Yesterday, NRO's Jonah Goldberg mildly scolded Sarah Palin for using the loaded, incendiary phrase, "blood libel."Palin, responding the Tucson gun massacre controversy, said, "Journalists and pundits should not manufacture a blood libel that serves only to incite the very hatred and violence they purport to condemn."
But I think that the use of this particular term in this context isn't ideal. Historically, the term is almost invariably used to describe anti-Semitic myths about how Jews use blood — usually from children — in their rituals.
Today, Goldberg seems to flip-flop on the matter:
As for the "blood libel" flap, I've decided to ratchet down my already very modest objection to the term. While I still think it would have been better had she not used the phrase, so much of the criticism of it is in bad faith. Her intent was honorable and her point was right. Moreover, she's hardly the first person to use the term outside the bounds of discussions of anti-Semitism. She wasn't even talking about "the blood libel" but warning against the creation of "a blood libel," which is exactly what Krugman, Olberman & Co. were doing. The "controversy" was a red herring and little more.
Both these stated reasons seem odd.
With the first, Goldberg indicates that he's backing off his criticism of Palin because the other criticism of Palin has been "in bad faith." Supposedly, Goldberg's criticism was in good faith. But because other people (i.e. liberals) attacked Palin in bad faith, he has decided to rescind his good faith criticism of the former governor in an effort to counter-balance the bad faith criticism. (If that makes sense.)
Second, Goldberg notes that Palin used the "blood libel" phrase in a general way and was not making reference to "the blood libel," which refers to a claim of Jewish blood ritual.
And indeed, Goldberg is correct. In discussing the reaction to the Tucson gun massacre, Palin did not invoke images of Jewish blood offerings. But as I'm pretty sure Goldberg understands, when "blood libel" is used these days, pretty much nobody is talking about "the blood libel," which is why that seems like a pretty dubious premise for him to walk back his earlier scolding.
- Jonah Goldberg