Stop Being Paranoid of Sarah Palin

(Editor's Note: I am publishing this despite some disagreements I have with this, because this is a well-written, thought-provoking piece about the status of our society, government, crime and free speech. Also, welcome our newest contributor!)

This loud, shrieking noise about the AZ mass shooting + "Sarah Palin" has got to stop.

How is it that one person so quickly became such a lightening rod, this larger-than-life focus, yes, a target, for such hasty blame-assignment? Easy: we enable her. Easier: we love to hate and deeply cherish our despised scapegoats. Easiest: she permits herself to be used in this way.

Sadly for Sarah, she misplayed her political cards this weekend. David Frum, one of Palin's conservative detractors put it best this morning.
Palin’s post-shooting message was about Palin, not about Giffords. It was defensive, not inspiring. And it was petty at a moment when Palin had been handed perhaps her last clear chance to show herself presidentially magnanimous.
Don't count on that. Sarah Palin has never shown any interest in appearing "presidential", so I'm still not clear on why people like Frum still expect presidential behavior from her.

Insinuating the Palin name into every oversized news story of the hour has served her and her family well, financially, at least. Who really expects her to change up her pitch today, when her beleaguered camp can now point to every liberal blog on planet earth (except Oh Crap) and cry about how unfair everyone is to poor, martyred, messianic/angelic her?

Jared Lee Loughner's story -- what little we know of it -- reads like that of a poster child for increasing mental health services in Tuscon. We hear endless speculation about that idiot, infamous scope graphic taken down from SarahPAC (while left up on Facebook), yet nothing about his parents.

We know nothing of his motive(s), yet; and zero about his actual political ideology, if he even has one. But so many are CERTAIN his actions were the result of "Sarah Palin" and her behavior on the internet.

With that in mind, consider that it's only January 10 and in Oakland, CA, there have already been five homicides. Whose marketing copy is to blame for those? Does anyone care? Is it news?

It's much easier to latch on to "Sarah Palin", no longer a person, but now the metonym for all of rightwingery/teabaggery. Except...there's indeed a person there.

We know this from the predictable rounds of fundraising appeals, the absurd calls to tell Sarah Palin this, or petitions to the DOJ with equally useless "indictments".

Read, again, what constitutes "incitement", as of 1969 (Brandenburg vs Ohio):
"The constitutional guarantees of free speech and free press do not permit a State to forbid or proscribe advocacy of the use of force or of law violation except where such advocacy is directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action and is likely to incite or produce such action."
Unless someone is planning to challenge a 40+ year old incitement law so strict it allows the Klan to scream they're gonna kill the Blacks and Jews, people can forget about trying to "indict Palin" based on an internet graphic from last March. But man, does it feel good to wallow in the idea of her getting what's coming to her.

Right? Because her magical words can kill. Right? She can command such unprecedented, unwieldly power over her followers, and they all do what she says, so we all tremble at the prospect of a Palin presidency. Right?

Oh Crap covered this odd vision of political messianism, this charismatic authority, in a thing called The Poetics of Plain-Talk. If I may quote the self at length:
Ah, Sarah, poor dear. She was, remains, and will go down in history as, the breaker of multiple public taboos, at once. American politicians aren't supposed to act like that. They're not supposed to look like that, dress like that, trot their kids around like that, express themselves like that, or throw their head back and laugh so confidently, unpretentiously, in their sexy wrongness like that. Not while having those kind of political views, or going to those kinds of churches, or giving interviews in front of dying Thanksgiving turkeys like that.

Alas, she did. She certainly signed up to the clothes, the enhanced accent, the GOP/RNC fiddling with her own lyrical rhythms, and the general manipulation of her own image by them of her own you-go-girl empowered volition.

But I seriously doubt she signed up for this other psychodoodle weirdness of the taboo and ambivalence we of the neurotic American electorate -- Paglia and other pundits included -- have collectively projected on to her, transfiguring before the cameras into every strange spectacle we needed her to be for us in that political moment, regardless of what party we ended up voting for.
Two years later, her antics have landed her in this strange boat, in which people are convinced that federal laws must be altered to prevent certain types of imagery for political fundraising.

Don't think such laws won't ever be used against the left, or won't be twisted to "get Obama". Pass conservative laws like that, and the conservatives win.

No one has to be paranoid of Palin to the extent that we have to revamp our laws or political speech due to year-old crap her staff once put up on the internet.

Stop being afraid of her. She's just a politician. Get a grip, America. Snap out of it.

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