Jan 9th, 2011
by F. Grey Parker
moderate Republicans and decent Americans were appalled when Sarah Palin's PAC used weaponized language last year in conjunction with the release of this cute graphic. We were met with derision from her supporters and the far right as if we were somehow trying to suppress her speech. We were not. As a matter of fact, most of us argued clearly that such imagery is simply contrary to the fundamental principles of the Republic.
The modest proposal most made was that framing electoral contests with the terminology of guns, suggesting "2nd Amendment remedies" in the event of ballot defeat and , yes, the placement of gun-sight targets on maps over the districts of political opponents was, at the very least, irresponsible. Rather than engage with her critics in a discussion of the implications of such tactics, Mrs Palin doubled down. In fact, "Don't retreat, reload" became her catch phrase of the year. There is no way to count precisely the number of times she repeated it for the gleeful consumption of her loyalists, often with her trademark wink and a practiced, "you betcha."
As everyone now knows, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ), one of the 20 politicians targeted by Palin's disturbing agit-prop, has actually been shot. The image has been "scrubbed" from her various web presences. Some of her supporters, however, continue to actually defend it with the flimsiest of excuses. Loyal Palinista and devoted employee Rebecca Mansour went so far as to repeat the claim in an interview yesterday that the gun sights weren't actually gun sights at all: "We never ever, ever intended it to be gun sights."
The Palin supporting interviewer, Tammy Bryce, chimed in, "it's surveyor's symbols."
My point here is not to explicitly blame Mrs. Palin for this insane act of terrible violence. Nor is my point to blame the poster. For the sake of argument, let's say this act and her rhetoric are not directly related.
That doesn't change a thing. The image is no more disgusting and un-American today than it was prior to the shooting. It is exactly the same. It was unforgivable then and it is reprehensible now.
We still have much to determine in the motivations of the assassin who took 6 lives yesterday and wounded 14 others, nearly killing Rep. Giffords. I, for one, kept my immediate reactions largely contained. Suffice to say, the eagerness to lay blame for this event at this time is territory that ought be tread carefully.
Nevertheless, as details continue to emerge about the shooter, Jared Loughner, two things are increasingly clear. The first is that the man is deeply sick and twisted. The second is that he very likely responded to an atmosphere created by the cynical rage-speak which has overwhelmed contemporary discourse. For this, in spite of many back-flipping reaches over the past 24 hours, there is no left-right equivalence. No matter how many inappropriate, fringe remarks the right can dig up and attribute to the left, there is no one using the language of murder on the progressive side who has been rewarded with multi-million dollar broadcasting contracts or a potential Presidential bid, in part, because of that rhetoric.
So. Let's not blame Sarah for this tragedy. Let us view her through it's prism. She owns it as much as anyone else who has worked to drag our country into the mud.
So now we wait. And we watch the spin.