I didn’t watch any of the Republican Convention. I read about it and looked at the written text of a few speeches. While I’d heard about Eastwood’s speech, I was inclined to dismiss it since I am an admirer of his work as a director. I figured he was just in a cranky mood because of some tax issue or regulation. I thought President Obama’s tweet in response was reasonably devastating. I DID NOT realize that Eastwood had made the cutthroat gesture. Further, I did not realize that he’d been wildly cheered by the Republicans, including Mrs. Romney who is seen in the following video.
Cutthroat: The cutthroat gesture is performed by drawing the hand, or a finger or two, across the throat. It represents slitting the throat with a knife, and means that the gesturer or someone else is metaphorically being killed. Cutthroat, Wikipedia
Given that, this gesture is one of the most appalling things ever done in a political campaign. It involves incitement by someone who knows or should know how powerful this gesture might be.
I don’t believe that Eastwood intended to threaten or incite anyone to commit violence. HOWEVER, it should be clear that the fringe actors out there, those prone to violence by nature of their condition, are capable of activation. It is all the more appalling that Eastwood let the audience cajole him into his famous line, Make my day right after the gesture. Eastwood’s character,Dirty Harry, used it just before he shot people in that movie series.
Eastwood’s position in society and iconic nature, plus his demonstrated level of intellect, carry certain responsibilities, at a minimum. One of those is: DO NOT incite deluded zealots to attack the president by using a well known, metaphorical death threat. The deluded may go right past the metaphor and assume it’s a special message.
Eastwood needs to be called out for this specific gesture in this context. He needs to accept responsibility and apologize, profusely. He knew what he was doing and the followup with “Make my day” shows just that.
The gesture and follow up were spectacularly irresponsible and disgusting. As for the audience reaction and what that says about the … well, that’s obvious.