Tuesday, May 25, 2010

And She's Not Even Running for Office

Journalist Joe McGinniss, who is working on an unauthorized biography of Sarah Palin, has moved next door to his subject.

The Palins had just returned to Alaska after attending rallies in other states. She went outside in shorts and tank top to enjoy a little sun, a rarity in the far north, and noticed a strange man on her neighbor's deck. Her husband walked over to introduce himself and learned that the "peering stranger" was the journalist, normally based in Massachusetts, who has rented the house for five months.

I am not a fan of Sarah Palin, and that's a colossal understatement because I try to keep my sailor's parrot rants to a minimum on this blog. But I really think this is taking First Amendment rights too far. While McGinniss is not breaking any laws, he is totally intruding on her privacy and her family's. His action offends my sense of the sanctity of ones home. While his dedication to his work is impressive, scrutinizing anyone and her entire family under a daily microscope is wrong, no matter who she is or what she stands for, and is tantamount to stalking.

It makes me uneasy because he could as easily be a sniper. We live in a free country and I am extremely grateful for this in all its ramifications. But I think that with such freedom should come responsibility not to abuse it by trampling on the rights of others. The families of celebrities should not be considered fair game, or fodder for a journalist's pen. A line has been crossed here, but it is admittedly a nebulous one. McGinnis has done nothing explicitly "wrong" but implicitly he has committed a wrong, in my view, no matter how indefinable it is.

It's easy to write off his actions as amusing if one does not care for Palin. But if we truly believe in the equality we tout so proudly, it must apply across the board, both to those we like and those we do not. What are your thoughts on this? I'd really like to know because I am always open to other views. Let's talk.

UPDATE: May 27 - Mr. Sarah and his buddies have erected a 14-foot fence around the property. Now McGinnis will have to buy a giant crane.


Bob said...

I fall pretty much in the same camp, I have no use for her. That said, I don't understand what he hopes to gain by living next door. Since they know who he is, he isn't about to be treated as a welcome neighbor and become a family friend - gain access to the "real" Sarah Palin. About the only thing he'll be able to do is take intrusive pictures, get 1st shot at going through their garbage, and bother all of her real neighbors. He could accomplish 2 out of the 3 by living nearby, not next door. I don't know what kind of person she really is but she deserves her privacy when at home.

Away from home - fair game.

Jo said...

That's just plain creepy. It's the same as the Duchess of York granting "admission" to the Duke of York (Prince Andrew). How does she know who is getting access to him?

McGinniss has no business being so close to Sarah Palen, if he is writing an unauthorized biography of her. And who rented him the house? They need their knuckles rapped.

TechnoBabe said...

Unfortunately, I understand that it is going too far to write a book. I say unfortunately because of my total dislike of S Palin. I truly have never cared for her and even less when she opens her mouth. I do think it is not against the law to rent a house next door to someone you are going to write a book about but it is in very poor taste.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


You raise good points. I doubt that Todd and Sarah will be asking him in for milk and cookies, or a fourth at Bridge. What he may not realize is that his tactics are so dirty as to impugn the integrity of his book, even before it's written.


Presumably Palin's next-door neighbor rented the house to McGinnis. Maybe he hates her, too. But it's a total infringement on her privacy and her family's.


I would hate her if for no other reason than her aerial gunning of wolves. But my feelings about her, and yours, are irrelevant to her right to privacy in her home. And families should certainly be off-limits.

Anonymous said...

Incisive acuity and genius in bringing this important matter to the public's attention. A Pulitzer would be too little recognition for this post. The other commenters are far too timid in their praise.

TaraDharma said...

Sarah has made herself a public target. And now she claims to be a "journalist" for FOX news. She has no problem mud slinging and lying about others. As long as this guy does not break any laws or get onto her property, I say more power to him. It would be helpful for him, and his writing, to actually try and connect with her, Sarah the human, and try to understand her perspective. If he does, in fact, display actions that can be defined as 'stalking' then he should pay the price.

I don't have any pity for her at all, though I fully understand your point.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


Please forgive me if this is rude. My first impulse when I read your comments is to love you madly. Then, I begin to wonder if you are being sarcastic because your compliments are so over the top. Do I know you in "real life?"


I don't pity her. I don't even like her. I just think the guy has overstepped bounds that should be understood, even if they are not clearly defined.

Jocelyn said...

I wouldn't even say he's dedicated to his work, as spying isn't journalism...although I suppose an unauthorized biography isn't really "journalism," is it?

All I know is that I wouldn't dare do that to even someone I revile (hey, how about Sarah Palin, for an example?), were I writing such a book. It's not like people are unwilling to dish on her if interviewed.

It's a pansy tactic.

Murr Brewster said...

Ugh. I am so grateful I am too trivial to stalk. Especially by someone unattractive.

nick said...

I agree she's entitled to her privacy and what in the UK is referred to as the "quiet enjoyment of your property". I guess he's perfectly entitled to rent the property. The point at issue is how he behaves on it, and if he's deliberately stalking the Palins then over here he would be subject to laws on invasion of privacy, harassment and anti-social behaviour. I presume there are similar laws in the US which the Palins could resort to if necessary? Of course he shouldn't be so intrusive and predatory in the first place, but then that's how many journalists routinely go about their business, in the name of getting a good story.

The Good Cook said...

I am no fan of SP - but I do agree with you that this is tantamount to stalking. From an anthropology point of view this guy has doomed his research. By making the Palin's aware that they are being watched (observed) he has altered their behavior. This guy's no Margaret Mead... and certainly not a credible journalist.

secret agent woman said...

I absolutely loathe Sarah Palin, but I agree. This is just wrong. I can't quite muster up sympathy for her, but it's still wrong.

Warty Mammal said...

Mixed feelings. It's definitely aggressive and in poor taste. If this was done to almost anyone else, I'd feel sympathetic or even take umbrage. However, in Palin's case, I'm almost getting a sense of karma. The things she has said, done, accused other people of ...

heartinsanfrancisco said...


Imagine my surprise to be defending Sarah Palin, sort of, when I loathe her. But rules of decency are meaningless when filtered through our likes and dislikes.

McGinniss' paparazzi tactics have little to do with journalism, in my view.


I have often thought that fame would not be worth the loss of privacy, the ability to be anonymous in the world.

Thanks for your visit!


That term is used in the US, too, in the domicile rental field. There is "the implied covenant of quiet enjoyment of the premises." (It does not seem to be enforceable, however.)

It will be interesting to see if the Palins pursue any legal avenues to get rid of him, if in fact they can. It probably will depend on his actions.

Good Cook,

Good point! I am a lifelong fan of Margaret Mead's work in the South Pacific, although her subjects also knew they were being studied. But this is absurd. He will elicit anger or be elaborately ignored, and ultimately learn less than nothing about his subject.


Yes. The principle is wrong, no matter how we feel about her.


Notice I stopped way short of making a case for her, but her privacy in her own home, and her family's, should be assured like anyone else's.

Pea said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Pea said...

Yeah. I'm pretty much in the same boat. I'm not a fan of hers, in fact just hearing her talk makes me want to dig my ears out with a shovel(I've said this before). She's polarizing, crude, hypocritical, know nothing, irrelevant---need I go on? But her children deserve some privacy. Granted she should have thought about that before shoving them into the spotlight but still. I believe in freedom of the press but I don't believe in infringing on a person's privacy just to make money from a book. If he were investigating a crime of some kind, I would be more sympathetic to his purpose. But it seems to me his intention sounds more tabloid than literature. And I'm sick of tabloid journalism, even if it is about someone I don't care for.

It's the same with all these stupid cheating scandals-- why am I supposed to care about Jesse James and Sandra bullock's marriage? Or Tiger Woods? cuz' I don't. Unless something will affect me and my family, I'm really NOT interested in digging up people's dirt. Not even someone as vile as Sarah Palin.

( I had trash my last comment and redo because of a typo-oops!)

Maria said...

I think that everyone deserves a measure of privacy, even if I think they stink.

Anonymous said...

Hey, maybe he could get pics of Sarah sunbathing minus her halter and run those on YouTube. That would be about as classy as what he is doing moving next door and spying. My feelings about Ms P are the same as yours, but in a free society, she too has freedom of movement sans scrutiny.

mischief said...

Figures she could find a way to put people in the uncomfortable position of feeling obligated to defend her rights. I say we rent the house on the other side of McGinniss' and write an unauthorized biography of *him*.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


I'm quite sick of sensationalist scandal-mongers, too. My poor brain is on overload and about to reach critical mass and explode from all the garbage being aired about celebrities. And I don't think the world needs yet another book about Sarah Palin.


Even if I think they stink, too. Because it's so not the point.


I've considered this carefully and have determined that I can live quite comfortably without ever seeing Sarah Palin topless. I trust you can, too.


Now that would be a real page-turner. With or without pics of him sunbathing topless. Maybe we could do a Spoon River Anthology, Wasilla-Style.

Wanderlust Scarlett said...

First, I admire your open minded sense of right and wrong, regardless of your own personal opinions.

Second, I agree with you one hundred percent.

Third... I DO think the Republican party is going to toss her into the ring again in whatever way they can, as high up the ladder as they can, so it's probable that this guy is trying to get in on what will be a windfall for him when that happens. Kind of like building a fence around a gold mine in 1849 in California.


I wish she'd fade back into the gray matter that she emerged from.

Scarlett & Viaggiatore

heartinsanfrancisco said...


I don't think Sarah Palin is through with politics by a long shot. But whatever McGinnis thinks he's accomplishing, he's going about it in an obnoxious and intrusive way, like all paparazzi.