13 January 2011

Blood Libel: The Sarah Palin Defense...

Politics is a heated business at the best of times, and rhetoric is often emotive and extreme. There is undoubtedly consequences from this continual ratcheting-up of the rhetoric and the anger. Whether or not the recent mass-killings in Tuscon, Arizona, are proof of this remains a contentious issue of debate. However, Sarah Palin, the one-time Governor of Alaska and Republican Vice-Presidential candidate, is at the center and forefront of this debate.

Sarah Palin makes up for her deficiencies as a politician by using extremely emotive language that disguises the fact that she does not know much about what she must know about to ever become President of the United States. In the lead-up to the recent mid-term elections in the US she was responsible for producing a map that had cross-hairs marking marginal congressional seats that she believed the Tea Party could "target" and win. One of these seats was that of Gabrielle Giffords. Giffords was shot and critically wounded in the Tuscon shootings.

The point of this post is not to question whether that sort of action is an incitement to act that requires some individual who is a couple of sandwiches short of a picnic basket to go buy a gun and kill a few people. To each their own on that one. This post is about how Palin has responded to the accusation that her extreme rhetoric is a trigger to this violence.

Palin stayed quiet for several days. In hindsight, she should have stayed quiet. Palin posted the following video on her Facebook page:

The argument that "acts of monstrous criminality stand on their own" is only true to the extent that the person who commits those crimes, in this case pulls the trigger, is responsible for their actions. However, it would be naive to suggest that every action is independent of every other action. It would be remiss to just accept that people cannot be incited to act when they might otherwise have not acted. Although, in this instance, it would seem that Jared Lee Loughner, the shooter, had serious issues way before Palin started bandying around maps with cross-hairs.

Yet, Palin was not willing to leave it there she then went on to say this:

“Especially 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 that they purport to condemn. That is reprehensible.”

Blood Libel is an emotive term. It is a loaded term. It has a very specific meaning that is linked to anti-Semitism. Blood libel in essence is a myth that Jews sacrificed Christian children in the lead up to Passover. The blood of these Christian children was then used in medicinal rituals and to bake unleavened bread (matzsos). The blood libel myth has been used throughout history to justify pogroms against Jews and is an underlying piece of the propaganda puzzle that has been employed to justify some of the most heinous atrocities committed by humans against their fellow human beings.

A blood libel is not simply just a false accusation, but rather there are very specific understandings that go with the use of the term.

What is even more bizarre about this line of defense is that Gabrielle Giffords is a Jew. Surely, Sarah Palin and her people are not that stupid that they did not do the hard research yards to firstly find out what the term meant and secondly to think about the context in which they were about to use it, or are they?

Let's assume that she or her minions are not that stupid, then this is a cold, calculating, and deliberate attempt to inflame and incite this situation even further. It is only fair to question Palin's motivations for using the term blood libel. Is Palin suggesting that like the Jews she is being falsely accused or is she suggesting that it is a Jewish conspiracy to undermine her?

I am all for freedom of speech. As much as it sometimes pains me, I do believe that there is a freedom of speech that we all enjoy. But, I believe that freedom of speech and expression is not absolute. The freedoms that we enjoy to speech and expression must be used responsibly. When one chooses to exercise their freedom of speech and expression irresponsibly then they must be brought to account.

In this instance, there were so many other ways and terms that Sarah Palin could have employed to have made the point that she thought she was being unfairly criticised with regards to the Tuscon killings. However, she chose to use a term that was designed to prolong the controversy and to keep the news cycle running and to keep her name at the front and center of that news cycle.

I wonder if the next news-bite from the Palin camp will be about exercising a few of her rights under the Bill of Rights, perhaps she might start exercising her Second Amendment rights not just to keep and bear arms but start using them to return America to exceptionalism?

I am shaking my head at the thought of a Palin run for the presidency of the US...


Anonymous said...

The way every word or action she takes is under a microscope,i think she should enjoy her life and family and stay away from politics,i read one of her books,she seems more down to earth and has more common sense than most public servants.It was sad reading about all the attacks on her,senseless sue happy people.Her job as governor and the good works she did,she is more qualified to be president than our current one who has no real expierience at all.RW

Rob Baiton said...

@ Anonymous (RW?)...

That is the nature of the public eye, when you are in it you are going to be scrutinised. This includes the words you use and the choices of language that you make.

Whether or not she has more common sense than most is an issue many seem willing to debate. I have not read her books. Although, I was looking at one the other day and wondering why it was marked down so much for sale, Going Rogue.

As to whether she would make a better president than Barack Obama is a moot point. After all, they both went to the American people in a fair and democratic election process and the people spoke in favour of Barack Obama.

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