American Snipers

When I first heard mention of the film American Sniper, I immediately assumed that it was going to be a production in the vein of The Day of the Jackal, wherein a murderous sniper was ultimately tracked down and killed by the ‘good guys’. Seconds later, I found myself wondering if the sniper in the film was a fictional creation, or if he was a historical character like Lee Harvey Oswald, who (allegedly) shot President Kennedy.

I’ve read a fair amount about these matters over the years, so I also wondered if the film was going to deal with Charles Whitman, James Earl Ray, Mark Essex, Lee Boyd Malvo, John Allen Muhammed or any one of the many other such men that have caused terror and carnage in the USA in modern times, but I soon learned that it was effectively a biopic of the military marksman Chris Kyle, who was killed on a shooting range in Texas in February 2013.

When I assumed that American Sniper was about the hunt for a criminal in the form of a sniper, I wasn’t being at all cynical, one reason being that I clearly remember the terror caused by the so-called Washington Sniper before it was discovered that two men, not one, were responsible for these attacks, while I was certainly aware of Oswald, Whitman, Essex and others. It’s a simple fact that the armies of most countries, including Britain, have trained and used snipers for over two centuries, but while successful snipers are inevitably and rightly prized by their own side for their ability to disrupt and demoralise the enemy, it’s equally inevitable that they’re likely to be loathed in equal measure by those on the receiving end of their lethal skills.

The same principle has often applied to pilots and perhaps to submariners, so when Michael Moore tweeted the following “My uncle killed by sniper in WW2. We were taught snipers were cowards. Will shoot u in the back. Snipers aren’t heroes. And invaders r worse”, I thought it was a perfectly reasonable observation, even if he was deliberately ‘sniping’ at the film American Sniper and the adulation it’s received from some quarters. It was only to be expected that others would vociferously disagree with Michael Moore, because he’s a high profile film maker who seems to polarise opinion in the USA and I’m sure he expected others to take issue with him, all of which is fair enough.

However, I was astonished to learn of the photo of Sarah Palin – below – which was verified by her daughter Bristol and which also seems to have been accepted as genuine by the admirable Snopes.com site.

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I’m all in favour of extremely robust exchanges and I’m not bothered by profanities, while if a possible presidential candidate is happy to comport herself in such a way, then I’m equally happy for her. What leaves me numb with disbelief is the fact that aside from a few scattered pockets of dissent, there has been universal condemnation of the recent Paris killings on the grounds that it’s considered to be unacceptable to respond to freedom of expression with gunfire or the threat of it.

Nonetheless, Sarah Palin clearly feels it’s perfectly reasonable to respond to a tweeted comment made by one of her fellow countrymen i.e. a harmless manifestation of the much-vaunted ‘freedom of expression’, by posing with a poster with two sniper’s crosshairs, implying that she and others have Michael Moore in the sights of their guns. Well, I suppose this qualifies as freedom of expression as well, but to say that it’s hypocritical and in incredibly poor taste is an understatement.

Like tens of millions of others – perhaps more – I’ve always found Sarah Palin to be mesmerisingly vulgar, but despite the nature of her past excesses, this particular native of Dumbfuckistan possesses the ability to continually surprise me. God only knows how she’s going to top this latest crass exhibition, but it’s depressingly certain that she will.

“Well stored with pious frauds, and, like most discourses of the sort, much better calculated for the private advantage of the preacher that the edification of the hearers.”

Edmund Burke, 1729 – 1979

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