Sarah Palin's blood libel charge: Could she sound any more narcissistic?
I happened to be having lunch Thursday with Rob Eshman, the editor of the Jewish Journal, who just wrote a really perceptive column in the new issue of the weekly newspaper about Jared Lee Loughner's alleged attempt to kill Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, which resulted in the deaths of six people. Eshman includes some fascinating quotes from Frank Luntz, the GOP political consultant and Fox News pollster who helped popularize the use of political language as propaganda, as in when he counseled Fox's Sean Hannity in 2009 to refer to the "public option" in proposed healthcare legislation as a "government option," a far more politically loaded term term which was quickly adopted by Fox News in its political coverage.
Even though Luntz told Eshman that violence has long been part of our political rhetoric, citing as an example the lyrics to "The Star-Spangled Banner" ("It's about rockets blasting in air, bombs going off in air. And so it's always been a part of who we are"), even Luntz seemed concerned by the escalation of nasty invective on both sides of the political spectrum. As he put it: "For the first time, we're in a situation now where the anger on the right and the left is horrific."
But of course what I wanted to hear from Eshman, as a prominent member of L.A'.s Jewish community, was his opinion of Sarah Palin's controversial speech in which she said that journalists and pundits should not manufacture "a blood libel" that only serves to incite hatred. Blood libel, as my colleague Rick Rojas pointed out in his story, has long been a central fable of anti-Semitism in which Jews have been accused of using the blood of Gentile children for medicinal purposes, allegations that have led to the slaughter of untold numbers of Jews over the centuries.
What bothered Eshman the most about Palin's choice of imagery wasn't so much its ignorance of Jewish history but the way it associated her with a classic showbiz stereotype: the "it's all about me" narcissist. "What Palin really learned this week is that you have to choose your words and images carefully," Eshman told me. "Jews don't have a patent on these words--other people are free to use them. But for Palin to put herself in the same category as people who were murdered because of false accusations portrays a real lack of understanding of historical values. It really betrays an amazing level of narcissism."
Eshman said Palin's remark has already cost her support from people in the Jewish community, notably Rabbi Marvin Hier, a political conservative. "You'd never hear a Jew say that they're the victim of a blood libel, but it would be ridiculous for anyone who's an average person to imagine themselves the victim of something on that large a scale. So when you watch her video, you just go, 'How could she think this was all about her?' It's hard to imagine anyone being more narcissistic, isn't it?"
Actually, I managed to rattle off the names of a number of Hollywood A-listers who were in the same ballpark when it came to major league narcissism. But Eshman's point is well taken. When a politician or a movie star embraces that much victimhood, you have to believe that they're anything but a victim.
Photo: Sarah Palin signing copies of her book, "America by Heart," last November in Little Rock, Ark. Credit: Brian Chilson/ Associated Press