Maher, in a serious reply, said he doesn't understand why the news media keeps treating Palin so seriously given that she's shown she's so unqualified. (for higher office).
Matthews then displayed his now-familiar contradictory treatment of Palin. First, he said things to imply that Palin was a legitimate story. He asked Maher how MSNBC could not cover Palin if she was drawing crowds to her rallies. (Maher caught Matthews off guard by saying he still thought the media should still not cover Palin).
Matthews laughed - as if Maher had said something outrageous .....but, in my view, Maher was right. Palin is so discredited that I don't care if she draws a crowd of right-wingers or Tea Party members. She's lost her credibility. She's said or done many things along her journey - from the 2008 presidential campaign to quitting as governor of Alaska to planning a "reality" show for FOX TV - that indicate she does not deserve to be taken seriously.
So, here was Bill Maher, a comic, displaying more common sense, truth-detecting, and, a journalistic outlook than Matthews. He seems to see Palin for who she is.
Then, Matthews, in the second part of his posture on Palin, spent the next few minutes sharing laughs with Maher about how paper-thin Palin's knowledge is on just about any topic. He said he got the impression that if Palin were asked any substantive questions on domestic or foreign policy topics, she'd be unable to discuss them in a knowledgeable, serious way. Maher agreed, adding he love to see Palin on the Jeopardy Show. He speculated she'd fail miserably. Matthews laughed away.
This little exchange between Matthews and Maher typifies the schizophrenic, inexcusable coverage of Palin since the 2008 presidential campaign.
The coverage seems to suggest, simultaneously that: 1) Palin is a largely discredited, former politician who a majority of Americans don't believe is qualified for higher office, but, 2) Despite that, Palin is an incredibly important public figure who we have to cover constantly - and, she may run for President someday.
What is this contradiction about? I've written about it before. The primary reason Palin is "covered" is because she attracts higher ratings - period. It's not because of her seriousness, her knowledge, her qualifications or her credibility. It's all about drawing viewers. (Her good looks and attention-grabbing little behaviors don't hurt, either)
So, the message here, in 2010, is: If you can get ratings, you're "in." You're hot. You have to be covered.
Think about others who follow this pattern: Glenn Beck certainly does. I refuse to watch him, but, from news accounts, he seems like an irresponsible jerk. Rush Limbaugh, for years, has been saying reckless, mean-spirited things that keep drawing attention, and, people keep rationalizing his excesses, as if to say "That's just Rush......." I could give other examples here. For example, the coverage of the Tea Party. The media doesn't seem to know what the Tea Party stands for - and, neither does the Tea Party.....but, as long as Tea Party figures - including Palin as a regular "guest spokeswoman," occasionally - provide "extreme" or "sensational" quotes or carry signs with hateful messages, it seems the media feels obligated to keep discussing this "movement."
Our Internet-dominated world - with multi-equipped cellphones and Blackberries and IPods and non-stop "news" -- has become so overloaded with information and "messages" that it seems both the news media and the public have lost perspective on the important distinction between news and entertainment. Sometimes, it seems, we hear more about American Idol than important international developments. There are so many "reality shows" that it makes some viewers, I fear, downplay the relevance of reality vs. fantasy. (No wonder Palin is planning a "reality" show. It makes sense, I guess....)
I believe our collective attention span as a society has gotten so low that people can gloss over or forget almost anything. Maybe that's why I've heard speculation that Eliot Spitzer is already contemplating a comeback in politics. It's been only two years, after all, that he was forced to resign as governor of New York when it was revealed he was a client in a prostitution ring. Former Vice President Richard Cheney regularly lambasted President Obama on his policies toward terrorism despite being a key player in the implementation of the US invasion of Iraq - an action that not only led to the unnecessary killing of thousands, but badly damaged the US' reputation throughout the world. Nevertheless, the media, instead of reminding audiences of Cheney's role in these matters, covered his "loaded" rhetoric in a straightforward way. In the end, Cheney was "entertaining." That was all that mattered.
Sometimes, I feel like collecting 50 or 75 examples of Sarah Palin's remarks or highlights of her actions and listing them chronologically in an article or blog in order to remind people of her flaws and limitations that so clearly disqualify her from serious consideration for higher office. These limitations should lead news media executives to choose to ignore her appearances.
I probably will gather those facts on Palin because I think it'd be a valuable exercise. If current trends continue, you and I will keep hearing about Palin in the years ahead - no matter how unimpressive she is.
One thing is clear, to me, at least: Palin is a creation of the media. She didn't "earn" her image. The media is responsible for her image, and, no matter what news executives or editors or reporters might say, it is the media who have chosen to not hold Palin accountable for all her mistakes, bad decisions, unsubstantiated or false remarks. So, if you're reading "news" stories in two years about how Palin has "emerged" as a compelling figure in American politics, just remember who propped her up and kept the "Palin fantasy" alive.
The days of Walter Cronkite saying "That's the way it is" are over. Things are, in fact, not as they appear to be in 2010.