It’s all over the blogosphere. Look at memeorandum’s top articles, and you’ll see they’re all about Sarah Palin’s video defense of herself in which she calls the attacks blaming her for the Giffords shootings a “blood libel.”
Even some on the right consider her choice of words unfortunate. Jonah Goldberg suggests that her use of the phrase in this context “is not ideal.” After all, it’s historically been employed as an anti-Semitic accusation against Jews, alleging that they murder Christian children in order to employ their blood in rituals. The goal of the blood libel is to incite pogroms and reprisals against Jews.
And at Harry’s Place the question of whether Palin even understands the term has been raised.
But what phrase would have been better? I actually can’t think of one. Yes, “blood libel” is not exactly correct. No one is accusing Palin of being a Jew who has killed a child to use its blood in making matzos. But, as I pointed out in my recent piece for PJ, most normal people understand figures of speech, and Palin is using an analogy here that is actually rather apt.
Sarah Palin is known for many things. One of them is that she doesn’t pull her rhetorical punches. We saw that in particular when she trotted out the phrase “death panels” to describe the direction in which she thought HCR was inevitably headed.
I believe that, like her or hate her (and I’ve gone on record saying I don’t think she’s a good candidate for the 2012 presidency), Palin chooses her phrases carefully and knows what she’s doing. And I would guess that, as a religious Christian and strong supporter of Israels and Jews, Palin knows exactly what the blood libel is and has an awareness of the history behind the use of the phrase.
I am wondering how it would feel to be reeling from hearing the dreadful news of the Tucson assassination/massacre, and then almost immediately to find oneself accused of inciting it by press and an opposition solemnly and sanctimoniously intoning the charge in transparently hypocritical hope of elevating the tone of political discourse while simultaneously pointing the finger of bloody guilt at their hated opponent. You know, the phrase “blood libel” might just come to mind.
What the left has done to Sarah Palin has been disgusting right from the start. But the accusation that she is responsible for the Tucson killings might just be a new low. So let’s see how the term “blood libel” might apply:
(1) The charge stems from irrational and long-term hatred of Palin for what and who she is.
(2) They are saying she is an accessory before the fact to an assassination attempt and several cold-blooded murders, including that of a child.
(3) The goal of the charge is to provoke a hateful backlash against her.
(4) It is part of a long-term pattern of stirring up irrational hatred towards Palin.
Fearless though Palin appears to be, it’s actually possible that, when she heard of the Giffords shooting, the thought passed through her mind that she’s similarly at risk from crazies stirred up by the hatred directed towards her from the other side.
Would I have used the term “blood libel?” Probably not. But I’m not Sarah Palin. I haven’t been the target of the most vicious campaign against a politician in modern memory. Within hours, death threats against Palin began to pop up on Twitter. I think Sarah Palin’s earned the right to use the term “blood libel” to describe what’s going on:
[NOTE: Instapundit’s Glenn Reynold used the term first to describe what’s been happening to Palin in the wake of the Giffords shooting, and he got only a little bit of flak for it.
(Am I still allowed to say “flak?”)
Here Reynolds points out previous political uses of the term “blood libel.” But they didn’t elicit a peep of protest because, as he also points out, the speaker wasn’t Sarah Palin.]
[ADDENDUM: Support for Sarah from a surprising source. Good for him.
Did you know Palin wrote her speech in Tucsonese blood? True story.
Well, that’s actually not true… but she wanted to. Prove she didn’t!]
[ADDENDUM III: The Anchoress is spot on in her assessment.]
[ADDENDUM IV: This piece by Dr. Sanity is a few days old, but still relevant and well worth reading.]