Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

I saw the following sentences in today's Washington Post and another article found in a web site. What does 'McKinley moment' mean? I don't find this word in any of English Japanese dictionaries at hand. What's the origin of this word? Is this a word often used?

-If any good can come of the horror in Tucson, it will be that this becomes a McKinley moment for Sarah Palin and her chief spokesman, Glenn Beck.

-And that was before the McKinley moment. While Republican congressional leaders joined President Obama in Monday morning's moment of silence, Beck mocked it as an Obama photo-op. His show was on commercial break during ...

share|improve this question

3 Answers 3

up vote 8 down vote accepted

I just read the Dana Milbank Washington Post article you referenced and I quote at length (emphasis mine):

If any good can come of the horror in Tucson, it will be that this becomes a McKinley moment for Sarah Palin and her chief spokesman, Glenn Beck.

One hundred and ten years ago, during another low point in the nation's political discourse, newspapers owned by William Randolph Hearst - who was angling for a presidential run in 1904 - published a pair of columns fantasizing about violence against President William McKinley.

Columnist Ambrose Bierce wrote that a bullet "is speeding here to stretch McKinley on his bier." Next, an unsigned column widely attributed to Hearst editor Arthur Brisbane declared: "If bad institutions and bad men can be got rid of only by killing, then the killing must be done." Six months later, a deranged man named Leon Czolgosz assassinated McKinley.

The killer claimed he was inspired by an anarchist, not by Hearst - but that didn't stop opponents from falsely claiming that Czolgosz had a copy of Hearst's New York Journal in his pocket when he did the deed. Secretary of State Elihu Root later accused Hearst of driving the "weak and excitable brain of Czolgosz" to murder. The outcry against Hearst's incitement - there were boycotts and a burning in effigy - dashed his presidential ambitions.

A similar, and long overdue, outcry has followed the Tucson killings. Sheriff Clarence Dupnik, who blamed the "vitriol we hear inflaming the American public" for the massacre, mentioned Palin by name and generally denounced conservative TV and radio commentary. Some in the media have fingered Beck, too.

While the accusations sometimes go too far - there's no evidence that either Palin or Beck inspired the Tucson suspect - the heat is well deserved. Both are finally being held to account for recklessly playing with violent images in a way that is bound to incite the unstable. In Beck's case, as I reported last year, it already has - repeatedly.

...

McKinley moment is used here to draw a potential similarity between the chain of events that eventually destroyed William Hearst's presidential ambition and the possible fallout of Palin's belligerent brand of politics. As Milbank writes, McKinley's murder was attributed by popular acclaim to Hearst's inciteful commentary. While this may have been untrue and unfair, majority thought that this served Hearst right. Milbank claims here that the Gabrielle Giffords attack will most likely be blamed on Palin's (and Beck's) violent rhetoric and would possibly put paid (BrE idiom) to whatever presidential aspiration she may have, which, in his [Milbank's] opinion, would be a good thing.

It is common in English to use "__moment" to draw a parallel between a significant event, period or phenomenon in history (personal, public, national, etc) and its modern-day counterpart. I give an original example:

'Did you see how Henry scored a handball against the Irish during the 2010 World Cup qualifiers?'

'Yeah, I did. It was a Maradona moment*. Classic!'

(*referencing soccer legend, Maradona's, famous "Hand of God" goal against England in 1986)

share|improve this answer
2  
Lovely answer! Yes, it’s key that there are two separate things going on here: the general usage of “____ moment”, and the specific historical case of McKinley. –  PLL Jan 12 '11 at 3:22
    
@PLL: Thanks! Wish it didn't have to be this long, but couldn't help it :) –  Jimi Oke Jan 12 '11 at 3:37
    
Jimi. Thanks a lot for your giving me comprehensive explanation of XX moment. I didn’t go further the article of Washington Post in question beyond its lead copy, as I was hung up on the word ‘McKinley moment’, and posted the question to this site at that moment. Though the nuance may vary, usage of “—moment” you explained me reminds me of frequently-used Japanese word, “Doha-no-Higeki (Tragedy of Doha)” meaning 'There's an ominous sign'ahead which was coined right after Japanese soccer team lost the PK game against Iraq at the Asian region semi-final for 1993 U.S. World Cup. –  Yoichi Oishi Jan 12 '11 at 8:06
    
@Yoichi Oishi: You're welcome. Yeah, the "Doha-no-Higeki" example you gave is striking in its similarity. Cool! –  Jimi Oke Jan 12 '11 at 18:10

In more basic terms, without all the political heat thrown into the mix (with all due respect, it isn't a discussion forum) to read through:

a McKinley moment TODAY is very basically referring to (as well as an actual historical event) the idea that the media (a newspaper publication in partucular) has to power to be able to publish things which in turn have extremely powerful sway over people's emotions and ideas in the general population. It can even move the public to commit acts of violence against them, based on what negative things may have been said in the newspaper. Even more basically, things are said in the media that are negative about people, and other people take it very seriously and act out on that person in some way, shape or form.

share|improve this answer

Read a little further.

One hundred and ten years ago, during another low point in the nation's political discourse, newspapers owned by William Randolph Hearst - who was angling for a presidential run in 1904 - published a pair of columns fantasizing about violence against President William McKinley.

Hearst was a famous newspaper publisher (turn-of-the-century parlance for media mogul) similar to Rupert Murdoch. He practiced what was then called yellow journalism. (Gee, the similarities keep piling up, don't they?)

Anyway, President William McKinley was assassinated in 1901 by Leon Czolgosz, an anarchist and all-around nut case just like the guy who shot a Congresswoman and killed a 9-year-old girl (among others) in Tucson, Arizona this past weekend.

I can't believe it's 2011 and we're still dealing with this shit. Seriously.

share|improve this answer
    
Robusto. Many thanks for your providing me always with very informative answers to many of primitive questions of mine. It's very helpful for me boasting of wealth of information and tutorial resources to my English enthusiast friends in community English Study Club. –  Yoichi Oishi Jan 12 '11 at 1:45
    
ええ。。。ま。。。なんとか。。。 –  Robusto Jan 12 '11 at 1:57
    
What does the year being 2011 have anything to do with the fact that nutcases exist and sometimes kill people? –  JSBձոգչ Jan 12 '11 at 5:55
2  
@JSBangs - While Robusto certainly needs no help from me, I suspect the 2011 comment was bemoaning the situation that demagogues are still irresponsibly using violent imagery in their political rhetoric that possibly inspires the nutcases. Personally, I think the political part of this thread belongs in some other forum, not this one. Just my $0.02 –  John Satta Jan 12 '11 at 13:26
    
@JSBangs: Sorry the bit of anguish I let slip at the end of the answer angered you. –  Robusto Jan 12 '11 at 13:48

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.