In a press release, WikiLeaks has blamed Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, Sarah Palin, and other conservatives for the Tucson shootings, and called for them to be prosecuted for “incitement.” It is not clear why WikiLeaks thinks people such as Huckabee had anything to do with the shootings. Even Sarah Palin has said nothing that would constitute incitement, much less illegal incitement under the U.S. Supreme Court’s governing First Amendment rulings in Hess v. Indiana and Brandenburg v. Ohio.
As Jack Shafer notes at Slate, “crosshairs and bull’s-eyes have been an accepted part of the graphical lexicon when it comes to political debates,” and are not incitement to violence, any more than other commonplace political words like “targeting, attacking, destroying, blasting, crushing,” and “burying” are. The rhetoric of American politicians like Sarah Palin is usually bland and mild by international and historical standards. As David Brooks notes, there is “no evidence” that the shooter was influenced in any way by conservatives like Sarah Palin, and claims to the contrary are simply “vicious charges made by people who claimed to be criticizing viciousness.”
Image credit: Byeskille’s flickr photostream.