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Posted at 1:30 PM ET, 01/12/2011

The Palin principle

By Alexandra Petri

Why does everything always have to be about you?

I find myself shouting this at Sarah Palin at least once a day. "You brought this on yourself!" I picture her shouting back. And maybe that's true.

We seem to have reworked the old quote. "Who is to blame for the riots? Sarah Palin is to blame. Who is to blame for the killings? Sarah Palin is to blame."

Nowadays, we have news by Google fiat. Whenever anything happens, everyone frantically plays Six Degrees of Sarah Palin or Six Degrees of Lady Gaga, whichever happens to be easier.

"Who is the highest-profile person who fits this pattern?" everyone seems to ask. "Oh, Sarah Palin! This must be her fault." Last night on Twitter, a #blamepalin hashtag cropped up, attracting joking entries that ranged from "Firefly cancellation? ~ #blamepalin" (@adamsbaldwin) to "Just took a bite of my breakfast burrito and all the food came out the bottom. #blamepalin" (@notgarybusey).

And it's absurd that this is what the debate has become. Sarah Palin wasn't alone in the imagery she used. But within a few hours of the news of the tragedy, everyone was taking aim at her. If Jared Loughner had committed no acts of violence in Tucson but had just done a lot of angry surveying towards Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), I'm sure everyone would be insisting that she'd put surveyor's symbols on the map for him.

Sarah Palin attracts pointed fingers and free-floating blame the way Dane Cook attracts free-floating jokes.

But this has gone too far. Everyone always says that if we ignored her, she might go away. It might be worth trying.

We are a country that invented the telephone, airplanes, and the elevator. We built a truly world-class nation. We marched for freedom. We struggled through a Civil War and emerged greater. We inspired the game Oregon Trail. We invented the Snuggie. We are, in the words of someone, "a light to the rest of the world." Surely we don't have to do this. America, it feels like you're settling.

Consider: when a tragedy occurred in ancient Greece, everyone got to listen to a speech by Pericles. Now, someone commits an atrocity, and we sit waiting with bated breath to see what Sarah Palin is going to say about it. Thanks to this uncomfortable fact, people are describing John Boehner as a "statesman" and thanking Jon Stewart, who, as he frequently reminds us, is a Comedy Central host, for elevating the discourse.

Still, perhaps this tendency to jump to connections and point fingers can be used for good. I'm starting a new project to decorate maps with all kinds of images, just in case the Palin blame principle applies. Here's one I made earlier.


I have no control over the abundance of rainbows, kittens, or abstract representations of lasting marriages, but just in case, please put this on the record. Based on the voodoo-map approach to sensational events that prevailed this time, you never know. If there is an outbreak of poorly-drawn kittens in Nevada, I expect a lot of calls!

By Alexandra Petri  | January 12, 2011; 1:30 PM ET
Tags:  America, Sarah Palin, Tucson, media  
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Next: Is Miss America to blame for Sarah Palin's 'blood libel' video?


Yeah, right...and how many articles about Sarah Palin have appeared in the Washington Post today? She totally owns you dimwits. Metaphorically, she is sitting on her front porch sipping a mint-julep, while you people toil in her cotton field.

Posted by: bubbasouth | January 12, 2011 2:37 PM | Report abuse

Palin could have said, "In response to those who saw my map as incendiary, I found the DCCC map with similar symbols just as inflaming. Therefore, I am sorry that I used symbols that could be confused with the crosshairs in a a gun sight, and I urge all politicians to refrain from the use of gun symbols and rhetoric in the future." But could she do that? of course not, because Sarah Palin is the victim here. She wasn't shot, she isn't dead, she wasn't in the vicinity, but she is, again, the victim.
I watched her video. She was emotionless, stilted, as if reading those words meant nothing to her at all. If she thinks the flag pin and the background flag made her look Presidential, she is wrong again. She panders to her small base. She just comes off as sadly lacking to the rest of us.

Posted by: smgess | January 12, 2011 3:07 PM | Report abuse

Palin has nothing to apologize for. The people who accuse her of helping to cause the homicidal acts of a lunatic DO have something to apologize for.

And before the left gets all smug... in 3 months, you're going to be attempting to save this lunatic from the death penalty. So hold on to your self-righteousness until then.

Posted by: Rand-al-Thor | January 12, 2011 3:57 PM | Report abuse

"Sarah Palin wasn't alone in the imagery she used."

Sarah Palin put a crosshair on Congresswoman Gifford's congressional district. The Congresswoman asked Palin to remove the crosshairs, saying it was inflammatory, as members of Congress are public figures who can be targeted by people who are overly influenced by inflammatory rhetoric and rifle imagery.

Sarah Plain used rhetoric like, "Don't retreat -- reload!" in the last congressional election. Sarah Palin uses words like "tyranny" to describe our government; she lies and claims Obama wants to institute "death panels" to kill elderly people.

Now, Congresswoman Giffords has been shot, and Palin whines that she is being accused of "blood-libel". The shooting may not be Palin's fault, but it is the fault of an execrable media that kowtows to people like Sarah Palin, with their hateful, inflammatory language, their gun imagery and their gunslinging talk.

When I was growing up, nobody like Sarah Palin would have been taken seriously by the media, and the idea which the media constantly floats -- that this smack-talking, violent-natured woman has a chance at the presidency -- would never be entertained. When Geoge Wallace ran for president, nobody in the media treated him like a serious potential contender, because he wasn't a serious potential contender. Sarah Palin is not remotely a potential contender for the presidency, yet you in the media (which she calls "the driveby media" in a reference to "driveby shootings") consistently pay attention to her as if she is something other than a nasty-mouthed verbal bombthrower on the fringes of American politics.

The only place where people who constantly use violent rhetoric are allowed on television and given huge swathes of print publicity is in fundamentalist Muslim countries, where they are always up for recruiting "martyrs" to act against their enemies.

Posted by: bthwaithe | January 12, 2011 4:04 PM | Report abuse

Sarah is a small, mean-spirited woman who can't stand another woman in the limelight, even one shot through the brain. She somehow made herself the victim, when she in fact IS part of the vitriolic, "second amendment remedy" "crosshairs" "reload" mentality which foments hate.

Posted by: polysciprof | January 12, 2011 4:07 PM | Report abuse

the left is left only if it serves them that day that moment.

the gop is always to the right.

reliability is an inherently good trait.

the left is just a plastic vote buying machine, never know who they are from one day to the next.

Posted by: docwhocuts | January 12, 2011 4:09 PM | Report abuse

Perfect speech by Palin.

And a little sound bite to get all the whining computer geeks busy and focused. I almost want to cry over the tragedy felt by many that Sarah Palin used again the WORDs. Soon no one will be allowed to say anything that might displease some special interest groups who use every possibility to get into spotlight with Sarah's name as a ladder. But then, how would they support their cause. That would be nice, right? Be glad ( as You really are) that Sarah said what she said. Vanity Fair.

Knowing the reaction will be predictable, better ask why Palin used ,as it appears, politincorrect word. I am absolutely sure she knew the reaction and all this whining vanity (like of those who eat chicken but can not kill a moose) will again increase the numbers of her supporters.

She threw the bite, so many got caught.Wise move, Sarah. Very refreshing to hear voice of normalcy in the society corrupted by people earning money on pretending to be victimized by virtually everything.

Posted by: Ivfab | January 12, 2011 4:33 PM | Report abuse

The half governor should just shut her mouth and go home and murder some more trapped animals like she does so well. And take care of her little boy who needs a loving mother and not a hating MOTHER .

Posted by: msjn1 | January 12, 2011 4:39 PM | Report abuse

I support the principle that says Palin is an idiot.

Posted by: rbaldwin2 | January 12, 2011 4:40 PM | Report abuse

My eardrums exploded half way through the Palin video, but what I did see wasn't that bad. She only forgot to not smile a couple of times.

But defending yourself against the charge that you caused a total lunatic to mass murder or wound 20 people is like shooting fish ... oops sorry.

But the real "Palin Principle" is to blame Obama, or at least blame "lamestream liberals" for everything. Here's what she wanted to say:

"It doesn't help matters when prime time TV has Murphy Brown - a character who supposedly epitomizes today's intelligent, highly paid, professional woman - mocking the importance of fathers, by bearing a child alone, and calling it just another lifestyle choice."

Posted by: divtune | January 12, 2011 4:46 PM | Report abuse

The Palin principle is: I get to say anything I want, using the nastiest, most provacative terms I choose, but if you criticize me, it's not FAIR!!! I am going to place myself AND MY FAMILY in the media spotlight every single day, but if they say something about me that's not nice: it's not FAIR!

Pretty much the narcissitic, middle school mean girl approach to life.

Posted by: fmjk | January 12, 2011 5:01 PM | Report abuse

"It doesn't help matters when prime time TV has Murphy Brown - a character who supposedly epitomizes today's intelligent, highly paid, professional woman - mocking the importance of fathers, by bearing a child alone, and calling it just another lifestyle choice." mean like her daughter?

Posted by: kmitnick | January 12, 2011 5:30 PM | Report abuse

You crybabies will start banning "Target" stores next because their logo frightens you.

The lefty posters on this blog are like the sniveling little pansies in that Geico commercial.

"You know what makes me sad. YOU!"

Posted by: Rand-al-Thor | January 12, 2011 5:33 PM | Report abuse

I guess I didn't realize that specific words and phrases were owned by certain groups. Is there a list or a book or a website of these words and phrases owned by groups? No? Is there a fee to use those words and phrases owned by a group? No? If you use a word or phrase owned by a group without paying will you get in trouble? Yes, you will pay for it the rest of your life.

Posted by: BadNews | January 12, 2011 5:42 PM | Report abuse

Interesting that the Washington Post ran more stories today about Sarah Palin than Jared Loughner.

When Sarah Palin's video was released this morning, I believe a siren must have gone off in the Washingtopn Post newsroom with papers flying and columnists scurrying to their computers.

I am becoming more convinced then ever that The Washington Post believes it cant survive financially without Sarah Palin.

Posted by: Bcjbs1 | January 12, 2011 5:55 PM | Report abuse

Dear Washington Post,
Why on earth did you have this woman on your "front page" (don't know what that is called on your website) ALL DAY LONG? Seriously, if you stop feeding the beast, it will die. Please let it die!

(And I refer to Palin as a beast, but not all Republicans. I don't even consider her a Republican, and neither do most of my Republican friends.)

Posted by: duhneese | January 12, 2011 5:59 PM | Report abuse

Black GOP chairman resigns due to terrorist threats from Tea Party:

Posted by: thomasmc1957 | January 12, 2011 6:20 PM | Report abuse

It's time for America to wake up and realize the real terrorist threat isn't from radical Islam, but from Rabid Republicanism.

Posted by: thomasmc1957 | January 12, 2011 6:25 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, right...and how many articles about Sarah Palin have appeared in the Washington Post today? She totally owns you dimwits. Metaphorically, she is sitting on her front porch sipping a mint-julep, while you people toil in her cotton field.

Posted by: bubbasouth
I agree. She's brilliant at manipulating the morons in the press. They literally hang on her every word. At this point they would put a news break in an Obama interview if Palin tweeted something.

Posted by: peterg73 | January 12, 2011 7:21 PM | Report abuse

After blaming and smearing the Sarah Palin for the Arizona killing, Washington Post has succeeded in their long-cherished obssession of mobilising a hit squad to assasinate the Palin family:!

Posted by: skponggol | January 12, 2011 9:46 PM | Report abuse

I like your map, it doesn't have the same imact as cross hairs along the stamement don't back down reload. If your implying that speech has no impact on behavior and especially when a famou person says somthing has no impact... why do advertising agencies get paid billions of dollar to infuence behavior. I mean it must have some effect like the cigarett companies or coke. Ya think? Really your a professioanl whose news paper is controlled by advertising which is speech and images that influence behavior...

Posted by: chisresh | January 12, 2011 9:56 PM | Report abuse

So images and speech like in advertising has no impact on behavior--does coke know about this?

Posted by: chisresh | January 12, 2011 9:57 PM | Report abuse

This isn't some random out of the blue connection to Sarah Palin. She is tied to this particular incident because Gabby Gifford herself spoke publicly nearly a year about the crosshair map and warned "when people do things like that they have to understand there are consiquences". Giffords comments were on the heels of her office windows being shot out and tea party members carrying signs outside her office quoting Palins "don't retreat... RELOAD". So of course, when news broke that Gifford was shot people remembered her concers and her warnings about an increasingly hostile political climate and resurrected the debate... which is a valid one. As Palin expressed concerns that the words of others expression displeasure with her own use of violent imagery and language amounted to a 'blood libel' against her, in doing so she bascially acknowledged that words do matter. That includes her own. Finally Palin has found common ground with her opposition, though it was probably unintentional.

Posted by: pgs70 | January 13, 2011 1:05 AM | Report abuse

"If Jared Loughner had committed no acts of violence in Tucson but had just done a lot of angry surveying towards Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), I'm sure everyone would be insisting that she'd put surveyor's symbols on the map for him."

Huh? I'm not going to criticize Palin for using cross hairs at all.
But when someone wants to stretch that in to being surveyor marks?

Posted by: timothy2me | January 13, 2011 6:51 AM | Report abuse

I just wasted three minutes reading this confusing, nonsensical article. Then I wasted another three minutes trying to figure out what the author is trying to say and whether she approves or disapproves of Palin. No luck.

There are many, many much better articles about Palin's predicament. I wish I had read one of them instead.

Posted by: MarkFromOhio | January 13, 2011 7:39 AM | Report abuse

BTW, did anyone notice that Palin was obviously using a TelePrompter in her little soliloquy? I thought only idiots and tyrants used the things. Unfortunately, an 8-minute speech wouldn't fit on her hand.

Posted by: MarkFromOhio | January 13, 2011 7:43 AM | Report abuse

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