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Sarah Palin: Where has the mystery gone?

September 15, 2011 |  1:29 pm

Sarah Palin

It's been a hectic week for America's political junkies and celebrity watchers, and it's only Thursday.

We've had Joe McGinniss' new book, "The Rogue: Searching for the Real Sarah Palin." You want salacious stories? As The Times' book critic, David L. Ulin, writes in his review:

McGinniss claims that Palin snorted cocaine off an overturned 55-gallon drum during a snowmobile excursion, slept with college (and later NBA) basketball star Glen Rice when she was an unmarried 23-year-old sports reporter (McGinniss talked to Rice for the book and he confirmed the relationship) and had an affair with Brad Hanson, Todd Palin's business partner, apparently as payback for her husband's infidelities. (Both Palin and Hanson, he notes, have denied the affair.)

Oh, and she's not much of a mom either, McGinniss reports:

"Friends recall," McGinniss observes, "that when Todd was working on the North Slope, the children literally would have a hard time finding enough to eat. 'Those kids had to fend for themselves,' one says. 'I'd walk into that kitchen and Bristol and Willow would be sitting there with a burnt pot of Kraft mac and cheese on the stove … and Sarah would be up in her bedroom with the door closed saying she didn't want to be disturbed.' "

This comes on top of this week's startling new look at former First Lady Jackie Kennedy. As The Times said in an editorial Thursday:

A newly released series of interviews with Jacqueline Kennedy, recorded in 1964, just months after President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, offers an extraordinary and occasionally shocking glimpse of a woman enshrined in our popular culture as a figure of grace, fortitude and civility. In the conversations, the then-34-year-old widow reveals herself as variously audacious, narrow-minded and unsparingly tart. She called Indira Gandhi "a real prune — bitter, kind of pushy," and said she had told Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev at a dinner to stop boring her with statistics on Ukraine. (He laughed.)

After being told by her husband of some of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s alleged sexual peccadilloes after "that freedom march thing," she called the civil rights leader "a phony." She declared that women should never be in politics — "we're just not suited to it" — and recalled that she told an interviewer, "I get all my opinions from my husband" (all evidence here to the contrary).

And finally, on a much smaller scale, there's Johansson-gate.  

Scarlett Johansson has reportedly contacted the FBI after naked pictures of her surfaced Wednesday on a popular viral-media website.

The 26-year-old actress' name was among 50 or so possible victims mentioned in March in connection with an investigation of a hacking ring targeting celebrities' email accounts and smartphones, looking for dirt. The somewhat fuzzy photos posted Wednesday on BuzzFeed are of a woman who appears to be Johansson, taking iPhone pictures of her own bare backside and breasts.

Whew! No wonder the economy is struggling. Who can work when there's this kind of news to click on?

And that doesn't even include the asteroid that streaked across the Southwestern U.S. skies Wednesday night.

Like that asteroid, these stories streak across the Internet. They fascinate. They spark arguments. We find significance in them, or not.

And, like the asteroid, we debate the truth of what we read, or see. 

Some see an asteroid; some see a UFO. (Some see a government cover-up of a UFO.)

Some see the Palin book as lies, a vicious and unsubstantiated attack on their hero. Others say, "I told you so."

For those who admired Jackie Kennedy, these new revelations may be hard to take. But for those who detest the Kennedys? "I told you so."

And Johansson?  Do we believe it?  Does being a celebrity make you fair game? Do we care? Should we care?  

When she was alive, Jackie Kennedy carefully controlled her public image.

Today, the gloves are off. Palin may want to control her image; so, probably, does Johansson. In today's media environment, it's impossible.

But does having more information mean we're better informed?

I say no. 

I say, like Jackie, that a little mystery goes a long way.

And I also say this: Don't keep naked pictures of yourself on your cellphone.   

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-- Paul Whitefield

Photo: Sarah Palin. Credit: AFP / Getty Images

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