There is an awful lot of rather febrile comment and speculation going on on twitter regarding the attempted assassination of Rep. Giffords. In particular the conduct of Sarah Palin’s gun-themed marketing campaigns have come in for heavy criticism.
From over here in the UK lots of what seems to be termed “political speech” in the US seems incomprehensible. Not only would much of it be illegal, but even if legal no mainstream party would countenance it – for it’s lack of taste if nothing else.
This is not to say I think it is all bad. Indeed I find the US laws on freedom of speech to be admirable. I would not want to see these things banned, even when they are tasteless.
I think many of Palin’s critics find it very difficult to separate the gun imagery in these campaigns from actual guns, but the use of this sort of imagery is widespread in all media for many subjects, and is not in itself threatening. Given the appeal of weapons to the target audience (see what I did there?) I think it is reaching to blame Palin for this.
That said, her PR’s hamfisted attempt to deflect blame by claiming the bullseyes were “surveyors symbols” is crass and foolish, attributes that have characterised everything Palin has done.
As with the phone “hacking” at the news of the world, we are behoven to separate the specific from the general in our reasoning. We should defend the general, whilst deploring the specific. The News Of The World would have been justified to use the hacking technique in pursuit of a real story, no matter its legality: but to use it for trivia is unacceptable.
Lots of reasonable, sane Americans like their guns. This is indisputable. Palin may be a foolish idiot, but using this sort of marketing is not prima facie evidence of anything. We should accept the justification of freedom of speech, and contest Palin on matters of real substance.
update: put much better than I have here, thanks @joethedough.