Sarah Palin is returning to her roots in low-budget television—but this time, she's on the web, the focus is American politics, and she owns the network. The Sarah Palin Channel launched Sunday, asking prospective viewers for $9.95 per month–96 cents more than Netflix–or $99.95 a year. (No word on whether subscribers get money back if Palin decides to stick with the project for only half of that term.) The cost is the same as GBTV, the web-TV channel run by Glenn Beck, a role model for wealthy media figures who hope to monetize the cult of personality they've built up by expertly playing to the cultural affinities and anxieties of Red America.
Here's a video announcing Palin's new entry:
"We'll go beyond the sound bites and the media's politically correct filter to get to the truth," she promised new subscribers in a welcome video that blends Beck with a twist of Arianna Huffington at the end. "We'll boldly take on any issue—those issues that the powers that be don't want to cover," she declared, exuding faux-boldness. "I'll let you know what's on my mind and you'll be able to do the same in the video chats we'll set up where you can ask me anything. So welcome to our channel. Together let's do this, let's live life vibrantly, purposefully, and boldly."
Leading the homepage, one finds a video monologue of Palin pontificating on events that she can observe from her Alaska home, which is to say, Vladimir Putin's Russia. As she speaks, the video alternates between a shot of her on the same set as the welcome video and still photographs that seem to be from a wire service. At first, it seems like Palin is trying to provide her own take on a Vox explainer:
The tragedy of the Malaysian airline jet shot down over Ukraine has really shifted the balance of world opinion against Vladimir Putin. And deservedly so.
There's a lot of evidence pointing to pro-Russian Ukrainian separatists as responsible for this thoughtless massacre. And that's why Putin is now so eager to distance himself from them. Our Secretary of State John Kerry is now in a position to prod our European allies into expanding tough sanctions against Russia in order to break Putin's support for pro-Russian Ukrainian separatists. This isn't an easy task, of course, because some of these sanctions will harm the economies perhaps of our allies. Let's not forget that Russia is the third largest oil producer in the world and the second largest producer of natural gas. A quarter of the natural gas that Europe uses comes from Russia. And a third of that ships from Ukraine. So is it any wonder why Europeans are so reluctant to cross Putin?
Then she shifts into an expanded defense of "Drill, baby, drill":
Putin is able to exert this power and influence because he has very wisely and aggressively developed Russia's vast natural resources. He's been able to finance his military and all those rebuilding efforts with the wealth from resource development. And he's also able to hold oil and gas prices over the heads of those who are dependent on Russia for those resources. He uses these energy resources essentially as a weapon. Now our best long-term strategy to curb Russian power is to develop our own vast natural resources, dilute Russia's influence in this vital area, we can do it, we have these God given resources all over this great land. We could be a natural-gas exporter if the government got serious about allowing development of our natural resources and by doing so we could make the world a safer place.
At the end, she adds the obligatory bashing of the Obama administration:
A final thought about Team Obama's handling of this Ukrainian situation: you know, it didn't have to escalate like this. A good leader is able to avoid crises before they escalate. A good leader steers world events instead of merely, you know, just kinda going with the wind and responding to one crisis after another by whipping up strategies on the fly. After the tanks start rolling. After the missiles start exploding and innocent people get killed. President Obama's leading from behind? Well, it's not leading. It's reacting. And that's not a safe place to be in a dangerous world full of bullies, and terrorists, and tyrants. America, you deserve better.
I wonder if, deep down, Palin believes that, were she in the White House, she could've prevented Putin's invasion of Crimea by "leading from in front" or something, or if she's just cynically pandering, or if she hasn't thought about the matter deeply enough to even have a settled opinion on the question. Her fans, on the other hand, believe that she really does have all the answers:
What's so striking is Palin's ability to take content much like what she said as a vice-presidential candidate, then again as a handsomely paid contributor to a gigantic media corporation, and successfully package it as what "the powers that be" don't want you to hear. There are, I'm quite sure, things that "the powers that be," however defined, really don't want us to hear. I strongly suspect that "let's drill for more oil and gas," whether one agrees or disagrees with the sentiment, is not at all threatening to a single member of America's governing elite.
"Bold" this ain't.
There is much more content on the Sarah Palin Channel: e.g., a blog run by Bristol Palin; "The Case of Obama's Impeachment," which is labeled as "best of" content, but is just a link to her Fox News op-ed; and "An American Icon," where Palin speaks enthusiastically, and seemingly off-the-cuff, about meeting Billy Graham: "He's got this envelopment of God's favor around him that's kept him out of the politics of it all, that'll kind of warp you and set you up for some failure," she says.
The production value is poor, the Palin syntax in some of the monologues suggests that lots of content isn't even scripted, and the same cultural perspective can be found on Fox or GBTV or talk radio. All of which is to say that the site offers just one thing you can't get (in comparable quantity) elsewhere: Sarah Palin herself. If the channel succeeds it will be on the strength of her ability to sustain a fan base.