Palin and the Thin Line Betwixt Satire and Reality

It’s no secret that I found John McCain’s choice of Sarah Palin to be, well, unfortunate at many levels. On the plus side, though, it’s made for some fascinating occasions to examine rhetoric and syntax and other English professorial excitements. Regarding Palin in particular, I’ve been fascinated to see the lines of satire and reality get blurred so quickly and profoundly. We all know about the power of Tina Fey’s spot-on impersonations, of course, especially how easily the SNL skits can slip in and out of actually quoting Palin’s twisted loop-de-loops of language — leaving the viewer in doubt about what was real Palinspeak and what was fake Fey-as-Palinspeak.

I found a less famed example of this process in the Washington Independent. Bruce McCall writes an occasional satire column for its virtual pages, and this week’s was headlined “Palin Lauds Old Glory, Dares Obama to Differ.” It’s satire, through and through, “quoting” her as addressing (among other patriotic items) an American flag:

The real Americans are the America-loving Americans who stand up for America and the American way. Because what would America be without these real Americans? And I would like to congratulate this flag for doing such good work for America, while challenging Sen. [Barack] Obama to come up with a policy that says otherwise.

It’s funny stuff, I think, regardless of your political leanings (or at least it should be). It’s also undoubtedly satire.

Yet looking at the comments to the page on the web reveals that many people cannot separate the satire from reality:

Palin needs to get back to her crack dealer so she add a few more “Americans, America’s and Americas” to her sentences.

No wonder it took her five colleges to graduate in journalism… my sixth grader has better speaking skills.

Even folks who recognize the column’s comic nature nevertheless confess uncertainty about the accuracy of the quotes:

I am confused, I understand Bruce McCall is a humorist, I just need to make sure the statements made by Sarah Palin in this article are no a parody. If she really speaks this way, we should all bow our heads in shame.

So why do I find this fascinating? Because I can’t decide if the real shame is that Americans are losing their sense of humor, that Americans can’t read well enough to recognize it in the first place, or that a party claiming to put “Country First” essentially nominated someone for the highest office in the world whose lack of coherency and ready intelligence is so profound that extreme satirical mockery of it can be so easily mistaken for reality.

None of these options are comforting. So I decided to ask the always enlightening virtual Palin what to make of it all. Her answer may surprise you. I know it did me.

Q: Is your nomination really such a bad sign for America?

PALIN: So, of course, and democracy, is with new leadership coming in on January 20, when John McCain will be their will implemented in Paulson’s proposal, really I don’t know what prayers are worthy of being prayed.

Perhaps so.

And thus to a final word on Palin from John Cleese of Monty Python fame, who gives a terrific European insight into the matter even if he gets two details wrong*:

*The two mistakes:

1. Cleese states that one of Cheney’s lackeys staff members wrote Palin’s speeches. In fact, the man who wrote her big RNC speech (and the source of her main stump stompings) is Matthew Scully, who has been primarily a Bush writer. Only peripherally has he written for Sauron Cheney.

2. Cleese contends that Sarah has overtaken his fellow Python alum Michael as the funniest Palin. Not true. She may be the most distressing and depressing Palin, but Michael is still the funniest. Citations abound.

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