Sarah Palin, Facebook, and the Anti-Facebook
BY Nancy Scola | Monday, April 26 2010
Gabriel Sherman's long piece on Sarah Palin in New York Magazine focuses on her reported attempts to cash-in on her post-campaign profile. I'm biased, no doubt, but there could have fairly been more in the piece about how Palin has used free media -- Facebook, in particular -- to keep herself close to the beating heart of the political conversation, feeding a constant stream of online-cable TV attention; "death panels," for example. That said, there are two passages that touch on the idea that connective technologies are at least part of what Palin and also tea partiers see as their assests in had.
First off, Sherman reports that the Ning-based network of the "Tea Party Nation" -- one of a handful of groups that have claimed parts of the tea party movement -- was originally conceived as a sort of conservative alternative Facebook. That site, it seems, was seen by organizers to be unwelcoming to the right:
Landing Palin was the work of Judson Phillips, a smooth-talking Nashville defense lawyer who was active in the tea-party movement and wanted to make a business out of it. While many tea-party groups, such as Dick Armey’s FreedomWorks, operated as traditional activist organizations, Phillips’s effort was entrepreneurial: He had launched the Tea Party Nation network as a conservative social-media website that would also put on for-profit conferences. Phillips told me he saw a business opportunity to create a right-wing version of Facebook, which he believes is a liberal front that could be used to silence conservatives. “I knew people on Facebook who had their accounts disabled for no reason,” Phillips told me. “My fear is that we’d be 72 hours out from Tax Day tea parties and Facebook would wipe us out.”
Still, Palin has been, of course, an avid user of Facebook. Sherman also reports that the person responsible for opening up the Palin-era of Facebook is...Bristol:
And she’s a canny—and completely modern—promoter of her product. Last year, Bristol introduced her mom to Facebook, and Palin began speaking to her audience of 1.5 million fans directly with frequent status updates and tweets, which consist of conservative boilerplate (“Man-Made Global Warming=Snow Job”) interspersed with chirpy reports about goings-on in Wasilla (“Family is getting ready for Todd’s IronDog race tomorrow; I’m watching @GlennBeck on TV now giving #CPAC speech, while racers are in garage).