SIGN IN to access Harper’s Magazine
Need to create a login? Want to change your email address or password? Forgot your password?
1. Sign in to Customer Care using your account number or postal address.
2. Select Email/Password Information.
3. Enter your new information and click on Save My Changes.
Subscribers can find additional help here. Not a subscriber? Subscribe today!
Is Sarah Palin a “whack job”? Yesterday, Politico quoted an unnamed senior McCain advisor describing Palin in just those words. Yet there has been little reporting in the mainstream media that would sustain this characterization. As I reported a few days back for The Daily Beast,, one of the things that led Bill Kristol—Palin’s principal advocate—to push her as McCain’s vice president was the fact that she was unknown, a blank slate. She hailed from a small town in the most remote state in the Union. When the Palin nomination was announced, hundreds of journalists descended on Anchorage and its northern suburb of Wasilla. A handful of serious exposé pieces emerged in the process. But only one visitor up north came back with a bag of gold nuggets. His name is Max Blumenthal.
Over the past several years, Blumenthal’s work has focused on fringe groups on the right. He has excelled in covering political activism among evangelicals. His technique is simple: he confronts the subjects and lets them speak for themselves. His videos are generally under fifteen minutes and are somewhat haphazard, but Blumenthal invariably captures images and language that go unreported in the mainstream media–which prefers to allow religious-right figures to sell their snake oil unreported and off camera. In his trek to Alaska, Blumenthal focused on three aspects of Palin’s background—her relationship with two churches that played a central role in her political campaigns (first for mayor of Wasilla, then for governor of Alaska); her connections to a political separatist movement, the Alaska Independent Party; and her relations with minorities.
The materials Blumenthal harvested on his trip have had a real impact on the campaign. They include clips of services in the Wasilla Assembly of God, where Palin was baptized when she was twelve and which she attended until 2002, and the Wasilla Bible Church, which she attended after 2002. Although Palin launched her political career from a religious platform, mobilizing the religious communities with which she was affiliated, she has been quiet about her religious views throughout the campaign. The footage that Blumenthal secured and published allows an extraordinary glimpse into Palin’s inner sanctum. We see in some clips Palin delivering an address in which she equates religious missionary work with her political career. A series of vital political projects—ranging from the war in Iraq to a pipeline project—are described as being divinely ordained, and thus beyond discussion. In another clip, Bishop Thomas Muthee lays hands on Palin and prays, “Bring finances her way even for the campaign in the name of Jesus… Use her to turn this nation the other way around and to keep her safe from every form of witchcraft.” In another segment that Blumenthal recorded in the church, Muthee sermonizes about “the enemy,” using violent language. What these clips reveal is material to understanding Palin’s political and religious views. They suggest that the Wasilla congregation and Palin follow “dominionism,” a conviction that society must be governed exclusively by the law of God as set forth in the Bible. Biblical texts are to be construed and applied with a right-wing twist that reveals plenty of conservative social prejudices and little sensitivity to the original texts themselves. Moreover, dominionists share a millennial vision of the Rapture, coming great upheavals and political change leading to the creation of the Kingdom of God on earth. Dominionists do not embrace the separation of church and state, and tend to approach political issues from a highly dogmatic stance, often focused on particular charismatic individuals they see as ordained to govern. Indeed, dominionists widely embraced George W. Bush as an “anointed” leader whose decisions were beyond debate. They form a large chunk of the 20 percent rump group that continue to give Bush a positive performance evaluation. Blumenthal interviews one of Palin’s followers who equates her with Queen Esther, the biblical figure who bravely protected the Jews during the Babylonian Captivity.
Were it not for the determination and fearlessness of Max Blumenthal, we would now stand one week before the election largely ignorant of Palin’s Christianist political theology. His work was invaluable, but it has been under-exposed and -appreciated. Here is an essential library of Blumenthal’s work on Palin. Is Sarah Palin a “whack job”? Watch the clips, particularly those of her speaking in her own church, and call it for yourself.
More from Scott Horton:
Conversation — March 30, 2016, 3:44 pm
Joseph Hickman discusses his new book, The Burn Pits, which tells the story of thousands of U.S. soldiers who, after returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, have developed rare cancers and respiratory diseases.
i. stand with israel
I listen to a lot of conservative talk radio. Confident masculine voices telling me the enemy is everywhere and victory is near — I often find it affirming: there’s a reason I don’t think that way. Last spring, many right-wing commentators made much of a Bloomberg poll that asked Americans, “Are you more sympathetic to Netanyahu or Obama?” Republicans picked the Israeli prime minister over their own president, 67 to 16 percent. There was a lot of affected shock that things had come to this. Rush Limbaugh said of Netanyahu that he wished “we had this kind of forceful moral, ethical clarity leading our own country”; Mark Levin described him as “the leader of the free world.” For a few days there I yelled quite a bit in my car.
The one conservative radio show I do find myself enjoying is hosted by Dennis Prager. At the Thanksgiving dinner of American radio personalities (Limbaugh is your jittery brother-in-law, Michael Savage is your racist uncle, Hugh Hewitt is Hugh Hewitt) Dennis Prager is the turkey-carving patriarch trying to keep the conversation moderately high-minded. While Prager obviously doesn’t like liberals — “The gaps between the left and right on almost every issue that matters are in fact unbridgeable,” he has said — he often invites them onto his show for debate, which is rare among right-wing hosts. Yet his gently exasperated take on the Obama–Netanyahu matchup was among the least charitable: “Those who do not confront evil resent those who do.”
Average number of Americans who are injured by chain saws each year:
A farmer in Kenya bit a python who tried to eat him.
A former prison in Philadelphia that has served as a horror-movie set was being prepared as a detention center for protesters arrested at the upcoming Democratic National Convention, and presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump fired his campaign manager.
Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!
“Matt was happy enough to sustain himself on the detritus of a world he saw as careening toward self-destruction, and equally happy to scam a government he despised. 'I’m glad everyone’s so wasteful,' he told me. 'It supports my lifestyle.'”