Archive for September 2008

The curious incident of the autocue at the convention

September 30, 2008

The story of Sarah Palin’s broken autocue is all over the blogosphere.

Andrew Sullivan comments that “the strangeness of this lie is that it’s easily rebutted by the record”, before going on to contextualise it as part of a “pattern of her outright and constant deception”. Many other bloggers have done the same : used the teleprompter lie as yet another example of Palin’s tendency to deceive.

I think they’re missing something. This seemingly trivial lie is part of a much bigger cultural narrative that Palin wants to be part of. The clue is in her words:

“There Ohio was right out in front, right in front of me. The teleprompter got messed up, I couldn’t follow it, and I just decided I’d just talk to the people in front of me. It was Ohio.”

It’s a magical movie moment: character starts off reading a stuffy prepared script and then suddenly decides to tell it like it is. Maybe they dramatically rip up their notes, maybe the teleprompter text swims before their eyes and they just can’t read it any more. How and why it happens doesn’t really matter. The point is that discarding the script is in itself a well-worn script. The Onion has parodied it; I most recently saw it happen in an episode of MTV Made, but that’s probably because I don’t go to the cinema enough.

The outcome of the action, in a film or television context, is always the same. The audience or judging panel always appreciates the risk the character has taken in “speaking from the heart” and “telling it like it is”, despite the fact that this might well “break the rules”.

The outcome for Sarah Palin in reality is somewhat different. She faked taking a risk because she thought it would be a risk-free strategy. Instead, hundreds of bloggers are speculating about why she told such a seemingly pointless lie.