An interesting comment appeared on the Moosylvania Series overnight. From “SillaBob” it merely cited a Mudflats blog post — for which I thank him — as either a confirmation or a rejoinder — without any comment we are left in that old Star Trek communications quandary of the Horta: “NO KILL I.”
Does that mean the Horta won’t kill YOU, or is the Horta asking to NOT itself be killed?
Two points of view
Top photo is from The Mudflats blog; bottom from this blog
But, given the extreme courtesy that the Alaskan blogging community and media have shown thus far, I felt it wise to reply:
Thanks, SillaBob (if that IS your real name).
Not only do the Mudflats photos prove my point, but it’s eerie how we both took a significant number of the same shots. Ironically, the post in question claims “I tried to capture the spirit of what makes the Valley unique, so I didn’t photograph Home Depot, or Walmart, or Lowe’s.”
Which is completely missing the point. It’s the Home Depot, Wal-Mart AND Lowes that put the lie to to the entire “backwoods” mythology used to sell the “personality.”
Which, if nothing else, ought to be black and white proof that what I’ve reported is accurate, as independently confirmed by Mudflats.
And let me make a clarification: the photo of the “Mug Shot” Saloon posted in late August 2008 that I have used was how Mudflats initially presented Wasilla to the world.
That’s their journalistic albatross (although they got enough awards and national attention that their little noses have no reason to be bent out of joint). Why? Because first impressions are everything. GIGO. And …
The point is that the REST of the world still sees Wasilla as that photo of the Mug Shot Saloon. My reader mail confirms that.
I always figured that Mudflats obviously knew better. And so they do.
They just were too busy pushing an agenda to understand that the facts are enough. You don’t need to tweak them or suppress them, or gussie them up. Not intentionally, and you got to fight like hell not to do it UNintentionally.
And this is is the sign that his vorpal sword saw. Each view gives valuable
information but each view is incomplete: the Arctic Cat dealership in
the Mudflats’ photo; the Cross Country Church in ours.
The point that needs making is this: we have become so used to our own hometown foibles and quirks that we don’t see them anymore. The job of a journalist is — and has been — to go into that town, and see it with eyes fresh enough that we see things even the locals never noticed.
That may be what Joe McGinniss is doing, and if so, he is being professional. If this were an actor preparing to play a role, praise would be heaped on the “method” actor for doing all their “research.” But if an ACTUAL researcher does it, it’s … suspicious?
In 2008, the national media went into Wasilla and basically gave us that same old tired picture of the Mug Shot Saloon AS IF that were actually Wasilla*. EVERYBODY ignored the WalMart and the Home Depot and the Fred Meyer and the Target because it didn’t fit their narrative.
[* As I've talked about before, the "Tea Party Express" -- long-running Sacramento GOP astroturf bunch that I outed back in 2005 -- had their bus and their phony bus tour, complete with flying in Political-Hostess-For-Hire Sarah Palin, and were CLEARLY creating a fraudulent "media event." But not only did "straight up the middle" CNN collude with them ALL THE WAY to Washington, D.C., when Politico's reporter released the "smoking gun" PROVING that this was all a scam, CNN had already even hired their OWN shadow bus (either in California or Nevada), automatically lending a (very expensive) imprimatur of authenticity and legitimacy to a cynical media circus led by out-of-work Sacramento Right-Wing talk radio hosts, and having no real ties to the "Tea Party" they were expressing themselves about. These myths are toxic, and they are often maliciously intentional. And when that "smoking gun" was published? CNN and everybody else ignored it. Their ginned-up reality was now "reality," and why confuse people with Machiavellian realities? Take a look at the Memeorandum "Boston" Palin/Tea Party Express headlines on the day that Vogel found the smoking gun and was more or less ignored.]
his vorpal sword’s Moose Crossing sign (note 55 MPH sign at left)
Because — and here is a secret — they BELIEVE in the mythology, and neatly ignore any inconvenients facts that belie the narrative, as my childhood Laramie visitors would simply ignore the fact that we had electricity and a university and cars and Safeway and Albertsons and an Interstate and indoor plumbing and paved streets and storm-gutters.
his vorpal sword Gorilla Fireworks (Houston)
Mudflats Gorilla Fireworks (Houston)
They WANT the Mug Shot Saloon to be Wasilla, to characterize the inhabitants either as drunken redneck hunters or else as rustic, backwoods, hardy pioneers (according to your talk radio host). But Wasilla is Fred Meyers and McDonalds and Target, and WalMart and Walgreens and Wendys.
They ride snowmobiles for recreation, not for subsistence living or transporting emergency medicine to distant encampments menaced by grizzly bears and moose.
And there’s the difference: we played cowboys and indians quite a lot when I was a kid, but we could tell the difference between reality and make-believe. We never pretended that Brown Jug Liquors and Loews and Home Depot didn’t exist. We never pretended that the Kentucky Fried Chicken wasn’t there.*
But, as I demonstrated, they are THERE. The presence of the Mall Lifestyle in an extended borough of 80,000 (estimated, with perhaps another 30,000 to 50,000 seasonal “vacation” population in the summer) is SIGNIFICANT in the way that we understand the whole Palin soap opera.
[* In 1969, my last year in Laramie, they put in a then-new Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise less than 100 yards from our house. ]
Mudflats State Rep photo (2008)
his vorpal sword State Rep photo (2010)
Or take Cal Worthington in Anchorage:
Mudflats Cal Worthington Ford photo
his vorpal sword Cal Worthington Ford photo
Sure, the vast majority of Alaskans live in that Greater Anchorage area, but it by no means forms even a significant MINORITY of greater Alaska. So, we are sold Grizzly Adams with Tits, even though this flies in the face of Alaskan experience in all but a small geographical area.
The colors represent population, NOT ideology
Remember those “Red America” maps? Well, for a party that claims that jackrabbits and sagebrush can vote, the “Blue” area around Sarah Palin’s house is dwarfed by a huge Red area of “Real Alaska” (and not “reel Alaska” which is why they sell so many fishing poles at the WalMart leading into town).
Sure it’s mostly caribou and mosquitoes, but in Republican Reality, they have a gigantic vote if you can cover a map with them.
2004 “red-blue” state Presidential Electoral map
(weighted for sagebrush and jackrabbits)
It’s the easiest thing in the world to warp the world to your ideology. We all do it, and we all do it just about all the time. The hard thing to do is to try and see it clear-eyed and sober. To see and understand things you don’t value, and points of view (literally, in this case) that you don’t agree with. For most of Western history, the historical record had a pronounced male bias, because only males were writing the historical record (with few exceptions). Since the female point of view has been added, our view of that historical record has changed, because we see it through a profoundly different point of view: not in what is seen, but in what is valued in what one sees.
So, don’t think that I’m being hard on Mudflats. They cut off their nose to spite their face the second they decided that “seeing” Wasilla must include ignoring whole categories of Wasilla.
I specifically chose that photograph of the Mug Shot Saloon because the image has become iconic, to both camps: anti-Sarah Palin, and pro-psychosis.
I would hope that Alaskans could find something of value in my series. I appreciate their points of view, and listened carefully to many during the time we were in Alaska. You remember that moment in “Field of Dreams” where the James Earl Jones character, the ’60s writer, goes into the newspaper and then into the bar, to find out who “Moonlight Graham” was? Well, I have been known to do that, and I did more than a bit in Alaska.
But the point is to keep your eyes and ears open, and that’s the hallmark of good journalism. To know, and to use that knowledge to see more deeply, with greater clarity. And “narratives” only get in the way. Another, equally valid term for “narrative” is “daydream,” or “fantasy.” And, the problem we’ve got in looking at our political processes is that we let yahoos and crooks put on cowboy hats or ski parkas and be photographed shooting off guns, and we think that they’re all John and Jane Wayne. No. They’re people. And if they’re “legendary” or “mythic,” then so are YOU, dear reader, and it still cancels out.
his vorpal sword’s Tesoro gas station
The great problem with the Sarah Palin coverage is that it’s all Myth and no America. All hat and no saddle, as they say in cow country. If we simply judge the politician by her lousy record, her gaffes, the arrogance of her ignorance* we can get a clear view, and then ask WHY THE HELL IS THERE CONSTANT COVERAGE of the trivialities of an ultimately trivial person? She holds no office, and yet no governor in America is on the front pages as regularly.
She is one of the worst orators on the circuit, and yet her every speech is covered and fawned over, secret and leaked.
[* She, who is mad that Katie Couric asked her what she READ -- a question that any high school newspaper reporter ought to be capable of -- and then ham-handedly tried to lie her way out of the question "All of them," meaning that Palin read every periodical published in all languages in the world, she who is mad at THAT ought to take a good long look in the stoopid mirror and either get some education or else quit pretending that her opinion carries any weight.]
Mudflats’ Wasilla Public Library
his vorpal sword’s Wasilla Public Library
I come to those conclusions from watching, not from “hating” Sarah Palin. I was on it early, yes, but already things didn’t fit, didn’t give, weren’t kosher. Some might recall that I reacted the same way to George W. Bush, even when 70% and 80% of Americans thought the sun shone out his ass. I’m tired of being conned with Connecticut Cowboys, and I’d hope that you would find that the only “grizzly” thing about La Palin is the grisly manner in which she evokes the lexicographer’s version of Grand Guignol through her every utterance, t’would seem.
(A phrase guaranteed NOT to be understood by its subject, even though it’s perfectly good English and has undoubtedly been viewed BY her in the infinite number of things that she claims to have read.)
Just to be clear-eyed (and, yes, sober — in case you wondered).
No war with Mudflats. I would hope that we are both on the same side. “Read” the photo essay.
And thank you SillaBob, you old Horta, you.
TRIVIA NOTE: The seven-foot long, three-foot wide Horta creature was played by Janos Prohaska.
NOTE: This is part IX of a series of VIII.
The other installments are:
- I. North to Alaska, or, Back From AK, 17 JUNE 2010
- II. Back From AK 2: Moosylvania is Saved, 19 JUNE 2010
- III. North to Alaska: Into the Belly of the Moose, 24 JUNE 2010
- IV. North to Alaska: Moose of Darkness 26 JUNE 2010
- V. Moosterious Interlude, or, Strangers In The Right, 29 JUNE 2010
- VI. North to Alaska, 2010- A Moose Odyssey 2 July 2010
- VII. North to Alaska: How Moose Was My Valley 4 July 2010
- VIII. North to Alaska: The Moosterious Stranger 7 July 2010
- (appendix) Mudflats Flaps Back? Tries To Declare Moosetrial 10 July 2010