How Sarah Palin's Latest Media Conspiracy Theory Harms the Right

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The pundit and reality-TV star blames the press for an attack on Mitt Romney that was actually begun by her fellow Republicans.

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Sarah Palin, the coastal-dwelling professional pundit and reality-TV star who graduated from college with a degree in journalism, took to Fox News, the popular cable news channel where she is a paid contributor, over the weekend to complain that "the media" is involved in a massive conspiracy to elevate and then attack Mitt Romney. 

Palin said the mainstream media would take a hands-off approach to Romney "in order to bolster Romney's chances" to "finally face Obama." According to Palin, the mainstream media and Obama would then portray Romney as someone who is out of touch with regular Americans in the general election. 

"They are already gearing up to portray him, accurately or inaccurately... as being out of touch with the working class," Palin said, noting that Romney's wealth and perfect family may make it easy to paint him as someone "being a bit out of touch from working and middle class Americans and from the challenges we all face."

It's amusing that Palin phrases her comment as if it doesn't matter whether the media portrayal she's alleging is accurate or not. That aside, the thing to recognize is that right now, "Romney is out of touch" is a narrative getting covered almost entirely because of his opponents in the GOP primary attacking him as out of touch. The New York Times has a handy summary of the talking points:

Mitt Romney's Bain Capital "looted" a company in Gaffney, S.C., and got "rich off failures and sticking it to someone else," Gov. Rick Perry of Texas charged this morning as he began a swing through South Carolina. Signaling that he will join Newt Gingrich and other Republican presidential rivals in sharply criticizing Mr. Romney's earlier career as a corporate takeover artist, Mr. Perry mocked Mr. Romney's recent statement that there were times he had worried about losing his job, pointing out that Mr. Romney had grown up wealthy and privileged. "I mean, he actually said this," Mr. Perry told more than 100 diners at a breakfast gathering here.

"Now, I have no doubt Mitt Romney was worried about pink slips -- whether he was going to have enough of them to hand out because his company, Bain Capital, of all the jobs that they killed," Mr. Perry said. "I'm sure he was worried that he would run out of pink slips."

Were a Democrat to levy these attacks the right would be up in arms about the "class warfare" they were employing, and insisting that they don't understand the process of creative destruction. Andrew Sullivan says that means the attack has potential. "That Gingrich and Perry are openly using classic Democratic attack lines against Romney, especially with his record at Bain, is a sign to me that they suspect it could work," he writes. "And if it can work against Romney in a Republican primary, imagine what could be done in a general election." Perhaps. 

Whether it works or not, it's obviously a line of attack that anyone who runs against Romney is going to use, because in a downturn it's going to resonate with some voters and turn off very few. As so often happens on Fox News, Palin is training Republicans to blame the media for something that is as close to inevitable as anything gets in politics -- and in doing so, she feeds the victim complex of the Fox News audience, which often doesn't bother to figure out how the right might improve itself, substantively or superficially, because it has persuaded itself that it already has the right message if only it can win its war with the media elites.

Image credit: Reuters

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Conor Friedersdorf is a staff writer at The Atlantic, where he focuses on politics and national affairs. He lives in Venice, California, and is the founding editor of The Best of Journalism, a newsletter devoted to exceptional nonfiction.

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