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Wednesday, January 12, 2011 

Blood libels and alarm clock Britain.

If there was ever a better moment to contrast the difference in political rhetoric between the United States and our own benighted, septic isle, it must have happened sometime prior to the establishment of this blog. After all, how else do you react to criticism over your incendiary metaphors and campaigning, such as calling for Julian Assange to be hunted down and advising your supporters to reload rather than retreat or other than by suggesting that your enemies are committing a "blood libel"? Either Sarah Palin is even more phenomenally ignorant and crass than anyone could have possibly imagined, using phrases which she doesn't know the origin and long history of in an attempt to play the victim when six other people are dead, or as an evangelical Christian she's referring to the attempted murder of a Jewish woman in the sense that she's being smeared in a similar way to Jews have throughout the past 2000 years, first with being responsible for the murder of Christ, and more latterly with baking their passover bread with the blood of Christians, usually children.

The first explanation is the more palatable: she could well have plagiarised it from Glenn Reynolds, who also used it apparently without thinking much about its historical legacy in the Wall Street Journal. While some have quickly looked up other instances of commentators and politicians using "blood libel" outside of its anti-Semitic context, there's nothing to suggest it's even begun to become removed from its origins. Palin might have meant to use the phrase in its simplest terms, that she's been libelled due to the connections made between her and the attack on Giffords, yet any potential leader of a nation ought to be aware of other possible connotations of the words they use, or have them checked beforehand. That however seems to be absolute anathema to her: unwilling to admit she was wrong to use crosshairs on that now infamous image which Giffords herself criticised at the time for having potential consequences, she instead turned everything that has happened since Saturday back onto how badly she feels she's been treated. Given an opportunity to express humility or deliver a conciliatory message, to recognise or suggest that language on both sides might have gotten out of hand and that even though she bore no responsibility for Jared Lee Lougher's actions, it was time to tone things down, she rejected it entirely.

How very far removed from the latest cynical construction to describe those that politicians most want to appeal to back over here. We've had to put up with Ed Miliband's ludicrous "squeezed middle" for quite some time already, a corset that apparently all those earning between £16,000 (way below the average wage) and £50,000 (more than double the average) a year are being painfully constricted by, and now we've been presented with the "alarm clock Britons". Unlike Sarah Palin alighting upon a phrase that she thinks will sound good, you know as soon as you hear it that "alarm clock Britain" has gone before innumerable focus groups, all of whom despite doubtless secretly loathing it said that it was a fantastic description, either of them personally or of those other hard-working folk who get woken up at ungodly hours either by a hypnotic beep or the blasting white noise of a radio at maximum volume. It seems most likely to be a direct carry-on from that charming observation made by George Osborne about who he wanted to be supporting: the low paid worker going out in the dark, frustrated and angry at the blinds being pulled down at the house opposite.

As Paul Sagar notes, Nick Clegg's entire article in the Sun based around this mythical "alarm clock Britain", as well as containing even more cliches than the average football commentary, is all about creating dichotomies. While the likes of Palin just come right out and say just how much they hate those they're opposing and how what they're doing is ruining the country, we instead have Clegg celebrating the hard-working, sneering at those on "state handouts" (not benefits, which is a far less harsh way of describing those down on their luck or sick) and insulting Ed Miliband for err, being prepared "to hide beneath the duvet". The problem is that it's wholly unconvincing, as the derisory 11 comments the piece has received suggests, and that has to be partially because it's staggeringly obvious Clegg had no role whatsoever in writing it. Whether ghosted by a Sun hack or Andy Coulson, Sun readers know when they're being played or patronised: they might take such bullshit from an unsigned editorial, but not delivered to them as the authentic words of a politician. You can only create divisions properly when there's either real feeling or breathtaking cant behind the message: Clegg and almost all British politicians have absolutely nothing on our American brothers and sisters in that respect.

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