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PORTSIDE  January 2011, Week 2

PORTSIDE January 2011, Week 2

Subject:

It's Not a Game: Sarah Palin and the Madness of March

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Date:

Mon, 10 Jan 2011 21:47:52 -0500

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It's Not a Game: Sarah Palin and the Madness of March

By Dave Zirin blog The Nation January 10, 2011

http://www.thenation.com/blog/157599/its-not-game-sarah-palin-and-madness-march

In the wake of Saturday's horrific shooting in Tucson
of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and 19 other victims, long
overdue attention is being paid to Republican Party
heroine Sarah Palin's brazen use of violent language
and symbols. It's hard to recall a national political
figure since George Wallace who played so fast and
loose with images of gunplay, demonization and death.
For me, it was last March when I wondered if "going
rogue" meant going off the deep end. This was when
Palin strayed from the realm of politics and directed a
particularly toxic stream of consciousness into the
world of sports.

At the time, Palin and other GOP party members were
facing criticism for using violent, inflammatory
rhetoric against their Democratic opponents in the
health care debate. In a misguided attempt to defend
herself, Palin tried to show that violent rhetoric is
used across American culture, most notably in the world
of sports. In a rambling response that evoked Jonathan
Swift crossed with Larry the Cable Guy, Palin took to
Facebook to offer satirical words of encouragement to
the NCAA hoops teams in the throes of March Madness.
She wrote, [1]

"To the teams that desire making it this far next year:
Gear up! In the battle, set your sights on next
season's targets! From the shot across the bow - the
first second's tip-off - your leaders will be in the
enemy's crosshairs, so you must execute strong
defensive tactics. You won't win only playing defense,
so get on offense! The crossfire is intense, so
penetrate through enemy territory by bombing through
the press, and use your strong weapons - your Big Guns
- to drive to the hole. Shoot with accuracy; aim high
and remember it takes blood, sweat and tears to win.
Focus on the goal and fight for it. If the gate is
closed, go over the fence. If the fence is too high,
pole vault in. If that doesn't work, parachute in. If
the other side tries to push back, your attitude should
be "go for it." Get in their faces and argue with them.
(Sound familiar?!) Every possession is a battle; you'll
only win the war if you've picked your battles wisely.
No matter how tough it gets, never retreat, instead
RELOAD!"

To be as charitable as possible, the aim of Palin's
"satire" was to point out that violent, martial imagery
is constantly used in sports and therefore is an
absolutely legitimate metaphor for political debate. 
Let's leave aside for a moment that unlike sports,
politics in the United States has a consistent
tradition of unhinged violence sparked by demagoguery.
Let's also concede that the world of sports is rife
with unconscious military metaphor and language. This
is most apparent in football of course, where
quarterbacks are field generals, throwing bullet passes
and bombs as they encroach on enemy territory.

But the subject at hand was NCAA basketball and this is
where we enter the bizarre recesses of Palin's brain.
Please take my word for it as a professional
sportswriter, a columnist for SLAM Magazine [2], and
someone who has been playing basketball since he was in
utero: I've been around this game my whole life and
never heard the opening tip called "the shot across the
bow." I've never heard "the crossfire is intense" used
to describe anything on a court. I've certainly heard
calls from coaches to "shoot with accuracy" but never
heard any coach call for players to "aim high." And
I've met more than a few coaches who were blithering
idiots, but none so blithering as to say, "Every
possession is a battle; you'll only win the war if
you've picked your battles wisely."

The point is not that Sarah Palin lacks the
intellectual faculties to be hired as an NBA coach
(honestly, I shouldn't even joke about the prospect
lest Clippers owner Donald Sterling get any bright
ideas.) The point is that that Palin revels in the idea
that "reloading" against those she doesn't deem to be
"real Americans" is a completely legitimate part of
national discourse. The point is that behind her
flawless facade and frontierswoman packaging, Palin
draws strength from visions of violence. The fact that
she is a national political figure with an obsessive
right-wing cult following makes it all the more
disturbing.

We should be honest and say that were Sarah Palin a
Muslim, producing gun-sight propaganda aimed at
Congressional candidates, she'd be being interviewed by
the Feds right now. I personally don't want the Feds
interviewing anybody for their words, no matter where
they fall on the political scene. But that doesn't mean
we the people don't have a collective accountability to
stand up to Palin and all who feed the right wing hate
machine. If this weekend taught us nothing else, it's
not enough to just "change the channel." It's not
enough to say that articles like this one "just give
Palin the attention she wants" and "all she cares about
being is a reality tv star." No. This isn't about
reality television. It's about reality. It's about
understanding that the radical right needs to be
politically challenged and Sarah Palin - it needs to be
said loudly - should have long disqualified herself
from national politics. Any political leader that
continues to defend her should be seen as endorsing the
very discourse she promotes. This isn't about stifling
speech. It's about laying down a marker after this
weekend, and saying that this is not a game.

[Dave Zirin is the author of "Bad Sports: How Owners
are Ruining the Games we Love" (Scribner) and just made
the new documentary "Not Just a Game." Receive his
column every week by emailing [log in to unmask]
Contact him at [log in to unmask]]

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