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“Blood Libel?” “Dangerous” Critics? Palin, Angle Doth Protest Too Much

Sigh. So I guess I have to comment on Sarah Palin’s statement on the Tucson shooting, which was actually a statement about Sarah Palin, of course. First of all, the faux sincerity achieved by shaking her head a little bit from side-to-side is grating. But enough of the theater criticism.

Second, you have to love the statement, cribbed from Reagan, that “we have to restore the American precept that each person is accountable for his actions” from the woman who sent out her spokesman to claim that the crosshairs map actually had “surveyor symbols” on it.

And third, there’s this “blood libel” part. I have to figure whoever wrote this for Palin knew precisely what that metaphor was all about. It’s not an accident that Palin likens herself to a persecuted religious sect. She has the victimization thing down pat. But there’s a certain monstrousness in comparing being criticized, by political opponents and media figures, to claiming that Jews eat their matzos soaked in the blood of Christian babies as a pretext for a pogrom.

Finally, I join with Palin in her criticism of Bob Brady’s proposed bill that would criminalize speech. That’s not the answer, and I particularly don’t trust government to decide what constitutes protected speech and what doesn’t. But there’s a difference between freedom of speech and freedom from criticism. Palin wants both, and the latter appears nowhere in the founding documents or the laws of the land. Nobody forced her to become a public figure, and nobody gave her a card offering immunity from criticism. If you don’t want to be misunderstood for inciting violence through rhetoric, the best remedy is to not put yourself in that situation to begin with. That’s best settled with a norm and not a law.

I’ll leave the rest to Jim Clyburn:

Clyburn said that Palin didn’t grasp why such rhetoric was so troubling, regardless of the motivations of the alleged shooter of Giffords. The No. 3 House Democrat referenced the Civil Rights Era, and said that some of the shrill rhetoric in modern politics are reminiscent of that time in history.

“I have some experiences that maybe she does not have,” he said. “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.”

I noticed Sharron Angle came out on the same day to defend her “Second Amendment remedies” statement. These two, Angle and Palin, are fighting phantoms. Nobody blames them directly for whispering in Jared Loughner’s ear. The violent rhetoric stands on its own as subject to criticism. What conservatives who protest too much want is to immunize themselves from any criticism whatsoever, and shut down anyone who calls for a reduction in the tone of debate, even if they call out both sides. Rage worked in the last cycle, and at some level conservatives don’t want that arrow taken from their quiver.

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David Dayen

David Dayen