Former Reporter Firestone Sees 'Extremist Politics' in Palin's 'Alaska'

Former Washington correspondent David Firestone is disturbed at how Sarah Palin supporters "flock to this portrait of a way of life that is radically different from the way most Americans now live and get some extremist politics mixed in with the supposed nostalgia."
Former Times Washington correspondent David Firestone could barely tolerate the "clubbing to death" of a halibut on "Sarah Palin's Alaska," the former vice presidential candidate's reality show for TLC. But what he found truly "disturbing" was the way Palin used the show to "enhance her political glow" with "some extremist politics mixed in with the supposed nostalgia."

In a signed editorial in Thursday's edition, "Sarah Palin's Alaskan Rhapsody," Firestone finds Palin "radically different from the way most Americans now live." Of course you could say the same about a Manhattan-based writer for the Times.

A recent segment of "Sarah Palin's Alaska," her live-action show on TLC, was preceded by a warning that parts of it "may be disturbing to some viewers." Presumably this referred to scenes of Ms. Palin clubbing to death a huge halibut and then triumphantly holding up a still-beating halibut heart, images that probably did send chills down the spines of animal lovers and moderate Republicans. But no scene in the show is as disturbing as the way she uses it to enhance her political glow.

The eight hours of "Sarah Palin's Alaska" are a visually sumptuous - if occasionally bloody - marketing campaign for an ostensibly undeclared presidential candidate. They are yet another in a series of brilliant bypasses of conventional politics that may provide Ms. Palin with a legacy. Other candidates have found new ways to reach voters - Barack Obama's e-mail fund-raising in 2008 comes to mind - but having one's own hagiographic reality show is a chapter in an entirely new playbook.

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We now live in a world where a politician can be the executive producer of her own precampaign show. A world where a governor can quit her elected job and make far more money, and political headway, creating a television legend as America's most fearless outdoorswoman and most encouraging mother to her brood of hunters and fishers. A world where millions of supporters flock to this portrait of a way of life that is radically different from the way most Americans now live and get some extremist politics mixed in with the supposed nostalgia. To paraphrase TLC, voter discretion is now advised.