Where Turkey Dinners Come From: A Frank Discussion


Everyone's talking about the Sarah Palin turkey pardon incident today and the first thing you do when you hear about it, is search it on YouTube! 

The former Vice Presidential nominee pardoned and Alaskan turkey as politicians often do, but then went on with a chatty conversation with reporters while other not-so-lucky birds were slaughtered and drained behind her.

Here is how MSNBC covered it; the pardon and then the subsequent turkey massacre.  I think the thing that makes it particularly ridiculous, though, is the part that MSNBC blurred out -- the turkey feet in the air as the bird is being held upside down while Governor Palin rattles on and on about various topics with a cup of coffee in her hand, oblivious to the bloodbath that's going on a few feet away.  You can find the unedited version on YouTube but if you're squeamish, don't watch this!

It looked to me like a kind of barbaric process but a "humane turkey slaughter" search brought up this discussion thread that seems to describe the exact process that's happening behind Governor Palin.  Okay stop reading if you're feeling queasy, but it says the bird will be thrashing around but unconscious.  Really, stop reading if you can't hang with this kind of stuff because I'm pulling a quote from this thread linked above which says:

"These contractions are NOT because the bird is in pain. As others have said the bird loses consciousness soon after the vein is slit. The contractions are nature's way of squeezing all of the blood out of the muscles. The reason the vein is cut rather than using a axe or hatchet is that the brain needs to tell the heart to keep pumping so the blood is literally pumped out of the meet. That eliminates excess blood residue in the meat and a resulting bloody bag. When the brain is disconnected the heart just sort of quivers and does not pump the blood out, it just drains by gravity."

Okay, yuck, but honestly, that's where meat comes from.  Living, breathing, oftentimes gobble-gobbling creatures.  However you feel about eating meat, you have to kind of wonder if standing in front of a turkey-slaughtering is the best PR move to make as Governor after pardoning one of their feathered brethren. 

I did kind of wonder about the camera crew, though.  Photographers are responsible for the shots they line up, and I wondered whose idea it was to set up the interview in this spot?  If it's what we call a "grab" shot, where the person is walking and on their way somewhere and busy, often the background is incongruous with the content of the interview.  But you have to wonder how "grabby" the media has to be with a media-friendly Governor, at a feature story.  At the very least, the photographer could have pushed in and tightened the shot slightly to cut that guy in the background out of it.   Most good photographers can spot a real "YouTube" moment.  The great ones, however, often give those moments up for the integrity of the story.  No one is paying any attention to what the Governor is saying with the distraction behind her.  The question is, should the distraction actually become the story, as it has here?

The answer is probably yes, when you get more information about how this picture came about.  Another search produced this blurb on a website of one of our NBC sister stations, that says "Governor Palin was told by the photographer what was going on behind her and allowed the interview to continue. "

 Really?  Well, Palin's a hunter, so this leaves her unfazed.  Again what I found on another blog that leans politically to the right:

"A reporter asked Palin if she was okay with the backdrop. The Alaskan Governor answered, “no worries.” As the bird’s head was removed, the man looked over his shoulder at the governor and reporters and flashed a toothy grin.

“I was happy to be invited to participate in, in this, and, uh, and, you know, for one, you need a little bit of levity in this job, especially with a, uh, so much that has gone on in the last couple of months that has been so, um, political, ah, obviously, that it’s nice to get out and, and do something to promote a local business and, and to uh, just participate in something that isn’t so, um, heavy-handed politics that, uh, invites criticism,” said the governor in what appeared to be a single sentence.

“Certainly we’ll even invite criticism for doin’ this too, but at least this was fun!” she pronounced."

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