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“On Being Sane in Insane Places”: Sarah Palin and the Rosenhan Study

The media doesn't "get" genuine

The media doesn't "get" genuine

In 1973, David Rosenhan, a sociologist, conducted a study (Warning, PDF file, scroll down) of the difficulty people have in overcoming being labeled as having a mental illness. Rosenhan and seven colleages got themselves admitted under false names to different mental hospitals around the country by claiming they were hearing voices, a common symptom of schizophrenia. Once they were admitted to the hospitals and diagnosed as schizophrenic, these “pseudopatients” behaved completely normally and were completely truthful about their life histories.

Despite the fact that these people did not act “crazy” in any way, they were kept in the hospitals for periods of time ranging from 9 to 52 days. None of the mental health professionals who examined the pseudopatients ever detected that they were sane, although other patients noticed and sometimes accused the pseudopatients of doing undercover research.

Once they had been given the schizophrenic label, everything the pseudopatients did or said and even their personal histories were interpreted by psychiatrists and other hospital staff as reinforcing their diagnoses. For example, some of the pseudopatients took notes during their time in the hospital. This innocuous behavior was interpreted as delusional and a sign of deep psychological disturbance.

So how does this relate to the situation Sarah Palin finds herself in? Palin is a perfectly normal person who got sucked into the insane world of presidential politics. It has been determined by the talking heads and media mavens of Washington and New York that Sarah Palin wants to be President. No one knows for sure if this is true, but now that she has that label, everything she says or does is interpreted to relate to her supposed presidential ambitions. Based on their assumptions about Palin, various talking heads, reporters, and bloggers have also labeled her ignorant and unqualified. Continue reading

Anglachel on Campaign by Personality

Anglachel is fast becoming the new Digby to me. She wrote another post on Krugman and Stanley Fish’s pieces about Obama’s campaign. Here’s a highlight:

Unless Iraq is the single issue for you (and it is so salient on the Left because it can be used instrumentally to beat up HRC), Barry’s one-note bleating about how he was smart ’nuff not to support that war and how this explains everything you need to know about him and his foreign policy chops (oh, yeah, that and being a clueless kid in Indonesia) goes over like a lead balloon. What Fish points out is that McCain’s narrative is rooted in his policy stances, and that the personality acts as a supporting player to the policy. You may be revolted by the policy, but most Americans are ambivalent about Iraq war as such (which is a different question that wanting it to end), and someone who can give them a graceful policy exit is to be preferred to one who stakes out the moral(istic) high ground. I don’t think Barry supporters understand how poorly his argument will go over with the general public.

Thus, we get the ironic inversion that the party of policy wonkery may have one of the most talented, informed, skillfull, substantive legislators in recent history, a person eminently suited to cleaning up the steaming pile left behind by the Movement Conservatives, undermined by a personality campaign, while the general could be the Republican rally of substance over style.

Anglachel hits the nail on the head again. Much of the fervor of the lefty blogosphere for Obama can be boiled down to one issue: The Iraq War. Matt Stoller said as much when he voted on SuperDuperTuesday for Obama. For him and many others, the IWR vote trumps everything, even though Obama does not have a value for this missing data point. He can *say* anything he wants. There is no way for him to prove it.

But that’s not the point. The point is that Markos Moulitsas, the great Kos himself, wrote a book about how destructive single issue voting is. It divides the electorate because everyone has a single definition of purity to apply to the candidates. Everything else is ignored. For Kossacks, there are many little individual purity tests. You can not have ties to lobbyists. You can’t have been in government too long (because experience is sooooo outre). You can’t be skillful at negotiations because that is triangulating, *unless* you also haven’t been in government long and therefore have no experience. And God help you if you voted for the IWR, unless your John Kerry. It matters this year because one candidate didn’t vote for it. So, what we have here is a political version of the modified cub factor. (Come to think of it, they’re both from Chicago so what we have here is the full ex-cub factor. We’re doomed!)

That seems to be the kernel at the core of Obama’s mystique, that lack on one data point for the IWR vote. Oh, and the fact that as an amorphous candidate on political philosophy, he is the tofu candidate, absorbing the flavor of any political persuasion thrown on him.

He runs on personality and he will sputter out on personality. When it comes right down to it, when things start going to hell in Iraq later this year and gas hits $4 a gallon and inflation spirals out of control and you can’t get a mortgage or sell your house, Miss Congeniality is not the one you want. No, you want the one who will make you remember the capital of Vermont.