Is Sarah Palin turning Facebook and Twitter into her own weapons of mayhem and destruction?

What happens if something that might be interpreted as a threat comes from a highly visible national figure, like a former VP candidate?
Written by David Gewirtz, Senior Contributing Editor

Over the past few weeks, we've seen the American masses whipped into a frenzy of political disagreement and anger.

Some of what we've seen is pure hyperbole. That's how America does politics, in our own twisted, nutty, and glorious way.

But some of what we've seen goes beyond good, old-fashioned political disagreement.

Some of what we've seen, like the coffin placed in front of the home of Missouri Democratic Representative Russ Carnahan, the cut gas lines at the home of Virginia Democratic Representative Tom Perriello's brother, the death threats received by Michigan Representative Bart Stupak, and the message New York Representative Louise Slaughter got that snipers were going to kill her children are nothing short of terrifying -- especially to the elected officials and their families on the receiving end of the threats.

All those threats, presumably, came from slightly unhinged "regular" Americans.

Going rogue

But what happens if something that might be interpreted as a threat comes from a highly visible national figure, like a former Vice Presidential candidate?

That's the issue with Sarah Palin, who appears to be using social media like Facebook and Twitter to rally her troops with powerful imagery. But is she actually inciting violence?

Palin's Facebook page lists a series of Democratic incumbents she wants the GOP to unseat. There's nothing wrong with that. Competition from the opposition is part of what makes America great.

The questionable element is the use of target reticles to represent each elected official. Combine that imagery with tweets like "Don't Retreat, Instead - RELOAD!" and you might get the impression she's actually encouraging her millions of fans to take violent action.

Mrs. Palin would probably be horrified if someone were actually killed or hurt as a result of her vivid Facebook and Twitter communiques.

I also know that most Americans will properly interpret those messages as vivid calls to oust sitting officials with more conservative replacements.

Most Americans are very aware of the consequences of violent action and would not consider attacking anyone.


These online tools, which are so easy to post to, can be now be used to reach the masses far more effectively even TV advertising.

Palin has 1,504,790 Facebook fans and 116,715 Twitter followers. Out of all these people, is it possible that one or two are unhinged enough to interpret Palin's iconography and powerful calls to action more literally than figuratively?

Whether purposefully or inadvertently, is Palin turning Facebook and Twitter into weapons, inciting the masses to destructive behavior?

Given the anger and vitriol of the past week, wouldn't it be more appropriate for her -- in her role as a de facto national leader -- to remove the violent imagery and encourage non-violent behavior, rather than using terms like "reload, aim, and salvo" in her rhetoric?

TalkBack below. And, hey, do your best to be friendly. You're all entitled to your opinions, but let's treat each other respectfully.

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