I admire Sarah Palin, I admire Fox News and I admire the American right. There, I’ve said it. They bring skill, energy and above all a degree of daring to the US political scene that no other source can match.
Consider some examples.
On Fox News, presenter Glenn Beck has run a TV feature called The War Room. It imagines the US in 2014: a place where people pay up to 95% of their pay cheque in income tax, a place where the government and the unions run everything, but run them very badly because law and order is a shambles. ‘Cities are going to look like Dodge City with roaming gangs. The government has betrayed the constitution – how long do we have before this becomes a crazy real scenario?’ Worried-looking ex-generals and professors come on to say how worried they are.
Sarah Palin issues her now-famous list of politicians, including Gabrielle Giffords, with a rifle-sights focused on them and the instruction ‘Reload’.
Radio host Brian James of KFYI in Arizona advocates murder as a way of dealing with undocumented immigrants. ‘What we’ll do is randomly pick one night – every week –where we will kill whoever crosses the border. Step over there and you die. You get to decide whether it’s your lucky night or not. I think that would be more fun…[I’d be] happy to sit there with my high-powered rifle and my night scope’.
Former radio talk show host Harold Turner urges his blog readers to ‘take up arms’ against Connecticut lawmakers, claiming government officials should ‘obey the Constitution or die’.
Arizona Republican Trent Franks calls Obama ‘An enemy of humanity’.
Strong stuff indeed.
Then six people, including a federal judge and a nine-year-old child, get shot dead in a Tucson mall, and Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords is left struggling for her life. Does Fox News, Sarah Palin, the American right retreat, covered in shame for having created this polluted atmosphere? Cue shrieks of laughter from my cat. I was on BBC Radio Ulster’s ‘Talkback’ show yesterday alongside an American right-wing representative. Had the statements of Palin and others created an atmosphere in which monstrous deeds could breed? No, no, no, a man called Cal assured me. Or rather, what about the American left? Look at the things they’ve said about George Bush. Besides, robust political exchange has always been a feature of politics down through history and there’s nothing wrong with that. What’s wrong today, Cal explained, is that the American left is using the sad deaths and injuries in Arizona for their own political ends.
Palin, meanwhile, has accused her critics of ‘blood libel’ for saying she and Fox and others have overheated political debate and spawned violence. ‘When was it less heated?’ she asks in a video on her website. ‘Back in those calm days when political figures literally settled their differences with duelling pistols?" ”
So let’s summarise. We have a sustained stream of vitriol aimed at Obama and anyone who might advocate communist measures such as universal health care. Gabrielle Giffords warns against the consequences of such vitriol and shortly afterwards she herself is gunned down. Fox and Palin respond by explaining that vigorous political debate has always been like this or worse, and it’s shameful how the left is using the Arizona attack to libel and muzzle decent, patriotic Americans.
A stunning performance, wouldn’t you say? A deft sleight of hand and abracadabra! The picture has been transformed. Anyone who points a finger at the right is seen as being bullying, anti-democratic and opposed to free speech in a democracy. Now you know how Alice felt in Wonderland.
Speaking of Alice: did you know that the day after the Arizona killings, the sale of hand-guns in that state went…No, not down. Up. Right up. Sixty-five per cent on sales a year ago.
Ashamed? Guilty? The American right don’t know the words. That's what makes them so skilful, energetic and daring.