In Alaska, Sarah Palin squares off against the blogosphere

Sean Cockerham/Anchorage Daily News/MCT
Alaska Governor Sarah Palin and her daughter Piper in Bristol Bay, Alaska, on Monday. In a speech announcing her resignation this month, Sarah Palin said she had spent too much time defending against legal and media attacks. A day later, she threatened to file a defamation lawsuit against Shannyn Moore, an Alaskan blogger.

In the battle of Sarah Palin vs. Shannyn Moore, there is at least one winner: the lowly weblog.

Although much has been made in recent years of the power of the Internet to change politics – the netroots, the unlikely rise of Howard Dean's web-fueled candidacy, the multimedia machine that helped send Barack Obama to the White House – it's rare to see one personal blog play such a major role in American politics.

Well, welcome to Alaska, where the bloggers have clout, the Twitter feeds run free, and one very angry "Mama Grizzly" has aimed her ire in the general direction of the World Wide Web.

Earlier this month, when Sarah Palin announced she was stepping down as governor of Alaska, she claimed she no longer wanted to "appease those who demand: 'Sit down and shut up.' [That's] the worthless, easy path; that's a quitter's way out," Palin said. "And a problem in our country today is apathy. It would be apathetic to just hunker down and 'go with the flow.'"

A day later, in a four-page public letter, Palin's office lashed out at the media. Her beef: several bloggers had reported as fact that Palin resigned to avoid implication in a political scandal. (Specifically, the bloggers alleged that Palin awarded the construction contract for the Wasilla Sports Complex to Spenard Building Supplies in exchange for help building her own home.)

But Palin only identified only one offender by name – Shannyn Moore, the author of a local political blog. From page three of the open letter:

To the extent several websites, most notably liberal Alaska blogger Shannyn Moore, are now claiming as “fact” that Governor Palin resigned because she is “under federal investigation” for embezzlement or other criminal wrongdoing, we will be exploring legal options this week to address such defamation. This is to provide notice to Ms. Moore.... that the Palins will not allow them to propagate defamatory material without answering to this in a court of law.

As others have noted, Moore was not the only one to report on the Wasilla Sports Complex scandal. "There were scads of blogs, both local and national that reported on the rumors above, many in greater detail and with more certainty than Moore did," columnist AKMuckracker wrote on The Huffington Post. "But Moore really got under the soon-to-be-ex governor's skin."

Today, Forbes published a long-ish interview with Moore, where the blogger says that she receives marriage proposals and death threats in "equal measure." In Alaska, Moore says, "Some of the biggest stories of the Palin administration have been broken by.... political bloggers. There are about six of us."

Related: Suddenly, Palin lights up the Twitterverse


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