Last summer, Margaret Thatcher snubbed Sarah Palin, turning down a visit from the Tea Party darling because (in the words of someone in Thatcher’s camp) “That would be belittling for Margaret. Sarah Palin is nuts.” If that was really how Thatcher thought of Palin, imagine the low regard she’d have for Michele Bachmann.
In my field, it’s that time of year when best-movie lists are announced, and while sequels like Transformers 3 and Twilight 4.1 have dominated the box office this year, they’re not showing up on critics’ lists. Instead, critics are touting little-seen movies like The Artist or Beginners (both of which happen to feature scene-stealing Jack Russell terriers, as seen in the video above). That is, there’s a vast disparity between what’s popular and what’s actually good. This will cause a lot of handwringing, as usual, at the Academy, since they would love the popular and the good to be in sync so that more people watch the Oscar show. It will also cause grumbling among contrarians who would dismiss critics as out-of-touch elitists. But the idea that the most popular movie must also be the best is nonsense. If that were true, the People’s Choice Awards would be taken more seriously than the Oscars. In fact, why have awards at all? Why not just look at the box office chart and give the best movie prize to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part II?
The notion that validity should be determined simply by popularity has infected our politics as well. There was a good example of this last week in the kerfuffle over Politifact rating the Democrats’ assertion that Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget plan would end Medicare as “the Lie of the Year.” It was a curious choice, since the finalists included other, more brazen lies, such as Sen. Jon Kyl’s assertion that abortion accounts for more than 90 percent of Planned Parenthood’s activity, a claim Kyl’s own office said “was not intended to be a factual statement”) or presidential candidate Michele Bachmann’s evidence-free assertion that the human papillomavirus vaccine can cause mental retardation. In contrast, the Medicare line comes down to, at best, a difference of interpretation. It’s a lie only if you buy the Republican argument that changing Medicare from a single-payer, guaranteed, cost-saving, government-provided health insurance program for seniors and future seniors into a single-payer, guaranteed, cost-saving, government-provided health insurance voucher program for seniors and future seniors doesn’t actually end Medicare. Continue reading →
It’s always instructive to me when a firestorm erupts over one of my AOL posts. In this case, plenty of people, both pro- and anti-Palin, are up in arms over the controversy of Bristol Palin’s continuing presence on Dancing With the Stars after the elimination of many undeniably better dancers, including this week’s apparently shocking ouster of Brandy.
In my TV Squad post, I noted the many conspiracy theorists (including some closely affiliated with the show) who believe that Tea Partiers are stuffing ballots to vote for Palin simply because they’re political supporters of her mother. I note the evidence for fraud marshaled by Jezebel, only to reject it as inconclusive. Nowhere in the post do I discuss Bristol’s character, attitude, looks, or unwed-teen-mom status, only her dancing skills. Nonetheless, just for bringing up the possibility of vote fraud, I am apparently a liberal hack who has besmirched Bristol’s sterling reputation with my unfounded smears.
In the thousands of comments that follow my post, there’s a lot of gratuitous insult-trading going on, a lot of mean-spirited comments about Bristol and Sarah Palin, and inevitably, about Barack Obama and Harry Reid and other Democratic politicians who have nothing to do with Dancing With the Stars except that no derogatory remark about the Palins is allowed to go unanswered by the Mama Grizzly bloc. As for whether or not there’s a conspiracy here, no one can say — and I don’t think it even matters — but the support for Bristol does tell me a lot about the way Tea Partiers think politically.
Gary Susman is an editor, writer, reporter, and critic. He has been a journalist in print and online for more than 20 years. He blogs daily for AOL's entertainment sites, including Moviefone, TV Squad, and PopEater. His work continues to appear in Entertainment Weekly, where he spent nearly eight years as Senior Writer. Other outlets have included MSNBC, People, the Village Voice, the Guardian, the Chicago Sun-Times, and the Boston Phoenix, for which he has written since 1989. More...