An Open Letter to Sarah Palin About Guilt by Association
Since you have offered your condolences, it is safe to assume you already know that Democratic Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was shot today while holding an open air town hall of sorts in Tuscon, Arizona. This is the same Gabrielle Giffords whom you hoped would be defeated in the recent November elections. You expressed that wish by superimposing the crosshairs of a rifle scope over Giffords’ district on a US map on your web site. It’s a graphic that was quickly removed from your site in the immediate aftermath of her shooting.
MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann, hosted a special edition of “Countdown” in which he urged you to repudiate your use of violent symbolism in the wake of this tragedy. I don’t expect you take his advice because it would imply you were somehow responsible for this tragedy. Let’s be honest. We don’t know yet if the shooter has ever even heard of you. We don’t know if he has ever visited your web site. In fact, from the little we seem to know, he is a typical run of the mill nutjob. We can’t even pin down his political affiliation because while he appears to be an Ayn Rand fan and has a strangely conservative fear of government, he also has the Communist Manifesto on his reading list. So truly Mrs. Palin, it is a stretch to say you even inspired this terrible act of violence.
So I will offer you an alternative bit of advice. By end of business, Monday, you need to line up every political advisor and public relations person currently in your employ who was working for you during the 2010 campaign season …
AND FIRE THEM.
They did you a disservice Mrs. Palin. Crosshairs are a symbol of violence, plain and simple. It boggles the mind that no one in your employ at the time vetoed that graphic. Now of course the graphic made quite a splash when it first hit the web. Liberals went bat-crap crazy when they saw it. Understandably, your advisors probably felt, who cares what liberals think? In fact, let’s go out of our way to piss them off. But they missed the obvious problem. What if some nutjob down the line tries to murder anyone on your metaphorical hit list? At that point, what was once just poor taste, will suddenly look like an explicit call to violence. Is that fair? Maybe not. But that is the way people think. Hell, that is the way you think. You warned America about a Presidential candidate who “paled around with terrorists”. You, more than anyone understand the potency of guilt by association.
Do you understand how police investigations work, Mrs. Palin? One of the first questions the police want answered is who has ever threatened the victim. When Bob is shot by Bill, the police ask witnesses “any reason to think Bill wanted Bob dead?” They might get the answer, “well Bill told Bob once, ‘I’m gonna kill you’ but he didn’t really mean it.” Did anyone want harm to come to Representative Giffords? Well, a former Vice Presidential candidate used a gunshot metaphor to advocate her defeat in an election, but she didn’t mean for anyone to actually shoot her.
Either because your advisors are phenomenally stupid or they are afraid of you, they allowed you to put yourself in association with an attempted murder. I don’t know if your conscience will trouble you tonight as Ms. Giffords fights for her life in a Tuscon ICU, but from at least a very practical, very political point of view, you should be steaming mad at the folks you hired to make you look good.
They failed you, Mrs. Palin. We didn’t understand until today just how badly they failed you.