January 23, 2011
Allegory of the Cave of the Mama GrizzlyBy Clarice Feldman
It was my online friend narciso, the pen name of a brilliant commenter on the day's events, who first summed up this week's folderol over Sarah Palin. "One is struck," he noted, " by how much Plato's 'Tale of the Cave' seems to fit this paradigm ... Those that only follow the networks, or the Times or USA Today, even, are always 'unexpectedly surprised,' when reality doesn't match the paradigm they've assimilated by osmosis."
There was a lot of sage stuff online trying to explain what happened and why to Sarah Palin this week, and although I'll mention some of the best analysis I found, my own belief is that the vicious treatment of her stems as much as anything from the discordant feelings she inspires as she takes media prisoners out of their mental cave and into the bright sun and exposes the puppeteers as fools and knaves.
I'm sure you all studied at one time in your lives Plato's Allegory of the Cave, but to refresh your memory: prisoners in a dark cave are forced by their bindings to look only straight ahead to the wall in front of them, on which puppeteers project images of things and people. These projections form the only reality the prisoners know. Only when a prisoner is released from his bonds does he see the sleight of hand -- the puppeteers and all their paraphernalia. As he climbs out of the cave into the bright sunlight he is temporarily blinded, his eyes having for so long been accustomed to the dark. The ex-prisoner is understandably frightened and bewildered by this new world. And he must learn to see what is around him without the puppeteers' filtering. But it is only then, after this uncomfortable journey into the bright and unfamiliar world around him, that the prisoner finally can think and understand, that he can appreciate what is real and true from that which is artificial and contrived.
In my view, the media tarring of Sarah Palin respecting the Tucson tragedy is an event which -- perhaps not this week, but soon enough -- will be remembered for having exposed the political class and cultural elites as the puppeteers projecting their own ignorance and violent hatred of Sarah onto her. Those who uncritically followed the media will come to see that they have spent too much time in the cave and need to get out into the sunshine and face some realities.
Bill Jacobson pointed out that for all the contrived bleats of Sarah's detractors that they want more civility in public discourse, it is Sarah who has been the target of the most vile calumnies and death threats.
Jacobson notes that while her critics said she did not know what "blood libel" was when she used the term, the evidence -- the video she made -- shows that not only did she know, but she even explained the term when she did use it:
Include in those harshest of Palin critics the Washington Post's Richard Cohen, the pride of Far Rockaway High, and French intellectual Bernard-Henri Levy:
Imagine criticizing someone's use of a phrase without even first listening to what she said. Rather arrogant and rather definitive proof of extreme bias. I guess being a French intellectual or a Post pundit means you never have to bother with pesky facts before analyzing them on air.
But Cohen and Levy were not alone in this.
Carl Bernstein called Palin "ignorant" but couldn't remember why anymore, nor could he remember why he'd called her a "demagogue." When pressed, he claimed that she didn't know where Russia is on a map, apparently confusing her with Tina Fey's SNL satiric impersonation.
From the puppeteers to their audience, the bound prisoners, the message on the front wall is that Palin is stupid and ignorant -- and until their liberation, that's all they'll see.
Frontpage repeated a conversation about Sarah with a liberal woman, a conversation which sure sounded familiar to me and which I am sure mirrors experiences many of you have had.
The author indicates that this hatred is common among Democrats, and my own experience (like Robin of Berkeley, I live in a liberal enclave) is that this is true. It is something I first noticed respecting George Bush. I remember, as a dinner guest at a lovely lakeside cottage in Maine, responding to my host's question about my feeling about President Bush. I said I loved him, and the man turned crimson and started screaming that he couldn't believe how closed-minded I was! But even if this reaction has been around for a while, it has reached mega-proportions respecting Palin.
And that's what I want to explore. Is it that Palin's so formidable an opponent -- and contrast -- to the our effeminate luftmensch of a president and his party that the media cannot help leaping for the hook (and getting discredited by their acts) every time she throws the bait in the water by saying or doing anything that gets public attention?
Is it that the cultural elites believe that Palin has "risen above her station," that she's so physically attractive, that she threatens the "sexual identity" of liberal women, that she didn't force her child to have an abortion and didn't have one herself? James Taranto explores these possibilities and decides that it is liberal women with an outdated, blinkered view of feminism who are driving the left's hatred of Palin.
I so admire Taranto, and I think that of all the good explanations I read this week of the hatred directed at Palin and the derangement respecting her views and conduct, his comes the closest to the mark. Yes, many liberal women irrationally hate Palin, but I think they hate her because her very life is dragging them into the sunshine, where they have momentarily lost their way. Right now, Palin's very life is an affront to them -- she's beautiful, powerful, and the center of a large family -- and most of them are not.
It will take these people some time to see that it is their own views and conduct, not Palin's, that is responsible for the distinction. Moreover, I think liberal women are not alone in this temporary mental disordering. I think others at first will hate Palin for taking them into the blinding light, but that with time and more media stunts like last week's, they and the Times and USA readers, the present consumers of the medias' distortions, will get some glimpses of life outside the cave and come to realize the distinction between truth and reality on one hand and projected lies and make-believe on the other.