Palin’s Persecution Complex Culminates with “Blood Libel” Accusation

Sarah Palin just made her horrendous week worse with her new video in which she accuses her political critics of “blood libel.”

This gaffe — demonstrating both an ignorance of religious history and language — tops a disastrous week: her crosshairs map has been Exhibit A in the discussion of the use of gun-related imagery in political rhetoric. But her PR has been woefully inadequate in explaining the map away as “surveyors symbols.” Her TLC show will not be renewed by TLC, her chances for a successful run at the presidency have been downgraded, and even Barbara Walters expressed “feeling a bit sorry for her.” Palin, however, has remained aloof and cocooned in Wasilla, while hired minions wipe her Facebook page constantly so that negative comments do not show up. So how is Barracuda Barbie a.k.a. Queen Esther shaping her response? The persecution meme.

Palin’s typical pattern is that she takes a phrase from somebody (in this case, possibly Glenn Reynolds, writing in the Wall Street Journal), picks it up, and uses it for her own. In today’s debacle, referring to criticism of her “crosshairs” map as a “blood libel,” Palin shows that even if six people are killed, it’s still all about her. The strategic release of this video, before President Obama travels to Arizona today for a memorial service, shows her self-serving political ends. In addition to misuing the term blood libel — which historically refers to the accusation that Jews murder Christian babies — her additional reference to dueling shows that she will not retreat from any violence-laden speech.

Blood libel, a term rooted in medieval Christianity, started as a rumor that Jews were killing Christian babies, and using their blood to mix into matzoh. The blood libel, refuted first by Pope Innocent IV through a series of papal bulls, has nonetheless persisted throughout history as a way for Christians at times to scapegoat Jews. Palin, by calling the media’s alleged persecution of her a “blood libel” plays into this evil history by inference. But does she understand how this comment of blood libel appears anti-Semitic? Not only is Rep. Giffords Jewish, but accusing the media of “blood libel” could be seen as playing into anti-Semitic memes that Jews control the media.

Earlier in the week, Glenn Beck, her BFF, sent Palin an email of “concern,” stating that she should get “protection” because an attempt on her life could “bring the republic down.” In response, Palin wrote Beck back, and he read a portion of her email over his radio show. Palin’s email? “I hate violence. I hate war. Our children will not have peace if politicos just capitalize on this to succeed in portraying anyone as inciting terror and violence. Thanks for all you do to send the message of truth and love and God as the answer.”

Beck and Palin’s “paling” around, to use her phraseology, is the fueling the “Christian persecution” meme that has given Palin strength since her vice-presidential run in 2008. Many Americans believe they are persecuted for believing in Jesus Christ, but Beck took that belief to a new low. By equating the potential for an attack on Sarah Palin as an event that would “bring the republic down,” Beck plays into the martyrdom fantasy he promotes daily. It is this type of bombastic hyperbole that has the nation in mourning. By turning the tragedy inside out, making it about themselves, and not about Palin’s “don’t retreat, reload” refrain, and the crosshairs map smack dab over Congresswoman Gifford’s district, Beck and Palin are taking advantage of the situation by attempting to cast themselves as the persecuted. Their “persecution” is worth more than any other story in their inflated egos, including the Arizona massacre. Even in tragedy, they both look for the camera and the press to focus on themselves, rather than their conscience or the victims.

While it is clear that both Beck and Palin suffer from martyr complexes, Palin’s disease is far worse. The “mean girl of Wassila” can dish it out, but she can’t take it. She is a cheerleader inciting strife, not a leader. Rather than take criticism like a leader would, her minions are working overtime to scrub clean her Facebook page. She can’t stand reading disparaging things about herself, while relatives mourn their dead loved ones and a devastated set of parents prepare to lay to rest their nine year-old daughter. I wonder how Palin feels now that the hate she has been so perkily spewing has landed on her doorstep in an awful way. I don’t believe that she is solely responsible for this tragedy, but her words, along with the cacophony of other angry voices, have helped to bury six people and put others in the hospital, fighting for their lives. Rewriting her Facebook page like a seventeen year-old won’t make her look better, now that she’s shown America how shallow a leader she is.

It matters not whether the shooter was a tea partier, a libertarian, a Democrat or a Republican. It is clear that he is a troubled young man. What matters is that people like Palin, Beck and others can’t take time to figure out that this time is not about them, but about those who have lost loved ones, and their incredible hubris in not owning up to their own sideshow of hate. Palin and Beck tout their faith as a badge of honor, but it is in moments like these that their shallowness belies the God they claim to believe in.

Anthea Butler [@AntheaButler] is a Contributing Editor to Religion Dispatches. Her forthcoming book, in’The Gospel According To Sarah: How Sarah Palinin’’s Tea Party Angels are Galvanizing the Religious Right will be out in 2013.