Palin, Like Most Conservatives, Fails To Understand The Controversy

Sarah (Reload) Palin has finally responded to the criticism of her use of crosshairs in an ad featuring Gabrielle Giffords but, like other conservatives weighing in, shows she totally fails to understand what the controversy is about. This is not about whether this particular graphic precipitated the crime or whether Sarah Palin is personally responsible. This is not the criticism being made, and not what the liberal blogs have been talking about.

The concern on the left goes far beyond the crosshairs. It includes Palin’s link to the controversial graphic with calls for supporters to “reload,” and for the general atmosphere of hatred seen in her public appearances.  Conservatives are taking a very simplistic approach to this entire matter.  Their argument seems to be that if the crosshairs did not precipitate this particular shooting then  conservatives deserve no criticism for the hateful tone and violent allusions in their speech.

Liberals have a view which seems to be far too complicated for the simplistic reptilian minds of  these conservatives: The hate speech is wrong, regardless of whether it influenced this particular shooter. Right wing inspired violence extends beyond this particular episode. The atmosphere is still poisonous. It is also simplistic to act as if it is all or nothing as to whether current right wing hate speech had an influence in this case. The murderer did not live in a vacuum. There were probably many influences on him, and it is naive it say that recent trend of conservative hate speech going mainstream didn’t have an influence.

Palin had an opportunity to speak to those beyond her extremist supporters but failed to do so. She would have been much smarter to admit the crosshairs went to far, and that she should have taken this down when Giffords had first complained. She would have minimized the damage to admit she was wrong and had learned from this episode. Instead Palin denies all responsibility for her actions. In contrast, Keith Olbermann, who has neither the high profile of Palin or allusions to violence in the manner of Palin, has recognized the problem and repudiated “any act or any thing in my past that may have even inadvertently encouraged violence.”

Conservatives identify with their extremes while liberals typically oppose extremes of the far left as much as the far right. Conservatives see criticism of speech promoting hatred as an attack purely on them. To me it doesn’t matter whether Jared Loughner expressed views of the far right or left. Deranged individuals such as Loughner commonly express views from both extremes, although conservatives have been quick to deny the degree to which Loughner echos many ideas of the far right. The problem is the manner in which the far right both identifies government as the enemy and makes violence s0und acceptable with their inappropriate display of guns along with calls for revolution and “Second Amendment remedies.”  This is wrong even if it had zero influence upon Loughner (which is unlikely).

Palin further showed her inability to be presidential by releasing her response on Facebook as she continues to be afraid to respond to questions from the news media or speak to those beyond her extremist supporters. She has created further controversy by the inappropriate claim of “blood libel,” including condemnation from the Anti-Defamation League. Issuing a statement seen as anti-Semitic is hardly a pathway for Palin to use this tragedy to move from the fringes to someone who could ever be seen as acceptable by the mainstream.

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  1. 1
    Eclectic Radical says:

    I keep waiting for the movie version of ‘You Can’t Be Neutral On A Moving Train’ or the tv miniseries ‘A People’s History of the United States’ but they aren’t forthcoming.
    Speaking for the far left, I’m terribly disappointed in our Hollywood commies. lol

  2. 2
    dualdiagnosis says:

    Osler says his friend wasn’t shooting at people, “he was shooting at the world.” Regarding the high-pitched talk radio and cable news political rhetoric, Osler says his friend didn’t even watch the news.

    He did not watch TV. He disliked the news. He didn’t listen to political radio. He didn’t take sides. He wasn’t on the left. He wasn’t on the right.

  3. 3
    John says:


    The film documentary “You Can’t be Neutral on a Moving Train” is available at Netflix. It’s good, and available via direct digital stream.

  4. 4
    Ron Chusid says:

    That is consistent with the blind rage those of us on the left are criticizing, and which conservatives fail to understand. It is not necessary to be on the left or right to be influenced by the incitements to violence which the right wing has made commonplace.

    It is rather ridiculous to take these limited items about his life and jump to conclusions. The question of the potential danger of the incitment of hatred by the right is not dependent upon this one individual’s beliefs. Reports of him not watching TV or listening to radio also mean little. As I stated in the post, he did not live in a vacume. We know he used the internet. We know that he repeated many ideas which are common on the far right. We know he read. We know he followed a member of Congress.

  5. 5
    Elizabeth McKinley says:

    RT @RonChusid: #Palin, Like Most Conservatives, Fails To Understand The Controversy #p2 #p21 #topprog

  6. 6
    Jim Z. says:

    This post is one of the clearest, best written descriptions of the situation.  Thanks.

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