Home > Uncategorized > Rush Limbaugh, toxic entertainer – posted 2/21/2021

Rush Limbaugh, toxic entertainer – posted 2/21/2021

I did not plan to say anything about the exit of Rush Limbaugh from our vale of tears based on the saying that if you do not have something good to say, it is better to say nothing at all. There is also the adage not to speak ill of the dead. Still, the praise Rush received upon his passing forced me to reconsider.

Former President George W. Bush described Rush as “an indomitable spirit with a big heart” and said he would be missed. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis announced that flags in Florida will be flown at half-staff in honor of Rush. And then, of course, there was the other former president, Donald Trump. Trump said:

“He is a legend. He really is. There aren’t too many legends around. But he is a legend. And those people who listen to him everyday, it was like a religious experience for a lot of people.”

There is no denying the hold he had on older white conservative men. He had a following of more than 15 million listeners. He was first syndicated on the radio in 1988. For over 30 years, he spewed. He had a formula: stoke bigotry and champion racism, sexism, and homophobia. He was the original “own the libs” guy.

He recognized, like Trump, that being outrageous was a great attention-grabber and pushed ratings. He considered himself an entertainer, not a journalist.

Back in the 1990’s I had to drive around New Hampshire for my job and I often listened in mid-day out of curiosity. Also, radio in central and western New Hampshire was a wasteland and back then radio music options were extremely limited.

I would describe Rush as a counter-revolutionary against the New Left. My generation of 1960’s-1970’s activists wanted America to face and reckon with its lies. The country was built upon slavery and genocide of Native Americans. The Vietnam War was a crime against humanity that had to be opposed. Instead of empire, we wanted pressing needs like poverty addressed at home.

Rush was the polar opposite. He was about protecting the wealth of the richest people. First and foremost, he was about making a buck for himself, something he was good at. At the time of his death his net worth was $600 million. He was making $85 million annually. He lived in a $26 million mansion in West Palm Beach, Florida.

A fan of conspicuous consumption, Rush did not skimp on his own needs. His mansion was an homage to Versailles. Rush owned a fleet of $450,000 cars, black Mercedes Maybach S model. He also owned a private jet, a Gulfstream G550 worth $56 million. Rush said his goal was to charge ‘confiscatory advertising rates’.

In the Rush world view, the super-wealthy were over-taxed and unfairly maligned. He believed they should be held up as role models. Even though he was worth hundreds of millions of dollars, Rush presented himself as the fighting, aggrieved voice of the little man. This man of the people tapped into resentment about loss of status, real or perceived.

His schtick redefined talk radio. His humor sold better than straight-up bile of the Nazi and Klan variety although nastiness was probably his defining quality. It is hard to overstate his role in influencing the rise of the Far Right and a renewed American fascism. The examples of Rush’s toxic ideology are inexhaustible.

In 2012, he called law student Sandra Fluke a “slut” and a “prostitute” when she testified before Congress that religious employers should be required to provide insurance coverage for contraception. On his TV show in 1994, he said “Socks is the White House cat. But did you know there is also a White House dog?”, while displaying a picture of Chelsea Clinton who was then 13.

He coined the term “feminazi”. He said “Feminism was established to allow unattractive women easier access to the mainstream of society”.

In 1990 Rush said “Have you ever noticed how all composite pictures of wanted criminals resemble Jesse Jackson?” In 2004 he said “I think it’s time to get rid of the whole National Basketball Association. Call it the TBA, the Thug Basketball Association, and stop calling them teams. Call em gangs”.

Around 2010 Rush was interested in buying an NFL team but players (70% who were black) made clear they would not be willing to play for him. Rush said, “The NFL all-too-often looks like a game between the Bloods and the Crips without any weapons”.

In 2013 Rush said “if any race of people should not have guilt about slavery, it’s Caucasians”. When he got a call from an African-American female caller, he said, “Take that bone out of your nose and call me back”. He called Kamala Harris a “ho”.

Discussing genocide against Native Americans, he responded, “They all have casinos – what’s to complain about?”.

He featured an anti-gay AIDS-update mocking the death of gay men. He used to precede segments about openly gay Congressman Barney Frank with the song “My Boy Lollipop”. After the U.S. Supreme Court legalized gay marriage, Rush called the decision “an assault on American culture” that would lead to incest and polygamy.

He famously accused Michael J. Fox of exaggerating his Parkinson’s symptoms. Ironically, he died from lung cancer after denying for years the danger of smoking. He had said, “I want a medal for smoking cigars!”.

When Kurt Cobain committed suicide, Rush said, “Kurt Cobain was, ladies and gentlemen, a worthless shred of human debris”. Cobain had polysubstance abuse issues in his life.

Rush himself came under criminal investigation for illegally obtaining prescription drugs. He had been going to many different doctors for years to obtain as many prescriptions for Oxycontin and hydrocodone as possible. A former maid for Rush confessed to a tabloid that she had bought thousands of prescription pills on the black market for him.

Rush was criminally charged and agreed to treatment. Prosecutors dropped his case and his criminal record was later expunged. Although he was an opiate addict, he was a strong proponent of locking people up (other than himself) for the most minor drug offenses.

Limbaugh received a level of respectability he did not deserve. Like Trump, he was incapable of empathy. He was pompous, self-inflated, and self-impressed. As he put it about himself, he was “talent on loan from God”.

He paved the way for Trump’s authoritarianism and he previewed the white nationalist and anti-immigrant talking points Trump later adopted. He was anti-science, like Trump, denying climate change and lying about coronavirus, calling it “the common cold”. Until the end, he was a popularizer of conspiracy theories.

Bob Moser in Rolling Stone wrote that what mattered most about Limbaugh was neither whom he helped elect nor whom he offended. Moser wrote:

“It was the effect he had on his fans – on the millions of white conservatives he coddled, flattered, tickled, entertained, disinformed, fear mongered, and pulled into a counterfactual universe that became darker over time.”

Moser says Limbaugh created the conditions for an anti-democratic Republican Party. Unfortunately, as evidenced by January 6, it is not a big leap from dittohead to fascist stormtrooper.

Rush’s passing brings to mind a Mark Twain quote:

“I’ve never wished a man dead, but I have read some obituaries with great pleasure.”

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. rwise65@tds.net
    February 21, 2021 at 9:28 pm

    Your column today was so well researched! What an evil man.

    Sent from my iPad

    >

    • February 21, 2021 at 9:34 pm

      As was probably apparent, I was not a fan. I am not lowering my flag to half staff.

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