Last week I dashed off a quick response to the tragedy in Arizona, in which I said this:
Perhaps most damning (or at least getting the lion’s share of the attention) is the “targets” used in a Sarah Palin ad to describe how Tea Party voters should target vulnerable districts in the midterm election. My nemesis has (predictably) chosen to lobby on behalf of the forces of stupid. Depressingly, so has CLS.
I usually give myself a great deal of time to mull over the news stories that I comment on here. I think we are all best served when we get a chance to consider all facets of an argument before we state on opinion. This is particularly true for me, as I tend to find my own ideas so fascinating that they simply must be true. There are some times, however, when my passion gets ahead of my reason, and I opine before I give a topic due consideration. In those cases, in addition to being perhaps not at my rhetorical best, I tend to get things wrong.
And so, I must post this retraction (a real one this time) with apologies to the above authors who I have unfairly slandered. Scary, who I still do not fully agree with, said this:
But what’s all this about it being Sarah Palin’s fault? That was predictable. Following that reasoning, then Robert De Niro, Martin Scorcese, and Paul Schrader are all culpable of the Ronald Reagan assassination attempt. What’s more, the rest of Hollywood can be branded as incendiary hate-mongerers.
Insofar as anyone assigns sole or even primary responsibility to Sarah Palin, that is indeed a mistake. Sarah Palin did not, on her own, direct the hatred and violence that was involved in this attempted assassination. She is not the author, nor is she the leader, of the firestorm of hatred and demonization of the political left. Of course the reason I disagree with Scary here is, as in most things, because he is grossly oversimplifying the argument. Nobody has made the claim that Sarah Palin is entirely responsible for the assassination attempt, and anyone who tries to make that claim probably shouldn’t be allowed too far from the house. However, since he has built the straw man himself and then knocked it down so succinctly, he is technically correct.
I owe an apology free of snark to CLS though, who said this:
I also think it is pure rubbish to say that political language caused this event. No, insanity did. That the rather inane Sarah Palin wanted to “target” the district for a Republican win had nothing to do with the attack. I’ve seen similar language from people on the Left. It is a common phrase in the English language and only the truly insane take it seriously. If someone says, “I’ll kill if X happens,” it takes a deranged mind to assume the words are literally intended. And, I would hate to live in a society where acceptable language is determined by the most insane amongst us.
Once again, while I was disappointed by the statement that Sarah Palin’s ad had “nothing to do” with the attack – I think it’s an oversimplification to suggest that anyone is drawing a line between the shooting and the ad in question and saying “this thing is solely responsible”, and nobody is criticizing the idea of using the word “target”. The objection is to her repeated use of violent gun-based rhetoric in her political discourse, and her position as the center head of Conserberus, the three-headed dog that guards the gates of stupidity. However, I too find the repeated invocation of that particular ad to be a pretty severe strain on a credible argument, and in the context of the rest of the article I am happy to let this particular paragraph slide.
There is a constant refrain that is coming only from the right, which promotes the idea of violent overthrow of the government. When you tell people that a) the government is coming to steal your liberties, b) there is a shadowy cabal of leftist financiers who are plotting against you, and that c) you must arm yourself against the inevitable coming of the government thugs who are going to take over your life, it is entirely predictable that you’re going to see an increase in paranoid and violent intent toward government officials. While the words and symbols used in political discussion occur on both sides of the aisle (although more on the right than the left, as grassrute’s completely meaningless handful of semi-related links demonstrates – really, man? A plane crash is a call to violence against someone?), there is a consistent narrative of “you must protect yourself against the government, and the second amendment will help” that comes from the political right. It’s what’s winning them elections right now. But as Malcolm X so infamously said, you can’t cry when the chickens come home to roost.
And as far as dear Sarah is concerned, to go on an 8-minute whine about how you’re being targeted by the “lame stream media” again (which, by the way, you are a part of as a Fox News anchor you stupid stupid woman), and laying a giant egg of stupid by calling it “blood libel“, to say nothing of the fact that she states quite unabashedly that the responsibility of crime starts and ends with criminals (as though environmental factors play no role whatsoever – what a coincidence that the majority of criminals are poor people…) is right in line with her usual behaviour. I heard an interesting discussion on a talk show about the no-lose situation she’s built for herself, wherein if people cheer for her it means she’s right, and if they mock, boo, or in any way show their dissent from her opinion it means she’s right because her enemies disagree. While it’s a fun psychological trick, it does make her (and those like her) particularly insulated from any kind of self-critical appraisal.
I won’t be talking about this murder anymore, and I have already spent way more time discussing American politics than I really should. This is a Canadian blog about race, free speech and religion; not politics (except when they overlap with the aforementioned). For more commentary, I suggest you read the following articles that I found particularly interesting:
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