01/13/11-by Bridgette P. LaVictoire
Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin is being called to task for not choosing her words with care, and not realizing that words have consequences. Rather than talking about that, she has taken to Facebook to lambast those who question the pervasively violent nature of the recent debate that was far more about intimidation and far less about civil debate. While the issue of her use of the phrase “blood libel”, a phrase associated with Jewish stereotypes and persecutions that are still used by anti-Semites today, has been dealt with elsewhere, the rest of what she stated should also be noted.
Governor Palin said in her Facebook posting “Vigorous and spirited public debates during elections are among our most cherished traditions.” Indeed they are, but using gun metaphors and talking about taking the country back (from whom? This is our country too) is hardly spirited debate. That is not debate over the issues, but rather intimidation intended to scare one’s opponent and try to force the debate to be one sided.
“There are those who claim political rhetoric is to blame for the despicable act of this deranged, apparently apolitical criminal. And they claim political debate has somehow gotten more heated just recently. But when was it less heated? Back in those ‘calm days’ when political figures literally settled their differences with dueling pistols?”
“But less than a week after Congresswoman Giffords reaffirmed our protected freedoms, another member of Congress announced that he would propose a law that would criminalize speech he found offensive.”
“It is in the hour when our values are challenged that we must remain resolved to protect those values. Recall how the events of 9-11 challenged our values and we had to fight the tendency to trade our freedoms for perceived security. And so it is today.”
When was it calmer? Sometime around, oh, 1992. Or 2000. Or 1996. The rhetoric prior to 9/11 was never this over the top militaristic speech and utter dehumanization of the opposition that it has become today. In fact, it is nearly back to the days when people settled their differences by duels (illegal, btw). It was not this pervasive militarism that we find today even as far back as 2004. Rather, this came about in 2008 with the rise of President Barack Obama, and it came from the Right and from Sarah Palin. It merely got worse over time.
What is more, the move by the member of Congress to suppress this kind of speech has already been denounced- by the Left. It was John Milton, the poet and author, who wrote “None can love freedom but good men; the rest love not freedom, but license, which never hath more scope than under Tyrants.” Perhaps a better quote would be found in the works of Terry Prachett “And no practical definition of freedom would be complete without the freedom to take the consequences. Indeed, it is the freedom upon which all the others are based.” Taken together, the reality is that what Palin and the others have done is not engage in Free Speech, but rather the Free License to say anything that they want and do not want to take the consequences thereof.
Others are pushing back as well. Sarah Palin’s decision to try and turtle herself against the attacks is not going unchallenged.
Indeed, today The Washington Post’s Jonathan Capehart said on MSNBC “Times like this call for statesmen. It’s a time that calls for people to come together and to try to move everyone along. What Sarah Palin has done is just continue her defensive crouch.”
Anthea Butler wrote on her blog:
Sarah Palin just made her horrendous week worse with her new video in which she accuses her political critics of “blood libel.”
This gaffe — demonstrating both an ignorance of religious history and language — tops a disastrous week: her crosshairs map has been Exhibit A in the discussion of the use of gun-related imagery in political rhetoric. But her PR has been woefully inadequate in explaining the map away as “surveyors symbols.” Her TLC show will not be renewed by TLC, her chances for a successful run at the presidency have been downgraded, and even Barbara Walters expressed “feeling a bit sorry for her.” Palin, however, has remained aloof and cocooned in Wasilla, while hired minions wipe her Facebook page constantly so that negative comments do not show up. So how is Barracuda Barbie a.k.a. Queen Esther shaping her response? The persecution meme.
Palin’s typical pattern is that she takes a phrase from somebody (in this case, possibly Glenn Reynolds, writing in the Wall Street Journal), picks it up, and uses it for her own. In today’s debacle, referring to criticism of her “crosshairs” map as a “blood libel,” Palin shows that even if six people are killed, it’s still all about her. The strategic release of this video, before President Obama travels to Arizona today for a memorial service, shows her self-serving political ends. In addition to misuing the term blood libel — which historically refers to the accusation that Jews murder Christian babies — her additional reference to dueling shows that she will not retreat from any violence-laden speech.
Blood libel, a term rooted in medieval Christianity, started as a rumor that Jews were killing Christian babies, and using their blood to mix into matzoh. The blood libel, refuted first by Pope Innocent IV through a series of papal bulls, has nonetheless persisted throughout history as a way for Christians at times to scapegoat Jews. Palin, by calling the media’s alleged persecution of her a “blood libel” plays into this evil history by inference. But does she understand how this comment of blood libel appears anti-Semitic? Not only is Rep. Giffords Jewish, but accusing the media of “blood libel” could be seen as playing into anti-Semitic memes that Jews control the media.
The images evoked by the term “blood libel” were also used against other groups including Catholics and Pagans, though the term itself is uniquely used to refer to horrific images and rumors used to attack Judaism.
South Carolina Democratic Representative James Clyburn, however, was far less kind.
“You know, Sarah Palin just can’t seem to get it, on any front. I think she’s an attractive person, she is articulate. But I think intellectually, she seems not to be able to understand what’s going on here.”
“I have some experiences that maybe she does not have. When I see and hear things today that are reminiscent of that period of time, I am very, very concerned about it, because I know what it led to back then, and I know what it can lead to again.”
It appears that Palin has pulled her stuff, or that is what we are hearing at LGR. It is already too late.