Sarah Palin issued a statement yesterday condemning the “reprehensible” response to Saturday’s shooting in Tucson by some members of the media. “Within hours of a tragedy unfolding,” she wrote, “journalists and pundits should not manufacture a blood libel that serves only to incite the very hatred and violence they purport to condemn.”
Some have keyed on the use of the expression “blood libel” as inapt. The term usually refers to the centuries-old accusation that Jews use the blood of gentile children in making matzos for Passover. The appearance of the blood libel is often the prelude to massacres or other forms of anti-Semitic persecution and is alive and well in some parts of the world, especially the Middle East.
Mrs. Palin is well within her rights to feel persecuted. Since the Saturday bloodbath, members of the liberal commentariat have spoken in a unified voice, charging her and other conservatives with being indirectly or somehow directly responsible for the lunatic actions of accused gunman Jared Loughner. Typical of blood libel, the attack against Mrs. Palin is a false charge intended to generate anger made by people with a political agenda. They have made these claims boldly without evidence and without censure or consequence.
This is simply the latest round of an ongoing pogrom against conservative thinkers. The last two years have seen a proliferation of similar baseless charges of racism, sexism, bigotry, Islamophobia and inciting violence against those on the right who have presented ideas at odds with the establishment’s liberal orthodoxy. Columnist Paul Krugman took advantage of the murders to tar conservative icon Rush Limbaugh and Fox News superstar Glenn Beck as “hate-mongers.” It’s this sort of reflexive and dastardly mudslinging that drowns out reasoned discussion of public-policy alternatives and poisons the well of political debate in America.
The tragedy also has been exploited for more specific political gain. Rep. Jim Clyburn, South Carolina Democrat, said this week that the country should “rethink parameters on free speech” and wants to renew the so-called “fairness doctrine” which would place federal regulations on the content of media reports. Gun grabbers sense an opportunity too. Plans are afoot to introduce a bill that would ban anyone from carrying a gun within 1,000 feet of a federal official. This misguided proposal would create thousands of invisible, mobile gun-exclusion zones that would be impossible for law-abiding citizens to avoid, and in any case would not have prevented the shooting in Tucson. What anti-gun zealots always forget is that criminals who treat the law with disdain aren’t hindered by putting yet another statute on the books. Even more disgracefully, the shooting presented a fundraising opportunity as Sen. Bernie Sanders, Vermont Independent, rushed out a tasteless appeal for contributions to fight “right-wing reactionaries.”
Americans were treated to more mind-numbing hypocrisy from former Rep. Paul Kanjorski, Pennsylvania Democratic, whom the New York Times granted space Monday to opine about the need for good manners in American politics. “It is incumbent on all Americans to create an atmosphere of civility and respect in which political discourse can flow freely,” he wrote, “without fear of violent confrontation.” In October, Mr. Kanjorski told the Scranton Times Tribune that Florida Republican gubernatorial candidate Rick Scott should be gunned down. “Instead of running for governor of Florida, they ought to have him and shoot him,” Mr. Kanjorski ranted. “Put him against the wall and shoot him.” An irresponsible screed like that makes Mrs. Palin’s much decried “crosshairs” map look like a love letter, but Mr. Kanjorski has yet to be criticized by his fellow travelers who are decrying the alleged “climate of hate” in this country.
This tragedy has provided a useful warning about the hateful bile that inspires many of today’s liberals.