Memo to Rebecca Mansour: THANK YOU FOR THE CONFESSION.
Much has been made, this past weekend, about the role of heated political rhetoric in the wake of the Arizona shooting on Saturday. And much will continue to be made about it. I hope you don't think anything is going to change as a result, because you're likely to be very, very disappointed. Still, there are some important, YAD-worthy lessons that can be taken from the discussion.
Here's the deal. If you put a gunsight on a representative to make a political point, and that representative then gets shot in the head, you should feel bad about it. If you're running against a representative, and, as part of your campaign, offer a chance to shoot an M-16 at a "get on target" event to remove your opponent from office, and your opponent later gets shot in the head, you should fucking well feel bad about it.
Now, you can, you will, and you do hide behind the plausible deniability of the situation. That anyone who actually carries out an attack like the one in Arizona is a mentally-ill fringe type. That nobody should be expected to take your rhetoric seriously. No shit. The only reason you're even remotely COMFORTABLE with the kind of rhetoric you spew is that it's aimed at a group of people to lazy and stupid to do anything with it, yet gullible enough to feel like they are.
I get it. It's just marketing. There's always been this eliminationist, militaristic, La-Z-Boy revolutionary lilt to the teabagger movement. I've mocked it dozens of times. You're poking them in their lizard brains with phrases like "take the country back", feeding into their Red Dawn fantasies with your "Second Amendment remedies", and metaphorically extending their shrunken, flaccid penii by putting automatic weapons in their hands.
Hell, I'm not even suggesting they should stop. Because any toning down of the rhetoric from these clowns would be temporary and disingenuous. But they should fucking well feel bad about it, and there should be some serious public shaming going on to help that out. Sarah Palin's spokesman, Rebecca Mansour, accidentally admitted to this in a statement. ACTUAL QUOTE TIME!
"We never ever, ever intended it to be gun sights. We never imagined, it never occurred to us that anybody would consider it violent. [The graphic was] crosshairs that you would see on a map. [There is] nothing irresponsible about our graphic." - Mansour, on Tammy Bruce's radio show.
You have, of course, seen the graphic in question. If you hadn't seen it before this weekend, you certainly have seen it by now. They're gunsights. They're not any symbol you'd normally see on a map. Palin herself called them "bulls-eyes".
Now, if Palin and Mansour truly believe, deep down in their hearts, that there's absolutely no connection whatsoever between the kind of rhetoric that puts gunsights on Congressmen, and crazed gunmen shooting Congressmen in the head, there's absolutely no reason whatsoever to deny that they're gun-sights. If they had the true courage of their convictions, they would be trying to convince us that violent rhetoric is OK, not that clearly violent rhetoric isn't actually violent.
This isn't a free-speech issue, no matter how much the guilty consciences need to make it one. Nobody's going to actually arrest Palin as an accomplice in the shooting rampage, after all. But freedom of speech is not the complete freedom of consequences from one's speech. And those consequences can and should include public approbation, political damage, and, yes, fucking well feeling bad about it afterwards.