Palin's firearms-themed rhetoric called dangerous -- UPDATED

March 24, 2010 

Palin's Democratic target map

SARAHPAC.COM

"RELOAD!" Sarah Palin shouted at right-wing supporters via Twitter on Tuesday after President Obama signed the House health care bill. On her Facebook page, she posted a U.S. map with crosshair targets in states where she's planning to campaign against moderate Democrats who voted in favor of the health insurance overhaul. "We'll aim for these races," she wrote, in the "first salvo" leading up to the midterm elections. A few liberal commentators don't find that kind of rhetoric amusing.

Rob Kezelis, Capitol Hill Blue: Honestly, where in any decent, civilized society is there room for Sarah's latest tweet, "Don't retreat, RELOAD!"? While some may dismiss that as silly rhetoric, or even humor, it is anything but. One only has to recall some of the weirder moments during the last presidential campaign, especially the Sarah Palin rallies. Some of those people were not only whacked-out, conspiracy nuts, they were more than willing to take "justice" as they define it, and use whatever means necessary to achieve it, including violence. And they are armed.

Margo Howard, The Women on the Web: I would not find it surprising if someone from the Department of Justice rang [Palin] up to advise her that what she is doing is inciting violence - which is a federal offense. As if it weren't bad enough that people were spitting on legislators, yelling epithets and wearing sidearms into Starbucks, here comes Sarah Palin using the language of guns ... and this in a country that has seen political assassinations in our lifetime. Hate speech, anyone? I would suggest to McCain's Mistake that she, well, think before she speaks. Or better yet, just stop talking.

Rep. Steve Israel (D-NY), on Twitter: Reload? @SarahPalinUSA Is your choice of words inciteful or ignorant?

Joan Walsh, Salon.com: Most (but probably not all) Palin supporters may insist the tuckered-out former Alaska governor meant "reload" metaphorically. But in a country where angry right-wingers carry guns to see the president speak, and spit on African-American congressmen, I thought it was a chilling statement. Will any Republican denounce Palin's language?

Rachel Maddow, MSNBC: The armed and dangerous theme isn‘t just in the streets and at the protests. It‘s now the vernacular by which supposedly mainstream conservative politicians address their followers.

Jeffrey Feldman, Huffington Post: Palin's rifle scope map is the kind of image one might expect to see in an ad for a violent, first-person shooter video game. Again, neither the language nor the imagery Palin uses are neutral. For Palin, the concepts of political "organizing" and "volunteering" are recast as the functions of a rifle. "Campaigning" is re-imagined as a counterassault on a war battlefield. Even more disturbing, Palin re-imagines the traditional U.S. map as a military kill list. Engaging in election politics is framed as violent assault.

When seen in the context of this violent rhetoric by the highest-profile figures in the Republican Party, recent calls for gun violence seen at Tea Party rallies on Capital Hill take on new meaning.

Jed Lewison, Daily Kos: Of all the images to convey about her movement, it is revealing that Sarah Palin chose one associated with violence. Palin's rhetoric comes amidst a surge in right-wing extremism, a time during which she should be urging cooler heads to prevail instead of fueling the most radical elements of her base. ... I don't care how much money Sarah Palin might want to make off her political celebrity, if she were the patriot she claims to be, she'd be doing everything in her power to rein in the rising tide of right-wing extremism.

UPDATE: On the "Today" show Thursday, John McCain, the GOP presidential candidate in 2008 who selected Palin as his running mate, defended her against host Ann Curry's charge that she is using "incendiary" language. "Those words have been used throughout of my political career," McCain said. "There are targeted districts, and there are areas that we call battleground states, and so please, that rhetoric and kind of language is just part of the political lexicon. There is no place for threats of violence or anything else, but to say that someone is in a battleground state is not originated today."

Michael McGough of the Los Angeles Times also defends Palin today: Gun metaphors are part of politics, from "targeted districts" to "under fire" to "took a shot at the presidency." For all her demagoguery and ditziness, Palin isn't inciting anyone to violence. The vandalism and vile epithets that have been aimed at some supporters of health care reform ought to be condemned, but it's a reach to attribute them to Palin and other loose-tongued Republicans.

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