It really should have surprised no one last week when Sarah Palin announced the inevitable, via a letter to her legion: She would not be running for president in 2012.

It really should have surprised no one last week when Sarah Palin announced the inevitable, via a letter to her legion: She would not be running for president in 2012.


As people cried treachery and disappointment, wailing and moaning shot across the Internet from the tea party and Palin devotees. How could their hero abandon them and her beloved country when everyone needs her so much? How could we have been deceived into thinking she really was serious about running?


It reminded me of when the Sex Pistols dissolved into a chaotic mess on stage in San Francisco at the end of their U.S. tour in 1978 (I was not there –– I was only 8 years old). The parallels between the Sex Pistols and Sarah Palin are uncanny.


The Pistols are arguably the most influential punk band, yet they only lasted 2 1/2 years. They were born from the unhappiness and rebellion of the late 1970s downtrodden England and their penchant for chaos, anarchy and fighting against social order, which spread across that country and eventually the U.S. Record companies seized on the fury and controversy brought by the group and saw dollar signs.


When Sarah Palin jumped on the scene and ultimately cost the Republicans the 2008 presidency, she sought to preserve her celebrity and saw dollar signs. She resigned as governor of Alaska, wrote a book, wrote another book, got a reality show and went on speaking tours. Her legend and celebrity outpaced her actual talent and commitment to doing what politicians do: get elected.


Like the Sex Pistols, Palin smartly tapped into outrage for the current social order in politics and harnessed that energy for her own ends. This whole summer of Palin sightings and events was nothing more than a ruse to keep the attention –– and I would guess money –– flowing.


Her ultimate step away from the spotlight last week even ended like the Sex Pistols. With the crowd restless and booing from another performance that fell short of all the hype, lead singer Johnny Rotten stared into the thousands in attendance in San Francisco and sneered, "Ever get the feeling you've been cheated?"


The band broke up that night.


But why did we (and I mean “we” as in the media and the American public) get suckered in the first place?


To paraphrase what David Mindich told a group of award-winning journalists and their publishers recently at a New England Newspaper Awards luncheon in Natick, Mass., we like Jell-O shots.


Mindich, a journalism professor at St. Michael's College in Vermont, was given the Journalism Educator of the Year Award. In his acceptance speech, he related an encounter he had with 20 news executives. The meeting was to discuss his criticism of news organizations and the declining consumption of news. His criticism was, partly, that serious news organizations such as CNN had taken to adding fluff like Nancy Grace, for example.


This practice of adding fluffy news to attract more consumers he likened to a journalism professor serving Jell-O shots in his classroom. For if college students like Jell-O shots, certainly getting more of those to the journalism classroom would increase the volume of news consumers.


The problem is, luring students or readers or viewers with Jell-O shots won't make them better consumers of news. It just increases your numbers because, let's face it, most people will take Jell-O shots over serious discussion of the economy, foreign affairs or, God forbid, politics.


News about Sarah Palin this summer and perhaps longer became consumer-driven, not because it was important, but because it was cheap celebrity titillation, gossip and light lifting both for the reader and the writer. The media mob tweeted and chatted about nothing, and readers soaked up every last empty calorie and quick buzz set in front of them.


And like a drunkard, hung over and worshiping the porcelain god the next morning, we'll swear, "Never again." But I think we know how that goes.


Rob Haneisen is the Sunday Metro Editor for the MetroWest Daily News in Massachusetts. He can be reached at rhaneisen@wickedlocal.com