Sarah Palin

How Ideologues Choose Their Own Enemies, or "The Voldemort Effect"

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Reason Contributing Editor Julian Sanchez with some interesting observations that help explain Sarah Palin's strange career:

 if you ask a strong political partisan—conservatives in particular, in my experience—which political figures they like or admire, and why, they'll enthusiastically cite the ability to "drive the other side crazy." Judging by online commentary, this seems to be an enormous part of Sarah Palin's appeal. Palin herself certainty seems to understand this. Her favorite schtick, the well to which she returns again and again, is: "Look how all the mean liberals are attacking me!"…. Perversely, liberals end up playing a significant role in anointing conservative leaders.

This is, I think, a bipartisan phenomenon everyone at least subconsciously recognizes: A political figure—though more often a pundit than an actual candidate or elected official—gains prominence largely as a function of being attacked or loathed with special vehemence by the other side.

Sanchez calls this the "Voldemort Effect," after the ways in which the Harry Potter book villain essentially chose Harry as his arch-enemy. Now, if only all standard right and left wingers would all ignore each other and all go away.

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  1. Now, if only all standard right and left wingers would all ignore annihilate each other and all go away.

    FIFY

  2. It’s scary that an influential pundit knows that much about Neville Longbotham. How much more influential would he be if he weren’t writing muggle slash-fic in his spare time?

  3. I support this.

  4. I will note that John has repeatedly said that what he loves about Palin the most is how she drives TEAM BLUE out of their minds, so there’s some anecdotal support for Julian’s idea.

    1. That’s the only (non-tits) thing I can tolerate about her. There’s definitely something to the idea.

      1. She likes guns, and has a slutty daughter too. But you’re basically right; there’s not much there.

        1. You’re right about guns, but I think the slutty daughter thing falls under the tits umbrella. Mmmmm…tit umbrella…

          1. Umbrellas are already kinda tit-shaped when open, so I wouldn’t be surprised if a novelty item of that sort exists already.

            1. She seems to be a lousy shot tho.

      2. You guys oppose jury nullification?

  5. I’m going to do some blog-pimping, and pick my enemy. It’s not Sarah.

    1. Mickey Mouse is actually Ari Gold? Who knew?

  6. Her favorite schtick, the well to which she returns again and again, is: “Look how all the mean liberals are attacking me!”

    It doesn’t help that she’s right, of course.

    And, yeah, that’s a big part of her appeal. If the lefties could shake the sand out of their panties, and just pat her on the head and say “That’s a good little wife ‘n’ mother”, I suspect she would have all the political prominence of Kate Gosselin.

  7. Not that I’m a Harry Potter fan, but I don’t think Voldemort chose Harry. Harry survived his strongest attack, during which he received the scar on his head. He’s after Harry because Harry is stronger and Voldemort needs to defeat him to be the dominate. No?

    1. He attacked Harry because of a prophesy, but the prophesy could have meant either Harry or Neville, and he picked Harry. Then there’s some shit about using Harry’s blood to resurrect himself or whatever but I can’t be arsed to remember all that.

  8. I actually had to announce at the dinner table last night, “We don’t CARE about Sarah Plain in this house.”

    Both the left and the right pull this villain stunt, but the X Derangement Syndrome on the left is just that much more annoying because they never shut the fuck up about it and they’re everywhere.

    1. These type of people (Voldemorts) serve a useful purpose though, because you can immediately peg anyone who has strong feelings about them (one way or the other): moron.

    2. One of the episodes of the daily show last week devoted the first 8 minutes or so to Sarah Palin.

      I wanted to shout at Stewart that he was feeding the beast! but instead I just fast forwarded. He’s become somewhat less interesting since the mid-terms.

  9. Sarah Palin has the best, most awesome enemies of anyone out there. Their Pavlovian responses to her saying something, just anything, is pure entertainment.

    1. Are you looking at me? Ha!

  10. So the progressives created Rush Limbaugh. I love it.

    1. Rush predates a lot of this phenomenon, as he predates the 24 hour news cycle.

  11. Isn’t the whole point of the Left’s choosing Sarah Palin is that they think she’s a dunce when it comes to actual policy?

    Isn’t the Right being played if they go along with this?

    1. You are giving the hyperventilating Pavlovian shriekers way too much credit. There is no thought process involved as reading their blogs and post and tweeter feeds (from just this morning comes an instant classic: i want to do something…I want to help people make a change.I wanna make republicans cry. I want P to fart on this cat.Next. Palin.) makes all too clear.

    2. Their actions are about as deliberate as people who sit around giving a shit about Heidi Montag or whoever. They’re hysterical celebrity-obsessed twats who wouldn’t know the first thing about politics if it didn’t pop up on Perez Hilton.

  12. “Sanchez calls this the “Voldemort Effect,” after the ways in which the Harry Potter book villain essentially chose Harry as his arch-enemy. Now, if only all standard right and left wingers would all ignore each other and all go away.”

    This is what I believe that Jon Stewart is doing. He acts as if he is, in his own way, trying to raise the level of discourse by pointing out how crazy other pundits are. He has been instrumental in raising right wing nut jobs to the level of “prophets of the right” in order to argue that the right is inherently nutty. However, instead of making people hate Republicans more, I believe that he simply makes Republicans more likely to defend and appoint said nut jobs.

  13. I don’t think Palin drives the left crazy as she makes them cackle with glee at the thought of her becoming the Republican presidential nominee-because she’s such a buffoon. The goal of each side is to demonize the other. If they are already ridiculous, so much the better.

    The right mistakes this glee (of Palin’s promencence) with fear, and therefore has the exactly wrong reaction of supporting her strongly (which is fine to the left, of course).

    1. Um, no. It’s neither fear nor glee, though I’m sure you’d like to think it was glee as it would mean that it isn’t what it actually is: groupthink and attack the other TEAM. It’s just pure tribal bullshit, where a particular person on the other TEAM is singled out for particular vitriol.

      It’s actually extremely pathetic, but hey, partisanship is pathetic.

  14. I don’t think Palin drives the left crazy as she makes them cackle with glee at the thought of her becoming the Republican presidential nominee-because she’s such a buffoon.

    If the left wants Palin to be the nominee, they’re going about it the wrong way. Their relentless harsh attacks on Palin have been too effective.

    The left just hates this woman. That’s all. There’s no calculation. There’s no glee. Just hate.

  15. The Right’s love affair with Palin is starting to fade, if the conservatives in my circle of friends & family are anything to go by.

    As a westerner, I was initially hopeful in 2008 that Palin would swing the conservative movement towards a more Goldwater-like point of view. After a couple years, though, it’s apparent that Sarah Palin’s primary philosophy is advancing the media profile of Sarah Palin. I think a fair number of people on the Right are also starting to notice that.

  16. Mr. Sanchez makes perfect sense to me. I could never figure out why anybody thought Palin was either so bad or so good.

    Huh, so I read WIND, Chicago, is now a conservative talk station. I guess that shouldn’t surprise me. When I listened to them over 30 yrs. ago, they were just talk — but that was true of talk radio in general in large markets; it hadn’t turned predominantly to the right.

    The right wing station I did listen to then was the relatively obscure WTAQ, La Grange, which I see is now WRDZ, Radio Disney. Back then right wing positioning of a station’s talk programming was a narrow niche. I also read WTAQ was a call that has been picked back up by its previous holder in a town in western Wisc., and that the initialism standing for Western Towns Along the Q, applied both there and in La Grange.

  17. I think the whole premise here is incorrect – I don’t think there are any figures on the left or right whose supporters are *mostly* motivated by how much they alienate the other side. The people who make Sarah Palin’s books bestsellers, vote for her daughter on Dancing With the Stars, etc., are, for the most part, genuine admirers of hers. Sanchez sounds like a hipster who figures that everyone who wears a mustache must be doing it ironically, since that’s true of all the people he knows.

    1. I think Sanchez is just hoping he can get another catchphrase to stick and start overshadowing the fact that he totally screwed up with that whole “epistemic closure” thing.

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