Muqtada al-Sadr and Sarah Palin
I’ve been noticing for some time the striking parallels that exist between Muqtada al-Sadr and Sarah Palin. Both of them seem barely competent at speaking, and writing, in their own native tongues (refudiate says Palin, something akin to “sensinable” says Sadr). Both seem to engage in free style stream of consciousness forms of verbal diarrhea from which coherent thoughts are difficult to glean. Both are pilloried by so-called elitists like me, as if our problem with the Palins and Sadrs of the world is their milieu, their breeding or their ideological commitments, as opposed to the fact that we’ve seldom heard a single intelligent thing from their mouths and quite a lot of idiocy. And yet the more we say that, the deeper the power they wield, for both speak for some populist and angry mass that is convinced, I’d say perhaps for good reason, that politics is a game that has been rigged against them and that criticisms of their heroes is one manifestation of that (much less good reason to think that).
And, in the newest twist, the seeming lack of intelligence—street or book, as opposed to pure market savvy—on the part of either them might turn out to be their own undoing. Palin cannot form a thought beyond plain vanilla recitations of longstanding conservative commitments, and has to make up for her lack of imagination by pretending to run for President for as long as possible. But that gets old after a while. Yes, the media will indulge her, she will continue to be a source of fascination for the elite for some time after all, confirming as she does every single stereotype liberals would like to make of conservatives (Hayek or Burke don’t get HBO documentaries after all), but her media power isn’t at all what it once was and it’s not clear she has the wherewithal to turn it. I don’t mean she’ll disappear, just fade into yet another Fox commentator.
And Muqtada? The latest memo issued from his office speaks darkly of threats made against either his family or his followers (Aali Sadr in one spot, Ansar al-Sadr in another, like I said, verbal diarrhea) meant to marginalize the movement. Who is making such threats, according to the memo? The occupiers and the Ba’athists.
The guy cannot seem to come up with a new theme. Like Palin, he’s got an idea of how to get himself into the headlines, but no ideas to come with it other than those that brought him to the top. And the problem is, those ideas are going to fade if they haven’t already. What occupier? The Saudi owned Sharq al-Awsat seems to think he must mean the government, since it also said “those supported by the occupiers”, and that this might signal an intra-Shi’i split. I tend to think that’s a great deal to read into “the occupiers and those supported by them.” I think he’s got a pony, the occupation, and he’s riding the poor thing as far as it will go, except at this point, 60 days after the Americans have left, he doesn’t realize he’s sitting on a dead animal wondering how far it will take him. Ba’athists is somewhat easier to push, conspiracies of Ba’ath return among Shi’a are about as prevalent as conspiracies of Iranian takeovers among Sunnis, but in the end, this sort of thing is going to discredit him with his base, and I’d expect he’d lose at least some of his cache. Of course we’ll have to see, he might turn things yet. Signs, however are hardly good if this is what his press releases are going to look like.