Sarah Palin, Blood-Libel Hypocrite
Sarah Palin opposes collective blame for monstrous crimes, unless they're committed by Muslims.
See Slate's complete coverage of the Gabrielle Giffords shooting and arrest of Jared Lee Loughner.
Sarah Palin is outraged. In a Facebook post this morning, she responds to critics who have suggested that her target map of Democrats, which put a crosshairs-like symbol over the district of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., may have contributed to the Tucson shooting. Palin writes:
After this shocking tragedy, I listened at first puzzled, then with concern, and now with sadness, to the irresponsible statements from people attempting to apportion blame for this terrible event. President Reagan said, "We must reject the idea that every time a law's broken, society is guilty rather than the lawbreaker. It is time to restore the American precept that each individual is accountable for his actions." Acts of monstrous criminality stand on their own. They begin and end with the criminals who commit them, not collectively with all the citizens of a state, not with those who listen to talk radio, not with maps of swing districts used by both sides of the aisle, not with law-abiding citizens who respectfully exercise their First Amendment rights at campaign rallies … journalists and pundits should not manufacture a blood libel that serves only to incite the very hatred and violence they purport to condemn. That is reprehensible.
That's what Palin believes. Each person is solely accountable for his actions. Acts of monstrous criminality "begin and end with the criminals who commit them." It's wrong to hold others of the same nationality, ethnicity, or religion "collectively" responsible for mass murders.
Unless, of course, you're talking about Muslims. In that case, Palin is fine with collective blame. In fact, she's enthusiastic about it. Palin was the first national politician to join the jihad against what she called the "planned mosque at Ground Zero" (which wasn't a mosque and wasn't at Ground Zero, but let's cut her some slack). In her statement, issued six months ago on the same Facebook page where she now denounces collective blame, she wrote this:
To build a mosque at Ground Zero is a stab in the heart of the families of the innocent victims of those horrific attacks. … I agree with the sister of one of the 9/11 victims (and a New York resident) who said: "This is a place which is 600 feet from where almost 3,000 people were torn to pieces by Islamic extremists. I think that it is incredibly insensitive and audacious really for them to build a mosque, not only on that site, but to do it specifically so that they could be in proximity to where that atrocity happened."
The last bit is a falsehood—proximity wasn't the motive for choosing the site—but again, let's cut Palin some slack. They key phrase to focus on is "a mosque." Palin used it twice—once in the quote, and once in her own words—so it can't be passed off as inadvertent. Her objection wasn't just to a specific imam or sect, much less to an identifiable terrorist. It was to any Islamic house of worship near Ground Zero.
Palin has never retracted this position. Indeed, she has persisted in her opposition to any mosque near Ground Zero. Her position is that the act of monstrous criminality on 9/11 doesn't end with the criminals who committed it. Its stigma extends to any mosque near the site. All Muslims should yield to that stigma. All Muslims are responsible.
"Blood libel," as defined by The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions, is historically targeted not at a country but at a religion. Palin's campaign against any Muslim house of worship near Ground Zero, based on group blame for terrorism, fits that definition more closely than does any current accusation against the Tea Party.
It didn't matter to Palin that the imam behind the "mosque" (which was actually an Islamic community center two blocks from Ground Zero) had denounced terrorism. Shortly after 9/11, the imam, Faisal Abdul Rauf, appeared on 60 Minutes and was asked this question:
Ed Bradley: What would you say to people in this country, who, looking at what happens in the Middle East, would associate Islam with fanaticism, with terrorism?
Abdul Rauf: Fanaticism and terrorism have no place in Islam. That's just as absurd as associating Hitler with Christianity or David Koresh with Christianity. There are always people who will do peculiar things and think that they are doing things in the name of their religion. But the Quran—you know, God says in the Quran that they think that they're doing right, but they're doing wrong.
Palin ignored the imam's denunciation of violence. Now she repudiates the massacre in Tucson and expresses outrage that anyone would associate her with it.
In today's Facebook post, Palin writes: "Recall how the events of 9-11 challenged our values and we had to fight the tendency to trade our freedoms for perceived security. And so it is today." Indeed. But when the events of 9/11 challenged our values, Palin surrendered. A decade later, she remains willing to trade freedom, not for security, but for "sensitivity" to her supporters' anger at Muslims generally. She's willing to issue blood libels and sacrifice people's freedoms. She just doesn't want the same done to her.
Will Saletan covers science, technology, and politics for Slate and says a lot of things that get him in trouble.
Photograph of Sarah Palin by Allison Shelley/Getty Images. Photograph of Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf by Neilson Barnard/Getty Images.