BS: Some might say you and I have become the Stiller and Meara of all things Babygate, but I prefer Woodward and Bernstein. (I’m the one played by Robert Redford.)
LN: That’s okay. I never wanted to be Robert Redford. I only wanted to date him. Anyway, I know that in this time since we’ve worked together, you’ve re-written your paper and pushed it out into the world a few more times. Tell us where you are with all of that.
BS: I’ve rewritten it in magazine format. The original format was as an academic research paper, but it was in truth always more of a journalistic expose than a theoretical paper. The theory part, about the spiral of silence, was only the last five pages; the first 20 pages was an expose of Babygate. So in rewriting it, I have made its form true to its overriding original purpose: to expose the shortcomings of the press in covering Babygate, which necessitated exposing Babygate itself.
LN: They go hand in hand don’t they? And I can say having read all the versions that you make an excellent case for both. Your writing is tight and sophisticated. And it’s also evolved as you’ve worked through the story. Explain what your goal was with that.
BS: The rewrite is shorter, bolder, and much more forceful than the earlier paper. In the original paper, I avoided any mention of Gryphen’s “Tale of Two Trigs” theory. In the rewrite, I include that stuff. And I think the multiple Trigs idea has probably spooked some magazines from accepting the article. That does not surprise me. In April, I would not even mention in radio interviews the possibility of different babies being shown as Trig at different times. I did not have a strong sense then that that part of the story was almost certainly true and crucial to understanding what happened. But now I do feel that way.
LN: And yet, the editors you’ve submitted to are still not biting. What kinds of things are they saying?
BS: Here is part of a nice rejection note I got from a British publication: “Thank you for your interesting read. I am sorry but I am not sure that it is something we would take on as I would need to start from scratch to satisfy myself of all sources etc. and I am not 100% sure that even this would get to the bottom. What is needed is a whistleblower. Her daughter's doctor – or something.”
The online editor of a different publication, one in the U.S., indicated he definitely would use my article, in fact would feature it, based on seeing my original paper. After I sent the revision, he decided he’d better check with his publisher, who said no.
LN: How did you react when you heard back from both these editors?
BS: Their reactions did not surprise me. If you haven’t really familiarized yourself with the facts surrounding the hoax, it does sound a bit surreal.
LN: In your paper you are very critical of the press for being timid and easily manipulated by Palin. Now you sound sympathetic to those who will not accept your revised article for publication. Aren’t you being inconsistent?
BS: Well, I need to draw a distinction. It was the press corps covering Palin in 2008 that deserves the most criticism. There were red flags back then that a hoax had probably happened. When the McCain campaign responded to the fake-birth rumors by throwing Bristol under the bus and claiming she was five months pregnant – and thus could not be Trig’s mother – the journalists’ bullshit sirens should have been blaring. (As it turns out, since more than one baby has almost certainly been displayed as Trig at different times, there’s no telling what relation Bristol has to the current “normal ears” Trig with Down syndrome.) As for current editors who are encountering much of this Babygate stuff for the first time, I can understand how they might find my revised paper on the very edge of believability, despite all the evidence I present.
LN: So isn’t this a Catch-22: Many editors find the Babygate saga unbelievable because no one in the mainstream press has written about it, but no one in the mainstream press will write about it for fear that people will find it unbelievable?
BS: Yep. That sums it up nicely.
LN: And what about their standard of proof? They talk about sources or whistleblowers. Can you appreciate that and/or understand where they are coming from?
BS: Well, libel laws in the U.K. are much stricter than in the U.S., so the editor of the British publication presumably was worried about the possibility of a defamation suit, among other things. He wanted a whistleblower for legal protection.
In the U.S. there is great protection for publications against libel suits when dealing with public figures. But even so, an editor might have legitimate legal concerns: for example, would Dr. Cathy Baldwin-Johnson be considered a public figure for libel purposes? Actually, I am so careful in dealing with Dr. CBJ in my article that there should be no concern along those lines, but editors are not lawyers – they don’t know where those legal lines are.
But I suspect that even more important to U.S. editors and publishers than legal concerns are worries related to being attacked and ridiculed. Make no mistake, not just Palin lovers will attack any publication that would publish my article, so would Republicans who see the danger to their party if the details of the hoax became known. After my original paper went viral in April, we saw some pretty grubby things: “recovered memories” of how pregnant Palin looked in 2008 by underemployed journalists, columnists at supposedly liberal publications flogging those recovered memories and other nonsense in journalistically abysmal pro-Palin pieces, and of course right-wing bloggers calling me an idiot and worse.
Anyone who would publish my revised paper has to be ready for an onslaugh – just as Ben Bradlee, editor of the Washington post, needed steely resolve as Woodward and Bernstein uncovered Watergater. In corporate America today, I don’t think there are many Ben Bradlees left.
LN: Does that mean the truth will never come out?
BS: I don’t think so. In the first place, just because I’ve had no luck so far finding a more traditional publisher to publish my revised article does not mean I cannot get that out to the larger world. I could post it at Scribd.com, for example, and then try to publicize that fact. But far more important is that Joe McGinniss, “Fred” (as he/she is known at Gryphen’s), and Levi Johnston have books coming out soon, and the first two, at least, and maybe Levi’s as well, should focus attention on the hoax.
As someone who has published in history journals, I am confident that in time the story of the massive fraud concerning Trig’s birth will eventually emerge. The question for me is, How long will that take? Are you likewise confident the truth will out, Laura?
LN: You know I’m one of the most widely read women writers on Scribd. It’s an excellent place to promote one’s writing. In fact, your original spiral of silence paper is up there. But I think you’re right in that the forthcoming books that will land in people’s hands might make a real difference - if nothing else, in telling a story that makes no sense. While we don’t know what kind of evidence these books will reveal, we can assume that they will describe a climate where enough people doubted the very odd official version of events. And how far people are willing to go to dig into Palin’s past will have much to do with how much she inflicts herself on our collective future.
Thank you, Brad, for once again joining me for a great discussion. And for sharing these past five months with me here on my blog. I've really enjoyed your company and your expertise.