About that Other Map

In the comments to my post yesterday about the use of violent rhetoric on the RW even in the wake of the attempted assassination of Rep. Giffords and directed at Palin(!) sort of(?), Mo wrote: “Just wanted to make sure you had seen this:

Though certainly not as specific as crosshairs, I think both maps reflect a violent attitude at the extremes of both sides of the political spectrum.”  [Jessica Valenti agrees that this is ALL part of a larger masculine, “man-up” culture in the US.  This map and Palin’s map.  Her recent article is worth a read.]

After posting something about Palin’s map on Facebook, I had a friend ask me what I thought of the map above.

And today, Sarah Palin in her 7-minute response video to the assassination attempt said this:

Acts of monstrous criminality stand on their own. They begin and end with the criminals who commit them, not collectively with all the citizens of a state, not with those who listen to talk radio, not with maps of swing districts used by both sides of the aisle, not with law-abiding citizens who respectfully exercise their First Amendment rights at campaign rallies, not with those who proudly voted in the last election.

Here are my thoughts:

First, I think that ALL violent rhetoric should cease.  Immediately.  I don’t think anyone on the left or right should ever again use the metaphors of guns, shooting, or enemies to talk about people on the other side of the political aisle unless they mean it.  Eliminationist language should go the way of pistol duels in American politics.  So, I don’t like this Democratic map from 2004 anymore than I like the famous 2010 map created by SarahPAC.

Second, and yet, the maps are different.

Here’s the now-infamous one that named Giffords:

The day Palin released this map, she tweeted this:

[The image says: “Commonsense Conservatives & lovers of America: “Don’t Retreat, Instead – RELOAD!” Pls see my Facebook page.”]

She also had this message associated with the image:

We’re going to reclaim the power of the people from those who disregarded the will of the people. We’re going to fire them and send them back to the private sector, which has been shrinking thanks to their destructive government-growing policies. Maybe when they join the millions of unemployed, they’ll understand why Americans wanted them to focus on job creation and an invigorated private sector. Come November, we’re going to print pink slips for members of Congress as fast as they’ve been printing money.

We’re paying particular attention to those House members who voted in favor of Obamacare and represent districts that Senator John McCain and I carried during the 2008 election. Three of these House members are retiring – from Arkansas’s 2nd district, Indiana’s 8th district, and Tennessee’s 6th district – but we’ll be working to make sure that those who replace them are Commonsense Conservatives. The others are running for re-election, and we’re going to hold them accountable for this disastrous Obamacare vote. They are: Ann Kirkpatrick (AZ-1), Harry E. Mitchell (AZ-5), Gabrielle Giffords (AZ-8), John Salazar (CO-3), Betsy Markey (CO-4). Allen Boyd (FL-2), Suzanne M. Kosmas (FL-24), Baron P. Hill (IN-9), Earl Pomeroy (ND-AL), Charlie Wilson (OH-6), John Boccieri (OH-16), Kathy Dahlkemper (PA-3), Christopher Carney (PA-10), John M. Spratt, Jr. (SC-5), Tom Perriello (VA-5), Alan B. Mollohan (WV-1), and Nick J. Rahall II (WV-3).

We’ll aim for these races and many others. This is just the first salvo in a fight to elect people across the nation who will bring common sense to Washington.

There is a lot going on here.  She is telling people via Twitter to “RELOAD” and then giving them a map with the names of people who need to be targeted, people whose districts we are viewing through the lens of a cross hair (no matter what people are arguing or saying about that image now).  Of course, she writes that she just wants them fired.  I will totally give her credit for that.  In March 2010, though, even Elizabeth Hasslebeck, the View’s famous conservative co-host, blasted Palin for using this imagery, saying that it was despicable.  The map was the story.  The map and the images and the names on it were the news.

Now, the democratic map listed above was from 2004 and created by the Democratic Leadership Council.  Here is the context in which the map appeared.

At the beginning of the post, it says:

Just as Republicans pursued a Southern strategy in the late 1960s, Democrats should craft a heartland strategy that targets winnable states in the South, the lower Midwest, and the Rocky Mountain West. At the very least, a heartland strategy would wreak havoc behind enemy lines. Done right, it could help end the Democrats’ cultural estrangement from their natural constituency — the working middle class — and start bringing them back home.

And then Will Marshall, the author of the post, says this as an introduction to the image:

There’s just no way around it: Democrats have to be competitive in every region of the country to be a true national party, and they have to win more states to have any hope of consolidating a durable governing majority in the future.

The heartland strategy begins by choosing likely targets for Democratic gains. Let’s go to the map:

Then directly after the map:

President Bush won 31 states, 14 of them with 60 percent of the vote or more. Take those 14 crimson states off the table. Of his remaining 17 states, Bush won nine by single-digit margins. These include three Southern states (Florida, Arkansas, and, surprisingly, Virginia), three Midwestern states (Ohio, Iowa, and Missouri) and three Rocky Mountain states (New Mexico, Nevada, and Colorado). Altogether, those nine states have 103 electoral votes. To win the next presidential election, assuming no further erosion in the blue states, a Democratic candidate would have to win about 20 percent of those votes. And by targeting these states and contesting them vigorously, Democrats would enhance the prospects of boosting their popular vote and sweeping more Senate and House candidates into office.

Then the end of the next paragraph:

And to craft messages with proven heartland appeal, the party should pay special attention to the Democratic governors who have thrived in several target states: Mark Warner of Virginia, Tom Vilsack of Iowa, and Bill Richardson of New Mexico.

And to end the article, this:

Bush’s 2004 victory marked the second straight national election, after 2002, in which the GOP has won an ever-so-slight majority of the popular vote. His political guru, Karl Rove, says this “rolling realignment” is ending the long partisan stalemate in Washington and tipping the balance of political power in the GOP’s favor.

He may be right. Bush and his party consolidated their hold on the red states, flipped New Mexico and Iowa, and made inroads into many blue states. But now Democrats should fight back with a realignment strategy of their own. They need to raid the red states, picking off enough to stop the Republican realignment dead in its tracks, and start building a new progressive majority.

Clearly, the language at the end is inappropriate.  I wouldn’t have endorsed that language before Saturday and I certainly don’t endorse it now.  Hopefully the DLC is done using it.  If not, I hope people call them on it from here on out.  I will call them out from here on out.

Still, the democrats were talking about states in an abstract way and not people in a concrete one.  And I’m not sure if this map hit the news like Palin’s map did [If it did, fill me in].

Third, I have a small quibble.  The democratic map used bulls-eyes, ones that look like dartboards and also targets used in archery.  And, again, they are targeting states.

Palin used cross hairs.  A cross hair is the thing you look through when you are attempting to hunt and kill something, either an animal or, if you are sniper, a human being.  Cross hairs are active (versus passive bulls-eyes).  They imply that you are holding a weapon as you are looking at the map, aiming your gun at each spot.  The gun that you have just reloaded.  And, in case you aren’t sure who to point it at, their names are right there for you.

Yes, both maps and the contexts around them are both bad.  But only one asks people to imagine themselves holding a loaded gun while they look at it.  Only one names names.  Only one names the name of a politician who was shot in the head (I think that point matters).

Rep. Giffords herself responded to Palin’s map.  To see that video, click here and scroll down.

When talking about the Palin map, Giffords said, “When people do that [create maps with cross hairs], there are consequences to that action.”  In that video, she asked for the violent rhetoric to stop.  She asked that people stop using gun and shooting imagery to talk about their political opponents.

And we know what happened.  We know it didn’t stop (thank you, Sharron Angle and your second amendment “remedies”).  We know that, in the end, Giffords ended up shot in the head.  Maybe that is just one crazy-ass coincidence (I really don’t think it is).

But in the wake of this tragedy, can’t we simply admit that the violent language is bad?  Can no one ever be wrong or find fault in themselves, especially in the wake of an incident like this?

No, Palin’s map and her rhetoric didn’t cause Loughner to shoot Giffords.  He is responsible for that action and that decision and he will be held accountable (and – OMG – the RW would love for you to just focus on the fact that he was an individual, just hanging out in his context-free vacuum, simply ruminating in his totally unstable mind, being crazy, crazy, and crazy).

Loughner met Giffords in 2007 and, supposedly, began to hate her soon after.  And yet he didn’t shoot her until 2010.  He didn’t shoot her until after Palin had targeted her and her opponent had used gun-happy events in his campaign against her.  Loughner lived in a place where Giffords had been made not simply a political target but an actual human target. Did he shoot her simply because of that?  No (there’s much to say about the way our society manages mental health and the loose gun laws in Arizona).  But does that completely not factor into this event?  Why do you want to be on the side that says it doesn’t?  Do you want to be wrong about this?  Shouldn’t we all err on the side of caution and restraint?

But the fact that we COULD EVEN CONSIDER that Loughner might have shot her (even in part) because of the violent rhetoric and imagery floating around Tuscon in respect to Giffords, that says something about how far the rhetoric has gone.

So, yes, people like Palin and Beck and Limbaugh and Angle have the first amendment right to say whatever the fuck they want to say about whomever.  But they don’t have a right to not be called on that when their words appear to match a violent assassination attempt.  When the force of their words become reality.  When a politician who appeared under the cross hair on a political opponent’s (in)famous map only 9 months earlier has been the target of an assassination.

Because as Giffords warned, words can have consequences.  In the end, the point is that we should ALL follow her advice and STOP with the violent rhetoric in political language.  Why not?  Why risk it?  Who wants to be the asshole whose map foretold the assassination attempt of a US Congressperson?  Is it worth it in the end?

I agree with Mo wholeheartedly (I almost always do).  There is terrible rhetoric on both sides.  The other map is bad.  But no one was shot after it was posted.  But now someone has been shot in the wake of Palin’s map.

Let’s take this moment to reflect on that.  And as I said yesterday, please, for the love of all public officials and all loudmouthed radio talk show hosts and pundits, stop using the language of guns and shooting to talk about someone whose POLICIES and IDEOLOGIES you don’t like.  It’s that fucking simple.  The First Amendment gives you that right.  Now have some fucking responsibility and stop doing it.


4 thoughts on “About that Other Map

  1. One is crosshairs, one is bulleyes. Both are icons associated with shooting. The only people who see any difference in the two are people who don’t want the side they identify with to take their share of the blame.

  2. I don’t think “my side” isn’t to blame. I think ANY person in Congress in 2004 who let the assault ban end without even questioning why the hell someone would need a high capacity magazine is to blame. I think ANY person who has railed against providing mental health services to people in their communities is to blame. I think ANY person who has engaged in violent rhetoric and has called for a political opponent to be targeted is to blame. I think Jared Loughner is to blame. There’s plenty of blame to go around. I’m not trying to skirt that.

    But I do think trying to act like Palin’s map and the rhetorical and cultural atmosphere from which it comes isn’t a problem, that the two maps are the same is disingenuous. And yes, bulls-eyes and cross-hairs are different. As someone who has aimed at a bulls-eye and looked through a cross-hair, I can personally attest to that.

  3. “for the love of all public officials and all loudmouthed radio talk show hosts and pundits, stop using the language of guns and shooting to talk about someone whose POLICIES and IDEOLOGIES you don’t like.”

    good christ on a cracker YES! i honestly don’t remember if i was reading or talking with someone, but it was recently pointed out that, when there are perfectly good ways to express your opinion WITHOUT resorting to violent imagery, and your only defense is “FIRST AMENDMENT RIGHTS!”, then you’re unequivocally advocating for that violence above all other considerations. i don’t think many people nowadays would gladly go around screaming the N-word instead of saying “black” or “african-american” just because they can. but they sure do seem to want to spew violent rhetoric for this issue just because they can. i don’t understand it.

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