Ben Smith at Politico:
Sarah Palin, guerilla Facebook warrior, turns the tables a bit on the author Joe McGinniss — best known for his Nixon campaign account, The Selling of the President, and for the murder investigation Fatal Vision — who, she says, has rented the house next door.
Palin, in a recurring preoccupation, suggests that McGinniss is really there to peep at her young daughters, noting that his property overlooks “Piper’s bedroom, my little garden, and the family’s swimming hole.”
Needless to say, our outdoor adventure ended quickly after Todd went to introduce himself to the stranger who was peering in…
Joe announced to Todd that he’s moved in right next door to us. He’s rented the place for the next five months or so. He moved up all the way from Massachusetts to live right next to us – while he writes a book about me. Knowing of his many other scathing pieces of “journalism” (including the bizarre anti-Palin administration oil development pieces that resulted in my Department of Natural Resources announcing that his work is the most twisted energy-related yellow journalism they’d ever encountered), we’re sure to have a doozey to look forward to with this treasure he’s penning. Wonder what kind of material he’ll gather while overlooking Piper’s bedroom, my little garden, and the family’s swimming hole?
Welcome, Joe! It’ll be a great summer – come borrow a cup of sugar if ever you need some sweetener. And you know what they say about “fences make for good neighbors”? Well, we’ll get started on that tall fence tomorrow, and I’ll try to keep Trig’s squeals down to a quiet giggle so we don’t disturb your peaceful summer. Enjoy!
UPDATE: I haven’t been able to reach McGinniss, but did send an errant email to his son, the novelist Joe McGinniss Jr., who replied, “Sadly, she’s right. We tried our best to intervene, but alas, the heart wants what it wants. We can only pray for him now. He’s convinced that Todd will step aside and when the time is right, he’ll be there, right next door, to pick up the pieces.”
While there is no indication that McGinniss planned to publish photos or information about the personal lives of the Palin children, Sarah Palin has responded to the discovery of her famous neighbor in classic Palin style.
When I said “classic Palin style,” if you immediately thought “wild, inappropriate over-reaction” you can give yourself a gold star. And if you guessed Facebook rant, give yourself another one. This one was just too big for the Twitter limit of 140 characters. With twitchy forced nonchalance, she offers to bake him a pie, offers to lend him sugar and says she’ll keep her youngest son Trig quiet so McGinniss can enjoy his summer of peace and quiet while she constructs a giant fence. In this monologue, which is worthy of every “crazy neighbor” character ever penned, she also speculates (somewhere between the pie and the sugar) that he’ll be spying in Piper’s bedroom window, and watching her do the gardening while wearing skimpy summer clothing. It’s quite something. Reading it is kind of like watching someone spontaneously combust.
And in a brilliant move, to attempt to show how intrusive he’s going to be, and how much he will invade her privacy, she has actually published a picture of him sitting on the far side of the deck, minding his own business. You know… to show how inappropriate he is for whatever it is he might or might not do at some time in the future. Maybe. You know, like taking a creepy spy picture of her that she doesn’t know about and then publishing it online to a hostile audience and asking for comment. He would sink that low, wouldn’t he. Some people…
Jack Shafer at Slate:
Where do I go to advance-order a copy of Joe McGinniss’ forthcoming book about Sarah Palin?
Obviously my desire to put money down is premature, as the book isn’t supposed to come out until 2011 and Amazon has yet to post a standing page for it. For all I know, McGinniss hasn’t even written a first chapter. Yet I must find some way to commend the writer for an act of journalistic assholery—renting the house next door to the Palin family in Wasilla, Alaska, from which he is going to research and write his book—that honors a long tradition of snooping.
In calling McGinniss’ ploy “assholery” I intend no disparagement. I admire his determination to get the story and have no problems, ethically or morally, with him getting as close to his subject as possible—even if his technique seems a little stalkerish. Besides, there’s a long journalistic tradition of wearing sources and subjects down until they surrender … of knocking on the door of a grieving family to ask them, “How do you feel?” … of feigning friendliness to gain access … of crossing police lines in a brisk manner that implies a right to be there … of charming sources’ families, friends, or colleagues in order to get closer to them … of frequenting a subject’s favorite bar, place of worship, and subway stop until he cracks.
Take, for example, the camera ambush, which is at least as intrusive as moving in next door to a subject. But few protested Mike Wallace’s practice of chasing reluctant subjects with a camera crew after they refused to sit down and talk with 60 Minutes. After Wallace came Michael Moore, who became expert at waylaying the unexpecting in unexpected places. The strategy was largely tolerated by the journalistic culture until the boys and girls at The O’Reilly Factor started ambushing “high school principals, lawmakers, journalists and celebrities,” as the New York Times put it. Only then did people start thinking it was creepy.
Still, McGinniss’ stunt will outrage those who believe reporters should get close but not too close, who believe that there is something sacred about an individual’s place of residence, who would prefer reporters to behave more like Boy Scouts and less like gumshoes.
Taking up residence next to Palin doesn’t even approach violating her legal right to privacy. She has no legal right to blind eyes looking at her property from an adjoining property or even from the street. If McGinniss didn’t live next door, he’d be completely within his rights to interview Palin’s neighbors about her. In fact, he’d be remiss if he didn’t grill them about her.
Ken Shepherd at Newsbusters:
Even if one accepts that as a justification, Shafer failed to address what potential blowback that approach might have in the marketplace. Indeed, Shafer saw no potential drawbacks for McGinniss, predicting that the liberal author would most certainly “debut in the [New York] Times best-seller list.”
Of course this appears to be an unprecedented move in the history of modern American politics, but it should be instructive to see if Shafer sings a different tune if in the future a conservative writer would literally move next door to an unsuccessful Democratic vice presidential candidate.
After all, John Edwards certainly ginned up a juicy story or two after his 2004 run.
Oh, Slate: where the writing is endlessly contrarian, in extents ranging from the hysterically absurd to the spot-on to the shamelessly loony. Which is why Slate editor Jack Shafer’s defense of mortal Sarah Palin press enemy, Joe McGinniss – who has employed every tactic of what Shafer refers to as “journalistic assholery” under the sun to get his stories – doesn’t come as much of a surprise. That doesn’t make it any less wonderful.
Shafer’s not wrong, and of course, there’s a line (there always is). Question, though: Will consumers ever not pick up a piece of news to take in based on the methods a reporter took to get it to them? Historically, no. Then again, consumers never had the information on how those stories came to them like they do now. Think of torture methods: We want the information to protect our government, but at what cost? The public wants the truth, but are they willing to create uglier truths in order to get what they desired in the first place?
In a casual estimation: Yeah, probably.
David Weigel, back on the Palin blog post:
Palin informs her readers that McGinniss is “overlooking my children’s play area” and “overlooking Piper’s bedroom.” Alternately sounding angry and mocking, she refers to “the family’s swimming hole,” which at first reference sounds like she’s accusing McGinniss of checking out the Palins in their bathing suits, until you realize the family’s “swimming hole” is Lake Lucille. And she posts a photo of the space McGinniss is renting, captioning it, “Can I call you Joe?”
Can somebody explain to me how this isn’t a despicable thing for Palin to do? She describes McGinniss as the author of “the bizarre anti-Palin administration oil development pieces that resulted in my Department of Natural Resources announcing that his work is the most twisted energy-related yellow journalism they’d ever encountered.”
Another way of putting it would be that McGinniss is an investigative journalist who wrote his first best-seller at age 26 and was shopping a book about Alaska and the oil industry when Palin was named John McCain’s running mate. And another way of describing those “bizarre” pieces is that no one has ever challenged the facts in them.
Palin, who has an undergraduate degree in journalism, should understand that articles don’t become untrue when the subjects don’t agree with them.
Has McGinniss gone to an extreme to get a story? Well, we don’t have his side yet — not that this has prevented every other media outlet from typing up Palin’s Facebook post like some lost Gospel. But assuming he’s rented the house near the Palins for some period of time, assuming the Palins know he’s there and that he’s writing a book, then what, exactly, is wrong with this?
Politicians don’t have veto power over who gets to write about them, or how they research their stories, as long as they’re within the bounds of the law. It’s incredibly irresponsible for them to sic their fans on journalists they don’t like. And that’s what Palin is doing here — she has already inspired Glenn Beck to accuse McGinniss of “stalking” Palin and issuing a threat to boycott his publisher.
This is really the ultimate example of the way Palin manipulates the press and inverts the relationship between reporters and politicians, turning the former into “stalkers,” and the latter — as long as they’re Republicans or members of her family — into saints whom no one can criticize. No one in the media should reward Palin for this irresponsible and pathetic bullying.
In fairness, McGinniss is doing something a bit unorthodox, and for that reason this particular standoff is perhaps somewhat newsworthy. But more broadly, as long as Palin isn’t an actual candidate for public office, at what point do we stop rewarding every statement from Palin, no matter how vicious or mendacious, with attention? Should there be such a point?
That’s a real question, by the way. I’d love to hear what other reporters and editors have to say about this.
Erick Erickson at Redstate:
Unlike a lot of my friends, I really don’t have a problem with Dave Weigel. He is what he is. Referred to the Washington Post by Ezra Klein as someone competent to cover conservatives (a bit like Lenin making staffing decisions at the Wall Street Journal for someone competent to cover capitalists, or setting up Mearsheimer and Walt as the heads of the NYT’s Israel bureau), Weigel’s primary job has been described to me on several occasions by so many people in the same basic terms as to make me think it is in fact his actual job description: “to report on groups and people on the right who should be viewed as fringe.” At least, that is how one Washington Post employee described the job. Another DC journalist described it as, “His job is to mock tea party foks as racist crazies if they criticize Obama.”
He seems like an affable enough guy. We trade emails and I’m happy to help him on stuff on occasion, but this latest post of his is precisely why I don’t take him seriously — I won’t even get into his twittering that shows total disdain for social conservatives who make up a very large part of that group he is supposedly covering from the inside.
A reporter moves in next door to Sarah Palin — a reporter with a negative history reporting on Palin — and Palin takes to Facebook to complain about the rather stalkerish vibe of this reporter taking up residence right next door to snoop on the family. This is the same reporter who once tried to get into a charity contest where he bid $60,000 to have dinner with Palin. Imagine if you had someone like that move in next door to your family and say they were going to write a book about being your neighbor. We all know that’s exactly what this guy is going to do.
But Weigel, along with a host of other reporters in DC, is going after Palin for being upset about it.
Like Erick, I like Dave Weigel–in the same way I liked the trained Siberian Tigers at the Sigfried and Roy show: they look interesting and exotic, but are extraordinarily dangerous–as poor Roy learned the hard way. A journalist is a wild animal with an appetite for conservative meat and should be interacted with that way–always.
I do not expect Dave to be unbiased or fair. I do not expect him to defend a conservative point-of-view, ever, and therefore, I’m not disappointed or offended when he snaps off some pithy, demeaning, diminishing remark about conservatives or conservatism generally.
When he says something sufficiently irritating, I might respond, but mostly, I suppress the urge as it’s useless. Joking at a conservative’s expense and yucking it up is easy peasy. Everyone does it. So trendy.
So no, I don’t take Dave Weigel seriously. I think he’s a gifted writer and has interesting insight. He has an sophisticated mind and I enjoy talking to him. But he’s as ideologically left as the rest, he’s just willing to lower himself to hang with the natives from time to time. And he’s welcome to do so. Conservative people treat him with more kindness because he is willing to at least publicly view conservatives as a species of human. When it comes down to it though, his reporting sounds like reports from the out-back bush.
Dave Weigel with some of his mail
Kate Pickert at Swampland at Time:
Obviously, this is a free country and anyone has a right to rent any house they want. But, as Ben Smith points out, this shouldn’t prevent Palin from saying she finds it annoying that a journalist has moved in next door, which is the general gist of her Facebook post. Additionally, I find it interesting that Weigel—who has done great work covering the day-to-day goings on in the populist right—seems angry that Palin is “bullying” a journalist who’s writing a book about her.
Isn’t this what a journalist writing a critical book about a subject should expect? To be bullied and boycotted by supporters of the subject? This is not new. What is new is the way Palin chose to react to McGinniss’s move. Rather than hunker down and use back channels and legal threats to stymie McGinniss’s work – as public figures have historically often done in cases like this – she’s using Facebook to bring it all out into the open.
Sarah Palin made a reference to Robert Frost in a Facebook note this morning—but she missed the American poet and former Atlantic contributor’s point. Reacting to news that a man planning to write a critical book about her is about to become her next-door neighbor, the former Alaska governor echoed the 1915 poem “Mending Wall,” whose refrain is “good fences make good neighbors”:
And you know what they say about “fences make for good neighbors”? Well, we’ll get started on that tall fence tomorrow, and I’ll try to keep Trig’s squeals down to a quiet giggle so we don’t disturb your peaceful summer. Enjoy!As Andrew Sullivan points out, however, Palin’s desire for a tall fence is completely contrary to the spirit of Frost’s poem. “Mending Wall” is a polemic against building walls that separate us from our neighbors—the poem opens with the line,”Something there is that doesn’t love a wall” and goes on to describe the narrator’s attempts to talk his neighbor out of putting one up.
This back-and-forth sounds eerily similar to a plotline from The West Wing— the now-defunct NBC series that has been eerily prescient before. In the show’s fourth season, a Republican campaign strategist misuses the “good fences make good neighbors” line, inspiring some literary-minded White House staffers to set the record straight:
Here he quotes Robert Frost. “Good fences make good neighbors.” Did he talk about that?
What did he say?
Basically, that if you stay within your personal space, you’ll end up getting along with everyone.
You had to study modern poetry.
Is that what Frost meant?
No, he meant that boundaries are what alienate us from each other.
Why did he say “Good fences make good neighbors?”
He was being ironic.
Shannyn Moore at Huffington Post:
It’s been a few days since the Palins learned Joe McGinniss moved in next door. Love thy neighbor as thyself, then build a fence.
“Fences make good neighbors,” promised her Facebook blog. Not sure at which of the five colleges Palin studied Robert Frost’s Mending Wall , but I think she missed the point. Perhaps it was the, “Something there is that doesn’t love a wall” part.
Within a few hours Sarah had launched a “Joe The Stalker/Pervert” campaign. Glenn Beck called for a boycott of Random House publishing, and Random House held their ground. The Paliban swarmed with comments of “stalker”, “reload”, “let’s burn it to the ground”, and “get ’em, Todd”. The following morning the Palins super-sized their fence. The “waterin’ hole” must be defended.
Joe the Neighbor should have told Todd he was writing a book about Russia and heard he could research from his porch. He didn’t.
But why the outrage now?
The home Joe McGinniss is renting used to be an Oxford House from 2005 until 2008. The tenants were men recently released from prison who were recovering addicts. What? No fence to protect sexy Sarah in her tank top? Dear God! Who was lurking in that house watching her children play?
The Palins themselves rented the home McGinnis is staying in for six months in 2009, but weren’t interested in purchasing it. They didn’t want to spend the money. Last October they were “done with the house”. During the election, the Secret Service guarded the Palin home from the backyard now occupied by Mr. McGinnis. Here’s a hint, Sarah – if you want to dictate who lives in the house, you should have probably bought it first.
It’s predictable Palin.
UPDATE: Dave Weigel