Death Panels, Palin’s Targets, and Political Assassination

Michael Collins

The attempted assassination of Representative Gabrielle Giffords raises the bar for political lies and hate to a new level. Previously, incendiary political lies stopped just short violent imagery. Sarah Palin’s Take Back 20 campaign presented a violent threat in the form of rifle site crosshairs placed over the congressional districts of 20 Democratic supporters of health care reform.

Ironically, Giffords sent Palin a clear message to end the violent allusion in the ads. In this brief video, she warns:

“… we’re on Sarah Palin’s targeted list but the thing is that the way she’s had it depicted has the cross hairs of a gun site over our district. When people do that, they’ve got to realize that there [are] consequences to that action.” Rep. Giffords

The appeal had no effect. It took the events of Saturday, January 8 at a shopping mall in Tucson, Arizona to finally get Palin to pull down her crosshairs studded map marking 20 Democrats for defeat as punishment for support of health care reform.

Political Assassinations and Assaults

Months before the JFK assassination, right wing zealots in Dallas demonstrated against the dangers posed by the Kennedy administration. The pseudo mug shot (image below) accused Kennedy of treason. It appeared on the streets of Dallas, Texas prior to the assassination. The soon to be murdered president was accused of turning the Constitution over to a Communist United Nations; failing to register Communists; invading a “sovereign state” with U.S. troops (e.g., supporting court orders for the racial integration of schools); appointing “Anti-Christians” to government positions; and lying about his “previous marriage and divorce.”

The charge of “treason” plus the inflammatory content of the specific lies tarred Kennedy as a criminal and a danger to the country. The net outcome was to dehumanize the president. The mainstream media of the 1960’s did not run these inflammatory charges.

The level of personal attacks on President Obama echoes the extreme hatred directed at Kennedy. There are reasons that warrant a vigorous challenge to the current president on issues, tactics, and strategies. When the challenges come in the form of hate filled lies that the president is secretly a Muslim or that he’s part of a new world order based on Marxism, the lies have the effect of inflaming the uninformed and bigoted.

In the 1960’s, the charges against JFK were published in extremist newsletters and offered at meetings by fringe political groups. Today, the inflammatory charges against President Obama and other Democrats are a part of the mainstream media via Fox Broadcasting and Fox News.

Fox Broadcasting has been the number one or two in network over the past few years. The Fox News cable operation, which feeds some local Fox affiliates, is a consistent ratings leader among the cable networks. Lies viewed in print by a few hundred thousand in the 1960’s are dwarfed by nonstop lies told on the Fox network to tens of millions every single day.

Fox News hired former Alaska governor Sarah Palin as commentator in January 2010. She made her debut on the O’Reilly show and is a frequent guest of other talking heads on Fox News. While at Fox, Palin began a campaign to get rid of 20 Democrats in the House of Representatives.

Sarah Palin’s Targets

From Sara Palin’s Take Back 20 web site.Via (Screenshot)

The Palin site is no longer operating.

Sara Palin’s web site featured the image above for the Take Back 20 campaign. The crosshairs are those that Rep. Giffords referenced in the video above. USA Today covered the campaign roll out on September 27, 2010.

“In a website launched on Thursday, the six-month anniversary of the health care law, Palin puts a bull’s-eye on 20 House districts under a headline that reads, “We’ve diagnosed the problem…Help us prescribe the solution.”

“Included among Palin’s Democratic targets: North Dakota’s at-large Rep. Earl Pomeroy, Southeast Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and Virginia Rep. Tom Perriello.” USA Today, Sept 24

The link to Palin’s Take Back 20 web page is no longer operating.

Palin’s active use of violent imagery and violent rhetorical phrases like targeting goes a step further than the defamers of JFK and President Obama. The images of a rifle site crosshairs are paired with the phrase, “We’ve diagnosed the problem. Help us provide the solution.” While defeat in the upcoming elections was the goal, the entire approach to the campaign carried with it a violent double entendre., a major right wing web site, ran an article endorsing Palin’s campaign. Sarah Palin’s “Take Back 20” presented one of Palin’s campaign images, a map of the United States (screenshot). The map shows crosshairs, bulls eye images, over each of the 20 congressional districts, targets to be defeated in the 2010 congressional elections. This included Democratic Representative Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona.

In the article, commentator Jillian Bandes said that, “Twenty House Dems from districts that McCain carried in 2008 voted for the health care bill, and Sarah Palin has a target on every single one,” including Representative Gabrielle Giffords district in Arizona. Bandes continued, “The targets were released on the six month anniversary of Obamacare.” She concluded that, Palin’s “site should go a long way towards knocking off the politicians who put their party affiliation ahead of their constituent’s demands.” (Author’s emphasis)

Violent Imagery with Dead Seniors as the Predicate

Unlike the charges against the two presidents, Kennedy and Obama, Palin’s core factual claim was accurate. The 20 House Democrats up for election in 2010 had each voted for health care reform. However, the charges that preceded Palin’s Take back 20 campaign were the same type of vile lies presented in the charges against Kennedy and Obama.

The newly formed Tea Party, financed by right wing lobbyists, claimed that the Obama reforms would introduce “death panels.” Some reform opponents claimed that these fictitious panels would decide whether seniors would live or die at a certain point in their later years. This was, of course, an absurd lie. Nevertheless, the foundation for irrational hate and fear was established. The composite form of the message was:

The 20 targeted House members voted for a health care bill that created “death panels” to kill seniors simply due to their age. The votes were cast in support of a Muslim president bent on creating a Marxist world government.

Turning Hate into Action

We don’t know the story behind accused assassin Jared Lee Loughner. Nor can we assign a certain role for the culture of political hate created over the last few years, including Palin’s Take Back 20 campaign. One of those closest to the assassination attempt on Giffords plus the other assaults and murders spoke out clearly. The Sheriff of Pima County, Clarence Dupnik, said:

“When you look at unbalanced people, how they respond to the vitriol that comes out of certain mouths about tearing down the government, the anger, the hatred, the bigotry that goes on in this country is getting to be outrageous,” Dupnik said. “Unfortunately, Arizona has become sort of the capital. We have become the Mecca for prejudice and bigotry.” CNN

Ironically, Gabrielle Giffords made the strongest connection between Palin’s violent images and real world consequences when she warned Palin of the consequences of her web site images and rhetoric.

We don’t need political assassinations to justify ending the climate of vile lies that has dominated the political landscape over the past two decades. Then again, we didn’t need anti-abortion advocates killing doctors to demand that extremists end the charges that doctors performing abortions are “baby killers.” We certainly didn’t need presidential candidate, Senator John McCain of Arizona, singing “bomb, bomb, bomb Iran” when a calamitous attack on that country was a possibility.

The purveyors of mass delusions tied to violent imagery and hate filled rhetoric are circling the wagons to defend their inalienable right to lie and inflame those on the edge of reality. Nothing much will change from the top. All the while, critical issues of war and peace and economic survival will remain perpetually on the back burner while the culture of violence erupts repeatedly. This represents an unacceptable and tragic distraction that points to our rapid demise unless leaders listen to the people of this country who, most assuredly, have had enough.


You may reproduce this article in part or completely with attribution of authorship and a link to this article.

The Money Party

12 responses to “Death Panels, Palin’s Targets, and Political Assassination

  1. Michael, do you really believe a mug shot of JFK prompted a gunman to shoot him?

    This piece promotes elite aims: to quell free speech by linking violent rhetoric to this mass killing.

    I agree our culture is filled with violent rhetoric – you can’t turn on the TV without seeing violence. But that isn’t why this nutjob (or Manchurian Candidate) shot Giffords, et al.

    Sarah Palin’s target imagery is a scapegoat.

  2. Rady, did I say (or even imply) that I believed that the flier prompted the killing? No
    Did I say (or even imply) that we needed any laws to limit free speech? No.

    ‘I did say this:

    We don’t know the story behind accused assassin Jared Lee Loughner. Nor can we assign a certain role for the culture of political hate created over the last few years, including Palin’s Take Back 20 campaign.

    We have streaming hate and stupidity coming out of Fox round the clock. That needs to be condemned repeatedly and openly. We have Palin taking up hate speech to a new level, with the targets. If people engage in those activities, they should be condemned, then boycotted, as Beck has been with real effect (Fox has to carry him without any real revenue stream from the shows).

    There’s nothing elitist about my post at all, not one thing.

  3. Yes, these people have a right to lie. It’s inalienable.

    “The level of personal attacks on President Obama echoes the extreme hatred directed at Kennedy.”

    The attacks on BushCo were much more hate filled than what has been lobbed at Obama.

    That’s one price for rulership or any kind of fame… people lie about you, defame you, and spew all kinds of venom.

    The Giffords shooting has nothing to do with any of this rhetoric. By tying the two together, the piece amplifies a warning from the thought police.

    • There were a lot of negative comments on Bush but none of them were broadcast 7/24 on a major network and none of the high visibility stuff on the blogs that I saw put a crosshairs over him.

      We don’t know for sure what role, if any, the hate speech by Palin and others had with this shooter and we don’t know his mental health status either. It’s way to early.

      We do know that the statements about Obama/Democrats and Palin’s “targeting” used violent imagery and that Giffords saw that and asked it be stopped. She didn’t call for a law to stop it. She asked that it stop period. This “targeting” business is entirely new in US politics. It’s like a taboo that’s been violated.

      I’m really quite stunned that accuse me of offering up “a warning from the thought police.” That’s simiply wrong on the basis of what I said and what I’ve written and advocated over the years. I said, “We don’t need political assassinations to justify ending the climate of vile lies that has dominated the political landscape over the past two decades.” That separates the attribution of rhetoric as a causal factor with this assassination and calls for toning things down. People can and will lie and they will be angry and express that but they don’t have to lie about crazy things like Obama being a Muslim and they don’t need to put targets over the districts of people with whom they simply disagree. They don’t need to accuse people of “death panel” plans to murder the elderly and they don’t need to call doctors “baby killers.” The law won’t stop that but other public actions, including condemnation, will do the job.

      • Michael ~ what I see is this shooting being tied to hate speech. It’s a slippery slope to make such a connection, especially when fascists are trying to censor us in every way they think they can get away with already. and lo and behold, a DEMOCRAT is now designing a bill to limit speech.

        This shooting had nothing to do with Palin or her violent rhetoric (if targets on a map comprise violent rhetoric)… Mug shots of JFK did not prompt his assassination.

        This is exactly how the rulers want this shooting painted — as a response to hate speech. This is exactly what this article implies.

        Because you want political speech toned down, don’t you think Obamination is pleased by such an article?

        • One last time. I said,

          “We don’t know the story behind accused assassin Jared Lee Loughner. Nor can we assign a certain role for the culture of political hate created over the last few years, including Palin’s Take Back 20 campaign.

          I wrote one thing, you read and claim another. Neither your or I know that “This shooting had nothing to do with Palin or her violent rhetoric…” as you said. We don’t know enough from reliable sources to say one way or the other.

          You’re right on my objection to 7/24 nonstop hate filled lies and b.s. If I’m not supposed to make those objections because they will give Obamanation, your term, an excuse to create more restrictive laws, then consider this.

          1) That’s you trying to restrict my free speech – stop saying that,k bad things will happen.
          2) That implies that the White House or anyone in The Money Party gives a hoot what I say or that it has any influence on what they do.
          3) That assumes that there will be a pause in the imposition of restrictive laws – there will not, public opinion doesn’t matter to them. It’s all about control and they’re taking it. The hysterics are a necessary diversion while this goes on.

          We know for sure is that the shooter is a dangerous individual, not fit for civil society. We also need to know that a quarter million Iraqi children under five were starved to death and died of diseases as a result of Clinton’s embargo from 1992 through 2000 and that over one million Iraqi civilians died as a result of the civil strife caused by the illegal 2003 invasion.

          The same media that carries the bogus issues and fantasies can’t cover the real death toll and those responsible. The sources for criticism of what’s get heard.

  4. There is an on line petition at which calls for the Dept of Justice to indict Palin for incitement to violence.

    • Thanks for sharing that. I read the court opinion on speech and illegal activities recently and, by my reading, it takes speech calling for an illegal act that can be committed at the time. Palin was very blunt in her images and statements but didn’t say ‘go shoot these people’. However, she may have said enough. One sign of guilt, at least in the larger sense of her role, is the relentless job she’s doing erasing items from her various web sites. This link shows how she’s deleting negative comments.
      The graphic presented showed the target image. That link went down Saturday. Others are following. Apparently, she’s not aware of the way back machine. We’ll see how this turns out. I had great hope that Vince Bugliosi’s efforts to prosecute Bush for the deaths in the Iraq war would be taken up by at least one local prosecutor. Nothing happened. Maybe it will this time.

  5. oh, he’s OBAMA’s Manchurian Candidate.

  6. Disagreement is fine and your points will be thoughtfully considered. After all, you didn’t claim that I was “promoting elitist aims.” What a repellent charge, particularly on a site where I’ve posted regularly.

    On “hate speech:” while I used the term hate, correctly considering the sources to which I referred, I did not use “hate speech” per say. I did caption the last section “Turning Hate Into Action” but avoided concluding anything. I gladly quoted Giffords and the Sheriff of Pima County. They were there and appropriate to quote. Nevertheless, my piece could be put in the corner of those talking about “hate speech.” While I favor no censorship, I can’t be intellectually honest without making the key point – our ruling elite promotes the most absurd and vile lies, non stop, to a broad audience. That may or may not have influenced this shooter but it brings on a cascade of ruin to the county through uninformed political dialog and diversion from the main problems that we face. One thing the nonstop propaganda from MSM promotes are violent actions on a large scale like the Iraq invasion/occupation and the ongoing killing elsewhere.

    Opposing planned pollution of the political dialog does not imply favoring laws to prevent that. I’ve been aware of the dangers of censorship posed by “concern troll” rhetoric about the dangers of free speech. These two articles reflect that. By an overwhelming majority… Congress Brings You Thought Control on the Internet Dec. 19, 2007 & Part II – Internet Thought Control Bill Under Fire Dec 19, 2007

    On the speculation regarding Sirhan Sirhan, I’d say that it is a useful comparison. Sirhan looked like he was induced into a trance that never ended. There were so many problems with that investigation; 3000 photographs destroyed by the police is near the top of the list. There is no reason to reach a final conclusion on this incident at this point. It’s clearly a time to look at alternative hypotheses. The controlled shooter is certainly one of those.

    I’m surprised how quickly the paranoid schizophrenic thesis was shoved to the front. That’s been expanded to a broad set of ticking time bombs ready to go off (see below). Basically, that’s the argument by some in the intelligence community who claim that bin Laden sends out tapes and activates ‘lone wolves’/’lone nuts.’ That’s a slippery slope. I did write about the “stochastic terrorism” theory put forth by a Daily Kos diarist. I think that you’ll find it interesting. Cheers

    A Look at “Stochastic Terrorism: Triggering the Shooters” (from DailyKos)

  7. Well, how about this (which I’m sure you knew):

    From Wikipedia

    A considerable amount of credible circumstantial evidence suggests that Theodore Kaczynski, also known as the Unabomber, participated in CIA-sponsored MKULTRA experiments conducted at Harvard University from the fall of 1959 through the spring of 1962.[51] During World War II, Henry Murray, the lead researcher in the Harvard experiments, served with the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), which was a forerunner of the CIA. Murray applied for a grant funded by the United States Navy, and his Harvard stress experiments strongly resembled those run by the OSS.[51] Beginning at the age of sixteen, Kaczynski participated along with twenty-one other undergraduate students in the Harvard experiments, which have been described as “disturbing” and “ethically indefensible.”[51][52]

  8. I don’t think that the theory goes very far. It’s sort of like the perception of Voodoo as a mysterious magical control mechanism when, in fact, the magic is carried out surreptitiously through poisoning and other behind the scenes acts. Maybe that’s the smokescreen effect for theories like this – to create so much fear that the problem requires remediation (even if the problem is contrived).

    The Church Committee was a gift that keeps giving.

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