Until now, I’d refrained–purposely–from writing a Fresh Rhetoric column about Sarah Palin. From the moment she first entered the nation’s field of view as John McCain’s 2008 running mate, I’d considered her to be a charismatic fraud–a good-looking, photogenic opportunist with no intellectual foundation, using snark, sarcasm, and divisiveness to peddle the cheapest brand of political demagoguery. Her enduring presence on the national scene owed itself more, in my view, to the fact that certain segments of the media–seduced by her combination of looks and bombast–afforded her far more coverage than either her bona fides or her contributions to society actually merited. While mindful that Fresh Rhetoric was but an ultra-microscopic dot on the media landscape, I’d decided, nevertheless, that this modest vehicle would not contribute to the enlargement of Sarah Palin as a national figure by devoting any screen space to her ridiculous ride on the celebrity train.
The Giffords tragedy necessarily changes that. For while many on the extreme right are now working feverishly to distance themselves from this past weekend’s carnage in Tucson, their efforts are a panic-induced, deceitful exercise in instant revisionist spin, and I, for one, will not be so spun. Overly cautious pundits will hem and haw and qualify their assessments in their sound-bite analyses over the next several days, but I won’t: The devastation in Tucson–the six deaths (as of this writing), the 14 injured (as of this writing), the terror, the madness, the chaos, the utter insanity–was the direct and inevitable spawn of the incendiary rhetoric spewed (and media-amplified) by the kooks and crazies on the extreme right, with the mean-spirited, idiotic Sarah Palin as the leader of this lunatic pack. With the Tucson tragedy now standing as testimony to the shortness of the extremist fuse between incitement and action–with Congresswoman Giffords suffering a bullet to the brain not long after Sarah Palin ran an ad using the crosshairs of a gunsight to target Giffords’ congressional district–the time has come for all people of goodwill to declare and renounce the dangerous, ignorant, extremist idiocy of Sarah Palin and her ilk.
That ilk, of course, includes others. It includes all the hard-righters who’ve promoted “second amendment remedies” as a path to political change. It includes Giffords’ opponent in the last election, who staged a “Target for Victory” rally at which attendees were invited to shoot a fully automatic M16 rifle with the candidate. But it starts with Palin, as the media’s poster child of thoughtless, cavalier, right-wing lunacy. With the blood of this past weekend still staining the streets of Tucson, the time has come for all of us–the media and the public at large–to renounce and shun this hate-spewing, incendiary opportunist for the dangerous extremist that she is.
Go home, Sarah Palin. You’re not cute any more.