I can’t believe that Discovery Communications is actually going to air “Sarah Palin’s Alaska” on TLC Sunday, Nov. 14. But more striking is how the Democrats haven’t made a bigger deal out of it.
The show, which is supposed to be a travelogue of Alaska, appears to be one giant political ad that will show the former vice-presidential candidate ice climbing and facing a bear. The title of one of the show’s videos on TLC.com is “Rock climber or rock star.” Some of the quotes from the TLC preview video include “Family comes first. It’s just gotta be that way” and “I’d rather be out here bein’ free.” If these aren’t future political slogans, I don’t know what is.
Palin claims she’s not running for president, but she quit her job as governor before her term was up. She campaigned for several right-wing and tea-party candidates during the midterm elections and some of them were elected.
The Democrats should be flaming mad that Palin has a show that presents an idealized view of her looking tough and commanding on a popular cable channel. When I saw a clip of the show at the Discovery upfronts in April I was reminded of a lesson from one of my journalism classes. The lesson was about what how images impact people’s opinion.
An example was a mostly negative 60 Minutes episode about Ronald Reagan back in 1984. Even though the show was critical of Reagan his approval ratings went up. It is thought that was because many of the images shown in the piece had Reagan standing in front of an American flag or looking commanding. That piece aired once, maybe twice, for about 5 minutes. Imagine what Sarah Palin’s Alaska will do for her opinion polls after the 8 week, hour-long show airs documenting her running around on great American adventures?
In addition to my concern about what this will do to her possible presidential run, to quote my kids “it’s not fair.” What if Palin does run for president in 2012? Will Discovery give her opponent an 8 week show? What if it’s Hilary Clinton? I suspect that the Republican Party would set up boycotts, burn televisions, and call for the resignations of all Discovery executives if Hilary Clinton got a show that pictured her hunting black bear in New York State.
It seems to me, that the only fair thing would be a promise of equal time to whomever her future opponent may be – even Barack Obama. Or maybe drop the show altogether and find another Alaska native to profile. How about Jewel? Or anyone who hasn’t recently run for vice president of the United States!
Don’t get me wrong. I love the idea of the show sans Sarah Palin and I love Alaska. I spent one of the best summers of my life in Denali National Park. To see Palin try to climb a section of Denali, the highest peak in North America made me a little inspired to go back to Alaska. But as for the show itself glorifying Sarah Palin, it made me physically ill.