Another day, another media hit piece aimed at Sarah Palin. Surprise, surprise.
A 10,600-word article in the October issue of Vanity Fair reads like the rambling diaries of a spurned middle school student. Writer Michael Joseph Gross ran through a list of ill-sourced, hearsay attacks on Palin designed to depict her as a raging psychopath - a far cry from the down-to-earth "hockey mom" she portrays in public.
But in more than 10,600 words, Gross managed to cite just one person to criticize Palin on the record. Colleen Cottle, who served on the Wasilla City Council when Palin was mayor, complained that she "had no attention span" and "does not understand math or accounting." Heavy-hitting stuff, that.
None of the others Gross apparently interviewed were named, he said, "because they are loyal and want to protect her (a small and shrinking number), or because they expect her prominence to grow and intend to keep their options open, or because they fear she will exact revenge, as she has been known to do."
But given the tone of Gross's attacks, it's no wonder those who are close to Palin - including her parents, whom Gross apparently ambushed during a Fourth of July parade in Wasilla - refuse to speak to reporters.
Gross described the "surreal world Palin now inhabits - a place of fear, anger, and illusion, which has swallowed up the engaging, small-town hockey mom and her family - and the sadness she has left in her wake."
"Anywhere you peel back the skin of Sarah Palin's life, a sad and moldering strangeness lies beneath," Gross said. Among his ground-breaking revelations about Palin:
- She has a well-controlled media presence. (Apparently unlike any other prominent political figure.)
- Her team didn't tip bellhops very well in a Kansas hotel, and "another midwestern hotel." (The "other midwestern hotel" must have asked not to be named, for fear of reprisal from the Palin camp.)
- Some bloggers have been mean to Palin detractors. Gross later admitted that anti-Palin bloggers are also prone to "juvenile outbursts."
- Palin uses references to the North Star a lot.
- Palin uses three BlackBerry smart phones.
- Early in the campaign she didn't know who Margaret Thatcher was - a charge Gross credits to no specific or even unidentified source.
- She thanks people for praying for her and uses "code phrases expressing solidarity with fundamentalist Christians."
- She apparently bought some form-shaping Spanx underwear.
- There are "No Trespassing" signs on her Wasilla property.
Gross's attacks on Palin center on the characterization that she is volatile and vengeful. "[W]hen she feels threatened, she does not hesitate to wield some version of a signature threat, ‘I have the power to ruin you,'" Gross alleged, citing "others who have worked with Palin."
At one point Gross made it seem as though Palin monitored the telephone conversations of acquaintances in Wasilla. "When I ask about Palin, though, a palpable unease creeps in," he wrote. "Some people clam up. Others whisper invitations to call later - but on this number, not that one, and not before this hour or after that one."
The real concern, he said after acknowledging a vicious press as one reason for discomfort, is "because of a suspicion that bad things will happen to them" if Palin finds out they've talked to reporters.
The online version of the report also featured a drawing depicting Palin dressed in some sort of Viking gear, riding a white horse past a group of (pro-Palin, it would seem) protestors. The photo caption notes Palin's "erratic behavior and a pattern of lying."
The article fits right in with previous coverage of Palin. A 2008 study by the Culture and Media Institute found two basic media characterizations of Palin: a dunce whose intellectual shortcomings damaged her credibility and that of the GOP, or a demon whose short-fuse and attack-dog style were unbecoming of a woman who portrayed herself a wholesome, all-American gal.