Palin’s crosshairs and the First Amendment

As much fun as it is to call out the clueless Sarah Palin for her long list of gaffes, lies and inflammatory nonsense, neither she or her supporters caused the Arizona atrocity. If Jared Loughner, the suspect, is the culprit, it’s likely that we’ll find that he suffers from a serious mental illness — perhaps paranoid schizophrenia — and probably hears voices. Maybe he hears Palin. It’s just as likely he hears Zeus or the Green Hornet.
Palin has taken a lot of grief since the shooting spree because of an irresponsible image she used on her Facebook page during the campaign. In listing a group of Democratic Congressional seats that she wanted Republicans to win, she used a map of the United States and imposed images of gunsights over several Congressional seats. One of those was the seat held by Congresswoman Gabby Giffords.
(Palin has since claimed the image wasn’t crosshairs, but that’s nonsense. It was.)
In response, U.S. Rep. Bob Brady (D-Pa.) wants to make it illegal to use such imagery. He told Fox News yesterday (via TPM):

“It wouldn’t be harm putting that in the bill. It is on both sides. It’s not a partisan bill. Again, we’ve got to stop our bickering amongst each other. We’re setting a bad example for the American people. We need to cut down rhetoric amongst each other. We can disagree without being so disagreeable,” Brady said.

I agree with Brady that we can disagree without being disagreeable. But his proposal for outlawing political speech is foolish and dangerous — as much a threat as a lunatic with a gun. The freedom that Americans enjoy to say almost whatever they like — especially in the political arena — is one of the cornerstones of this great democracy. Brady ought to be ashamed of trying to impose limits on that freedom.

There is no evidence that Loughner ever saw Palin’s Facebook page. But even if the investigation shows that he was specifically motivated by it, such imagery should not be outlawed. (Whether Palin should have used better judgement is quite another matter. She should have, as should all the violent-imagery-worshiping pols who have seen fit to invoke martial accessories for their ads.)

Last week, when Speaker John Boehner set aside time for the new House to read the U.S. Constitution aloud, U.S. Rep. Giffords read the First Amendment. Afterwards, she told several people that she was especially pleased that was the part she was given.

It would dishonor her for Brady to push a law that infringes on that sacred text.

544 comments Add your comment

Jimmy62

January 11th, 2011
8:00 am

It’s just another excuse to take away freedom and increase control. Brady and his ilk can’t stand that people are allowed to say things they don’t like, and this law would give them another tool to use to shut up people they disagree with.

Even if Loughner had seen Palin’s page and was a big follower of hers (which he was not, by all indications he was a liberal, but politics had nothing to do with him being a crazy nutbag), I would still support Palin’s right to say what she wants.

Now if her Facebook page had said, “Please find yourself a gun and shoot these people” that would be a different story. Incitement to murder. But that’s not what she said, and only deeply partisan, angry, disturbed folks are sharpening their pitchforks for her.

smooveb

January 11th, 2011
8:05 am

“Maybe he hears Palin. It’s just as likely he hears Zeus or the Green Hornet.”

From what I understand, his facebook page says his favorite books are “Mein Kampf” and “The Communist Manifesto”. I think he is more likely to hear Stalin, Mao or Hitler.

Peadawg

January 11th, 2011
8:05 am

I’ll have to say I’m impressed with your blog today, Cynthia. Very well said.

arnold

January 11th, 2011
8:07 am

Not everyone is incited to murder by the comments of others, but a nut case can be triggered by anything. I just don’t see a need to even hint at killing someone. Words and symbols do have meaning. That meaning can easily be distorted.

ctucker

January 11th, 2011
8:08 am

Jimmy62 and smooveb, In the wake of the weekend atrocity, all you can think of is to try to make Loughner a liberal? That’s where your head is? That’s pathetic

Frozen Over

January 11th, 2011
8:09 am

Start looking for the four horseman because CT makes sense today. Crazy has no political affiliation, and we have to protect free speech rights to the end

Jethro

January 11th, 2011
8:09 am

The answer is not to neuter free speech.

there are loons out there, and no matter how much we neuter speech, some nut somewhere will take offense to a coin of a phrase – or even imagine one up – by which they can be provoked and thus justified.

No, the answer is within us. We look so much for the “10 second soundbite” in what we say that we don’t bother to attempt a more lucid, rational discourse. The soundbite is sometimes humorous, sometimes cruel, but almoost always invective. To quote Walt Kelley, “We have seen the enemy, and it is us.”

quod erat demonstrandum

January 11th, 2011
8:14 am

CT,

After the media spray painted this loner as a right winger and or tea partier, guess what, you are all wrong again.

In a free society you can yell fire in a crowded theater, just be prepared to pay for your actions. Unlike the media, I think this guy was a wack job from day #1. He wasn’t political, or at least it doesn’t appear so from the media reports.

It was appalling to see the left using broad brushes to paint this guy in political terms. At least the folks on FOX used some restraint and reported what was available and not what their opinion was, like the LEO on the news did.

Wilma

January 11th, 2011
8:17 am

Of course our hypocrite in residence failes to mention the democrats who used similiar language and similair images only a few years ago.
Shame on those who rushed to make political hay on the acts of an apparent madman. It seems that the leadership of the progressives leaped to political advatange before we even knew the name of the gunman, much less anything about him.
Tucker has the good sense to only nibble around the edges since her house on the subject of inaappropriate speech is glasss from end to end.

Joel Edge

January 11th, 2011
8:19 am

I’ve read that those scary crosshairs were actually surveyors symbols. Just saying. It’s kind of like people looking at military style weapons and assuming that they’re automatic weapons. Scary is in the eye of the beholder.

Keep up the good fight!

January 11th, 2011
8:21 am

Definitely in agreement. Government prohibitions against language should always be questioned and very limited in restriction. Palin and others like her (whatever their political nature) should be held accountable by census by the public NOT by the government. Her denials after doubling and tripling down on the imagery is reprehensible.

DWTOO

January 11th, 2011
8:21 am

Congressman Brady’s heart may be in the right place, but, it’s definitley going to far. Men and women have fought and died for our right to free speech. This legislation would not solve anything. What we need is for each of us to stand up to anyone using inflammatory language and either ignore them or implore them to speak civily. If no one listens to them they’ll eventually go away.

At some point in your life your mother most have told you if you can’t say anything nice say nothing. Sage advice mom!

This doesn’t mean sharp discussion needs to go away – just have respect for those who don’t agree with you. And being anynomous (excuse spelling please) on a blog makes it easy to spout remarks you would never say in person. When typing try to think that people are sitting in a circle around you.

jt

January 11th, 2011
8:28 am

Why is anyone suprised? Violence is institutionalized.

Every piece of legislation enacted by congress, every order issued by a court, every action undertaken by government officials – whether at a state, local, or national level – has behind it the power to enforce such edicts or acts by the most violent methods to which such officials deem it necessary to resort.

Those who choose to repress an awareness of the vicious, violent, and dehumanized nature of the state will doubtless succumb to the self-serving claims of politicians who fashion themselves noble “public servants” who are victimized by the very violence they have made the central theme for their careers. Political systems – from the local Weed Control Commission to the Pentagon – are defined by their monopoly on the use of violence. Those who use lawful coercion to enforce their wills on others, should be the last heard to lament the “environment of violence” afoot in the land.

When John McCain angrily weighed in on the Tuscon shootings, I was reminded of his 2008 presidential campaign song-and-dance that went “bomb, bomb, bomb Iran.”

[...] astonishing, most recently her pallid reaction to the Tuscon massacre, as well as her staff’s inane defense of the images of cross-haired gun sights over targeted districts held by Democrats, including [...]

Joey

January 11th, 2011
8:29 am

MS. Tucker:
You are the person who opened her comments with “….clueless Sarah Palin and her long list of lies and inflammatory nonsense.” then closed the paragraph with “Maybe he hears Palin….”

Typical of you to ignore your comments and those of other Progressives while you criticize those who disagree.

Herman Cain

January 11th, 2011
8:36 am

hmmm…………. sorta like the pretender in chief telling the hispanics the republicans are the enemy.

Theresa

January 11th, 2011
8:38 am

…invoke marital accessories……

I hate it when I get outmarooned.

mountainpass

January 11th, 2011
8:39 am

“The freedom that Americans enjoy to say almost whatever they like — especially in the political arena — is one of the cornerstones of this great democracy”
CT I agree with your article today. I just wish you embraced the Second Amendment with such fervor.

Bob

January 11th, 2011
8:42 am

Different day same 10-12 with the blue or red hats on. WWhat a waste of time, you even do this when your not iced in. I can’t wait to get back to work. Two days of this is enough.

dougmo2

January 11th, 2011
8:43 am

CT- ” all you can think of is to try to make Loughner a liberal? That’s where your head is? That’s pathetic”

The same could be said of you CT. Show me, (in this thread) ANY FACTS that ANY conservative postings led to this shooting. Remember FACTS not OPINONS. We are waiting.

quod erat demonstrandum

January 11th, 2011
8:44 am

On the other hand, I was proud that people didn’t just stand there during the shooting. While trying to reload his semi-automatic weapon, 3 unrelated citizens attacked and subdued the shooter.

This proves to me, that we ain’t dead yet. people still care.

gator24

January 11th, 2011
8:45 am

There is no way to compare speech from liberals and conservatives. The conservatives were so hunger for power and wanting to win back the congress, they were saying about anything they could. Look at what happen during the HC debate, they were all lying about death panels, they were attending Tea Party rallies to encourage them to act out, at the congress they were on the balcony cheering Tea Party members when they were protesting.
There was no member of the Republican party who would stand up to Rush Limbaugh, they were all afraid of him.
The Know Nothing Voters put them back in charge of the House this year after they did nothing for two years.
Palin is an idiot who’s now silent because of her stupid remarks concerning the 2010 midterm elections

quod erat demonstrandum

January 11th, 2011
8:48 am

gator24,

Are you on the same planet as the rest of us?

Where does the hate speech come from – the left. It is the left that is telling you that Beck, Rush and others are talking trash about you. They aren’t.

It is the left that is saying the right wants you to die quickly if you get sick, not the right.

I think you should stop reading the Daily Kos and start doing your own research.

Nothing Is Free

January 11th, 2011
8:51 am

Bob

I picked up two office workers this morning. Roads are bad, but my old front wheel drive Chevy did OK.

I usually walk to work. We are back in business.

I’m with you. A full day here yesterday and I couldn’t shower enough last night.

Good luck with the losers that live here every day.

Jack

January 11th, 2011
8:52 am

It matters not what a Republican says, liberal fault finders wll disagree. If Palin is nothing more than a source of gaffes, lies and inflammatory nonsense, the Alaskan voters wouldn’t have elected her governor.

carlosgvv

January 11th, 2011
8:55 am

As much as I dislike Sara Palin, I have to agree. The shooter is insane and meant to kill as many people as possible. The real question is what will lawmakers do to keep people like this from getting guns. The answer, of course, is nothing.

jconservative

January 11th, 2011
9:06 am

“If Palin is nothing more than a source of gaffes, lies and inflammatory nonsense, the Alaskan voters wouldn’t have elected her governor.”

True. Then she opened her mouth on the national stage. Then she quit on Alaska. She, in effect, said “me first”, “constituents last”.

Would she win a state wide election in Alaska again? Evidence, the failed election of her candidate Miller, to a write-in candidate says she would not. (How on earth can the Republican candidate for senator in Alaska lose to a write-in candidate?)

The next 22 months will be interesting.

LeeH1

January 11th, 2011
9:07 am

It’s a shame Republican leaders won’t admit responsibility and become accountable for their statements. They are all so defensive. Rush Limbough keeps saying that any criticism of him or his ranting will destroy politcal discourse in America.

Thinks pretty highly of himself, don’t he?

Palin insists she had done nothing to incite crazy people. She insists that the marks were survey marks, not gunsights. She insists Obama is an alien from Kenya. She insists that he isn’t Christian. she insists that he is trying to destroy America. But certainly she doesn’t attack other people personally- just their policies!

Nothing wrong with political discourse. But the policy of personal attack and destruction developed by Gingrich needs to be toned down.

John

January 11th, 2011
9:09 am

“Brady ought to be ashamed of trying to impose limits on that freedom.”

I disagree…this is a discussion that we should be having and debated. This past election cycle has really gotten out of hand and calls to tone it down have been ignored. It’s not just Sarah Palin’s crosshairs map. Does the 1st and/or 2nd amendment allow guns to be brought to political rallies? Does free speech allow candidates to shoot at targets of a silhouette with their opponents initials on it? Does a politician (or anyone for that matter) have a right under the 1st amendment to talk about applying 2nd amendment remedies when they disagree with the government? Does the 1st amendment, for instance, allow me the right to post online elected officials home or office addresses and tell people to throw bricks into the windows of our elected officials? Over the past few years, kids have been arrested for posting threats on school campuses. Should politicians and those in the media be held the the same standards as others?

fultonresident

January 11th, 2011
9:12 am

Palin has appealed to the far right “guns for everyone crowd” gloriofying shooting and encouraging people like Sharon Anglin who talked about “second amendment solutions” Regardless of how hard the extreme right, Fox news, Limbaugh, Hannity, Malkin and others try to clean up Ms. Palin’s gaffes and their promotion of the NRA crowd, we will always associate the Mayor from Wasilla with “drill baby drill” before the BP fiasco and now “reload” with the Tuscon tragedy.
The rhetoric that is unacceptable is rhetoric that glorifies gun ownership and places it as a proper means of expressing opinions about opponents. The supreme court with its activist judges have added to the glorification of gun ownership by making the preamble of the second amendment into irrelevant gibberish by our founding fathers. If guns get associated with a “well regulated militia”
or a public right limited to those fit to own guns and not any psychotic college student out to commit assassination and suicide so as to send their psychotic message to the world, we all would be able to sleep better at night. The right has seized on in the Heller decision to push broader and broader deregulation of guns in every legislative body and the courts has led to a culture of ” second amendment ” worshippers like Ms. Palin and Ms. Anglin. Our founders added another qualification to the second amendment in the preamble “being necessary for the security of a free state” Please someone explain how selling a semi automatic gun and extended cartridges to the latest gun crazed psycho to make headlines added to the security of a free state. Five activist supreme court justices a well funded special interest group protecting the gun sellers and complacent legislators as well as excessive gun worship have a direct link to the mayhem we see every day. So yes there is a link no matter how hard the Fox news crowd tries to delink Ms. Palin.

Middle of the Road and Looking Both Ways

January 11th, 2011
9:13 am

@CT thanks for trying to take a stab (no pun intended) at asking people to protect our freedom of speech and stating the shooter is insane and probably has no political affliation. We need to stop the labeling of “liberal” or “conservative” and dismissing all reasonable discussion because you “might be one of them”. We do not want the freedom of speech to be curtailed by fear or the acts of the insane.

Keep up the good fight!

January 11th, 2011
9:18 am

Excellent points John….those certainly are some of the points that should be discussed. Telling someone to throw bricks would already be a criminal act. But asking the question “We should reload our brick throwers so they are ready to attack” may be, but change attack to the word defend and it may be another answer. These questions and words must be assessed in context of its use.

The question may be lawful, but it is wise and should we tolerate those who use those words.

godless heathen

January 11th, 2011
9:19 am

I use those “crosshair” symbols on maps and drawings all the time. Never occurred to me that they were gun sight crosshairs. Grasping at straws to try and pin this on the lovely huntress.

Mexican Jiggilo

January 11th, 2011
9:19 am

CT…whats pathetic is that you and your liberal cromies are trying to paint him some RW nut. Once again you contradict yourself, not surprising. You start saying that Palin nor any political figure is responsible but yet you say maybe he hears Palin. CT face it…as usual you and your liberal homeboys are trying not to let a crisis go to waste, (quote Rham). CT didn’t DAily Kos say something like Giffords was dead for not voting for Pelosi. How come thats not coming out of the mouth any liberal. 2004 DNC had bullseyes over Rep districts. None of this is mentioned. Nice try CT once again your post shows your left wing agenda…how laughable

Truth-O-Meter

January 11th, 2011
9:21 am

CT, thank you for a thoughtful article. You didn’t blame SP; in fact you gave her more credit than I would have. I do not, and no one should blame her for this tragedy. But she is a smart, savvy politician who understands the power of words and suggestions. I think some responses to your articles speak to the intolerance that has become too often the norm. Some disagree it seems just for the sake of disagreeing and throw in an insult for good measure. What Sarah Palin, Republicans, Democrats and all others in between need to understand is that they are displaying a model of what political discourse is in this country. If we want more thoughtful young people in public service, we need to model that.
I can’t help remember how Gov. Palin came out the box on nomination night throwing punches. Her party loved it and it “begat” more, but only with others joining in on what they saw as a new “model” of politics.
This kind of discourse makes me nervous because like many, I remember the hate speech that most often preceded the assassination of MLK, and other civil rights leaders. Historically there were others such as Lincoln who paid with their lives for their unpopular stands. If we remember that history how can we deny that words have consequences? It seems that we never question the influence of anti-American speech by terrorists and how it often precedes acts of violence against our citizens. We need to also admit that anti-government, anti-party speech can have the same consequence. Maybe not this time, but we still need to make a change in our public discourse.

godless heathen

January 11th, 2011
9:23 am

30,000 highway deaths in the US in 2009. 40% attributed to excessive speed. Let’s limit the speed of any car sold in the USA to 25 mph, to protect innocent lives. How does that idea grab you gun grabbers?

Fang1944

January 11th, 2011
9:29 am

Let’s see: If you threaten to kill somebody, you go to jail. If you talk to another person and plan to kill somebody, you go to jail. How about if you talk to millions of people (who are already in a lather because the President is a partly black, somewhat liberal man) and tell them to target certain people, to look for a Second Amendment solution, to take out Harry Reid, to prefer bullets to ballots, to be armed and dangerous? Seems to me that’s over the line for protected speech.

And, godless heathen, cars have nothing whatever to do with semiautomatic weapons. It is truly childish to keep bringing up cars in a discussion like this.

...

January 11th, 2011
9:29 am

Mexican Jiggilo, did you even READ the article?

Joel Edge

January 11th, 2011
9:30 am

I’m still reading some of the articles on this. When you get a chance, graze the articles and read some of the posts. People are still trying to tie the Tea Party and any conservative group to this. I mean any group. The only group name I haven’t seen is the Boy Scouts.

kayaker 71

January 11th, 2011
9:32 am

Let’s see just how anti gun you become when some big dude comes crashing through your bedroom door at 4:00AM with some drug crazed idea of doing bad things to you and your family. News flash….. he’s not there for a cup of coffee and a chat. Read over and over about Atlanta violence with at least one home invasion every day or two resulting in the death or injury of the homeowner. And you don’t want to the armed? Pity the poor person who comes into my home unannounced.

Real Athens

January 11th, 2011
9:36 am

Wow. I didn’t know that Hitler, Stalin and Mao all espoused the same political philosophies.

godless heathen

January 11th, 2011
9:37 am

Fang: The relationship between cars and guns is about freedom and saving lives. Don’t you want to save lives?

set the record straight

January 11th, 2011
9:38 am

For the record, the ex-Gov. herself referred to the markings as “crosshairs” in November. But she didn’t cause the shooting and should not be blamed for it. However, this is as good a time as any to start the discussion of how we return civility and reason to the public discussion. Why not do it now?
Wilma, I’d love to see some examples of Dems using the same or worse violent imagery in campaigns or debates. All of it should be on the table, not just SP.
It would help if some of you read the article, rather than just jump to the conclusion that CT is blaming SP>

JimW

January 11th, 2011
9:38 am

I thought I must be reading the wrong OpEd, but then the little jab at Sarah Palin reminded me that it must be you. This is an excellent post, Cynthia and a worthy thought. The brave men an women who died protecting our first amendment rights would be proud.

I also agree with other posters that this over-the-top liberal and conservative bashing is a real problem. It’s all about demonizing the other side and stirring up base emotions with inflamatory rhetoric. The days of reasoned, civil debate on issues of substance are apparently long-gone and I, for one, miss them.

John

January 11th, 2011
9:38 am

@godless heathen

“I use those “crosshair” symbols on maps and drawings all the time. Never occurred to me that they were gun sight crosshairs. Grasping at straws to try and pin this on the lovely huntress.”

When you use those “crosshair” symbols on maps and drawings, do you also refer to them as “targets”? Do you use the phase “Don’t retreat, reload” as well?

Michael H. Smith

January 11th, 2011
9:39 am

Not particularly worried about the first amendment Ms. Tucker, it is safe. This bill has all the earmarks of a constitutional defeat before it ever has a chance of making it through the House.

On the other hand, the second amendment is of greater concern in light of this atrocity that took place in AZ and the fierce attacks that shall be launched against it in the aftermath of this tragedy. Now, let’s be perfectly clear about something from the get-go: Government does not have the authority to ban any of our rights. (more on this in a sec) However, no right is unlimited, all of our rights and the rights of government are limited, they are all subject to restraints. Like the rule of time and place the court uses to define the extent of our rights. The Constitution is used to define the extent of government’s rights.

To the point:

Yes, we do have the right to own a gun and bullets that go with it but we do not have the right to use that gun at any time or place we choose. (the rule of time and place applies).
Now let’s get down to the real nitty-gritty and the question that will be used to attack our second amendment right to bear arms in defense, et al Scalia, of home and hearth.

Does the Constitution restrict government from defining or restricting what type of gun and bullets we have a right to bear? Keep in mind, et al Scalia, that there is no unlimited rights, which includes no unlimited Bill of Rights, wherein the second amendment is found.

Not to jump your topic Ms. Tucker but there is a connection between the first and second amendments though I’m not going down that rabbit trail. Suffice it to say, we must at all time defend all of our rights against the unexpected, no matter how outrageous the unexpected may seem if we intend to keep any of them and remain a free Republic.

godless heathen

January 11th, 2011
9:39 am

Folks like Fang don’t really want to save lives, they just want to control other people.

sally

January 11th, 2011
9:41 am

Here come the gun goons defending their right to carry weapons of mass destruction. Weak, pathetic men. The lot of them.

Jimmy62

January 11th, 2011
9:43 am

Cynthia: I wasn’t blaming this on him being a liberal, I was pointing out the silliness of blaming it on any politics when the guy was just a nutcase.

But I guess you were just looking for someone to attack, rather than try to comprehend and understand a point.

quod erat demonstrandum

January 11th, 2011
9:44 am

Real Athens,

Yeah, amazing isn’t it. Stalin, Mao and Hitler were all socialists or communist. According to several sources, Socialism is a stepping stone to Communism. To make it simple enough for the folks in mid-town, Socialism, tells businesses how they will run their business, Communism owns the business.

Government control of business is not in the best interest of a free people.