Goldwag: The Sarah Palin Conspiracies

Guestblogger Arthur Goldwag is the author of "Cults, Conspiracies, and Secret Societies: The Straight Scoop on Freemasons, The Illuminati, Skull and Bones, Black Helicopters, The New World Order, and many, many more" and other books.

 Blog Wp-Content Uploads 2009 10 Sarah-Palin-Going-Rogue-Book-Cover-1 Today's is my last guest post here. I want to take this opportunity to thank Pesco and Boing Boing for inviting me here and giving me the latitude to say whatever I wanted to about whatever crossed my mind. I'm especially grateful to everyone who took the time to comment on my posts, whether you agreed with them or not. You're an amazingly thoughtful, opinionated, funny, articulate, out-of-the-box bunch, and for the most part admirably civil. The reservoir of wit, knowledge and intellectual firepower that Boing Boing has on tap is truly astonishing. As I'm sure I've said before, I don't write because I know so much--I write because it gives me an opportunity to learn. And you've all taught me a great deal. I hope I can come back and contribute to Boing Boing again; in the meantime, you're all welcome to drop by my own blog any time.

I began last Monday with my lucubrations about Orly Taitz and the birther movement. For the sake of symmetry, I will close out with some remarks about another woman of the right, Alaska's ex-governor Sarah Palin.

Her block-buster memoir Going Rogue will be published on November 17th; last Friday she market-tested a new speech before some 5,000 right-to-lifers at the state fairgrounds outside Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Though the press was banned from the event and recording devices forbidden, several reporters, Politico's Jonathan Martin among them, attended as paying customers (tickets went for $30; pledge cards on the chairs offered attendees the opportunity to become one of "Sarah's Rogues" and receive an autographed copy of her book by donating $1000 to Wisconsin Right to Life).

A subject of innumerable conspiracy theories herself--about the state of her marriage, the circumstances surrounding her last pregnancy, the reasons for her abrupt resignation from the governorship--Palin alluded to a conspiracy theory in her speech that got a lot of play last summer: the "death panels" canard. If law-makers don't believe that the lives of the unborn matter, she said ominously, then:

"Perhaps the same mind-set applies to other persons." 

"What may they feel about an elderly person who doesn't have a whole lot of productive years left... In order to save government money, government health care has to be rationed... Do you think our elderly will be first in line for limited health care?  

"And what about the child who perhaps isn't deemed normal or perfect per someone's subjective measure of their use or questionable purpose in the eyes of a panel of bureaucrats making our health care decisions for us," she continued.

And then she launched a new conspiracy theory of her own:
Noting that there had been a lot of "change" of late, Palin recalled a recent conversation with a friend about how the phrase "In God We Trust" had been moved to the edge of the new coins.

"Who calls a shot like that?" she demanded. "Who makes a decision like that?"

She added: "It's a disturbing trend."

Unsaid but implied was that the new Democratic White House was behind such a move to secularize the nation's currency.

Actually it wasn't quite her own. Martin noted that Palin was echoing charges that first began circulating in a chain letter dating back to 2007; the redesign of the dollar coin had in fact been approved in 2005, during the presidency of George W. Bush. Astoundingly, not just Politico fact-checked Palin, but Fox News. Fox even reported that "In God We Trust" was moved back to the front of the coin in 2007, by an act of Congress. had debunked that chain letter back in February 2007; posted on the subject a month later. The Hoax post includes a link to a press release from the United States mint which admits--collectors take note!--that "an unspecified quantity" of coins were in fact released without the edge lettering.

As for the conspiracy theories about Palin herself.... Andrew Sullivan has blogged obsessively about her eye-brow raising account of the circumstances of her youngest child's birth--he posted a picture of her taken a month before Trig was born in which she barely has a bulge; he noted how her water broke when she was in Texas and, despite her high-risk pregnancy, she flew back to Alaska for the delivery; he's pressed for (and not received) detailed medical records. (Click here and here for just two of his many posts on the subject.) Even Sullivan admits that he's become something of an Ahab on the subject of Palin; not long ago one of his readers tried to calm him down by suggesting that most of the inconsistencies in her stories stem from her characteristically careless attitude with the truth--there's no grand conspiracy, in other words, just self-aggrandizing lies. "Always tell the truth," as the old admonition goes, "It's easier to remember." Sarah Palin would have done well to heed it.

One of Sullivan's posts included a link to the Anchorage Daily News's editor's blog, on which an e-mail exchange between Palin and Executive Editor Patrick Dougherty can be found. It's dated January 12, 2009. In it Palin complained that the ADN had called Levi Johnston a "highschool dropout" (which he was) and implied that she was connected to Levi Johnston's mother's drug dealing activities (the paper had written nothing of the sort). Then she moved onto the issue of Trig. "And is your paper really still pursuing the sensational lie that I am not Trig's mother?" she asked. "Is it true you have a reporter still bothering my state office, my very busy doctor (who's already set the record straight for you), and the school district, in pursuit of your ridiculous conspiracy?"

"Yes, it's true," Dougherty replied. He went on:

You may have been too busy with the campaign to notice, but the Daily News has, from the beginning, dismissed the conspiracy theories about Trig's birth as nonsense. I don't believe we have ever published in the newspaper a story, a letter, a column or anything alleging a coverup about your maternity. In fact, my integrity and the integrity of the newspaper have been repeatedly attacked in national forums for our complicity in the "coverup." I have personally received more than a 100 emails accusing me and the paper of conspiring to hide the truth....I want to be very clear on this: I have from the beginning and do now consider the conspiracy theories about Trig's birth to be nutty nonsense.

If that's true, then why has Lisa Demer been asking questions about Trig's birth?

Because we have been amazed by the widespread and enduring quality of these rumors. I finally decided, after watching this go on unabated for months, to let a reporter try to do a story about the "conspiracy theory that would not die" and, possibly, report the facts of Trig's birth thoroughly enough to kill the nonsense once and for all......

But because of Palin's refusal to cooperate, he tells her--to release records, to give statements, to allow third parties to speak candidly--he'd had to spike the story. "It strikes me," he concludes, "That if there is never a clear, contemporaneous public record of what transpired with Trig's birth that may actually ensure that the conspiracy theory never dies. Time will tell."

In our age of viral communications, thought contagions spread within seconds. Politicians like Palin try to take advantage of the phenomenon for their own purposes. With one well-timed applause line at the Republican convention she was able to recast herself as an opponent of the bridge to nowhere that she'd in fact supported. Unfortunately her gaffes were propagated just as swiftly. Comedian Tina Fey's "I can see Russia from my house" (a pithier take on Palin's own words to Charlie Gibson that "They're our next door neighbors and you can actually see Russia from land here in Alaska, from an island in Alaska") became an inescapable meme. Judging from the story in this morning's New York Times about her claims that the McCain campaign is stiffing her for $50,000 in legal charges, some of the untruths in her new book might bite back at her as well.

Karl Popper wrote of "the unwieldiness, the resilience or the brittleness of the social stuff, or its resistance to our attempts to mould it and to work with it." The medium in which thought contagions travel--and in which politicians campaign--is social. "Conspiracies occur, it must be admitted," Popper wrote in The Open Society and Its Enemies (1952).

But the striking fact which, in spite of their occurrence, disproves the conspiracy theory is that few of these conspiracies are ultimately successful. Conspirators rarely consummate their conspiracy.

Why is this so? Why do achievements differ so widely from aspirations? Because this is usually the case in social life, conspiracy or no conspiracy. Social life is not only a trial of strength between opposing groups: it is action within a more or less resilient or brittle framework of institutions and traditions, and creates--apart from any conscious counter-action--many unforeseen reactions in this framework, some of them perhaps unforeseeable.

Though powerful interests have invested in Sarah Palin's presidential ambitions, her path to the White House is far from assured.

I hope.


  1. Of all the reasons to dislike Palin, just who bore what child is absolutely the least important. I don’t care if she had another kid or if she was covering for her daughter. That’s her own business. What I care about is that when she speaks she doesn’t make any damn sense and expects her audience to kind of tune her out and assume she meant something absurdly xenophobic.

  2. The post could be read to imply that Palin said “I can see Russia from my house”. To clarify, that was said by Tina Fey.

    1. “I can see Russia from my house” was the meme, and you are absolutely correct that Palin didn’t say it. I shouldn’t have implied that she did. Here are Palin’s actual words, from the transcript of her Charlie Gibson interview:

      PALIN: I do believe unprovoked and we have got to keep our eyes on Russia, under the leadership there. I think it was unfortunate. That manifestation that we saw with that invasion of Georgia shows us some steps backwards that Russia has recently taken away from the race toward a more democratic nation with democratic ideals.That’s why we have to keep an eye on Russia.

      And, Charlie, you’re in Alaska. We have that very narrow maritime border between the United States, and the 49th state, Alaska, and Russia. They are our next door neighbors.We need to have a good relationship with them. They’re very, very important to us and they are our next door neighbor.

      GIBSON: What insight into Russian actions, particularly in the last couple of weeks, does the proximity of the state give you?

      PALIN: They’re our next door neighbors and you can actually see Russia from land here in Alaska, from an island in Alaska.

      GIBSON: What insight does that give you into what they’re doing in Georgia?

      PALIN: Well, I’m giving you that perspective of how small our world is and how important it is that we work with our allies to keep good relation with all of these countries, especially Russia. We will not repeat a Cold War. We must have good relationship with our allies, pressuring, also, helping us to remind Russia that it’s in their benefit, also, a mutually beneficial relationship for us all to be getting along.

    2. You’re right. What she said was that being governor of Alaska gave her foreign relations experience because Alaska is so close to Russia.

      Totally different, right?

  3. There’s a very, very simple explanation for the circumstances of her baby’s birth. The baby is hers. As Palin has herself admitted, she very briefly thought about abortion when finding out the baby had Down Syndrome. A special needs baby is a big commitment, and as someone who envisioned herself as President, it’s not unreasonable to see how those two things could clash.

    Because of her beliefs, not to mention the threat of ending her political career, she could not actively participate (in her mind) in ending her baby’s life, but her actions also strongly suggest that she was not operating with the child’s best interest in mind, and it is possible that her delay in seeking medical care could have been, on some level conscious or unconscious, intentional.

    1. @ #3: You are correct. While the claims that Trig is actually Bristol’s baby are far-fetched, the facts surrounding his birth point to – at the very least – gross negligence on the part of Sarah Palin. Pregnant women are instructed not to fly at all in their 3rd trimester, let alone after their water has broken in a high-risk pregnancy. Either there is something to the conspiracy theories, or Palin really didn’t want her baby to live.

  4. 1/4 to 1/3 of the US population believes George Bush was a good president, Iraq attacked us on 9/11, Obama is a Kenyan Muslim, the End Times are nigh and Sarah Palin should be in the White House. With voter turnout barely above 50%, these delusional nitwits often decide our fate. Some days I can’t stand to read the news.

    Tina Fey is the one who said, “I can see Russia from my house”.

  5. The reason that she takes umbrage with the concept of death panels is that, if elected to the presidency, she wants to use Marine One to hunt the economically undesirable at AARP-endorsed eugenics preserves…

    “Screw wolves — I’m gunnin’ for that granny with Lupus!”

  6. Wow, she’s really raking it in these days. 5000 $30 tickets plus an indeterminate number of $1000 donations on one night of “market testing?”

    1. Yeah, I’m insane now, thanks. (But really, that was hilarious.)

      Arthur, I’ll miss your posts here at Boing Boing. I’ll try to check in on your blog.

  7. When someone is so batshit crazy that Fox News is calling them out on their Democrat conspiracy theories then you don’t really need a conspiracy theory of your own to explain their actions. Palin is an ignorant, crazy-ass ideologue with strong political ambitions, no further explanation for her behavior is necessary.

    I also find it rather insulting to parents of special needs children everywhere to imply that the only reason someone would choose not to abort a baby with Down Syndrome is the pro-life vote.

  8. Tina Fey is the one who said, “I can see Russia from my house”.

    Tina Fey lives in New York City! How can she possibly see Russia from there?!?! Unless she has super powers of some kind.

    1. It doesn’t matter what you can see from New York, because it’s not The Real America. See, it may be “America’s” greatest symbol of freedom, diversity, opportunity, and an audacious monument to human enterprise and ingenuity, but it’s also got a whole bunch of Jewish comedians. And that’s just not what The Real America is all about.

  9. Well, Sarah Palin did have the thing about Putin rearing his head over Alaska or some-such.

    “I can see Russia from my house” would have been preferable.

  10. Wait, I thought she was going rouge..?

    Don’t forget that she told Katie Couric about Putin “rearing his head” and other nails in her campaign coffin concerning her proximity to Russia -all in the attempt to sound like she had some kind international diplomatic experience (linked from BB if you search back to the election posts.)

  11. The best evidence that Sarah Palin really is Trig’s mother is the fact that he was born with Down’s Syndrome. That’s much more common with a mother her age than her daughter’s age.

    1. That’s not evidence. That’s an anecdotal observation fitting statistical norms. The only way we may ever know is via trigonometry.

  12. As a pro-feminist man, I find the obsession over Palin’s pregnancy to be strongly misogynistic. It’s been depressing that liberals talk about it.

    I don’t include Sulivan in that, he’s a conservative who was stupid enough to get gulled by the fake Bush Intel on the Iraq invasion, why should we trust him on this?

  13. A lot of men say they admire strong women, but they don’t. They fear them. Or resent them. Palin is a strong woman. Strong but wrong, maybe, but I like her frontier attitude and anti-intellectualism. I also like Sarah Lawrence women. And I like stereotyping and broad generalizations, a lot.

    1. Teller,

      Waris Dirie, Benazir Bhutto, Annabelle Bond, Rosa Parks, Erin Pizzey, Emmeline Pankhurst, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony..

      These are strong women. Palin pales in comparison.

      1. Appreciate ’em all, Ark. That’s a fine A-list of social activists. While Thatcher, Meir, even Ayn, may not be your political cup of tea, you can hardly deny their strength. Branch out. Accept our wonderful rainbow of female diversity. Spread your love!

  14. what, no mention of her support for an independent alaska?
    good to have you guesting here arthur, it’s been fun.
    i’ll have to check in on your blog occasionally for that scientology article i almost talked you into writing.

    ……..unless they already got to you

    @ the american readers, jaytkay makes a point. you gotta vote.

  15. Reporters commonly add punctuation to a quote, even edit or add minor words (and, or, not) if some misspoke. But Palin doesn’t get this treatment because her speech falls into the uncanny valley.

  16. Great! A caribou barbie parrot who can’t figure out that the reason the McCain campaign kept her bottled up was so the effervescence wouldn’t escape. Despite that attempt, some of it did and some of us conservatives decided that we didn’t want to deal with her being a heartbeat away from the presidency.

  17. Putting aside the birth of her child, what possessed her to choose the title Going Rogue? Admittedly, I’m influenced by the fantasy pantheon, but isn’t a rogue a bad thing to be if you’re striving for family values and honesty? Besides lovable halfling thieves, the dictionary definitions for rogue are universally negative, ranging from violent animals that have broken from the pack to the word’s origins as a vagrant beggar…

    1. I’ve wondered the same thing. Apparently no one bothered to look up “Going Rogue” to see what it means in any other context besides conservaspeak.

      Though I do find it oddly fitting that Going Rogue also refers to an elephant whose erratic and unpredictable behavior endangers the safety of the herd.

      But then, these are the same folks who decided that Tea Bagging was a patriotic activity with absolutely no sexual connotations what so ever.

    2. Apparently no one bothered to look up “Going Rogue” to see what it means in any other context besides conservaspeak.

      She’s not exactly marketing herself to you and I, mainly because we read.

  18. Thanks for all the great posts, Arthur. Hope you can make a return engagement soon.

    As for Sarah Palin…how in the world have we come to a place where any major political party wanted to put this person in line for the presidency? Have the illuminati lost their minds? Or did the vast left wing conspiracy trick the republicans to ensure Obama’s election? Enquiring minds want to know.

  19. Why isn’t it called “Sarah Palin: Maverick” ?! With that title, we could have remembered her saying it, over and over and over… surely audio memory fuels book sales?

  20. The ADN is the Anchorage Daily News, not the Alaska Daily News.

    I think finding out the truth about Trig’s birth is important, because there is so clearly a lie there of some type.

  21. You are right, that was a careless error (at least the link was correct). I’m going to see if I can get Boing Boing to change it; at the same time, I’d like to clarify the “Russia from my house” sentence.

  22. These are great observations about conspiracy theories, both those about Palin and those that she’s embraced. I’d take this one step further and make a point about how assiduously and cleverly she’s used the conspiracy theory about her and her baby (and her oldest daughter’s baby) to further her personal goal: making her popular with the same group of people that thrive on conspiracy theories, that will forward scary urban legend emails to their entire address book and get resentful when you point out to them that Snopes debunked them years ago. She didn’t email ADN to quash the Trig theory; she emailed them to draw attention to it, because they hadn’t published a story about it. Has she ever criticized Andrew Sullivan by name for perpetuating the myth, even though he’s beat that drum louder and longer than anyone else? Or, for that matter, has Sullivan ever come up with a compelling explanation for why he continues to beat the thoroughly-pulverized remains of that horse, long after the election was decided? (And, no, I’m not suggesting that Sullivan and Palin, you know, conspired on this; people can evolve a mutually beneficial, even symbiotic relationship without discussing it or even ever making contact in any way.)

    Still, it might seem paradoxical for someone to promote a conspiracy theory in order to get in good with the type of people that usually go in for that kind of thing, but that’s where Palin really excels, the bit of socio-political judo that’s her one really good trick in an otherwise undistinguished and sparse bag of political tools. The essential ingredient of any really compelling conspiracy theory is that, at its base, the real perpetrators are the Others, the Outsiders. That’s why New Orleans prosecutor Jim Garrison’s JFK conspiracy theory was believed, long after it was exposed as a tissue of lies perpetuated by cons and outright lunatics: at its heart, it was allegedly planned and carried out by gay men with a taste for kinky sex. Andrew Sullivan is no threat to Sarah Palin because she’s a working mother and he’s a gay man with a taste for barebacking; he’s the perfect fall guy. Thus does Palin gain credence among people who, if they are aware of Andrew Sullivan at all, think of him as some louche sodomite.

    Of course, the thing about being an outsider is that you can’t go back inside. It’s hard to play the victim when you’re a state governor, which is why she resigned early (aside from the fact that she has never shown any enthusiasm for the real work of an administrator, either shirking it or getting someone else to do the heavy lifting, even when she was mayor of Wasilla). It’s also why she won’t ever seriously run for President or anything else; she may run for the nomination, but the only question is whether she’ll stay in long enough to reach the convention.

  23. Hey! I can see Russia from my house too, and I live about 5,000 miles away. It’s called Google Maps. Get with the 21st Century, people!

  24. I can’t understand the Palin-mania on the right, in particular the sometimes floated idea that she was more qualified to be president than Obama. If you were having brain surgery, or needed a lawyer, or even a mechanic, who would you choose: a graduate of Columbia and Harvard who traveled the world as a child and can speak eloquently off the cuff, or a former beauty-pageant runner-up and sportscaster, who transferred from one community college to another before stumbling into local politics, who speaks in folksy cliches and religious paranoia? Politics aside, she may have been qualified, but hardly a good choice.

  25. Has anyone considered the possibility that Trig was adopted, for future use as a political prop, in the right-to-life debate?

  26. Teller,

    I don’t dispute your additions. But I did choose positively strong women, not those who would oppress others with their politics/philosophies (Thatcher, Rand, Rice). Similarly in a list of positively strong men, I would not have included many obvious leaders.

    However, Palin doesn’t even make a negative list. She has offered nothing.

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