As soon as I saw the first post reporting that Gabrielle Giffords had been shot and that Giffords was one of the Democratic representatives “targeted” by Palin, I knew two things were about to happen in the lefty blogosphere.
- A slew of angry bloggers and Twitterers would single out Palin as the most pernicious of all right wing evils, hurling misogynist invective as they blame her for the shooting.
- A group of Hillary supporters would rush to Palin’s defense, denouncing not just the sexist attacks and death wishes but any and all attempts to connect right wing eliminationist rhetoric in general and Palin’s actions in particular to the Tucson shooting.
No matter that Giffords herself expressed concern about Palin’s crosshairs map back in March.
No matter that when asked, following the shooting, if his daughter had any enemies, Giffords’ father replied, “Yeah, the entire Tea Party.”
No matter that we have seen a marked increase in right-wing violence in recent years (note that the linked timeline documents only gun violence; it doesn’t include incidents such as the head stomping of the MoveOn member at the Rand Paul rally that was widely defended in Republican circles), much of it tied more or less directly to the inflammatory rhetoric of Beck, Limbaugh, Palin, O’Reilly, etc.
No, none of that mattered. Anyone who speculated about the effect Palin’s rhetoric and crosshairs map may have had on the shooter was no different than people calling her a c*nt and wishing her dead.
Sadly, this knee-jerk defense of everything Palin says and does is nothing new, so the reactions of some of my favorite bloggers to the shooting were entirely predictable.
Palin is no different than other far right fundies, and attempts to single her out as the worst of the worst are often motivated by misogyny. That much is true. The irrational hatred many right-wingers have for Nancy Pelosi comes from the same place.
But while Palin is no worse than many other right-wing extremists, she’s also no better. I fail to comprehend the affection some on the left have for her. A friend of mine has suggested that many of us were so shell-shocked by the barrage of misogyny used against Clinton by supposed progressives during the 2008 Primary that when we saw the same sexist attacks deployed against Palin, an automatic transference of affection occurred in some people. The fact that Clinton’s and Palin’s views on just about everything are diametrically opposed to each other didn’t seem to matter.
Of course it’s entirely possible to defend Palin against sexism without losing sight of the fact that she is a morally reprehensible bigot. Indeed, quite a few of us have been doing just that. You don’t let sexism (or racism, or homophobia, etc.) go unchallenged just because you despise the target. That’s feminism 101. At least that’s what I thought pre-2008.
It’s also quite possible to detest Palin without being motivated by sexism. Sarah Palin is dangerous. Not because she has any chance of being elected President (she doesn’t), but because, like Glenn Beck, she is a propagandist adept at shifting the Overton window further and further to the right (example: Obama is “the most pro-abortion president to ever occupy the White House”). Palin routinely uses her substantial platform to spread lies and anti-government paranoia while demonizing her opposition. Even if no one picks up a gun to “defend” against the threats to life and liberty invented by Beck or Palin, the damage is done every time someone believes their lies. At best, the public opinions created by Palin and other right-wing propagandists give Republicans and conservadems cover for what they want to do anyway. At worst, Palin’s rhetoric and actions result in the election of dangerously backward individuals while diminishing public support for progressive legislation. We have seen countless examples of both last year.
As Gabrielle Giffords said in March 2010, rhetoric such as Palin’s has consequences. When the speaker’s name is Beck or Limbaugh, everyone on the left seems to get that. But because Palin has been (and continues to be) subject to sexist attacks, some believe all but the mildest criticism of her (and sometimes even that) to be motivated by sexism–much like some at the Big Orange believe all criticism of Obama is the result of racism.
Sarah Palin has been a victim of sexism and misogyny. She is also a morally bankrupt, war mongering, lying bigot. There. That wasn’t so hard.
NOTE: I’m not arguing that Jared Loughner was motivated by something Palin did or said except in the general sense that solving one’s problems with a Glock becomes more acceptable in a climate where violent, eliminationist rhetoric is permitted to thrive. That said, given the recent history of right-wing violence and the facts known in the immediate aftermath of the shooting, it was entirely reasonable to consider the possibility that Palin’s rhetoric influenced Loughner.