On January 8th, 2011 in Tucson, Arizona, nineteen people were shot, six fatally, others grievously, including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. It was an awful, unprovoked tragedy perpetrated by a lunatic. What happened afterward was an ugly smear campaign perpetrated by the Left against the Right.
It's always wise to be cautious about drawing conclusions in the midst of a national crisis. Facts are few and sketchy, frequently subject to subsequent revision as the fog of uncertainty lifts in the days that follow. Early reports are reliably wrong.
We saw no such caution from the Left. Before anything was known about the shooter we saw the Left shoot from the hip, targeting the Right - the Tea Party, Rush Limbaugh, Sarah Palin, Sharon Angle, etc. In the days that followed, as facts began to emerge, we were told that it was the violent rhetoric and imagery of the Right which was to blame for inciting this act of violence.
Even as exculpatory facts entered the public sphere - friends saying the shooter was left-leaning, classmates and teachers concerned at his odd and disturbing behavior, etc. - the accusers did not recant, nor was the smear campaign tempered. We saw much the same thing play out last year when a guy flew his plane into an IRS building.
It's a deliberate and dishonest ploy by the Left delegitimize and silence the Right, just as when they've accused the Right of being a bunch of Nazis and racists, they've now added the charge of accessory to murder. We exclude violent extremists and haters from the discourse of politics, and the Left has been relentlessly trying to push the Right outside of that sphere.
After Sarah Palin put up a video addressing this on her Facebook page she was criticized for it, naturally. For making herself the center of attention. For using the term "blood libel." Really, for not admitting culpability.
On January 17th, 2011, the WaPo ran Eugene Robinson's column, "Palin's egocentric umbrage", which addresses these criticisms, and it deserves a fisking. I'm happy to do the honors. Let's begin!
"In the spirit of civil discourse, I'd like to humbly suggest that Sarah Palin please consider being quiet for a while. Perhaps a great while."Just as I said: this is a ploy to silence the political opposition - "in the spirit of civil discourse", of course. Palin's video and statements have been nothing but civil; it's the content with which Robinson has a problem. She simply won't admit her guilt, and anything less is uncivil and warrants her preclusion from the public debate.
"At the risk of being bold, I might observe that her faux-presidential address [...]""Faux-presidential address"? Good grief. Sitting in front of a video camera with a neutral background, there she was, speaking quietly and earnestly. OK, you want to see what a "faux-presidential address" looks like? Have a look at then-candidate Barack Obama in his Invesco Field DNC acceptance speech, with the faux-columns and faux-presidential seal. That, Eugene, is faux-presidential, and I was really embarrassed for you guys back then. I suspect this swipe has more to do with Liberals speculating about a Palin presidential run next time around, although it's been hard to tell whether they're gleeful at the prospect the Republicans fielding her or worried about her chances of actually winning.
"[...] about the Tucson massacre seemed to fall somewhat flat, drawing comparisons to the least attractive public moments of such figures as Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew."So Liberals didn't like her video, and in other news, the sun rose in the East. Here's another general rule from the Liberal playbook: never praise your opposition. It's different on the Right; Obama's speech at the Tucson memorial received widespread praise, along with some minor criticisms, which surprised me not at all.
"I could go so far as to observe that Palin almost seemed to portray herself as a collateral victim. Surely a former governor of Alaska - who served the better part of an entire term - would never seek to give the impression that she views any conceivable event, no matter how distant or tragic, as being All About Sarah."This so ludicrous as to be risible, and childish to boot. It was the Left which pounded on the Right for days, and specifically on her. Palin was made a target of insinuation through no action of her own, and now they're turning it around and pretending that she's inserting herself into the story, apropos of nothing? What's more, her speech was about America and our national debate, not herself. I can't help but wonder whether Robinson even watched the video or picked up his talking points from the HuffPo instead.
"Yet this is the unfortunate impression that Palin's videotaped peroration seems to have left. I am at a loss to recommend any course of corrective action other than an extended period of abstinence from Facebook, Twitter and other social networking sites."In other words: Shut Up, Sarah. Shut up, shut up, shut up!
"Palin doubtless understands by now that characterizing her alleged persecution by journalists and commentators with the term "blood libel" was a semantic faux pas."This seemed to be the other major criticism of her video from the Left: outraged indignation and/or derision at her use of the term "blood libel" to describe what the Left has been doing. I first became aware of the term during the Second Intifada, around 2000-2001, when it was used to describe a variety of contemporary violent libels against the Jews in present-day Israel. I remember thinking, "That's a marvelously descriptive term!" I've subsequently read it here and there, perhaps a dozen times, to describe violence-related libel of both Jews and others. Jim Geraghty of NRO has put up a brief list of some of these examples.
In the context of the Tucson massacre I first read it on Instapundit from Glen Reynolds. Indeed, Glen: blood libel is the perfect description of what the Left has been doing to the Right.
Of course, I don't know whether Sarah Palin was aware of the ancient historical roots of the term, or of its subsequent usage unrelated to that history, but I wouldn't be surprised if she was. Naturally, the Left would be very surprised if she was. Neither side has any evidence either way, but note how the Left has assumed that she was unaware. Naturally.
"One must question, however, not only the tone of her complaint but the content as well. Did she, indeed, have a legitimate grievance? I must be frank: The evidence suggests not."Oh, yes, let's have it, Eugene.
"Days earlier, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, a Democrat, had been shot while meeting with her constituents; six people were killed in the incident, including a federal judge, and more than a dozen others injured. It happens that Giffords' district, in southern Arizona, is passionately divided on just about every hot-button issue."OK, so here's his first point: political passions run high in Arizona!
"It also turns out that before last November's election, Giffords gave a television interview expressing her concern about the bitterness and rancor of our political debate. In the interview, Giffords cited a graphic that Palin had posted on Facebook - a map identifying congressional districts being targeted for Republican gains. The districts, including that of Giffords, were highlighted with an unfortunate symbol: the cross hairs of a rifle scope."Well, yes, but Rep. Giffords was hardly the first to voice that complaint. The Left has also been harrasing the Right for years on end about the tone of their political opposition. So here's his next point: Rep. Giffords was dismayed by the political rancor from the Right!
"One of Palin's aides must have been trying to lighten a dreary week with a bit of humor when she claimed that the cross hairs were actually those of a surveyor's scope."Ah, no. I hotlinked his quote above as it was in his original column. Go ahead and clickthrough that link of his and you'll find that the Palin aide said they were surveyor's marks, as would appear on a map. The piece he links to even has a hotlink to a USGS website which has the very symbol in question.
"Perhaps the ruse would have been more effective if viewers of Palin's "reality" television show hadn't recently watched her use a high-powered rifle, not a theodolite, to fell a caribou."... and your columns, Eugene, would greatly benefit if you actually read the things to which you link, assuming that your misrepresentation was due to sloppiness and not malice. Now, personally, when I first saw the those marks I thought they were target symbols. I still do, as the crosshairs of a scope are a more familiar symbol than the marks of a surveyor. Nevertheless, it's a far stretch that this is an incitement to murder, which is the implicit accusation that Robinson and the Left are making.
"Or, indeed, if Palin hadn't famously counseled fellow Republicans not to retreat but instead to "reload."Well, let's take a look at that. The Republicans were not literally retreating. In order to reload, one has to have already discharged the loaded ammunition in a gun. Since neither applies in a literal sense, it is nonsensical to use this as an incitement to murder. The audience understood it as metaphor even as the Left pretended otherwise. Indeed, all of these military terms are understood as such in American politics, as evidence by the electorate. Right-wingers are neither taking up arms against the Left nor taking pot-shots at them, insofar as we can tell. There are the occasional gun-related incidents on the Left and the Right, but the assertion by the Left that this will incite the Right is provably wrong. What's more, military lingo and imagery have been used in conjunction with political campaigns since, well, forever. Further, one might reasonably expect the side which favors gun ownership to use gun-related imagery and words, which Republicans do; one would expect the opposite of the anti-gun Democrats, but their avoidance of these terms has been less than studious.
Of course, as the Left has long characterized the Right as a bunch of rootin' tootin' gun-totin' redneck yahoos, and have long since come to believe these catcalls and insults they've hurled, the incitement charge perhaps seems somewhat plausible to them. Well, no, not really. They know who to be genuinely afraid of: militant Islamic jihadists. If you piss off those guys they'll cut your head off, so Liberals don't dare provoke 'em. The Rightwing? Nah, not scary at all, which is why Liberals feel free to insult them.
"In her statement, Palin gave the impression of being appalled that journalists mentioned the cross-hairs graphic in the hours after the rampage in Tucson. She singled out reporters and pundits, not political activists who might bear partisan animus. Surely she must have anticipated that viewers who recall her course of collegiate study - journalism - would be baffled at this reaction."Because reporters, as we all know, are strictly non-partisan and never, ever let their biases affect their reporting! Well, so they tell us. Reporters and editors of the dinosaur media by and large heavily lean Liberal/Left and often report in a dishonest, slanted way to either hurt their political opposition or help their side. Case in point: the Tucson shootings. Our national media, print and (so I'm told) video, have by-and-large jumped on the insinuation bandwagon, but only because that insinuation is directed at the Right. If they were unbiased then we should see them increasingly insinuate the culpability of the Left, as more evidence and indicators show that the Tucson shooter was left-leaning. Not happening, is it?
"In the days since, we have learned that the alleged gunman, Jared Lee Loughner, appears to be an unbalanced young man whose political views are confused and perhaps irrelevant. But at the time, nothing was known about the assailant or his motives."Not so. MSNBC wasted no time in liking the shooting to the Tea Party and Sarah Palin on January 8th, the day of the shooting, even before we knew much of anything about the shooter (and, thus, before anyone could know anything about his politics or state of mind). The earliest reports on the shooter were that his political views were "confused."
Indeed, the state of mind of the shooter is of utmost importance. At the risk of committing libel myself, I think we can all agree that it appears the Loughner is certifiably crazy. Much like Sirhan Sirhan, who heard voices telling him to kill RFK, or Lee Harvey Oswald, who was a communist so bonkers that even the Soviet Union couldn't use him or keep him for propaganda when he defected to the USSR. To try to discern the politics of a lunatic is to try to superimpose a template of rational order on what is, by definition, disordered and irrational. We do not take seriously the political views of someone who believed that the government is using mind control on us through the use of grammar.
"I am confident that at least one of Palin's professors must have taught her that in reporting about a shooting, the fact that the principal target felt threatened is highly relevant information, as is the specific nature of that threat."Actually, Eugene, you fool, it's completely irrelevant. Logic and law tell us that if the murderer is rational we need to establish a causal relationship between the alleged incitement and the act of murder, and if the perpetrator is irrational then it has little, if any, bearing. At this point the linkage appears nothing more than coincidental, at best, assuming that the alleged incitements could be interpreted as having an inciting effect, an assumption I have already challenged.
"It is also relevant that most of the violent political rhetoric that blights the public discourse is emanating from the far right - a constituency for which Palin speaks, often so colorfully."Leaving aside the characterization of Sarah Palin as "far right" - objectively, like it or not, she is definitionally mainstream - this assertion is hogwashian balderdash. During the Bush years the worst sort of imagery and rhetoric came from the far Left, and was tolerated or applauded by Liberals. OK, one quick example: remember "Death of a President"? That British wish-fulfillment film about the assassination of then-sitting POTUS George W. Bush? How did the Liberal/Left react to that being shown nationwide in American movie theaters? With open arms. Such a thing was not, shall we say, out of bounds. Now, imagine the reaction if a similar film were to be released now about sitting POTUS Obama...
"In the 1960s and '70s, this was not the case; anti-government invective and unsettling talk of "revolution" came primarily from the far left."In addition to openly advocating revolution and opposing the government in every form and in every way, they also carried out actual murders and bombings, but Robinson has whitewashed this from his accounting of Leftist sins past. Down the memory hole they go!
"Palin is perhaps too young to remember that era, but as a student of history she must have read about it - and must recognize the contrast between then and now."I'm also too young to remember that, but even a cursory comparison between then and now shows the Leftists of that era to be utterly and completely beyond the bounds of civil discourse in ways which were unequivocally violent and treasonous. Nowadays the best the Left can muster is, "Hey, that map `targeting' Democrats has crosshairs on in - that means they want to kill Democrats!" and the like. By contrast, Leftists of the 60's and 70's openly advocated the violent overthrow of the United States, and occasionally acted on that threat in violent ways. They blew things up. They killed people.
"For her to take such umbrage, then, at the reporting of evident, pertinent and factual information deepened the impression that she is - and I must be frank - astoundingly thin-skinned and egocentric."How dare the narcissistic bitch defend herself!
"[...] Palin portrayed herself as not only a popular champion but also a martyr [...]"Oh, that's rich: she's made herself out to be a martyr. Get it? Those other people got shot, killed, and here Palin is making herself a martyr. Thing is, if you were to actually watch the video, she never speaks directly of the allegations made against her. Instead, she speaks in vague, third-person terms of a general nature, only alluding to the "target" map, for example.
"Or perhaps - solely in the interest of civil discourse - that there be no next address."... because, in Liberal-land, the terms of "civil discourse" are that YOU WINGNUTS SHUT UP, got it?