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On the Record: Palin uses video to reach followers, not public

Comment and controversy over Sarah Palin's Facebook video—in which she defends her rhetoric in the wake of the Tucson shootings—have taken over the airwaves and the Internet. (The former Alaska governor was even awarded The Washington Post's less-than-coveted "Worst Week in Washington" award yesterday.)  Lehigh University social media expert Jeremy Littau has taken an interesting angle on the video: Palin is using social media to reach her followers. Is she trying to speak to the public at all?

"Palin is creating a controlled message in a controlled medium," Littau says. "She didn't do a speech and a press conference afterward. Her words were more deliberate than they'd be in a free-flowing conversation with press, and as such they can and should invite more scrutiny. But because she is embedding her message in social networks where her audience is made up of her followers and the media covering those networks, what she says is almost certainly aimed at them - by definition she doesn't speak to the public at large in these spaces."
 
Palin does seem to have a flair for contradiction:

"I find it fascinating," Littau says, "that someone who has so rightly criticized the media and others for attacking her family is glossing over the fact that words have meaning in this context and saying such worries are a political attack rather than a legitimate point of concern. She has taken a steady stand about people criticizing her children, and she is absolutely correct on the matter, but I can't help but wonder why she is less vocal about eliminationist rhetoric toward political figures than she is about mean-spirited insults toward her children. Truth be told, they are both a symptom of what's wrong with our discourse and should both be repudiated with a vigor. Saying that people are imperfect, as she says in her video is only a step; she wouldn't settle for that if this was directed toward her or her family, and rightfully so."

But the media shouldn’t get off scot-free:

"There is a media critique angle here too, incidentally. Are they covering the controversy or the implications of her words? For example, the CNN headline: ‘Ticker: Palin takes heat for statement.’ This is still coverage of controversy to generate clicks, not holding people accountable as the watchdog press ought."

Click here for more on Littau's summary.

Story by Jordan Reese

Posted on Monday, January 17, 2011

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