Sarah Palin's Ignorance.

Over the weekend, Sarah Palin defended her use of the term "blood libel" last week in an online statement about the Arizona shooting. She spent several minutes arguing that she'd been unfairly accused by her favorite bogeyman, the media, of having had something to do with the shooting because she put out a map before the elections with gun sights surveyor's marks over several congressional districts before the election, including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot and wounded along with 14 others. Six were killed. It turns out the accused gunman, Jared Lee Loughner, wasn't a follower of Palin, but Palin seemed to miss the broader point many of us made that violent rhetoric accusing the government of being illegitimate doesn't help. Anyway, this is what she says in her defense.

'Blood libel obviously means being falsely accused of having blood on your hands. In this case, that's exactly what was going on,' Palin told Fox News in her first interview since the controversy erupted over her remarks.

This strikes me as something she really believes, especially since the phrase had been tossed around just before she made her statement. Many argued that she used the phrase as a dog whistle to evangelicals, many of whom, in America, have the paradoxical characteristics of being both anti-Semitic and staunchly pro-Israel. But I don't think many in her base know what the term means. I grew up in the Bible Belt, and the knowledge many evangelicals have of Jewish history begins and ends with what they read in the Bible. I don't mean to be judgmental here: There is really no one whom they might have encountered to share that history. Historical study of the church isn't necessary in many evangelical communities and, in some cases, is frowned upon. If you commune with God directly, then learnedness isn't a requirement for a claim to knowledge -- a phenomena that I would argue explains a lot of what we're seeing in today's politics. This brings me to a broader point about Palin: If the explanation for something she says rest on her being cunningly offensive or ignorantly so, I'd always choose the latter.

-- Monica Potts

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