Wednesday, January 12, 2011

"Blood libel"

Or, yet another dog whistle from Team Palin.

It took four days, but Sarah Palin's think tank has finally prepared a scripted response to the almost immediate association with what happened on Saturday in Arizona and her repeated use of gun-related language and imagery during and since the 2008 campaign, and especially during the 2010 campaign when her now infamous cross-hairs map (see my post from Jan. 9) targeted certain congressional districts across the country...including Rep. Giffords'.  Characteristically, Palin defends her own right to "vigorous and spirited public debate" but decries others debating the extent to which her or others' rhetoric has created a climate that, however inadvertantly, facilitates the kind of violence we have now witnessed.

In short:  she can dish it out, but cannot take it.

This kind of response is classic Palin; however, there was something in this last message that stood out...and I do not believe by accident.  Not happy to settle for the now familiar taunt to the "lamestream media", she has upped the ante by accusing "journalists and pundits" of "manufactur[ing] a blood libel."

"Blood libel"...sounds pretty bad, right?  But what exactly is a "blood libel"?  Wikipedia to the rescue!

A "blood libel" is a false accusation aimed at religious minorities, traditionally Jews, to foster revulsion and aid in their persecution.  Whether it's the blood of Christian babies for matzos or poisoning a well or desecrating the host, these libels created a climate of hysteria, resulting in centuries of progroms and, ultimately, the Nazi death camps.

So what's going on here?  Palin's writers could have used any number of other words to describe what they see as the media unfairly ganging up on her.  Witch-hunt.  Jihad.  Vigilantes.  But they chose "blood libel".  Think, when was the last time you heard this particular term?  If you're like me, possibly never.

It is my assertion that Palin and her writers chose this term knowingly.  As a conservative and fundamentalist Christian, she would no doubt be familiar with it.  Interestingly here, however, the accuser and the victim are inverted.  In Palin's scenario, she is the innocent Jew, falsely accused of treachery by the "Christians" -- the media.  This is provocative because we all know Palin wears her Christianity on her sleeve and that many of her ilk widely assume that the "lamestream media" is largely, if not exclusively, controlled by Jews.  In other words:  did Palin get a backhanded, anti-Semetic swipe at her media "enemies" while maintaining an escape hatch by painting herself as the wronged Jew in this "blood libel" story?

You might reasonably argue that she's simply not bright enough to have had this in mind or that I'm grasping at straws, but I would counter with the fact that her supporters' ears will prick when they hear the "blood libel" dog whistle in this carefully crafted message designed to hit back.  And I'm willing to bet not just them.

We'll see.

[Source:  TPM; image:  a 1305 Judensau from Wittenberg via Wikipedia.]

P.S.  It is perhaps also worth noting that Rep. Giffords is Jewish.  (Hat-tip:  The Guardian.]