Palinspeak And Violence

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One of the constants in Sarah Palin's worldview is violence. You see it in her reality show where most wildlife is immediately identified as a threat to be guarded against or killed. You see it in her inflammatory language, and the ways in which she corrals supporters to sometimes shockingly violent threats. You see it even in completely innocuous Facebook postings on sports. Just check out this Palin stream-of-consciousness on, yes, March Madness:

To the teams that desire making it this far next year: Gear up! In the battle, set your sights on next season’s targets! From the shot across the bow – the first second’s tip-off – your leaders will be in the enemy’s crosshairs, so you must execute strong defensive tactics. You won’t win only playing defense, so get on offense!

The crossfire is intense, so penetrate through enemy territory by bombing through the press, and use your strong weapons – your Big Guns – to drive to the hole. Shoot with accuracy; aim high and remember it takes blood, sweat and tears to win. Focus on the goal and fight for it.

If the gate is closed, go over the fence. If the fence is too high, pole vault in. If that doesn’t work, parachute in. If the other side tries to push back, your attitude should be “go for it.” Get in their faces and argue with them. (Sound familiar?!) Every possession is a battle; you’ll only win the war if you’ve picked your battles wisely. No matter how tough it gets, never retreat, instead RELOAD!

The point here is not that there is any connection between this random post and political violence. The point is the worldview Palin holds. It is zero-sum. It expresses itself in clear and stark violent imagery. It is constantly about attack, conflict, combat, "enemy territory", "Big Guns", battle. This rhetorical background is so deeply part of the narrative we barely notice it any more. But it is not truly the language of politics; it's the language of war.

Just look again at this ad that ran against Giffords last November. And ponder a moment:

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If you are not disturbed by what it proclaims as the essence of true conservatism - a sun-glass-wearing soldier with a machine gun in his open crotch - you should be.

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