I’m not a fan of comedian Sacha Baron Cohen, or his inspiration, Allan Funt of Candid Camera. It’s very easy to take people by surprise and make them look stupid, film them unawares and show them in the worst light.
I feel a little sympathy for Sarah Palin, who was ambushed by a comedian posing as a Canadian reporter asking for America’s help in fighting socialized medicine. If Palin had time to consider the issue, and maybe study up on it, she would probably not have supported dismantling Canada’s public health system. She would instead have tapped her gift for sounding forthright and committing to nothing, you betcha.
But she was caught with her guard down and spoke her mind. A unique mind seething with visions that her staffers try to keep her from revealing before the appointed time…
After being kicked out of the book-signing, [comedian Mary]Walsh and her crew then waited outside at a loading dock close to where Palin’s bus was parked. When Palin emerged from the Borders bookstore, Walsh said, Delahunty – dressed in a more toned-down version of her trademark warrior princess costume – called out to her.
“Hey, remember us, we’re the Canadians! We came all the way here from Canada!” Delahunty yelled. “When we asked you that question, we didn’t hear your answer.”
Palin strolled over, looking down on Walsh and her crew to tell them that “Canada needs to dismantle its public health-care system and allow private enterprise to get involved and turn a profit.”
“Basically, she said government should stop doing the work that private enterprise should do,” Walsh said.
In addition to those comments, Walsh said, she found it equally bizarre that no one was allowed to ask Palin any questions at the book-signing.
“It was great fun, but also very strange,” Walsh recalled.
“We’re in a bookstore, at a public event, in a place one would think was a bastion of free speech. And no one was allowed to ask questions. What are they afraid of?”
Well that should be obvious. They’re afraid of an unscripted moment, or a mis-speak, caught by the candid camera.
Palin is a master of the wink and the nod, but she has trouble when she has to stand by her words. She’s a politician who is a serious candidate for president, by some people’s standards. She’s experienced in dealing with the press and the public, she’s been tricked before by impostors, and should be better at spotting them.
But she’s only human. Anyone can have an unwary moment. And on film or tape you can replay that moment endlessly.
So if American politics is going to slow it’s long slide into incivility, meanness and ‘gotcha’ moments, we have to start putting the brakes on.
Consider the young, low-level ACORN staffers who were lured into giving advice to some young right-wing activists who posed as a pimp and a prostitute. They were surely unwarned, inadequately trained, and ACORN has paid dearly for that failure. ACORN has other internal financial problems and might not withstand the current investigations.
But to find the whole organization guilty of wrongdoing based on some employees falling prey to entrapment and secret taping would be as unfair as claiming that Sarah Palin has an agenda to dismantle the Canadian health care system, or that Newt Gingrich tried to sell intimate encounters with himself to strip club owners— just because his low-level staffers sent some letters. Interesting mailing list they have, though. That might bear some investigation.
Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, when speaking to constituents this Fall at the Butcher Block Deli, said that ACORN needed to be investigated, but that he did not support imposing the sentence before the trial.
If it’s all about sound bites, ‘gotcha’ and entrapment, could any of us stand up?