You are using an outdated browser.
Please upgrade your browser
and improve your visit to our site.
Skip Navigation

The Virtue of Shutting Up

This will be my only post on Sarah Palin.

Let me explain why. Unlike most (political or non-political) celebrities, whose fame is some admixture of gossip and buzz, talent and accomplishment, Palin has no discernable talents (beyond antagonizing coastal elites like myself) and her accomplishments are minimal at most. (Mayor of a small town? Come on. A half-term governor of the most undeveloped state in the union? Please. A mom? Just like tens of millions of unfamous women. Sinking the McCain campaign? Can’t say I disapprove, but so many others deserve to share the credit!) She has no policy views beyond “Drill, Baby, Drill!” and whatever foreign policy position Bill Kristol has whispered in her ear during the past week. And as she showed yet again on Oprah, she can’t even pull off poise. She’s famous because she’s famous. And that is all.

No one who cares about the health of American political culture can be pleased about the emptiness of the whole Palin phenomenon, let alone the prospect of such a cipher running for president. But how to respond? Most Palin critics (from the casual to the obsessive) have done what one would expect: they have hit back, pointing out her lies and deceptions, mocking her mediocrity and unsuitability for high office.

Criticism has its place, of course. And yet, on Palin I've come to favor a different approach—one that refuses to collude with the media-driven farce. To respond to an opponent, even harshly, even rudely, is to accord her a certain respect—to treat her as worthy of a response. But Palin is worthy of no such thing. She stands for nothing beyond her own self-promotion. She craves attention, and negative attention is a form of attention. Even ridicule can be a form of flattery. Better to bow out, to decline the provocation, since responding to her perpetuates and legitimates the illusion that she’s a serious player in our nation’s politics. I, for one, refuse to play that silly little game. And I wish more of her critics felt the same way. Instead of wasting their analytical and polemical talents on the topic, they could work to change the subject to something more substantive and deny Palin what she most greedily craves: the spotlight.

Want to talk about and debate Obama, terrorism, health care, gay marriage, the economy, abortion, climate change, Iran, or dozens of other topics? Go for it. But Palin? No way. All she deserves is silence.