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13 July 2010

Laurie Penny: Sarah Palin’s video – what was left unsaid?

It’s hard to put your finger on what is wrong with Palin’s “Mama Grizzly” video.

By Laurie Penny

Contemporary conservative propaganda, especially in the United States, works a little like Victorian stage-magic — pandering to popular bigotry through sleight of hand, pantomimic charisma and misdirection, taking care not to give sceptics enough material to work out how the trick is done. For example: liberal, educated women all over the world understand that there’s something subtly wrong with the former VP candidate Sarah Palin’s pseudo-feminist “Mama Grizzly” spiel, but it’s often hard to put one’s finger firmly on what it is.

The video posted on Palin’s Facebook page this week relies heavily on implication and suggestion rather than facts and statements, using the motif of “moms know best” to drum up a knowing, superstitious, traditional-home-remedy attitude to politics. There’s a great deal of talk about “women rising up” and “common sense”, but the only clue to what Palin is actually getting at comes when the viewer zooms in on a home-made placard encouraging passers-by to “Annoy Liberal”.

“We don’t like this change in our societies,” brays the voice-over. “We’re going to turn this thing around, no matter what it takes.” But what thing? What, in plain English, is the change that Palin wants Americans to join her in reversing? Watch the video again and see if you can tell:

  

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Did you spot a single American of colour in that video? Because I didn’t, apart from one woman in part-focus in the background of a half-second shot. For a country which is between 25 and 35 per cent non-white, and which just happens to have recently elected its first African-American leader, that’s a shocking pretermission.

Here, as with a great deal of conservative rhetoric, what is left unsaid is often more important than what is said.