Any way you look at it, it's us vs. them.
The media elite hate Sarah Palin with a passion -- the same passion they have used for decades to rant about us. We are the "primitive strain," the "booboisie," or, as The New York Times put it, the "Philistines." We are a people, according to Times columnist Maureen Dowd, that displays a "reptilian American desire " for prosperity and an innate disrespect for culture and our betters, who are the political and media elite that "must nurse us through our affluenza."
Welcome to Mainstream Media World, where Sarah Palin is...us.
Call it Palin Envy, Palin Derangement Syndrome or even Palin Jealous. But the irrational hatred pouring from a thousand well-fed mouths, dripping from manicured fingers, from the talkers and squawkers of mainstream media, is fueled by the increasingly angry certainty that we -- and Gov. Sarah Palin -- simply don't know our place. Witness rabid Palin-hater Kathleen Parker, the Washington Post and National Review columnist who has scored regular guest status on MSNBC for finding more than a hundred ways to say Palin is dumber than a chimpanzee... which, Parker opines, shows how much "deadwood" "Miss Alaska" has between her "low-brow" ears. After all, her "oogedy-boogedy" Christianity doesn't recognize the primacy of the primate in human affairs, putting her "Clearly Out of Her League" amongst cultured folks. You don't need the brains of a chimpanzee to recognize the gulf between the world inhabited by Palin and that of Kathleen Parker, Peggy Noonan (Wall Street Journal, National Review), and David Brooks (The New York Times and National Public Radio) to name a few of the leading conservative lights of Mainstream Media World. To them, Sarah Palin represents the average U.S. citizen, who inhabits the American version of Bizarro World, the alternate Earth of Superman comics that was pledged to hate beauty and love ugliness; Bizarro inhabitants could achieve nothing without help from their betters. Brooks says Palin is "a fatal cancer," representative of average America. And Brooks knows average America, which he describes from his perch in Midtown Manhattan as having a "trashy consumer culture" filled with those who live in the "vacuous realm of unreality." The denizens of Palin World -- us -- need to live a life of "contemplation" and be less "materialistic," he scolds. He expressed his disdain for the Alaska governor, "who scorn(s) ideas entirely," while dining at New York's Le Cirque restaurant (luncheon portion of spaghetti with tomato sauce, $28 -- no meatballs, too common; however, he was there for dinner and a larger portion, which begins at $98), which has "wined and dined high society in New York for half a century" and, praises the Times, makes its "regular customers feel pampered and important." Time magazine all but giggled when Palin was interviewed after her resignation "while plucking salmon from the family fishing nets aboard a boat" on the ocean. And the giggles came from both left and right: On Fox, Dana Perino, who served as President George W. Bush's press secretary and now works for an A-list beltway lobbying firm, expressed dismay that a serious political player would handle fish... other than the kind that is smoked, nestled on cream cheese over toast points, and dotted with capers. Real players take the time to stage interviews, she pronounced, her blonde locks swinging and giggle dripping with gravitas. They don't get it: Sarah Palin is not a real player, just as we're not real players. Like us, she's a real person. And real persons don't do staged. We simply live life, doing what we can to "pursue happiness" and help others. Service counts: Gov. Palin, for example, had programs to help Eskimos struggling with winter food shortages. That doesn't say food shortages are not a concern to Brooks, Parker, et al. Parker, who won journalism's prestigious H.L. Mencken Award for "attacking (the) ignorance and stupidity" of Palin America, recognized that Washington Post readers need to understand "the concerns of everyday people" in this economy. So she travelled to New York City (from her home in South Carolina, or her home in Washington, or her vacation place in Florida -- as Parker says, she lives an "ordinary life" among "ordinary people") to observe the unemployed commiserating over lunch at Sarabeth's, where "extraordinary cuisine and casual elegance" cheer the Manhattan equivalent of Eskimos laid low by the economy.
Winter food shortages are in full swing on this snowy day in January in Manhattan. "Pasta and champagne dinners" are no longer the "norm," Parker laments, as she sadly watches America's unfortunates do subsistence (choking down Cobb Salads, $26 a pop, or making do with hardly-a-mouthful Guacamole and Chips at Central Park South pricing of $13.50),while sitting in faux-Zebra covered chairs overlooking the park a few doors down from the storied Plaza Hotel.
But cheer up: Parker's niece, newly unemployed, points out that the women of the great north (above trendy Soho in lower Manhattan) are bearing up well, experiencing destitution with style, cheerfully concluding "if you gotta be broke, you may as well be cool about it." And, of course, when the going gets tough (before you pawn that $1,500 Gucci you bought with your first paycheck), there's always mummy and Aunt Kathleen. Welcome to the economic downturn in Mainstream Media World.
Sarah Palin, who was ridiculed by one pundit for jewelry that looks like it "had been picked up at a local craft fair," asks a simple question: when did "pasta and champagne" replace macaroni and cheese? And she challenges the central tenet, stated openly by Parker, that the average American wants those people who are better and smarter than them to take charge, to give them a country "to be led by...elites." Otherwise, Parker warns, we'll get a woman whose "lack of depth" and "lack of intellectual curiosity" would have us doing things that prove, as Brooks writes, that we are, in fact, "as shallow as we look."
But never fear: those whose superiority allows them to lead have some tips for those, like Palin, born to follow. Kathleen Parker offers advice: she'd like to see Sarah do something literate, like take up journaling and use a few French words while referencing great literature, perhaps writing "Madame Bovary, c'est moi." French means intelligence to Parker, "n'est-ce pas?" (translated "isn't that so?" to those who pluck salmon or believe in "that great big problem: G-O-D"). A reference to the classics, a bit of French, and a literary pastime might change for the better a woman who, as David Brooks says, shows no sign of contemplation, "scorn(ing) ideas entirely."
In Mainstream Media World, thought and contemplation are highly valued. Brooks demonstrated this when sitting at dinner next to a Republican senator who, he said, "had his hand on my inner thigh the whole time." What to do? Think. Breathe deeply. Contemplate. And so he thought and breathed and contemplated the hand on his thigh for more than an hour. Finally, dinner over, he came up with this reaction: "I was like, ehh, get me out of here." No doubt, it is different in Palin World, where we take our cue from the Bart (Simpson), rather than the Bard (Shakespeare). Simpson asked of a nearsighted friend who, like Brooks, wears eyeglasses, "How can someone with glasses so thick be so stupid?"
Faced with the same situation, for many of us there would be no contemplation. We would immediately take a fork -- there are usually three, sometimes four in the place settings at the ritzy restaurants inhabited by Mainstream Media World grandees -- and drive it into the senator's hand.
And then, giving Kathleen Parker the French she asks for and the senator the reaction he so richly deserves, declare "Le thigh, c'est moi."
Stuart H. Schwartz, Ph.D., is a former newspaper and retail executive. He is on the faculty at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia.