Lessons in Sensationalism (Palin Edition)

Reddit was all hot-n-bothered yesterday because a Daily Kos blogger (citing another blogger, citing an anonymous blog commenter) says Sarah Palin’s bus tour is a sham & a fraud. More specifically, that Palin has been jetting around to book signings via private plane and only pretending she’s touring the country by bus. Furthermore, there’s the explosive revelation that Palin’s plane is actually owned by Samaritan’s Purse, a shadowy cabal that uses charity work as a front for Franklin Graham’s own nefarious plots. To add insult-to-injury, she’s using this charity plane to fly to forts (Bragg & Hood) and defame our Commander-in-Chief (heil!) in front of our own troops!

Let’s be frank up front: the people peddling this non-sense are pulling the Left-wing equivalent of a Glenn Beck move and that these folks cast their ballot for the same man I did makes no difference whatsoever.

The first problem is that “Old Redneck,” the Daily Kos blogger who brought this can of worms to the masses, starts his sensationalist diatribe by spewing vitriol at Franklin Graham for no apparent reason. If it’s uncharitable and unjustified (and it is) for the Right to paint Obama’s religious conversion as one of political expediency, then it’s equally uncharitable and unjustified for the Left to do the same to icons of the Right, including Graham.

Then we get a big whale:

Franklin runs an organization called “The Samaritan’s Purse.”  Purse claims on their website to be an “International Christian relief and evangelism organization that provides spiritual and physical aid to victims of war, poverty, natural disaster, and disease.”

Right.

Of course, an “international christian relief organization” can’t function without a fleet of corporate airplanes.

First, you needn’t say that Samaritan’s Purse “claims” to be such-and-such, implying otherwise: Samaritan’s Purse is “an International Christian relief and evangelism organization…etc”. Last year they gave out some $154 million precisely to provide “spiritual and physical aid to victims,” ranging from help to Darfur to running Operation Christmas Child. Furthermore, Samaritan’s Purse does not have “a fleet of corporate airplanes.” They have one private jet (a fairly modest one at that), and while I think they have (or at least rent) tiny prop planes in 3rd world countries for delivering supplies, they have nothing even approximating a “fleet.”

Now I will say that it does bother me how much money Franklin Graham earns (over $500k/yr). However, I realize that this is significantly lower than what comparable international corporation CEO would make, and I would guess on par for other non-profits of Samaritan’s Purse’s size & scope. However, it’s worth noting that Charity Navigator does give them a 4/4-star rating. Their rating is higher, for example, than Doctors Without Borders, Amnesty International, PETA, Habitat for Humanity — all non-profits/charities that Lefties might sympathize with and which are widely & rightfully regarded as operating above the board.

And so, as the man said, this now brings us to Sarah Palin:

In her book tour, Palin claims that she’s just like the rest of us, riding her tour bus from town to town.

BULLSHIT.

Samaritan’s Purse is flying Sarah around in one of its aircraft.  She lands near her next book rally, gets on the bus, and rides into town on the bus.

Nowhere, of course, is there any evidence of this whatsoever. Well, let me correct that: there’s no evidence that Palin is using the Samaritan’s Purse jet to do that. All we have is a YouTube video that shows Palin arriving in North Carolina for a highly-publicized, non-sneaky trip to visit the Grahams — she is, in fact, using the Samaritan’s Purse plane. But there’s no evidence that this was not a one-off jaunt wherein the Graham’s sent the jet for her specifically and only for this dinner. Alternately, there’s the possibility that the Palin’s rented it: in 2008, Samaritan’s Purse made over $400k off their jet, presumably from rentals. [This from their IRS 990 tax forms, freely available online, which S.P. also kindly & an unashamedly links to from their own website].

As it turns out, the first scenario (a one-time pick-up for the Palins) seems likely, since other bloggers (perhaps a couple of whom are interested in facts) appear to have tracked down the plane Palin is actually using to fly around. This plane is a) not owned by the Grahams nor Samaritan’s Purse and b) significantly nicer. We still don’t know if Palin is, as these rumormongers insist, flying around to every book signing while only pretending to be on a book tour.

Ironically, all of this is secondary to Linda “Celtic Diva” Biegel, the blogger who seems to have started this particular fire. She and her readers are most incensed over Palin’s planned trip to Fort Hood where she will likely continue to criticize Mr. Obama for being, well, Mr. Obama. Apparently Ft. Hood is sacred, hallowed ground now where dissent will somehow mock the recently fallen. Proving that partisans on both sides are equally incapable of self-irony & self-awareness, this attack on Palin is obviously reminiscent of those the Right chanted for 8 painstaking years. Now there may be actual legal issues here, which I won’t comment on, but assuming that the military brass finds no violations of their own codes, then I cannot fathom why Lefties are so up in arms. It is not disrespectful to criticize the president while soldiers are dying overseas, and it is likewise not disrespectful to criticize the president after soldiers have died on our own damn bases. If I want to support anarchist & dissident intellectual Noam Chomsky’s right to free speech on & off military installations, then I also want to support arch-moron & dope-in-chief Sarah Palin’s right to free speech at those same places, whether or not her speech is likely to attack (albeit incoherently & illogically) the current sitting president.

Phew. All that to say: I don’t think Samaritan’s Purse is wicked, that the state of political discourse in America is abysmal, and that believing in the right to free speech means believing in the right to free speech which with we profoundly disagree. Oh, and Palin/Beck 2012, yo.

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