Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Arizona Shooting and Sarah Palin

 Update: Sarah Palin is holding true to her track record of trying to erase anything people can criticize her on. The video is now password protected. You can read a transcript here though.

Update 2: I found a video on youtube so I replaced the old one. Let's see how long it lasts.

After the shooting in Arizona by Jared Loughner that killed six people and wounded 14 others, including congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, people from both political parties have come out of the woodwork to talk about how the other party is to blame. While most people would ultimately blame Loughner for the tragedy, it is not surprising for some people to think that vitriolic political rhetoric and an obsession with violent revolutionary imagery has contributed to a hostile atmosphere in which "second amendment remedies" seem like reasonable solutions.

The one person who has been singled out for inciting violence particularly is Sarah Palin. This is no surprise considering Palin's media popularity and the target list of Democratic districts featuring gun-related imagery. As Alex Pareene said, "When she's not talking about God, Sarah Palin's talking about guns. Practically all her rhetoric is blood-soaked, and proficiency with firearms is a key element of her persona."

In response to these accusations, Palin released an eight minute long video where she bemoans the media as usual and claims they're manufacturing a "blood libel." Yes, an actual blood libel.

Even though Palin's use of the term "blood libel" is incredibly insensitive and ridiculous, especially considering the fact Giffords is Jewish, I'm actually more bothered by her statement that Loughner is some kind of evil monster that has nothing to do with the rest of us: "Acts of monstrous criminality stand on their own. They begin and end with the criminals who commit them, not collectively with all the citizens of a state, not with those who listen to talk radio, not with maps of swing districts used by both sides of the aisle." Not only is Palin attempting to dehumanize Loughner by making it seem like there's no purpose in trying to understand his actions, but she also attempts to minimize the way we've all collectively fueled the violent rhetoric flames. Whether it be by continuing to vote for politicians who use violent rhetoric or watching news programs that fetishize the American Revolutionary War, this isn't a time to distance ourselves from this newest tragedy so that we can forget all about it until it happens once again.

Palin is right that she isn't personally to blame, but it's silly for to say so in the same breath that she claims the media has the power to incite violence. And as much as Sarah Palin wants us to believe she's not part of the media machine, she is. She's just as much of a part of the media as Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh. Keith Olbermann summed it up perfectly by tweeting, "the 'my words have no consequences but words ABOUT my words can incite violence' claim is laugh out loud funny."

What should be a time for real conversations about how we handle mental illness, the accessibility of treatment, our obsession with gun ownership to the point that even people with mental illness have easy access to them, how Congresswoman Giffords said she felt threatened by Palin's cross-hairs map and we shrugged it off, and the high cost of allowing violent language to become part of everyday politics has turned into another way Palin can play the victim. The best post I've read about Palin's persecution-complex is by Anthea Butler (the post is amazing so I'd definitely recommend reading the whole thing):
It matters not whether the shooter was a tea partier, a libertarian, a Democrat or a Republican. It is clear that he is a troubled young man. What matters is that people like Palin, Beck and others can't take time to figure out that this time is not about them, but about those who have lost loved ones, and their incredible hubris in not owning up to their own sideshow of hate. Palin and Beck tout their faith as a badge of honor, but it is in moments like these that their shallowness belies the God they claim to believe in.
If you read Alex Pareene's post, Watering the tree of liberty, you can see example after example of the violent language politicians are using without a second thought. I also think this can be a good time to talk about the different ways the media handles these types of crime based on race. In the end though, this conversation shouldn't be about Palin specifically or her imagined hurts. In fact, that's the last thing this conversation should be about.


  1. One thing (out of many) that I simply can not stand about Sarah Palin (and many other politicians and media personnel) is the fact that she never misses an opportunity to promote herself and throw those she doesn't like under the bus. It's downright nauseating, especially under circumstances like these. And her dehumanizing comments about Loughner just give us a glimpse into the way she deals with undesirable issues. Why would anyone vote for a woman who makes no attempt to cease violence through understanding but instead adds more unpleasantness to the world by using her irritating voice in an attempt to convince people that those who do bad things are not part of who we are as Americans?
    In truth, America is made up people who do both good and bad things and it is everyone's responsibility to recognize that and make a change through compassion and knowledge. I don't hold Palin responsible for the shooting because of a tasteless icon on a map or an insulting choice of words. I blame her for calling upon people to condone those we do not understand. Isn't that the cause of all violence?

  2. It's irritating how the right instantly jumped on this and politicized it by saying, before any prominant liberal even had a time to comment, "Don't politicize this!" Clearly they felt a tad guilty, and Palin's decision to take down the map on the day of the shooting is a tacit admission that it was over the top and easily misconstrued.

    The lady doth protest too much, methinks...

  3. MWB: Long, but awesome. And exactly my main concern. We can't continue to shield ourselves from these types of tragedies. We should be having very serious conversations about how we can learn from this and where we can go next.

    But I won't hold my breath.

    Bret: You're exactly right. I didn't even think of that and I hate the fact Sarah Palin is conflating blame with an overall concern about obsession with violent imagery.


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