrity and ignoring the oath of office she'd sworn."
Palin wound up approaching Gustafson to chat about the banner in a short exchange captured on camera:
In what has become typical tragic irony, Sarah initially claimed to support Kathleen's First Amendment Rights. But as soon as Billy Sullivan walked toward the dock, one of Palin's entourage tore down the sign to great applause from her group.
No, not the reality show gossiped about by the tabloids that was purportedly shopped by Bristol Palin and Levi Johnston before their latest breakup
It's the Sarah Palin's "reality" show I wrote back in March:
Sarah Palin, the former half-term Governor of Alaska, has inked a deal with Discovery Communications' The Learning Channel (TLC) for her very own reality show - one that will apparently spotlight the natural wonders of her beautiful home state.
Perhaps all of the irony is lost on Palin and the folks at TLC.
I find it hilarious that Palin, who couldn't complete a full term as Alaska Governor, will be headlining a reality show produced by Mark Burnett, the creator of CBS's Survivor?
The half-term Governor's show is set to premier in November. As Huffington Post notes:
TLC President Eileen O'Neill told reporters at the annual Television Correspondents Association press tour that "Sarah Palin's Alaska," the TLC series that was announced in March, will debut on November 14 at 9 PM.
So far, not much is known about the series, except that the initial run will last eight episodes and that it is being produced by Mark Burnett, creator of "Survivor" and "The Apprentice." The announcement of the series in March had created a stir, since TLC is owned by the Discovery Network, which is known for its nature shows, and Palin is no friend of the environmental movement.
I should note that this "reality" show will likely be decidedly different from her Fox News appearances which are based in a world free of reality.
Late last month we brought you news that Sarah Palin, the former half-term Governor of Alaska, had inked a deal with Discovery Communications' The Learning Channel (TLC) for her very own reality show - one that will apparently spotlight the natural wonders of her beautiful home state.
Cenk Uygur, co-host of radio's The Young Turks, is up with piece on Huffington Post concerning the show full of interesting details:
Last night on The Young Turks we broke the story of reaction to Sarah Palin's new show inside Discovery. We have an inside source at Discovery Communications and we've been leaked information on Sarah Palin's show for Discovery's TLC network.
Last week Discovery had its annual sales conference for ad buyers for all of its 13 networks. The presentation showcases all of their new shows across the different networks. That night the presentation was on Sarah Palin's Alaska.
Our source says "the whole thing [was] comical." Apparently the ad buyers were not impressed. This Discovery insider said, "When the promo was over, people (employees and buyers) were rolling their eyes, snickering, and even laughing. People were laughing and it's not even a comedy. No one took it seriously."
This person was concerned that given the lack of interest from ad buyers that Discovery would have to dump the show to "a crappy time slot" to cut its losses. They added, "Bottom line everyone thought it was a new all time low for Discovery. My guess is the show is going to tank big time."
We can't be sure how accurate this insider's review of the sales conference is but it wouldn't surprise me if green-minded companies were leery of sponsoring Palin's new fame vehicle given her horrible track record on the environment.