Book Excerpt: ‘Bring Her Down’: How the American Media Tried to Destroy Sarah Palin

Conservative writer and Palinista Gina Dalfonzo has published an intriguing new book that offers a well-researched (250-page) commentary on continued media efforts to annihilate Sarah Palin. She has provided us with a sneak peak below. We at C4P applaud Gina on her efforts to document media corruption and wish her all the best success with the book. You can purchase the paperback version on Amazon here or order it digitally instantly for your Kindle by clicking here.

Enjoy …

No one would deny that the media have a right, indeed a duty, to inquire into and report extensively on the lives of political candidates. But it was unprecedented that the media would focus with laserlike intensity on one vice presidential candidate, almost to the exclusion of the other three candidates in the election, including the two running for the presidency.

It is arguable that the media’s obsession with every detail of Sarah Palin’s life and career—and many details that existed only in the imaginations of her detractors—led directly to their neglecting to pay attention on any significant level to crucial details of then-Senator Barack Obama’s life and career.

If that assertion seems unfair, consider these excerpts from a conversation between NBC’s Tom Brokaw and PBS’s Charlie Rose on Rose’s show, five days before the presidential election:

Rose: Barack Obama . . . is principally known through his autobiography and through very aspirational speeches.
Brokaw: Two of them.
Rose: Exactly, two books. . . .
Brokaw: He’s a very smart guy. I love this phrase postmodern, even though I don’t know what it means.
Rose: I know what it means in architecture but not in politics.
Brokaw: Right. Exactly. And he may be our first postmodern presidential candidate. . . .
Brokaw: We don’t know a lot about Barack Obama and the universe of his thinking about foreign policy. China has been not examined at all, which is astonishing. . . .
Rose: I don’t know what Barack Obama’s worldview is. Really don’t know.
Brokaw: No, no, I don’t either.
Rose: I don’t know how he really sees where China is and where it wants to go and how smart he is about that, or India, or the whole global structure. Or John McCain either.

We did know, however, exactly how much Sarah Palin’s campaign wardrobe cost (or we thought we did). Brokaw’s own network had been chasing that vital story all along.

And in that light, two veteran journalists’ ignorance of the leading presidential candidate’s views on some of the most fundamental issues any president has to face—during a war, no less—reveals a truly unnerving erosion of journalistic standards. If, instead of covering the most critical issues of our time during the 2008 election, our most respected and trusted reporters were busy jockeying to be the next Liz Smith or Hedda Hopper, where exactly does that leave the American electorate?

There are those, as we’ll see, who blame this one-sided obsession with the trivial on the continuing decentralization of the media through the blogosphere, or the blurring of the lines between the news and entertainment media. It’s true that both elements played their part in the election—to put it exceedingly mildly. You don’t even have to have seen an election-related episode of Saturday Night Live, or followed high-profile journalist/blogger Andrew Sullivan’s increasingly unhinged pursuit of the secrets of Palin’s infant son, to know just how big a part they played.

In fact, one could even argue that the ground had been prepared for them by the mainstream news media itself, which for years had been losing viewer trust to the point where statements like “I get all my news from Jon Stewart” had become a point of pride with young adults. (As PBS’s Bill Moyers once remarked to Stewart in a 2003 interview, “When I report the news on this broadcast, people say I’m making it up. When you make it up, they say you’re telling the truth.”) This was a situation that the news media didn’t usually relish.

Nonetheless, when the media as a whole discovered a new favorite whipping girl, the various branches of the industry discovered an unprecedented interest in working together— and suddenly the blogs and the comedians weren’t just providers of commentary on the news; they were the news. The proverbial Martian arriving here in the middle of the 2008 election and taking a good look around could have been pardoned for thinking, at least at first, that Barack Obama was running for president against Tina Fey.

But the purpose of this book is not to make Sarah Palin out to be some sort of hapless victim of the political press, entertainment media, and bloggers. Nor is it to portray the media as a collective Snidely Whiplash. Although the coverage took a particularly ugly tone in Palin’s case, she is hardly the first politician to be treated badly by the press. And like any candidate, she made mistakes—although unlike many candidates, she handled brutal treatment from the press with both toughness and grace.

Nor is my purpose to blame the nastiness on conspiracy theories. There was a time when I would have said that accusations of vast conspiracies, made by the left or the right, are rarely credible, and for good reason. That was before the correspondence among the members of JournoList, the left-leaning e-mail list for high-profile media figures, was published, with all its revelations about various anti-Palin members egging each other on to greater levels of hostility. And yet that kind of deliberate cooperation was hardly even necessary, given that so many of the press’s reactions to the candidate were so strikingly similar.

As journalist Mika Brzezinski—no right-winger—would later recall on MSNBC’s Morning Joe:

Members of the network media elite as well as members and people who worked for the New York Times, when Sarah Palin first came on the scene and this is what they knew about her: She was a woman, she was pro-life, and she had some very, very conservative views on other issues. And all I could hear from my friends in the network media elite was, “Let’s bring her down. I hope these rumors bring her down.” And at a party where there were people from the New York Times, all they would talk about is the rumors that they hoped would bring her down. They did not know her. They didn’t know anything about her. But they wanted to bring her down.

The question that this sort of monolithic reaction raised for many observers was, simply: Why? Why did the majority of the members of the press respond to Palin with such visceral dislike, and act on that dislike to an extent unprecedented in recent history? Why was it that, as a report from the Culture and Media Institute noted in October, “ABC, NBC and CBS news shows . . . are running 18 negative stories [on Palin] for every positive one?” It’s doubtful that Saddam Hussein ever found himself on the receiving end of that much negativity from the American press. Was it truly the candidate’s flaws that brought out reporters’ bloodlust, as they would have us believe—or was it something in themselves and their own worldview? As Brzezinski hinted, it’s far more likely to have been the latter.

Though Tom Brokaw and Charlie Rose professed to know nothing about postmodernism in theory, they and their fellow journalists—along with their counterparts in the entertainment industry and the amateurs who joined in the coverage from the blogosphere—may have understood it better than they realized. For one tenet of postmodernism is that history is made up largely of battles over who gets to control the narrative of events, and in this election the journalists of America showed an instinctive grasp of that idea. More than with any other presidential election in living memory, the members of the press seized control of the narrative of the 2008 election and held onto it.
At first, in their minds, the story of the election was supposed to be the story of Barack Obama, who for many reasons had become their candidate of choice early in the process. But when Sarah Palin, coming out of nowhere with (in their eyes) inexplicable popularity, threatened their vision of Obama’s triumphal march to the White House, she had to be stopped, plain and simple. If the story now had to include her, they would simply have to ensure that her part of the story was told on their terms—and that it was the ugliest, most vicious, most damning story they could possibly dream up.

The purpose of this book is to show why and how they created that story—and why so much of America, on so little evidence, was ready to believe it.

From ‘Bring Her Down’: How the American Media Tried to Destroy Sarah Palin by Gina Dalfonzo. Copyright 2011. All rights reserved.

Gina Dalfonzo is editor of and Dickensblog. Her work has appeared in National Review, the Weekly Standard, Christianity Today, Books & Culture, Guideposts, and various journals and newspapers. She lives in Springfield, Virginia.

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I'm a mother of three, and devoted Palin blogger.

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