Thursday, January 13, 2011

A Lesson in Unfortunate Rhetoric

Former Governor Sarah Palin has afforded us an example of odd and unfortunate rhetoric. In defending herself against accusations that her campaign rhetoric contributed to the violence in Arizona, she accused journalists and pundits of manufacturing a “blood libel” against her. Here is the YouTube of her remarks (preceded by a brief commercial). Here is coverage by the New York Times. “Blood libel” refers to the scandalous claim in the middle ages that Jewish people used the blood of Christian children in their ceremonies. It served as a justification for anti-semitic  persecutions.

 Mrs. Palin’s comments were incredibly inappropriate. I suspect that Mrs. Palin and her speech writer were unfamiliar with the meaning of their words. Nonetheless, one should not use a term unless one understands its meaning. Moreover, people in public life should understand that the best defense is not always a relentless offense.


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