Washington Babylon — September 27, 2008, 9:09 am

Does the “Media Elite” Have It In For Sarah Palin?

Should the media be scrutinizing the record of Sarah Palin, who until a few weeks ago was the relatively unknown governor of Alaska? Yes. Does Palin’s general lack of political experience raise legitimate questions about her preparation to hold the position of vice president? Yes.

Is it also true that the media’s general view of Palin is filtered through an East Coast, elitist perspective that is unfair to Palin? Definitely.

As a reporter friend recently wrote to me in an email (slightly edited):

Alaska only has 618,000 people! Why not an issue with Delaware, which must have a pretty tiny population [note: 864,000]? Alaskans eat moose! Delawareans eat she crab, as in all the crab. Gross. Alaskans all have guns! Delewareans all have boats! There are plenty of cultural curiosities about Delaware, but they are not covered by elite east coast media because to them these things don’t seem curious.

Colbert King (hardly the most entrenched member of the “media elite”) authored a column today in The Washington Post that offers the perfect example of what he meant. “Sarah Palin’s values, her worldview and those things from which she apparently derives pleasure are what set us far apart,” King wrote. “Palin and I just don’t see eye to eye.”

King continued:

I do not now have–nor am I likely ever to have before departing this vale of tears–the slightest interest in skinning a moose or in scarfing down a mooseburger. Knowing how to properly field dress a moose is, for Palin, evidently a source of pride. As is her love of mooseburgers. I simply cannot relate to any of that…

A number of us met our life partners on campus. Some of us went on to become commissioned officers in the armed forces. A large number pursued graduate and professional degrees. Relate to Sarah and Todd Palin?

She attended five colleges over a six-year span before graduating from the University of Idaho. Todd, a part-time oil production operator and summertime commercial fisherman, doesn’t have a college degree.

King obviously doesn’t like Palin’s politics, which is fine and fair game for a columnist. But who cares that he can’t “relate” to Palin? There is a media elite, bound together by class and geography, and it is utterly clueless about its own biases and filters. There are plenty of grounds to criticize Palin, but let the poor woman enjoy a mooseburger from time to time.

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In 1973, when Barry Singer was a fifteen-year-old student at New York’s Yeshiva University High School for Boys, the vice principal, Rabbi George Finkelstein, stopped him in a stairwell. Claiming he wanted to check his tzitzit—the strings attached to Singer’s prayer shawl—Finkelstein, Singer says, pushed the boy over the third-floor banister, in full view of his classmates, and reached down his pants. “If he’s not wearing tzitzit,” Finkelstein told the surrounding children, “he’s going over the stairs!”

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Some taxonomies were inarguable. The O.C., a Fox series about California rich kids and their beautiful swimming pools, was delightfully Good-Bad. Paul Haggis’s heavy-handed morality play, Crash, which won the Oscar for Best Picture, was gallingly Bad-Good. The films of Francois Truffaut, Good-Good; the CBS sitcom Two and a Half Men, Bad-Bad.

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I spent thirty-eight years in prison and have been a free man for just under two. After killing a man named Thomas Allen Fellowes in a drunken, drugged-up fistfight in 1980, when I was nineteen years old, I was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. Former California governor Jerry Brown commuted my sentence and I was released in 2017, five days before Christmas. The law in California, like in most states, grants the governor the right to alter sentences. After many years of advocating for the reformation of the prison system into one that encourages rehabilitation, I had my life restored to me.

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