Palin disconcerts us because she seems to have no mask at all, no change of gear. She’s utterly forthcoming, even regarding her family, which is normally a sacred preserve of privacy. Perhaps it’s frightening to meet such people for those of us who value propriety and discretion first of all. So we don’t like her because we are afraid of that level of openness. It just terrifies us. Could we endure a president who is mask-less?
But the truth is: she is all mask. I've been watching her "reality" series on TLC. It is as close to Palin's reality as most reality shows are to theirs'. Except on reality shows, the producers create the fiction by editing to concoct story lines, engineer conflicts and drama, select villains and heroines, sluts and virgins, braggards and ugly ducklings. On "Sarah Palin's Alaska", it is the subject of the "reality show" who has the final say over the editing: Sarah Palin herself. If she wanted reality, she would have allowed someone else to follow her around in her actual life, and edit the footage as he or she wished. But she didn't. She created a biography and an image in the very modern way: rigging a reality show about herself (just as she rigs interviews by restricting them to her own propaganda network, Fox.)
On the most recent episode, Palin did what any tourist can do in Alaska. She went on a halibut fishing boat; she went clamming; she went clay-shooting. The strained, fake personality segments - the "competition" with Todd racing in a canoe, the need for Bristol to get in touch with nature after all the publicity she has been seeking - were so obviously contrived it was painful to watch. But the imagery was indelible: this is a woman who can (just about) shoot a gun (even though her daughter has clearly never touched the thing); this is a woman who can bash fish over the head to stun and kill them; this is a woman prepared not just for a photo-op with fish-processors, but to join in for a few minutes and give the impression that this is how she actually lives. This is a woman who can see a giant clam dug out of the sands, and whose spontaneous response is "Delicious!"
If you think all this fakery is "forthcoming" or "open" or "real", then you probably thought Going Rogue was a work of auto-biography, rather than propaganda and fantasy. All we're seeing is a brilliantly conceived creation of an "authentic American" from the frontier, somehow more connected with the country than the alien president, eager to kill, poised for violence, wrapped in an always well-coiffed hair-do and relentlessly chirpy.
As with many delusional people, Palin demands, by sheer force of will, that we buy her story and her reality. If we do, we'll buy anything.
(Photo: A chair waits for former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin to sign her new book 'America By Heart: Reflections on Family, Faith and Flag' November 23, 2010 in Phoenix, Arizona. Amid speculation about a 2012 White House bid, Palin kicked off a 16-stop tour for the book, which follows her bestselling memoir 'Going Rogue' last year and is billed as a tribute to veterans, hunting and the Tea Party. By Eric Thayer/Getty Images.)