Blood Libel: Ignorance, stupidity or political doublespeak?

(image of a ‘Blood Libel’ at right courtesy of a circa 1939 German Nazi newspaper)

In response to criticisms over the gun related metaphors and imagery used by SarahPac and other politically right-leaning pundits, political candidates and media gadflys in light of the Arizon shootings, Sarah Palin has responded with a video in which she stated, “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.”

Her statement is bizarre for so many reasons, and I’ll make no apologies for admitting to my dislike of Palin. For one thing, it seems strange (and ironic) that Palin, who poses as one of the great supporters of the doctrine of personal responsibility, should feel aggreived when someone else gets shot. My own view is that if you encourage someone else to shout ‘fire’ in a crowded theatre, people are going to be angry at you if they get injured in the stampede for the exit, whether or not you were one of the ones doing the stampedeing. Using terms like ‘reload’ and ‘second ammendment remedies’ and putting ‘surveyor symbols’ on ‘target’ state representatives is going to be viewed as ‘questionable’ when someone does go out and shoot people. That’s one of the risks of making public statements — they can (and will) come back to bite you in the ass.

But I’m also disturbed by Palin’s use of the term, “Blood Libel.” It apparently dates back to the gospel of Matthew where Matthew reports that the Jews who agitated for Jesus’ execution said, “Let the blood be on our heads.” In the middle ages, ‘Blood Libel’ was used to encourage hatred of Jews and to support the false claim that the Jews used the blood of Christians in secret ceremonies. This reasoning was later picked up by the Nazis and other anti-Semites. So “Blood Libel” has a long (and hideous) history.

Unfortunately, Palin didn’t present her remarks in a historical context, so we don’t really know what she intended to mean by the ‘blood libel’ claim. Was it just an accidental pairing of two words? Given Palin’s fundamentalist christian bent and the wording of the phrase, “manufacture a blood libel,” (rather than something more direct and less biblical in tone, like “commit libel”), that seems unlikely. Is Palin an anti-Semite? It wouldn’t surprise me. Or is the inclusion of the word intended as a double meaning to Palin’s supporters and foes alike? Is she tossing this offhand reference to ‘blood libel’ into the mix in order to stir up the obvious claim of anti-Semitism from her foes so she can once again turn that accusation around and say to her followers, “See? The lamestream media really IS against me! Now they are accusing me of anti-Semitism!”

I’m thinking the latter is a definite possibility.

5 Comments on “Blood Libel: Ignorance, stupidity or political doublespeak?”

  1. Is Palin even smart enough to use double meanings? But, yeah, I too find it disturbing that she used the term blood libel.

  2. Roger the GS says:

    Think for a minute, a real antisemite wouldn't use the term “blood libel.” Palin is just using a term she failed the comprehension test on. And in the process expropriating someone else's history for her conservative pity party.

  3. limpey says:

    @ Roger the GS: If I had to guess (and I'm guessing), I think Palin is as much an anti-semite as someone like Ann Coulter — she'll make leading statements like Coulter's, “I want Jews to become perfected by converting to Christianity.” I think such statements are designed to create a firestorm in the press and curry favor with people who might harbor such views, but simultaneously offer plausible deniability to the speaker while, simultaneously, keeping their name in the press.
    So she's not really an anti-semite, but she'll use a backhanded reference to anti-semitism if it works for her (much like Reagan used a “deniable” alusion to racism by bringing up the 'welfare queen' to play on white resentment).

  4. …the majority of American voters dislike and distrust a 'smartypants.'

    And yet those same voters are manipulated on a regular basis by those smartypants. Gotta love politics. Despite our posturing, it never fails to amaze me how little we've really advanced in the past two-thousand years or so.

    He who rules the mob rules Rome.”

    (Captcha word verification = “palin”? WTF? That's just bizarre…)

  5. anarchist says:

    The term 'blood libel' isn't used by anti-Semites themselves. To describe an accusation as a libel is to say that it's untrue.

    Palin is saying that she is being falsely accused of having blood on her hands.

    It might be said to be exaggerated – whether the accusations against her are fair or not, they're certainly not comparable to centuries of pogroms – but it's not anti-Semitic.

    I also think that, if she wanted to send a message tailored to her base, she'd compare herself to Christian martyrs rather than to Jewish victims of Christians.

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