It is not often that I find it necessary to set aside my press credentials and lend an opinion to public discourse on any given subject that I report on. However, that said, I need to comment not as an American which I am not, nor as a Canadian which I am, but rather as a human being and responsible adult living in a divisive and polarized society here in the United States.
Earlier today, former Alaska Governor, Sarah Palin, issued a video statement in response to the tragic assassination attempt on the life of U.S. Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, which resulted in Rep. Giffords being critically injured, six persons left dead, including a nine year old child and a sitting federal judge, and 13 others seriously injured.
In the initial hours as law enforcement commenced their investigative work, the Sheriff of Pima County, Ariz., in a press briefing, made an impassioned statement regarding what the good sheriff felt was of a contributory circumstance to the shooter’s actions — the elevated vitriolic rhetoric that has been seen, heard, and utilized in the American political process particularly over these past three years.
Commentators, reporters, and the public immediately took positions both pro and con on the sheriff’s remarks, which by the way, he has consistently maintained accurately reflect his viewpoint through the course of the unfolding aftermath in Tucson.
During the coverage of this tragic event, myself, colleagues, and others in the blogosphere and media included a particular graphic that had been employed in the campaign by the political action committee headed by Palin, advocating specific “targeting” of opposition congressional districts including Representative Giffords in the last election cycle.
The graphic(s) were clearly depicting a series “gunsight crosshairs” superimposed over various congressional districts including Congresswoman Giffords’ district. This was intentional on our part to illustrate, in part, Sheriff Clarence Dupnik’s assertions.
Dupnik has been under relentless fire from conservatives since his impassioned and impromptu plea for an end to hateful and violent rhetoric. So much in fact, as ABC News anchor Diane Sawyer reported last evening on “World News Tonight,” the Sheriff and conservative hard line radio pundit Rush Limbaugh have traded barbs.
Which brings me to today’s Palin video, my colleagues at Politico reported:
Palin has faced criticism for images that look like gun crosshairs to identify the districts of Democrats who were vulnerable in the 2010 elections, that of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), who was shot on Saturday.
Responsibility lies “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 with law-abiding citizens who respectfully exercise their First Amendment rights at campaign rallies, not with those who proudly voted in the last election,” Palin said.
Palin placed blame on the media.”[E]specially within hours of a tragedy unfolding, journalists and pundits should not manufacture a blood libel that serves only to incite the very hatred and violence they purport to condemn,” she said. “That is reprehensible.”
I want to highlight specifically the former governor’s choice of using the term ‘blood libel’ when attempting to deflect responsibility for her own rhetoric and her critique of the media.
By using the term “blood libel” to describe the criticism about political rhetoric after the shootings, Palin was inventing a new definition for an emotionally laden phrase.
Blood libel is typically used to describe the false accusation that Jews murder Christian children to use their blood in religious rituals, in particular the baking of matzos for passover. The term has been used for centuries as the pretext for anti-semitism and violent pogroms against Jews.
Given that Congresswoman Giffords is Jewish, its absolutely reprehensible to ‘coin’ a term to use in a public statement such as that made by today by Palin.
Instead of taking ownership and accountability for the mere chance that the troubled and obviously mentally at risk shooter might have been influenced by such rhetoric, Palin, and in fact nearly all of the so-called conservative right, have attempted to blame the poisonous atmosphere that surrounds the American political landscape on the opposition and those who decry such vitriol.
The New York Times reported this morning:
Ms. Palin was not the only one to respond to criticism Wednesday. Sharron Angle, the Tea Party-backed Republican who lost her Senate race against Democrat Harry Reid of Nevada, also issued a statement defending herself against criticism.
“Expanding the context of the attack to blame and to infringe upon the people’s Constitutional liberties is both dangerous and ignorant,” she said in the statement, according to media reports. “The irresponsible assignment of blame to me, Sarah Palin or the Tea Party movement by commentators and elected officials puts all who gather to redress grievances in danger.”
Ms. Angle said during the campaign that voters could pursue “Second Amendment remedies” if the political process doesn’t work for them. In the wake of the shooting, those remarks have been criticized anew.
But Ms. Angle said in her statement Wednesday that: “Finger-pointing towards political figures is an audience-rating game and contradicts the facts as they are known – that the shooter was obsessed with his twisted plans long before the Tea Party movement began.”
I see this as a massive effort to minimize the reality of this entire tragic event which no rational thinking individual cannot but help wonder what may have influenced the shooter’s decision, contributing to his apparent twisted mental state.
“We will not be stopped from celebrating the greatness of of our country and our foundational freedoms by those who mock its greatness by being intolerant of differing opinion and seeking to muzzle dissent with shrill cries of imagined insults,” she said.
When is it acceptable to put gun sights on a political opponent in campaign literature, to encourage 2nd Amendment “solutions” and wanting your supporters to be “armed and dangerous?” This is definitely NOT nonviolent rhetoric, and this in no way “condems” violence.
I thought about embedding the former governor’s video recorded remarks, and decided that I am not going to be a party to further enabling her to spread a message that contains such a vile use of that term, attempting to redefine blood libel, in her efforts to be a ministrant to her core audience and followers and justify without holding herself accountable in a continuation of irresponsible political rhetoric.
I find that conduct reprehensible.