>New York Times op-ed columnist Frank Rich writes about Sarah Palin this week, and in doing so has coined the perfect word to describe her new reality show, and in turn the perfect word to describe the image she presents to the world:
Palin fires a couple of Annie Oakley-style shots before we’re even out of the opening credits. The whole package is a calculated paean to her down-home, self-reliant frontiersiness — an extravagant high-def remake of Bush’s photo ops clearing brush at his “ranch” in Crawford, which in turn were an homage to Ronald Reagan’s old horseback photo ops in his lush cowpoke digs in Santa Barbara.
She’s not really a frontier woman, she’s “frontier-sy”, and as you can see from her political predecessors, it definitely has its appeal in America. Palin, like Bush II and Reagan, works the masses with her image as one of the “just plain folks” (which she most certainly is not) who don’t care too much for that high-fallutin’ fancy-pants higher education.
There’s been lots written over the years about the “dumbing down of America”; I haven’t read too much on the subject* but suspect it springs from a mistrust of “educated folks” that started perhaps in the beginning of the last century already. It’s something that I don’t see much here in Europe, not in this quantity, not as part of the fabric of the popular culture. There is no fitting translation of the English words “nerd” or “geek”; I hear “Eierkopf” — egghead — once in a while but there doesn’t seem to be any massive stigma in being an intellectual (not that I’d know for sure, not being able to call myself one**.) This might be because European intellectuals suffered their own actual pogroms in the past, as they never did in America. There is also the term “Fachidiot” which is, I’m guessing, someone who knows all about one subject and nothing else.
* Charles Pierce’s “Idiot America” is good, but doesn’t get down to why it’s been like this for so long in America, and not so in other countries (in my unlearned opinion.)
** And anyway I feel that for the most part I am treated well here, but any treatment, either preferential or discriminatory, that one receives would have to be viewed through several lenses — gender, age, foreignness, looks, German proficiency perhaps above all — before intellect was even considered. I think.