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Anointing Frames

Anointing Frames

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Published by Jan Whitehouse

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Published by: Jan Whitehouse on Apr 21, 2011
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Anointing Frames:Sarah Palin¶s Semiotics and the Sticky Armor of Conservative Religious MediaJan R. WhitehouseThe University of Central Florida
Whitehouse: Anointing Frames: Sarah Palin¶s Semiotics and the Sticky Armor of Conservative Religious Media
1Sarah Palin¶s designation as the faith and family candidate in the 2008 presidential racemade her reproach-proof for many self-identified evangelicals. Known for being a doctrinally persnickety bunch, and given the weathervane whims of America¶s cult of celebrity in general, theevangelical embrace she enjoys is worthwhile to study, as the associated frames in the relationshipare of a particularlyresilient variety.In the beginning, there was a crucial moment for this virtual unknown from the Great Northwhen it all could have gone terribly south. Sarah Palin had been on the national stage 72hours when the story of her 17-year old daughter Bristol¶sout-of-wedlock pregnancy broke.Largely ignored as a turning point, evangelical media giant and child psychologist, Dr. JamesDobson (
 Focus on the Family
releaseda high-handed press statement. Johnny-on-the-spot itwas,pre-emptively decreeing absolution for the teen¶s pre-marital relations, blocking and parryingany charges of negligent parentingby the Palins,and daring anyone to throw a stone in the family¶sdirection. Further, Dobson characterized the unplanned parenthoodas proof-positive of the Palins¶ pro-life credentials,in all likelihood turning the tide on a story that could have spelled disaster for the GOP ticket and Palin¶s own political aspirations, forthe 2008 presidential campaign and beyond. That frame worked. Palin¶s approval rating actually
after the news of Bristol¶s pregnancy. A sturdy frame it was and more frames would follow, and while they couldn¶t sustaina campaign victory, they were sufficient toshepherd her safely through criticisms and enable her to prosper as she reinforces her relevance, firing off status update salvos that still grab headlines.
An obstacle that had to be confronted, before even discussing framing theory, wasa one-word frame. The word in question, ³mainstream,´ is understood benignly ascommonly accepted terminology. In light of this study,and especially in the context of adiscussion of semiotics and ³sticky´ language, ³mainstream´ is aword that showsitselfto be prejudicial enough to be,at leasttemporarily,suspended. Just as othering assignations of 
 At the outset,a word - about a word 
Whitehouse: Anointing Frames: Sarah Palin¶s Semiotics and the Sticky Armor of Conservative Religious Media
 people or ideas are either within or outside of ³mainstream America,´by referring to³mainstream media´ as ³mainstream,´ an unwitting frame takes the wheel, establishing a presumption of normative media outlets and practices, and by default, calls all else peripheral. The chorus of producers and consumers so banished, by association, becomeanother frame of presumed inconsequence. Those in the Christian faith culture, especiallyevangelicals and fundamentalists who embraced Sarah Palin so enthusiastically, are often portrayed as being marginal, but is that the case? Conversely, ³mainstream media´ issupposedly rife with liberal bias, dictating theframes influencing discourse
.One may wonder which frames dominate and are indeed, mainstream, and whichones are barely worth mentioning. Media makers arm wrestle to claim the mantle of thethreatened and persecuted.Beyond those contests, it is a time of paradigmatic shifts in thedissemination and consumption of news. The user has more sovereignty over,and/or isincreasingly prey to, various permutations in presentation and content. What performs,what constitutes the service of news?Complete the stew with unsettling economicupheaval, and tense transitioning from modern grids to postmodern fractals of understanding, and the marketplace of ideas is very, very crowded.For the purpose of leveling the perceived roles of the discursive sources, this paper shall borrow the term ³secular media,´ not so much as to characterize theindividual beliefs of reporters belonging to mainstream sources, but to both cleanse the palate and to highlight yet another kind of intellectually lax binary of ³mainstream´
For a discussion of so-called liberal bias in the 2008 campaign, seeEntman¶s March 2010 article in
, ³Media framing biases and political power: explaining slant in news of campaign 2008´http://jou.sagepub.com/content/11/4/389

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