New York Mag Shocker: Sarah Palin In Many Ways Is Bigger Than Oprah

New York Mag Shocker: Sarah Palin In Many Ways Is Bigger Than Oprah

By Noel Sheppard
Created 04/26/2010 – 00:05
New York Magazine’s lengthy cover story about Sarah Palin hitting newsstands Monday may end up being a disappointment for liberals expecting a classic hit piece thoroughly disemboweling the former Alaska governor.

On the other hand, the picture Gabriel Sherman paints in his 6000-word “The Revolution Will Be Commercialized [1]” of an almost desperate woman willing to sell her soul to pay Troopergate-related legal bills after losing her bid for Vice President will not sit well with conservatives either.

Complicating matters for Palin fans will be the article concluding with the opinions of Bristol Palin’s former fiancé Levi Johnston.

Despite all that, Sherman had some remarkably positive things to say about Palin likely to the dismay of his largely New York City-based readership (h/t @timlindell): 

Though Palin may not like it, she makes money for Democrats and Republicans alike. Across the political spectrum, Palin is a ratings magnet. Whenever she appears on Fox News, ratings tick up by 10 to 15 percent. At MSNBC, she’s also a ratings phenomenon, albeit with opposite adjectives. Tina Fey’s reprisal of her Palin character in early April juiced Saturday Night Live’s ratings, beating prime-time programming, a rare feat. Online, right-wing sites like the Drudge Report frequently plug Palin headlines, while Palin’s presence at liberal outlets like the Huffington Post and Talking Points Memo routinely sparks hundreds of reader comments. During the campaign, people said she could be another Oprah, but now, in many ways, she’s bigger than Oprah, an empath for people who feel, rightly or wrongly, that America has forgotten them. “People are drawn to her,” says Fox News programming chief Bill Shine. “People look at her and say, ‘She has a bunch of the same troubles I do, there’s a mom who’s there changing diapers.’ ”

Bigger than Oprah?

Not what you would expect from New York Magazine, is it?

But Sherman always seemed cognizant of the need to appeal to his Palin-hating readers as well as those equally despising Fox News: 

The [Republican] party knows she is a possible bridge to the fractious and suspicious tea-party crowd. But Palin’s conspicuous lack of depth-and the sheer joy she takes in what she doesn’t know-is a source of angst among Republicans who see larger brand risk if Palin comes to define the party. […]

Nowadays, for both poles of the political spectrum but especially for the right, politics is a business-the entertainment business. The freak show, as Mark Halperin termed it, has been turned into a fully merchandised product. It was Fox’s Roger Ailes who had the insight that the American right was an underserved market, one with a powerful kind of brand loyalty. Fox News has turned a disaffected segment of the populace into a market, with the fervor and idiosyncratic truth standards of a cult. Wingnut-ism has been monetized, is one admittedly partisan way of looking at it. Palin stokes the disaffection of her constituents and then, with the help of Fox, offers to heal them, for a price. And-surprise-they’re more affluent than most Americans. Fifty-six percent make over $50,000 a year, according to a Times/CBS poll. Running for president is no doubt part of her business model. But forget elections (as many Palin supporters already seem to have done); she’s already the president of an alternative America-and also its CEO. 

But surprisingly, and again a likely disappointment to Mag subscribers, there was more praise for Palin than the typical invective from the Left: 
Partly because her meltdown with Katie Couric promised more great television, and partly because of her outlandish family life and moose-shooting habits, Palin was a massive American celebrity, and the interest seemed to build rather than fade. “I fielded 1,000 individual requests in the first four or five months after the election,” Bill McAllister told me. Barbara Walters, George Stephanopoulos, and Charlie Gibson all made personal calls in an effort to land post-election interviews with Palin. Stephanopoulos was especially aggressive in his pursuit. “George and I talked so much we’re like new best friends,” McAllister joked. “Bill Maher also tried to book her. In that case, he had to be dreaming. […]

When Going Rogue was released last November, it became the fastest-selling nonfiction debut since Bill Clinton’s 2004 memoir, My Life. Palin’s torrid book sales are the single biggest reason HarperCollins returned to profitability last year. When Palin sat down to promote Going Rogue with Oprah in November, she boosted Oprah’s ratings to the highest level in two years. The campaign-style tour through Palin’s heartland strongholds was executed flawlessly. Burnham was amazed at the response. “When the cover was revealed, every screen I turned to, every television show I turned on, was showing it. As a publisher, I’ve never experienced anything like that.” 

And here’s a quote destined to anger all the Palin-haters out there: 
From Buffalo Bill to the Marlboro Man, the self-reliant frontiersman has always been an image with mass appeal. Palin has managed to graft this rugged Western myth onto a beauty-pageant face and a counterpunching, don’t-tread-on-me verbal style-a new kind of character, and a remarkably compelling one.

Remarkably compelling. Just imagine the wincing and cringing THAT’S likely to create all around Manhattan.

But as you can probably tell from the title, the point of the piece was to show how the lowly and not so well-off Palin used her unpredictable thrust into the limelight in August 2008 to become rich.

To drive home the point, each page was adorned with a different adulterated corporate logo like the Ford one pictured above.

And of course, money she did make.

But even Sherman’s descriptions of how Palin negotiated herself up the income ladder seemed more flattering than pejorative:  

Palin is a centerpiece of a strategy that TLC executives see as positioning the network as the anti-Bravo, whose shows like Top Chef, the Real Housewives franchise, and America’s Next Top Model are programmed to a liberal urban audience. TLC’s fare, like the antics of Jon and Kate Gosselin, or the inspirational documentary about Captain Sullenberger’s miracle landing, or American Chopper, which moved over from Discovery, are decidedly downmarket. “We don’t program TLC to the coasts,” one Discovery executive said. “To counterprogram against that Bravo audience, we are programming to Middle America, and we’ve built a successful business doing that.” […]

Her star power at Fox has sparked competition among the various personalities, all of whom would like more Palin on their shows. 

As the piece moved to a conclusion, Sherman became less complimentary: 
Palin doubled down on building-and monetizing-her personal brand, the plainspoken Alaskan frontierswoman who’s not ashamed of what she doesn’t know. (If her Couric interview showed to many that she needed remedial education in various political areas, she doesn’t seem to have received it.) And she hasn’t modified her lone-wolf management style, something many see as a massive handicap for any presidential race. “People are constantly close to her and then estranged,” one former McCain-campaign staffer said. “It’s a great weakness to her and will be a great challenge for her to ever put together a team that could mount a successful campaign.”

As stated previously, the piece concluded with Johnston’s negative opinions of the former governor, which seemed peculiar for Sherman to give this lowlife so much print space.

Regardless, when I got the tip from Twitter that this article was going to be published on the Internet Sunday evening, I expected to be wincing and cringing far more than I did.

Or is this a case of having read so many Palin hit pieces in the past 20 months that I’ve grown desensitized like people that have seen so much violence on television that they’re no longer affected by it? 

If so, can someone recommend a good psychiatrist? 

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