The XX Factor

Sarah Palin Re-Inserts Herself in the News Cycle

Several days after the Arizona shooting, just when criticism of Sarah Palin’s use of crosshairs in an election-season map was beginning to die down, the former governor re-inserted herself at the precise center of the news cycle with one inflammatory phrase. This time, it’s the term ” blood libel, ” which connotes a very particular sort of false, persecutorial accusation made against Jews. Palin used the term in a video response to the Arizona tragedy, posted to her Facebook page , to rebuke, implicitly, anyone who criticized the gun imagery she used to target districts she wanted the GOP to win in 2010: “[E]specially within hours of a tragedy unfolding, journalists and pundits should not manufacture a blood libel that serves only to incite the very hatred and violence they purport to condemn.” (Palin, of course, is not Jewish, though Gabrielle Giffords is.) Of course, only people on the very fringe have suggested that Palin is directly responsible for the Arizona shooting; the mainstream criticism has been of the general fevered rhetoric the Tea Party and others have brought to the national dialogue of late ( see Jacob Weisberg’s piece in Slate on the way in which the Tea Party has charged the air with ” language about tyranny, betrayal, and taking back the country”), of which her crosshairs map is a prime example. So she responds to that, as well, via a shoutout to Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr: ” There are those who claim political rhetoric is to blame for the despicable act of this deranged, apparently apolitical criminal. And they claim political debate has somehow gotten more heated just recently. But when was it less heated? Back in those ‘calm days’ when political figures literally settled their differences with dueling pistols?”

This seems to be Palin’s particular genius, to make herself the center of media attention at every opportunity, and to do so in such a way that also allows her to claim that the very reporters she’s baiting are unfairly targeting her. I’m sure that’s the next step in the unfolding controversy over her use of blood libel (Twitter is awash in speculation over whether she actually understood the full connotations of what she said); she’ll say that the media is blowing the remark out of proportion, and so the cycle spins on.

My question, though slight, is why she posted her video to Vimeo rather than YouTube. I wonder if it has something to do with differences in commenting on the two sites; the Palin camp famously micromanages her Facebook page and deletes negative comments . Writing on Vimeo in Slate, Farhad Manjoo noted that the tenor of commenting is vastly differen t: ” Where YouTube is  notorious for attracting the most inane and vile commenters on the Web, people who respond to Vimeo videos are unbelievably nice. ‘I won’t say you’ll never find a negative comment, but in more than two years, I’ve literally seen 20 negative comments,” Whitman says. “And I’ve watched 50,000 videos easily.’ ” As of this writing, that’s true for Palin’s video : There are 174,000 views, 87 “likes,” and zero comments.

Photograph of Sarah Palin by Eric Thayer for Getty Images.