Sarah Palin Book Signing

Okay, so how many of you out there have seen this footage by New Left Media at a Sarah Palin book signing?

This was filmed November 20th, 2009 at a Borders down the street from me. For the record, I don’t recall seeing this long line of people. Perhaps I just wasn’t out and about in that area that day. It is likely.

Anywho, I want to talk about this video, specifically, because this kind of representation makes me nervous. Or uncomfortable. I see the humor in it. I see the idea that these particular interviewees don’t appear to give insightful answers about the questions they are asked when they are supposed to be very strong supporters of this person and these issues. Yes, irony. Wonderful. If it were on Jon Stewart, I’d laugh. But, it’s not.

My issue is that it comes from New Left Media, which is not about comedy. They are about supporting issues that are traditionally liberal and my uncomfortableness is not with the organization specifically; it’s that this video uses techniques that are so polarizing. The anti-Palins will point, laugh, and say that was their point all along. Pro-Palins will say that the video is edited to cater to the anti-Palins and doesn’t reflect a true Palin audience, even though New Left Media adamantly denies “cherry picking.” They went on to say:

As for accusations of cherry picking, which are commonly thrown at interview-based videos, it simply isn’t what we did.  We interviewed only a few more people than ended up in the video, not hundreds, and what was cut was done for time purposes.  The people were selected at random–some offered to be interviewed–and we were only there for 90 mins (it gets dark early and fast in Ohio right now).  What didn’t make it into the video was just more footage of people talking about taxes/spending, drilling, and abortion, and we constructed blocks in the piece to represent those issues.  Of course the piece was edited to be entertaining (this is YouTube, after all, where the currency is cat videos) but we don’t believe we misrepresented the attitudes of the people at that signing in any way.

I question the positive impact that this video has. Yes, it has had an effect of some kind–it has more than a million views and more than twenty-one thousand comments, but reading those comments is painful. It’s a major flame war. This kind of framing doesn’t foster dialogue or conversation where opposing groups can speak thoughtfully about a subject. It degrades and mocks one group, which automatically puts them on the defense.

I will say this, the video is clever. It is, but I wonder how the video might have changed if the interviewer asked specific questions about specific policies. I wonder if there might have been more detailed answers or at least made the interviewee start thinking about her specific policies. Of course, don’t me wrong, there are some just plain atrocious answers in there (seriously, Russia across the street?), but by marking the interviewees as idiotic without responding to their actual concerns, then no real progress is made. No one feels heard or understood, which does not make them more willing to concede to the other person’s point.

Perhaps, I’m just an idealist. Or maybe I’m a bit too tender-hearted, but I believe that real, intelligent, thoughtful conversations are possible and that we all can disagree with compassion. That’s part of what Harlot‘s about. That’s part of what I want to support.

My ideas on this aren’t solidified yet (because I also understand that witty commentary–no matter how offensive–also has its place) and I doubt that I’ll ever have an absolutely concrete stance, but I do wish that I’d have the opportunity to see whether a more compassionate and empathetic conversation would have a positive impact. At the moment, there just aren’t many of those types conversations happening.