Sarah Palin and the Blood Libel

Ok, so this is another off-topic rant, but I’ve got to say something or my head will explode.

After the events of this past weekend, Sarah Palin has come up for a lot
of criticism for her target map from the last election. In case you’ve been hiding under a rock somewhere, her website published a map with congresspeople who had voted for the healthcare reform bill like Congresswoman Giffords marked with a rifle sight.

So today, she decided to defend herself, by saying:

Especially within hours of a tragedy unfolding, journalists and pundits should not manufacture a blood libel that serves only to incite the very hatred and violence that they purport to condemn. That is reprehensible.

No, Ms. Palin. That is not reprehensible. What is reprehensible is using a historic excuse for antisemitic violence as a defense against your words and your actions having had any role in the attempted murder of a Jewish congresswoman.

What we have here is a very vocally Christian politician, who
marked a Jewish congressperson with a gunsight. Said Jewish congresswoman was shot in the head and nearly killed. And Sarah Palin
has the chutzpah to talk about blood libel?

Let’s recall, for a moment, what the blood libel is. Blood libel isn’t an accusation that you’re responsible for violence. It’s a very specific accusation, made by Christians, that Jews murder christian children in order to obtain christian blood, which is used to make Passover Matzah.

From Wikipedia:

Blood libel (also blood accusation) refers to a false accusation or claim that religious minorities, almost always Jews, murder children to use their blood in certain aspects of their religious rituals and holidays. Historically, these claims have–alongside those of well poisoning and host desecration–been a major theme in European persecution of Jews.

The libels typically allege that Jews require human blood for the baking of matzos for Passover. The accusations often assert that the blood of Christian children is especially coveted, and historically blood libel claims have often been made to account for otherwise unexplained deaths of children. In some cases, the alleged victim of human sacrifice has become venerated as a martyr, a holy figure around whom a martyr cult might arise. A few of these have been even canonized as saints.

In general, the libel alleged something like this: a child, normally a boy who had not yet reached puberty, was kidnapped or sometimes bought and taken to a hidden place (the house of a prominent member of the Jewish community, a synagogue, a cellar, etc.) where he would be kept hidden until the time of his death. Preparations for the sacrifice included the gathering of attendees from near and far and constructing or readying the instruments of torture and execution.

At the time of the sacrifice (usually night), the crowd would gather at the place of execution (in some accounts the synagogue itself) and engage in a mock tribunal to try the child. The boy would be presented to the tribunal naked and tied (sometimes gagged) at the judge’s order. He would eventually be condemned to death. Many forms of torture would be inflicted during the boy’s “trial”, including some of those actually used by the Inquisition on suspects of heresy. Some of the alleged tortures were mutilation (including circumcision), piercing with needles, punching, slapping, strangulation, strappado and whipping, while being insulted and mocked throughout.

In the end, the half-dead boy would be crowned with thorns and tied or nailed to a wooden cross. The cross would be raised and the blood dripping from the boy’s wounds, particularly those on his hands, feet, and genitals, would be caught in bowls or glasses. Finally, the boy would be killed with a thrust through the heart from a spear, sword, or dagger. His dead body would be removed from the cross and concealed or disposed of, but in some instances rituals of black magic would be performed on it. The earlier stories describe only the torture and agony of the victim and suggest that the child’s death was the sole purpose of the ritual. Over time and as the libel proliferated, the focus shifted to the supposed need to collect the victim’s blood for mystical purposes.

The story of William of Norwich (d. 1144) is the first case of alleged ritual murder that led to widespread persecutions. It does not mention the collection of William’s blood nor of any ritual purpose to the alleged ritual murder. In the story of Little Saint Hugh of Lincoln (d. 1255) it was said that after the boy was dead, his body was removed from the cross and laid on a table. His belly was cut open and his entrails removed for some occult purpose, such as a divination ritual. In the story of Simon of Trent (d. 1475) it was highly stressed how the boy was held over a large bowl so all his blood could be collected.

According to Walter Laqueur, “Altogether, there have been about 150 recorded cases of blood libel (not to mention thousands of rumors) that resulted in the arrest and killing of Jews throughout history, most of them in the Middle Ages… In almost every case, Jews were murdered, sometimes by a mob, sometimes following torture and a trial.”

Blood libel is a very specific, disgraceful, malicious, and horrific accusation against Jews. It is an accusation that Jews, as a part of our religion, are murderers and cannibals. That we steal children from righteous christian communities, murder them, drain their blood, and then eat it as part of our religious rituals.

This isn’t just ancient history. The blood libel has been around since the middle ages, but it has persisted all the way to the present. My own ancestors fled their homes in Russia to avoid a pogrom – the supposed cause of which was to protect the christian children from being murdered for Passover matzah. It’s still around today: among other examples, in 2005, a group of members of the Russian parliament put forward a proposed law banning all Jewish organizations, because Jewish practices are inhumane, and extend to ritual murder”.

Sarah Palin clearly has no clue of what “blood libel” means. That’s a disgrace in itself; anyone who’s even moderately educated about politics and religion – like, say, a christian politician who wants to be the president of the US – should know what it means. But Sarah? No, she’s downright proud of her ignorant cluelessness.

What’s worse is the way that she’s expressing that cluelessness.

She’s trying to avoid taking any responsibility for the shooting. That’s
fine – she isn’t responsible for the shooting. But the way that she’s doing it is by falsely presenting herself as the victim in this situation. And to make matters worse, she’s doing that by cluelessly presenting herself as the victim of a historic anti-semitic
slur that falsely accuses Jews of being murderers. She’s trying to distance herself from the attempted murder of a Jewish woman by presenting herself as the victim of an anti-Jewish slur.

I can’t help but look at this as a Jew. She’s exploiting our history of repression, our history of being falsely accused, tortured, and murdered in the name of a lie. My family – my great grandfathers – had to leave their homes, and come to this county with nothing but the clothes on their backs – because if they hadn’t, their families would have been murdered in the name of the blood libel. My maternal great-grandfather, who I actually knew when I was a child, was a wealthy tailor in Russia. When he arrived in the US in 1905 with his wife and three children, they had – literally – one nickel, plus the clothes that they were wearing. My paternal grandfather came by himself, without even the nickel. And the people who he left behind died – some in the pogroms he was fleeing; the rest in the holocaust. The things that have happened to me can’t compare – but even in modern America, I’ve had run-ins with the blood libel. I lived in Ohio for four years as a kid, and as a second grader, I had people asking me where we got the blood for our Matzah.

The blood libel isn’t a joke. It’s a big piece of history, which has been the cause of horrific violence. It’s one of the causes of the holocaust. It’s one of the causes of the murderous pograms in Russia. It’s one of the causes of numerous rampages and murders throughout the middle ages in Europe. And it’s used today as a political bludgeon against Israel and the Jewish people.

And Sarah Palin wants to claim that people pointing out that she’d drawn crosshairs on the district of a woman who was shot in the head – a Jewish woman who was shot in the head – is blood libel.

She should be ashamed of herself. But she isn’t. She’ll never even come close to understanding why what she did is so wrong. And she, and her followers, will never even care. Because she’s a pathetic, stupid, small-minded, pig-ignorant, amoral, narcissistic twat – and that’s exactly what her followers like about her.

104 thoughts on “Sarah Palin and the Blood Libel

  1. Pascale

    I actually looked up blood libel when I saw the Palin quote because I thought I must have it wrong in some way to make sense of what she said; but no, it was exactly what I thought it was. Further evidence that Palin is wrong about damn near everything.

    1. jc

      I looked it up too thinking that I didn’t think it meant what I thought it meant. Then all I could think of was that little girl born on 9/11 who went to meet her public-service role model Gabby and how her family must feel about another “public service role model” Palin’s shit spew in light of their daughter’s murder standing in line. Totally surreal.

      “she’s downright proud of her ignorant cluelessness.”

  2. brooksphd

    She should be ashamed of herself. But she isn’t. She’ll never even come close to understanding why what she did is so wrong. And she, and her followers, will never even care. Because she’s a pathetic, stupid, small-minded, pig-ignorant, amoral, narcissistic twat – and that’s exactly what her followers like about her.

    This. Excellent post Mark.

  3. Comrade PhysioProf

    While she may not personally know what blood libel means, her speechwriters and public relations consultants certainly do. Also, the term was used by another right-wing shittebagge–I think it was Glenn Instaputz Reynolds–a few days ago in exactly the same context, so it is clearly some sort of right-wing dogwhistle meme being floated in an organized manner.

    1. Zuska

      Agree 100% with this. She wasn’t speaking off the cuff, she had a speechwriter, those words were carefully chosen, that speech was carefully crafted. She’s speaking TO some audience – it isn’t you, it isn’t me – but her intended audience will get the message. The message is that the rightwing teabagger nutcake wackaloons are now being persecuted by the leftwing radical librul media demcrats who hate our freedumz just for exercising their sacred First Amendment Rights, exactly like the Jews have been persecuted in the past. They have attempted to co-opt the civil rights movement and the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and now they are attempting to co-opt the oppression of the Jewish people. Privileged white christians? Not them! In their incredible suffering persecuted minds, the rightwing wackaloons are the black Jews of America. Except, you know, without all that disgusting black-y Jew-y stuff.

      Ya gotta love the way she just couldn’t quite totally repress her smile while she delivered the speech expressing her sorrow over the events in Tucson. Just doesn’t know how to shut that sucker off.

      1. becca

        I agree she is speaking TO an audience that is not well-represented here. Yet the *original source* of ‘blood libel’ is a biblical one (as Cromercrox correctly notes). Can we assume that her intended audience is familiar with Mathew 27:25? Could it be that she is, in fact, arguing against holding a crowd responsible for murder? A message of ‘personal responsibility’ sure to resonate with her base? Listening to her video, I think that is part of what is going on here.
        There is a certain segment of evangelical Christianity that is very familiar with the Christian scripture-based virulent anti-semetic arguments, and is experienced with *refuting* them. Encountering those anti-semetic arguments being taken seriously, even by somebody who is refuting them and telling you what a buddy they want to be of ‘the chosen people’ (‘cuz they need us to rebuild the temple) is very, very strange and moderately disturbing.

        1. James Sweet

          My wife’s uncle is an orthodox Jew and a huge Palin fan. I agree that there is some audience here that we are not getting — and that made me immediately wonder what Uncle Rick thinks of this. He’s probably that audience. If we were on better terms with him, I’d ask him to explain what he thinks about it, maybe then we’d understand the target audience better.

          Unfortunately, we’re already on rocky terms, partly because he and my wife can’t hold back from going at each other on Facebook over political stuff. heh…

  4. drugmonkey

    The degree to which these right wing theocratic farknards clothe themselves in victimhoods at the slightest excuse is pathetic and disgusting.

  5. idahogie

    Sorry you had to experience that, Mark.

    It is obvious that Sarah had no clue about the term’s meaning or history. She just thought “blood libel” is just a more emphatic way to say “libel.”

    At the tail-end you get to another very important point. Today’s conservatives (i.e., the teabaggers) do approve of Sarah’s stupidity. They reject all the hard work of understanding nuance and history. They like not knowing those things, and they like having a political leader that lets them rationalize their supidity.

    They can be safely anti-semetic and racist, thus supporting conservatism, and then claim ignorance. Being ignorant is OK, because that makes you “real” and “down to earth,” unlike those snotty intellectuals.

  6. Cromercrox

    Thanks for writing this – so I don’t have to (though I probably will anyway). My paternal Jewish ancestors also came from Russia, though to England. My maternal Jewish ancestors came from Germany. I believe the blood libel stems originally from a verse in Matthew about the Jews having ‘blood on their hands’ after Pilate ‘washed his hands’ of Jesus’s case. It only got warped into the matzoh business in the Middle Ages. A case in England in the Middle Ages led to mass murder and eventually the explusion of Jews from England.

    My mother, a refugee from the Nazis aged 3, was routinely called a ‘Christ Killer’ in the school playground; my Dad, as the only Jew in the school, learned how to fight. At University a fellow graduate student said it was a good thing that my grandparents died in Auschwitz; and even today, one of my kids suffers antisemitic jibes at school. As someone once said, antisemitism is a beast that sleeps but lightly.

    So what do we do about Palin? That she is a stupid cow is already well established. But if the blood-libel comment was anything more than a case of foot-in-mouth, then it’s deeply worrying.

  7. Estraven

    I didn’t know what blood libel was; in my language we don’t have a special name for this (nor a wikipedia page). Unfortunately this doesn’t mean that we lack antisemitism.
    All I can say is that I do understand why such a statement, especially in the specific context in which it was made, would make your blood boil. And I totally agree with your last sentence.

  8. D. C. Sessions

    Also, the term was used by another right-wing shittebagge–I think it was Glenn Instaputz Reynolds–a few days ago in exactly the same context

    Andrew Breitbart.

    Big surprise, right?

  9. Sue VanHattum

    >Sarah Palin clearly has no clue of what “blood libel” means. That’s a disgrace in itself; anyone who’s even moderately educated about politics and religion – like, say, a christian politician who wants to be the president of the US – should know what it means.

    Maybe I’m not even moderately well-educated about religion or the history of anti-semitism, but I had never heard this phrase. Thank you for this post.

    Useful information also that it’s not just the idiot Sarah Palin who said it, but another right-winger too. That seems even creepier.

    1. D. C. Sessions

      Useful information also that it’s not just the idiot Sarah Palin who said it, but another right-winger too. That seems even creepier.

      What’s creepy (or at all new) about SP echoing someone else’s talking point?

      1. D. C. Sessions

        Let me correct that: it doesn’t arouse even the slightest pity in me. Nor, I suspect, in most (any?) of us.

        I stand with “disgusting” and “effective,” though.

    1. Mechanical

      I’m not American and I can’t access those sites without a sign-in, so assuming that you’re being serious, bringing up other people who misused (or overused or whatever) the term ‘blood libel’ is only worsening your case.

      And no shit other Jews are going to have similar opinions. She attacks all Jews and you expect only Mark to be offended?

      Also, if I may call bullshit on you being directly confronted with the blood libel, or you’d be able to see just how wrong Sarah Palin was in this case. Even I can see the problem with it and this webpage was the first I’d ever even heard of the blood libel (although I’ve looked into it and into Palin’s comments since, which has only confirmed Mark’s statements). Also, I don’t know of a single relation of mine, however distant, that is Jewish (all Christian or Atheist). Basically, this isn’t a what-to-do type moral case of is-this-right or is-this-wrong, it’s purely incorrect, amoral and exploitative.

      ‘She’ll never even come close to understanding why what she did is so wrong. And she, and her followers, will never even care.’


      What I find really sad is that she has ANY chance of running the US at some point.

    2. idahogie

      It’s not the use of the phrase. It’s the incorrect use of the phrase. Perhaps you’d like to try again.

    3. idlemind

      Not to condone those particular uses, but it seems to me that there is a bit of a difference to use “blood libel” as an explicit analogy to cases of vicious rumormongering inciting violence against a particular group of people and the sort of thing Sarah is complaining about. No one outside of a handful of pseudonymous blog commenters has advocated violence against her or her followers. It may be offensive when that terms like “holocaust” and “blood libel” get used by non-Jews in ways that trivialize them, but as a matter of degree I think Sister Sarah and Brother Andrew (Breibert) are in a different category, here.

    4. Brian

      As others have said, it’s not that she used the phrase, its that she used the phrase in a way that BELITTLED it.

      As a Jew, I have no problem with using the phrase as in one of your examples, to describe equating homosexuality and pedophilia, just like a have no problem using “Holocaust” to mean any killing of millions of people.

      However, she used it to refer to people claiming that she encouraged someone to kill a congress person. This is like calling a murder, or even 10 murders, a “holocaust”.

      The fact that the REAL target here is a Jewish woman merely makes people extra touchy, as well it might.

      Personally, I think John Scalzi said it pretty well.

      1. Ariel Toaff

        You’re touchy about the phrase “blood libel”, but you have no problem falsely blaming someone for a mass shooting.

        1. Brian

          Why do you say that? I do think that Palin isn’t to blame for the shootings. It’s just that there’s a matter of degree. Calling it “Libel” I’m ok with. “Blood Libel” has a MUCH stronger connotation.

    1. D. C. Sessions

      There will always be bigots. There will always be demagogues. With six-plus billion people on the planet, three hundred million plus in the USA alone, there are guaranteed to be just about any combination of disgusting traits you can imagine (plus many that sane minds, thankfully, can’t.)

      It’s when they develop enough of a following (or sponsorship) to become credible candidates for political power that you’re in danger, which is usually long past the time when we should all have been afraid.

  10. chall

    I’m not so sure she doesn’t know… or that her speech writers didn’t know. It’s the evangelical right-wing speech we’re listening to. They give references and would like nothing else to again remind people that they “are under attack from the libral leftish people”. And then go right ahead with the words.

    I’m not in any way agreeing with them, I flinched when I read the qoute in the press but to call Palin stupid is not what I would do. Following an agenda that many people apparently like to follow is more to the point. Which in itself scares me WAY more than if she was just stupid.

    1. Zuska

      Yes, I think it is foolishness to imagine that Palin – and/or her speechwriters – is/are stupid and don’t know what they are doing. Every single word in that speech was very carefully chosen. What you understand when you hear it is not the same thing that her target audience understands when they hear it. There are messages encoded within her words, and becca above gets at some of it when she refers to the Bible passage about crowds not being held responsible – Palin was clearly trying to make a case (and giving her followers some wording to use when they proselytize others) that she, and by extension they, can in no way be held responsible for actual violence even when all their rhetoric has been inciting to violence. A commenter on some other blog I was reading (can’t remember where) noted that the phrase “manufacturing a blood libel” may have been carefully crafted to remind followers that the press is run by a conspiracy of Jews, and to remind them (as if they need reminding) how very much they dislike Jews. One imagines that the wackaloon rightwingers are stupid at one’s peril. Just because they make your head feel like asploding doesn’t mean they are stupid, or silly. They know very well what they are about.

      1. chall

        i wasn’t comfortable spelling it out … but yes, there is a lot to be said about that conspiracy theory and the beliefs behind it Zuska. I do think though, that it is hard to phantom unless you have spoken with some of these people who honestly believe all this… since that is the scary part – to me at least…

  11. Ariel Toaff

    She’s been falsely accused of provoking murder, so blood libel is an apt metaphor. Get over yourself.

    “What we have here is a very vocally Christian politician, who
    marked a Jewish congressperson with a gunsight. Said Jewish congresswoman was shot in the head and nearly killed”

    It’s weird you bring that up without mentioning Loughner being a Jew.

    “I lived in Ohio for four years as a kid”

    Wow, we can only imagine what you must have endured.

    1. Jonathan

      The Blood Libel was used to justify killing Jews because they were Jews, stealing their property, throwing them out of their homes, etc, etc.

      Even if Palin has zero culpability (which most clear-thinking people reject), the metaphor is weak. She’s not being accused based on her race or creed. No one’s putting those scary looking gunsights on maps of where she lives.

      1. Ariel Toaff

        Even after the facts have come out, you cling to the blood libel that Palin had something to do with these murders. It’s pure hate.

    2. Peter J. Nicol

      Nice try, trollish one:

      “Conclusion—It is exceedingly unlikely that Amy Loughner has any Jewish ancestry. The only “line” not traced is Amy’s father’s mother’s family. The other three lines (Amy’s father’s father, Amy’s mother’s father, and Amy’s mother’s mother)—show, to all but the most obtuse, that these were not Jewish families. Moreover, it is quite clear that Amy’s mother, Lois Bleifuss Totman, came from a Catholic family.”

  12. Tsu Dho Nimh

    Didn’t the Romans make the same accusations against the early Christians?

    And I have one late 1800s missionary biography that mentions that they were accused by the local population (Korean) of killing babies for their Christian rituals.

    You just have to be an unpopular minority religion.

  13. Michael

    (1) She’s dumb. I think that much is well established already.

    (2) She believes that her narrow world view and religious notions are the one and only truth. That, too, has been fairly well established.

    Let’s now take a leap from dumb and narrow minded to full bore anti-semite and assume she made this comment purposely and with malintention. That would be political sabotage which I find unlikely in the context of a recorded and scripted video.

    I think she meant to just say “libel” but mistakenly used “blood libel” instead. Accidentally done, this still causes me concern as it hints that she has apparently been around this phrase enough for it to stick. Does she surround herself with anti-semites, racists, etc.? I think that’s a fair question. I, for one, had never heard the term until she said it and I’m 35. I simply have never associated with people who would use such a term.

    As an aside, does anyone else find it humorous that she has adopted the Bin Laden approach to media relations by taping her speeches, releasing them to the media, and retreating back to seclusion?

    1. becca

      In general, I hate to ascribe to malice what could be attributed to stupidity. But as a scripted speech, taped like that, I find it unlikely ‘blood libel’ isn’t deliberate. It could mean any number of things, and that gives makes any denial plausible. That said, I don’t like or agree with any of the possible messages, so I’m still mad. 😛

      1. James Sweet

        The only reason I even considered the possibility that it could be “stupid” is that we know from the later writings of people who worked on the McCain/Palin 2008 campaign that she frequently had her handlers facepalming. That she wouldn’t really take direction or be herded.

        But Katharine below explains that it’s fundamentalist code, and that I can believe. It makes a lot of sense.

    2. Peter J. Nicol

      Nah – she meant it. It was being thrown around on various nutso far-right teapublican blogs, and her crew picked it up and ran with it.

      Comments above about who Palin was talking to are spot on.

      This was one for the true believers.

  14. SS Green

    I’ve really tried to shrug off a lot of the media bombast on left and right in the past few days, but Palin scared me today. Don’t forget that she is a part of that weird cult that believes that Alaska will be the last refuge of Christians during Armageddon.

  15. Katharine

    I’m an atheist. I’ve seen feedback from a number of people raised in fundamentalist families (who are not fundamentalists themselves) who say that her speech pings their ‘speaking in code’ radar. Placed in the context of their eschatological beliefs and their bizarre interactions with modern Judaism, the least I can say is that she appears to be a very effective figurehead for fundamentalists and that fundamentalists must be put in their place at all costs. Palin is the Christian version of a Wahhabi.

    1. becca

      AH! Thank goodness. It pings my speaking in code radar like crazy, only I don’t know the code at all (I can only infer it from very limited exposure to certain Christians)! It’s very odd.

    2. James Sweet

      Thanks for this, that explains a lot.

      I was raised Mormon and there are definitely certain “code words” that light up my radar like nothin’. You almost need to translate sometimes!

      The evangelical code is different from the Mormon code, so I’m not surprised I didn’t know this one. but understanding that it’s evangelical code… that makes a whole lot more sense.

  16. Katharine

    The fact is that Palin is dumb, but what is truly chilling is that her followers are also dumb, and there are a lot of them. Most recent figures are that 53% of people think Palin was unfairly attacked for the ‘blood libel’ bit.

    1. Venture Free

      “Most recent figures are that 53% of people think Palin was unfairly attacked for the ‘blood libel’ bit.”

      A fact that I’m sure is entirely unsurprising to her speech writers. It was a win-win for them. She was already being attacked by the “left wing media”, and they were sure to attack her again for making such a statement. Thus is she martyred twice over, and for fundamentalists there is nothing greater in this life than martyrdom.

  17. Sue VanHattum

    Mark, I want to ask you to think about a word you used in your description of Palin. You called her a twat. Another post I read called her a witch. One commenter here called her a cow. Do you see what I see?

    Even in your justified anger, I think it’s important not to use sexist language. Think about how differently Dubya’s and Reagan’s dumbness was described.


    1. MarkCC Post author

      Honestly, I didn’t know that twat was sexist. I thought that it was just another form of “twit”. I sincerely apologize for that – it’s the sort of thing that as a native speaker of english, I *should* have known. I won’t make that mistake again.

      1. James Sweet

        Hey Mark, I just want to say, major kudos for owning up on that. It’s so easy to get defensive when called out on the inherent biases in one’s own language — when really there’s no reason to get defensive, because trying to avoid that is a constant struggle for everyone.

        I’ve been really disappointed with Ed Brayton when people point out potentially sexist language that he uses. Instead of responding like you did — “Ooops, I didn’t mean to cause offence, but I’ll watch for it” — he’s like, “Hey, everybody knows I’m not sexist and didn’t mean it that way, so STFU.” Which is so missing the point. Whether or not one is sexist/racist/homophobic or whatever is an orthogonal issue to whether or not one is (intentionally or not) using terms that reinforce those biases.

        Anyway, like I say, hats off to you. I’ve been trying hard to be open to the same sort of thing when people point out problems with my language. One of the toughest for me to accept has been that using “bitch” as a verb (as in “quit yet bitchin'”) is not really advisable, for similar reasons. I still haven’t meant to cut it out of my casual vocal conversations… but in written communications, I’ve cut it out, because there are some real unfortunate hidden connotations there.

        1. MarkCC Post author

          Thanks. I really try to get these things right, and I believe that it’s really important to not just try to change your own behavior to try to make things better, but to specifically own up to it when you screw up.

          The thing that bugs me about Brayton et al’s response to stuff like this is that he is sexist. We’d all really like to believe that we’re enlightened modern people who don’t have all of these nasty primitive biases. But the fact is, we live in a culture that embraces and reinforces them at every turn. Growing up in today’s world, particularly as someone from a very privileged background, the question isn’t “are you racist/sexist?”, but “how racist/sexist are you?”. Being racist or sexist in our culture doesn’t mean that you’re a bad person. But refusing to admit to those biases, and refusing to fight to reduce them – that’s where being a bad person comes into it.

          I try to be as non-racist and non-sexist as I can. But let’s face it: I’m a white guy from an upper-middle class Jewish family in the NYC suburbs. I’ve had so damned many advantages that it’s not even funny. I don’t feel at all guilty about that. But I do believe that as someone who’s benefited so much from the way things are, I owe it to the people who gave me those advantages to recognize how much they did for me, and to try to do as much as I can to make my society a better place for everyone.

          1. Neuro-conservative

            So, since you’re owning up to errors and all that, are you willing to admit that your outrage was merely ginned-up anti-Palinism? That, in fact, the phrase “blood libel” has become a commonly-used analogy in political discourse?

          2. MarkCC Post author

            No, because that’s not true.

            First of all: it’s *not* a commonly used analogy.

            Second: even if it is, it’s still *wrong*. Just like the error I corrected above: using a sexist term like “twat” isn’t OK, even if it is common. Using a term like “blood libel”, which has a specific meaning, and has been used as an excuse for theft, torture, and murder for nearly a thousand years, as part of political speech to try to cover your ass for something that you didn’t even do? That’s wrong. Everything I said about *why* it’s wrong still holds. “Everyone else does it too” is an excuse for kindergardeners, not for political leaders.

            Third: context matters. Using a term like blood libel in political discourse is unacceptable no matter what. Anyone who does it deserves to be condemned for it. But what Palin did was made even worse in context. She used it as part of an attempt to take the shooting of 20 people, with the primary target being a jewish woman – and make herself the victim because people said nasty things about her. To use something with so much history of truly horrific things done to people specifically including the ancestors of the real victim – and to use that to say that she is the real victim here? It’s god-damned disgraceful, and she she be ashamed of herself. And you should be ashamed of yourself for defending her over this.

          3. Johnny

            While I fully agree that we must be aware of our ingrained biases, it is important to note that the internet is truly a global community. In England “twat” means exactly what Mark originally thought it meant. Still I would prefer to avoid offending people if at all possible (or at least minimize it).

          4. James Sweet

            Mark, I agree with the thrust of what you say here:

            We’d all really like to believe that we’re enlightened modern people who don’t have all of these nasty primitive biases. But the fact is, we live in a culture that embraces and reinforces them at every turn. Growing up in today’s world, particularly as someone from a very privileged background, the question isn’t “are you racist/sexist?”, but “how racist/sexist are you?”.

            As I say, I agree with the thrust of it, in that we all fall victim to primitive biases all the freaking time, without usually being aware of it, that if you think you don’t that probably means you are unaware of it and are doing worse than you could — and that this goes doubly so for people like you and me who find ourselves born to circumstances (white, male, etc.) which afford an enormous amount of concealed privilege, which we cannot possibly be fully aware of every time it happens.

            Where I differ with you slightly is in the details: I feel that statements like “everybody’s a racist”, while certainly true in the sense that you mean it, are somewhat counterproductive in that it takes away a word that we use to mean something more specific. While the hidden pervasive biases may be the most destructive thing at present, that wasn’t always the case, and it’s important to have a bulwark against more overt manifestations of bias.

            Meh, just my two cents. Like I say, I agree fully with what you are saying, I’m just not crazy about the way of saying it. But I guess it’s not that important…

      2. Peter J. Nicol

        “Twat” is unlikely to be sexist.

        It is British (and Australian) for “eedjit”.

        That is also has a secondary slang meaning for “vagina” is irrelevant.

        It is clear you weren’t calling her a cunt, you were calling her daft, which she plainly is.

        1. MarkCC Post author

          Looking around on the net, I think that the genitalia is actually the primary meaning. It’s become a common term for idiot, etc., but the original meaning of the word was female genitalia. It’s just like “dick” in american english; when most people call someone a dick, they’re thinking of the word meaning something like idiot or jackass. But the fact is, the word comes from a slang term for penis. And in the case of twat, common usage may be similar to twit, but the word-origin is still the slang for a vagina.

          And that makes it doubly problematical from a sexism point of view: we use “dick” as a term for a pushy obnoxious person, because that’s the stereotype of extreme masculine behavior; we use “twat” as a term for someone stupid, because that’s the stereotype of extreme feminine behavior.

  18. anyedge

    I’m half Jewish (on my mom’s side, so, you know, Jewish). I’ve never been religiously Jewish though, and I confess I didn’t know the history of this term. It seems out of place in it’s use here, though I am not inspired to the ire that MarkCC seems to be from his post.

    The only quibble I have with the post (for I can surely not argue with how someone else feels), is to point out that Palin’s ads did not put the congresspersons in gunsights, but rather were maps of the united states with gunsights on the congressional districts. I think that’s a reasonably important distinction. Putting a gunsight on a person specifically would place much greater culpability upon the ad designer and approvers.

    1. muteKi

      Quite frankly I never really bought into the gunsights as being that significant out of all the stupid and/or inflammatory bullshit Palin and the Tea Party are associated with. It always seemed just a bit too convenient for me, quite frankly, to blame that>/i>.

      I would put her lying and misrepresentation of her political opponents on a regular basis as much more of a clear cause to this — one of the bits that feels like a fairly clear-cut case to me is the lies about the “death panels”.

  19. Pete

    I think you are being a bit hard on Palin. I’m a Christian too and relatively well-read on religion and politics, but I’d never heard the term “blood libel” as a specific accusation against Jews. In fact I’d never heard the term before this week.

    I was vaguely aware some people at some times made accusations like this against Jews (my first girlfriend told me she had someone rub her head looking for horns), but assumed in this day, age and country, no one really took them seriously. I suspect being Jewish gives you a vastly different perspective on the issue from most Christians.

    I think in Sarah’s case, ignorance is more plausible than malice.

  20. science-based humanist

    Somebody already said “bravo” but I’ll say it again. PalMD posted this on his FB page; otherwise I wouldn’t have found it. I immediately sent it to my Russian immigrant parents who have gone down the rabbit hole of Fox News in their Floridian retirement.

    One of my very few memories of childhood in Minsk is a night at summer camp where the kids are telling ghost stories. And suddenly one starts to tell of her Jewish neighbors who kidnap and sacrifice children. And I, vaguely aware that I am Jewish, though knowing very little else (this is early 1970s), start crying and protesting that, no, my family is Jewish, but we don’t do this!…

    The thing that burns most of all is Palin’s proud, strutting anti-intellectualism.

  21. Wonder Lucy

    Wow. I learnt a lot without go to Wikipedia. Seams for me that regardless of political interest of Sara Palin, as woman, a human being that she is, she most understand in this Society, that some times is better to keep our mouth shut. The mother of Jesus in the Bible was having a quality. She was looking, hearing, knowing EVERYTHING about Jesus her son’s works, but she was not saying ONE WORD about it. Some times is good to follow her example. See, look, hear, but don’t say one word, if you are not sure what to say, when to say it, how to say it or the implications of your words with harmful results.

  22. MBR

    Mark, I’ve been following your posts for a while and am a fan of your (at least non-rant) posts. I don’t mean to not respect your feelings on the matter, but to say “…marked a Jewish congressperson with a gunsight…” is almost enough to make me start to wonder at the integrity of past and future posts of yours on any topic. I come form a mixed Christan and Jewish family, and I’m not a fan of Palin and would certainly not vote for her – but I’m pretty sure she would never mark someone for death, or even think such a thing. (Marking a map with targets is a pretty common thing to do – a little more dramatic than push-pins.) If some asshole decided that’s what she meant (though AFAIK there’s no indication he even saw this image) then it’s certainly no fault of anyone but the perpetrator. As for her use of “blood libel” – I’ll have to admit, it certainly didn’t add much value. That aside, I think despite your claim that the orignal meaning of the term is not dead, you’d be hard pressed to find many people in the demographic of the American political news cycle that (a) know this term, and (b) would map its full historic weight to her intent and the situation at hand. (I had learned this term probably 30 years ago, and had to look it up again.)
    Palin’s statement doesn’t deserve to be taken more seriously than the thought she probably put toward it’s design – she either didn’t know the weight of the term, or thought its use clever without thinking it through.

  23. Anonymous Protestant Atheist

    I’m a Protestant atheist with a serious Jew envy, I have a couple of dear Jewish friends, and support Israel in the strongest possible terms. I don’t have an anti-Semitic thought in my head. Moreover, I spent my time reading your posts. So I was quite taken aback by your rant here, which had me squirming in embarrassment. I can’t recall the last time an article demonstrated such clear triumph of political correct thinking over clear headed intelligence, something this blog is otherwise renowned for railing against.

    Palin obviously didn’t write the speech: she had people much smarter than her do that on her behalf. So much smarter, indeed, that I think it quite probable some of them were Jewish. There’s not a word in that speech that’s clearly anti-Semitic. Arch Jew Phil Greenspun says the ‘blood libel’ claim is the most coherent and accurate point that whole speech: I wouldn’t disagree with him.

    Like the attempt to make the Nazi’s murder of millions during World War 2 solely a crime against the Jews, your attempt to claim the blood libel as a uniquely Jewish insult is cheap, counter-factual, and counter-productive. Sarah Palin and her speech writers were no more anti-Semitic than Jared Loughner. They are all crazy, and that in this case a Jew was their shared target was only accident, not the result of lengthy deliberation.

    The Jews, like atheists, really do have plenty of genuine and truly dangerous enemies today. If you want to point them out, do that. Don’t pick on unlucky idiots who actually don’t want you dead.

    1. Jeff

      That the “blood libel” analogy is the most accurate and coherent point of the speech does not mean that it was accurate and coherent. She could have said “colorless green ideas dream furiously,” and it would have at least had the virtue of being grammatically correct.

      Strictly speaking, yes, the basic idea is the same. Someone is killed, other people blame someone mostly unrelated to the death. The problem is scale. No one is even proposing we torture and murder Palin and her family and then take her property. No one is trying to exterminate her race and creed from the planet. It’s like comparing Loughner to Muhammad Atta or Hitler. It’s just not comparable.

    2. MarkCC Post author

      And where, pray tell, did I suggest that she’s antisemitic?

      Using the phrase “blood libel” to talk about this was horrific. It’s just not OK. It’s comparing the ravages of centuries of antisemitism to a bunch of people saying “Hey, you did something unpleasant”.

      “Blood libel” is a very specific phrase, which has a very specific meaning. And pretending that it’s not connected to the Jews is disingenuous, at best. The blood libel is the accusation that Jews kill christians for their blood, to use in religious rituals, particularly in the making of Matzoh. This isn’t up for debate.

      Similarly, the holocaust was a horrific event. Millions of people died. But to pretend that the Jews weren’t the specific target is utter foolishness. THe nazis killed lots of people beside the Jews: they killed Roma, they killed homosexuals, they killed lots of people. But only the Jews were single out as the final solution. Out of all of the people that they killed, one out of every two came from a tiny minority of the population – the Jews. To deny the fact that the Jews were the primary target of the nazi exterminations is, at best, foolish ignorance.

      And what the fuck is an “arch-jew”?

      Oh, and I’m sure that you’re really a long-time reader of my blog. It’s just that nowhere in my logs do I see your IP address before this week. But I’m sure that you just, coincidentally, changed your IP service, right? Because there’s no chance that you’re really nothing but a pathetic concern troll, eh?

      1. Neuro-conservative

        Dude, she said “a” blood libel, not “the” blood libel. You are simply wrong. As Rabbi Schmuley Boteach noted, “The abominable element of the blood libel is not that it was used to accuse Jews, but that it was used to accuse innocent Jews—their innocence, rather than their Jewishness, being the operative point.”

  24. muteKi

    She’s trying to avoid taking any responsibility for the shooting. That’s
    fine – she isn’t responsible for the shooting. But the way that she’s doing it is by falsely presenting herself as the victim in this situation.

    This is a very good point and is probably the main reason her replies bother me so. Her argument seems to be, “If these claims you are making about are true, then why are you trying to motivate people against me?” This of course misses an important point: few consider her politically viable any more. The main reason she remains a public figure because, as always (and this so clearly demonstrates), she’s very good at saying things that get people to pay attention to her and get them angry. Even her defenses are meant to incite anger at anyone who doesn’t agree with her (I’m vaguely reminded of Uri Gellar’s appearance on Carson’s show), and her only defense is that it doesn’t do anything; in fact, she may as well be saying now, “See, I’m doing it again! Nobody else is going out shooting people!”

    Goes back to my comment before about the targets. I think it was a bit rash to pick them as a smoking gun or anything — I don’t think a lot of people buy that very much and since it was stressed by a lot of people becomes a great way to portray people as just being mean to her because they don’t like her (whether or not their scorn is deserved). Had they picked out, again, a better example like the “death panels” it would probably have made more sense. And, I do think (perhaps myself included) that too many people are willing to absolve Loughner of any responsibility because of his apparent mental illness — allowing many to put more blame on Palin than she probably deserves.

    I compared her a little while ago (elsewhere) to one of those constantly-in-rehab starlets. She gets attention for two reasons: one, she’s already gotten a lot of attention and has admirers for her status; two, people like most of the commenters on this blog get an easy target to hate on (though it’s hard to claim she doesn’t deserve a lot of it).

    In any case it’s most disgusting right now because a very heinous crime has been committed, and still she’s there whining around, “Look at me! Look at me! I’m the important one here! Watch me be marginalized and victimized!” Of course, for most people parroting an already poorly-chosen talking point from another person’s speeches would be a bad idea for most public officials; for Palin, it is Thursday.

    I think I had a larger point but I don’t quite remember what it is now. Perhaps that the 24 hour news networks are as big a problem for giving Palin such easy access to a soapbox to say these things, because no matter what, it’s going to produce lots of high ratings for them? Quite frankly, I think that is a bigger blight on America — the lack of real news by our news services — and ties in as strongly to the sort of messages and tone (seriously, why do they only report “someone called them death panels” rather than outright say “these politicians are lying”) that people are complaining about.

  25. Barbara Radcliffe

    A few days before Sarah Palin’s speech, I was reading up on ‘blood libel’ in preparation for a unit I am teaching on the Holocaust to middle school students. I’d planned to include this topic in teaching how Hitler was able to incite hatred for the Jewish people with lies. Now, I am all the more resolved that every one of my students will come away from this unit of study with a deep understanding of what blood libel truly means and the pain and suffering it caused .

  26. sw

    This blog has something to do with science?
    What is the subject? Whether Palin should have used the phrase “blood libel”?
    Is this a question, then, of taste?
    Did anyone do a Google n-gram search on the use of the term? A news search on the use of the term?
    Does anyone suppose that using an obscure term associated with anti-semitism would foster anti-semitism?
    Did anyone consider that no one gives a shit if Giffords is Jewish?
    Did anyone pause to consider that the accused Lougher is/was a fucked-up screwball? No more important or relevant than all the other recent fucked-up screwballs with quick trigger fingers and ‘anger issues’?

    1. James Sweet

      This blog has something to do with science?

      I am beginning to think that those who show up at a blog and say, “Hey, this particular post is not what this blog is allegedly about!” must be the stupidest people on the face of the earth.

      I mean, really?? Have you never heard of a “blog” before? Have you never read one, ever? If you had, maybe you would have noticed that, while some blogs are indeed themed, the one thing that they are all reliably “about” is “whatever the blogger feels she would like to say at the moment.”

      Seriously, I mean, complaining that a post on a blog is about the “wrong” topic has got to be the stupidest fucking thing I have ever heard. Ever.

  27. William Wallace

    The term blood libel was used in an op ed piece in the Wall Street Journal on Monday, two days before Palin’s video. It was used in the same context. It was used without mention of religious minorities and without mention of European history. But it was used by a moderate conservative, Tennessee professor Glenn Reynolds (pro-gay marriage, pro abortion). So is that the difference?

    In any event, has it ever occurred to you that when a person unfamiliar with Jewish history (or at least a person without photographic memory) hears a term composed of common words, that they wouldn’t immediately research the history of the term, especially if the meaning in the current context seems clear enough?

    1. MarkCC Post author

      Glenn Reynolds is not, by any reasonable definition, a “moderate”.

      The opinions page of the WSJ is also not something that I read regularly. I never saw, nor heard about, Reynolds piece until someone tried to use it to defend Palin.

      In terms of the history: I expect that anyone who uses a term in a public speech would make a minimal effort to ensure that they understand the meaning of what they’re saying. I have no doubt that Palin had no clue of what the term meant: she’s demonstrated, repeatedly, that she’s astonishingly ignorant and proud of it. Personally, I find that utterly disgraceful.

      Further, in Palin’s case, she didn’t write that speech herself. She has a team of people who write stuff for her. And I do not, for a moment, believe that none of them knew the meaning of that term when they wrote it. Based on her history, based on the content of her speeches in the past, it’s a very deliberate use of the term, which counts on certain listeners understanding what it means. Like many hard-right conservatives, Palin makes frequent use of dog-whistles – terms which can be understood in more than one way, where one of the meanings is a message to her supporters. (For example, “states rights” is a common dog-whistle term; to the conservative audience, it means “keeping minorities in their place”. ) In this context, I think it’s a deliberate attempt to play to the persecution complex of the religious faction of the tea party, to say “We’re the real victims here”. The blood libel is a historical lie used to persecute an innocent group of people. The religious folks that love Palin see themselves as an oppressed group within the secular american culture – and that this is a signal to them.

      1. Robert

        As a side note, can you please explain to me you stance on “states rights”? In particular, what is inherently unjust (or anti-minority, or whatever) about wishing that power is divided appropriatly among the states and federal goverment?

        Do you realize that Northern states used states rights arguments to nullify fugitive slave laws? Has it occured to you that states rights doctrines have been used for many other purposes that to keep minorities in their “place”?

        If so, why in the world would you suggest that a conervative’s use of the term “states rights” is anything other than the recognition that the Constitution clearly sets limits on what the federal government is allowed to do? And in what context is states rights usually mentioned? In recent months and years it has been in the context of taxes or individual liberty, something that leftists used to be in favor of.

        1. MarkCC Post author

          I have nothing against states rights. But when modern-day conservatives use the term, it’s pretty much always used as a cover for racism and discrimination. It’s pretty simple, and it’s pretty open. Remember this famous quote, from the head of the first president Bush’s campaign?

          You start out in 1954 by saying, “Nigger, nigger, nigger.” By 1968 you can’t say “nigger”—that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states’ rights and all that stuff. You’re getting so abstract now [that] you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is [that] blacks get hurt worse than whites.

          There are so many places where the modern government is stepping on what would traditionally have been states rights issues. But you don’t hear conservatives griping about the federal power grab in most of them. In fact, an awful lot of conservative politics is all about centralizing power.

          1. James Sweet

            Exactly. Where does the conservatives’ advocacy for “states rights” disappear to whenever medical marijuana comes up?

            I’ll grant there are some true ideological libertarians (not many in the Libertarian Party, of course, but they do exist) who do passionately believe in a concept called states rights, and they honestly mean it and apply it equally all around. I happen to think those folks are completely wrong, but I do have some respect for their intellectual integrity. They have an actual ideology that they passionately believe in. I even have some sympathy for that ideology (I’m somewhat of a social libertarian, though less so than I used to be), though I believe it to be woefully impractical, that it inevitably leads to grave injustices, and in the modern world could even lead to outright self-destruction. Still, at least when they say they believe in something, they are telling the truth.

            But when mainstream Republicans blather on about “states rights”, well, to call that “disingenuous” would be putting it mildly. As Mark said, it’s more often a codeword, for race-baiting, for homophobia, for anti-gun control, etc. (FWIW, I also think there are coherent anti-gun control arguments — though again I don’t typically agree with them — but if you are against gun control and want to argue the point, say so, and don’t hide behind some phony adherence to “states rights” when you are totally unwilling to apply the principle in other areas)

          2. Robert

            Ah, gotcha. In that case, I can agree with you more (btw, I hadn’t heard that quote, but it is interesting.)

            But, the only thing I ask is that you don’t immediatley jump to the conclusion that anyone who mentions states rights is racist (I’m not saying that you do this, I am just mking a request.) For example, when you hear Hannity talk about states rights, you are pretty safe to bet that, at best, he is being hypocritical, but if you hear, say Judge Napalatono talk about states rights, he is being genuine.

            As for modern coservatives wanting to centralize power, I disagree: they want to centralize power if and only if THEY are in power 🙂

  28. Robert

    Of all of the things to dog Palin for you chose her use of the phrase “blood libel”? Do you realize that Palin routinely calls for the increase in military action in the middle east and that these military actions directly cause the deaths of thousands of innocents? May be you have written about that sort of thing in the past, and I hope you have, but I think it is a tad bit on the picky side to get this worked up on Palin’s use of a phrase that has come into common parlance.

    I am a conservative (a real-life actual conservative, not the scary Palin/Hannity/Beck/Limbaugh form) and I already can’t stand Palin, but this is one thing that I just would not get that worked up over.

  29. William Wallace

    Regarding conservatives, states rights, and medical marijauna:

    Modern day conservatives, like Clarence Thomas? Who in Gonzales v. Raich dissented, and wrote:

    Respondent’s local cultivation and consumption of marijuana is not “Commerce … among the several States.”

    Certainly no evidence from the founding suggests that “commerce” included the mere possession of a good or some personal activity that did not involve trade or exchange for value. In the early days of the Republic, it would have been unthinkable that Congress could prohibit the local cultivation, possession, and consumption of marijuana.

    This was a pro-states rights stance from an African American conservative Supreme Court Justice who is much maligned by the left.

      1. William Wallace

        You can read it here. Rehnquist joined O’Connor’s dissent in the case. Thomas joined in part of O’Connor’s dissent, and also wrote an additional dissent.

        You may recall O’Conner was appointed by Ronald Reagan, and Rehnquist by Nixon, and Thomas by Bush. I’m not sure how you measure conservative, though.

        1. James Sweet

          I would have considered O’Connor to be a swing vote.

          I must reiterate again my embarrassment at this little historical blunder of mine. Although I fancy myself as being more familiar with SCOTUS case history than your average American, my knowledge is still woefully inadequate. As such, I did not realize the case you were referring to was during the Rehnquist days. (That must have been one of the last significant cases he participated in, wouldn’t it?) I’m not hugely surprised to read that Rehnquist dissented in that way. I would have been shocked if Scalia had, though; or on today’s court, if Alito had. Roberts — enh, I guess I could have seen him going either way on it.

          (In case it is not clear yet from my comments, I am not a fan of Scalia. heh…)

    1. James Sweet

      Er uh… I mean, what did Scalia have to say about it?

      Damn Rehnquist, having to go and screw up my point. Okay, point taken, the conservative justices appear to be more willing to apply those principles even-handedly (though not Scalia in this case, and color me unsurprised). Still, I challenge you to point to a non-trivial number of conservative elected officials who had the cajones to put their states rights money where their mouth is in regards to medical marijuana.

      (On a side note, all other things being equal, I think state-initiated medical marijuana programs are awfully dodgy… what would we say if a particular psych drug, let’s say, were denied approval by the FDA, but some state decided to go ahead and sell it anyway? Being a liberal, I have no previously stated commitment to states’ rights to get in my way here 🙂 However, I said “all other things being equal.” As a pragmatic matter, I support medical marijuana initiatives as a backdoor approach to eventual decriminalization.)

      1. William Wallace

        I didn’t see your 2nd replay.

        I’d like to get back to an important point: the idea that mentioning states’ rights as a dog whistle to racists is a minor side effect, not the purpose of mentioning states’ rights. Complaining about conservatives who argue for states’ rights is like complaining about Walmart selling white sheets or Home Depot selling 4×4 lumber, all because some racists like buying those things for evil purposes. (A better complaint is, ‘where did the principle of states’ rights go in the Terri Schiavo case?’)

        The dog whistle caricature that MarkCC paints here is just that, a caricature. It is nothing more than yet another attempt to silence, through unwarranted guilt, those who oppose a powerful central government.

        Instead of debating principles, issues, and ideas, the so-called intellectual left uses guilt by association to attempt to silence the speech of their political opposition.

        Yet, this country was founded on some important and worthy principles, among them is that “power divided is power checked”. Hence, three branches of government at the central level, enumerated powers to that central government, and also states’ rights, citizens’ rights, etc. Divided power an important component of what made this country great.

        1. James Sweet

          I’m sorry, William, but while you may be one of those few who genuinely “oppose a strong central government”, you have got to see that the reality amongst most American conservatives today does not match up with this. It is not like criticizing Walmart for selling white sheets because some people are racist; it is more like criticizing Mormonism for being anti-gay. Yeah, there’s a few Mormons who are totally pro-LGBT rights… and of course all individuals should be judged on their own merit. But I don’t think it’s “guilt by association” if I say “Mormonism is diametrically opposed to gay rights” — even if a few people who self-identify as Mormons might have a different interpretation of it.

          If you are honestly a small government libertarian, you should be incensed at the GOP, not the “intellectual left”. The people who are doing the most to undermine your position are people like Glenn Beck, Joe Barton, John Boehner, etc. I would say the same thing to a pro-gay rights Mormon — their anger should be directed at the LDS leadership, not at gay rights activists who (rightly!) criticize the Mormon church. The modern GOP has made it impossible to effectively advocate for your position of skepticism towards strong federalism — a position which, as I said in some previous comment way up there somewhere, I have some intellectual respect for even though I think you are wrong as a practical matter.

          I do not think that MarkCC’s characterization of states’ rights as most people in America used the term in 2011 is inaccurate. Certainly there are those who advocate for it genuinely, but they are the exception rather than the rule.

          If you genuinely hold those principles, you are the equivalent of a pro-gay rights Mormon. To embrace that metaphor: Your position is worthy of respect, but who could possibly be blamed for initially assuming that, as a Mormon, you opposed gay rights?

  30. Dunc

    Man, I’m just loving the way that so many are running for the “I’m too pig ignorant to know what ‘blood libel’ means” defence… What sort of rock do you people live under?

    1. William Wallace

      Maybe they read a wikipedia article Blood libel (9-6-2009) way back in 2009 and never went back to see if the article had been airbrushed.

      Some of the best documented cases of blood libel focus upon accusations against Jews, but many other groups have been accused throughout history, including Christians, Cathars, Carthaginians, Knights Templar, witches, Wiccans, Christian heretics, Romani people, Mormons, neopagans, Native Americans, Africans, atheists and communists.[citation needed]

      In the Mandaean scripture, the Ginza Rba, a supposed Christian group called the “Minunei” are accused of a blood libel by the Jews: “They kill a Jewish child, they take his blood, they cook it in bread and they proffer it to them as food.”[4]

  31. Marichi

    I’m a Protestant atheist with a serious Jew envy, I have a couple of dear Jewish friends, and support Israel in the strongest possible terms. I don’t have an anti-Semitic thought in my head.

    In other words, “I am not a racist, my best friends are black…”

    Also we shouldn’t forget that Palin is close to several pastors involved with the entirely fraudulent “Jews for Jesus” movement.

    1. James Sweet

      Meh, not necessarily. (Though that commenter’s later use of the phrase “arch-Jew”, whatever the hell that means, does kindof support that interpretation, I suppose…) I am an atheist-raised-Mormon, married to an atheist-raised-Jewish, and while I wouldn’t have used the phrase “Jew envy”, I gotta say, I’m envious of secular Jewish culture. (I mean, dude, Passover? A feast where you are required to drink wine at certain intervals? Dude, count me in!) I’ve even half-jokingly asked if I could convert directly from gentile to atheist to secular Jew (Jerry Coyne told me ‘no’). So if the commenter hadn’t gone on to say some other highly questionable crap, I would have been inclined to take the quoted phrase at face value, and with empathy.

      Although, the commenter’s “[I] support Israel in the strongest possible terms” doesn’t bode well… tends to be codespeak for uber-conservatives. Recognizing that the Palestine situation is complicated (ain’t that an understatement?!) should not be understood to weaken one’s “I’m not an anti-semite!” credentials…

      As to the Jews for Jesus movement… I’ll just say, my wife’s Orthodox Jewish uncle got remarried to a Christian woman (I believe some sort of Baptist sect, but don’t quote me on that) and the compromise was to have a “Messianic Jewish” wedding, i.e. Jews for Jesus. Yeah, that didn’t really please anybody. It was awkward to say the least. (And to exacerbate the situation, the woman was black, my wife’s uncle white, and, well… let’s just say his children, my wife, and I were the only members of his family to show up. Really sad…)

  32. Mark

    Hmm, well, at least share an interest in prog-rock in all of its many hyphenations and permutations… I’ll leave it at that.

  33. Jud

    Just in case anyone wants “Jewish cred” from me before I say what I’m gonna say: My dad’s family was from Palangen, a suburb of Riga, Latvia. My mom’s family was from Grodzisk, a suburb of Warsaw, Poland. You will find both names etched in glass on an elevated walkway in the Holocaust Museum, along with those of other Jewish villages/towns/ghettoes whose Jewish population was exterminated by the Nazis.

    And yes, I heard all the tiresome “Dirty Jew!” slurs and Christ-killer accusations growing up in Pennsylvania, and I was “lucky” enough to be living in Oklahoma when the minister who was head of the Southern Baptist Convention (Bailey someone?) said, as recounted in newspaper headlines, that God does not hear the prayers of Jews, then “apologized” in remarks in which he could not resist referring to Jews’ noses (no, I am not making this up).

    But I’m with those who say Palin’s use of the phrase “a blood libel,” rather than “the blood libel,” expressed what she meant, quite probably had evangelical roots in Matthew, and is no particular insult to Jews (any more than the shooting of Congresswoman Giffords was a particularly anti-Semitic act). In fact, it seems to me that the brouhaha over this by outraged Jewish folks comes perilously close to an unlovely attitude of “Hey, that’s our historical slander, you can’t use it!”

    Politically, I find Palin odious. In terms of education, I find her combination of shallowness and arrogant pride that she needs no more depth disgusting (though she has a canny political intelligence that, in combination with her politics and lack of depth, is quite scary). I also diametrically disagreed with the tone and intent of what she said after the shootings – it was certainly not the time to complain about others’ treatment of her, when the families of the victims were who we all should have been primarily concerned about (and what President Obama got exactly right).

    Certainly all that is well and truly sufficient to be offended and disgusted with Palin’s use of the phrase “blood libel:” Not that it’s historically associated with slander against the Jews and so she as a Christian can’t use it, but that her over-the-top complaints about what was being said about her were so completely inappropriate to the context of a moment when families were mourning the violent taking of their loved one’s lives.

    P.S. Mark, since you agree use of the “t-word” to describe Palin is inappropriate (it was quite jarring to see it, particularly at the end of a post about use of insults against particular groups), I’d ask you to please consider editing the post to remove it, if that’s possible.


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